The typing of actors usually begins with an gender/age-based description such as teen girl, as well as to contain more specific descriptions such as teenage girl, 16, angry, but sensitive, must be able to cry. It all begins here. Probably the most important aspect in starting and sustaining a career as an actor. Unfortunately not many texts address this aspect of the process of becoming an actor in very great depth or detail, but normally books about, or certain chapters in books, concerning the role of casting directors and/or the audition process can reveal valuable information on how to discover one's type. Once you've realized your specific type a marketing plan can begin in earnest. Agents specifically need to know who actors are type-wise since this will make it easier for the agent to know exactly what to send the actor out on.
|Check List To Discover Your Acting Type|
|√||The first qualifier of an actor’s type may come through the submission of the headshot and resume which are what agents and casting directors will screen applicants by first.|
|√||Being the right age for the role.|
|√||Having the right physical dimensions for the role.|
|√||Having the right kind of voice for the role.|
|√||Having special talents the role requires, like dancing.|
|√||Able to take direction when it is given.|
|√||Having the right set of skills obtained through training and years of experience.|
|√||A match with the theatrical requirements of the role. For example, if the part calls for someone to “take charge” (dominate the proceedings) the actor should indicate this ability.|
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Casting people and agents are accustomed to categorizing actors according to type, and do use stereotypical descriptions when placing casting notices. Typing is part and parcel of the acting business and has little to do with talent or acting range. Acting is a business where success is derived from being in the right place at the right time for the right role. If you want to be considered castable, you must discover your type, enhance it, and learn to play it superbly. But identifying with a character psychologically doesn't necessarily mean you will be able to play the role effectively.
At a preliminary stage the director is getting a sense of the available talent from which to choose the cast. Some known qualities that directors are generally watching for include:
- Something in the actor’s personality that suggests the character
- Voice and ability to project
- Physical appearance and characteristics as they relate to the role
- Ability to focus and take direction if offered
- Stage presence and poise.
- A match with the theatrical requirements of the role.
While the director tries to be as objective as possible, casting decisions are based largely on instinct -- the actor’s as well as the director’s. The more experienced either is, the sharper those instincts tend to be.
A good audition announcement will give some specifics for each of the characters:
- physical characteristics
- personality traits
Study these to see which of the characters fits you best. If the announcement does not give this information, it may be available as a separate handout from the director or company. If there is no specific information, then read the play with particular care. Some scripts give this information up front; in other cases you will need to determine it from your own analysis. Take notes, not only of which characters you might be suitable for, but also for personality, motivations and relationships that might help you better prepare for the auditions.
|Terms to Know|
Casting. When a casting director puts out the news that he needs to fill a certain role that requires an approximate age range and appearance such as a certain ethnicity, height, build or look.
Character Role. A supporting role with pronounced or eccentric characteristics.
Head Shot. An 8" x 10" photograph that acts as your calling card for securing television, film and theatrical work, showing your face as it actually appears. The head shot should capture your best and most unique physical features, while still remaining true to your actual image.
Image. The casting type or quality you wish to convey and portray to the theatrical community.
Open Casting Calls. Auditions open to anyone.
Photo Double. An actor, usually an extra, used in place of a principal actor who is either unavailable or only seen partially, and never has any speaking lines.
Presence. An actor’s ability to command attention onstage, even when surrounded by other actors.
Screen Test. A recorded audition to determine a person’s suitability as an actor for film or television.
Type Casting. Assigning a role to an actor on the basis of his or her surface appearance or personality.
Typed-out. The elimination of an actor during auditions because of such obvious features as height, weight or age.
|For a full glossary listing click here|
Most directors make cast choices based on the appearance of the entire show. If an actor looks out of place, the overall image for which the director is striving can suffer. To illustrate further, and to get you to begin thinking about types you would be able to portray well, here are some types that might be called for in a casting section:
- adult professional actors who can appear as middle-school students between the ages of 12-16
- seven women and three men, ages 20s-70s
- sensitive boy who loves music, must be able to sing and move well
- female principal big band singers, mid-20s to early 40s
- Antonio: 24, mechanic of Latin descent
- apartment superintendent, 50s, large man of good taste and intelligence
- Audrey Strange, mid-30s, ex-wife of Nevile, sophisticated but repressed
- seeking actress to play Achilles, Zeus, and other roles in all-female production, 20s-30s, striking, strong, able to play warriors and gods convincingly
- seeking female and male dancers who are versatile with strong technical ability in jazz and musical theatre dance styles, in the height range of 5' 0" to 6' 1", gymnastics and tap are pluses, to perform as costumed characters
- leading role requires an actor who can play an age range of 25-45, who is at least 6' tall, prefer classical training, strong vocal projection essential, must be able to ride horses bareback in physically demanding role
After the play has been selected, the director may reread it several times making notes on each character from these perspectives:* What are the character’s essentials as dictated by the play, in terms of physical type, age, gender, ethnicity, and so on? This aspect has broadened considerably over the last decade, with non traditional casting finding favor and wide acceptance.
- What are the character’s essentials as dictated by the play, in terms of physical type, age, gender, ethnicity, and so on? This aspect has broadened considerably over the last decade, with non traditional casting finding favor and wide acceptance.
- How do you see the character, physically and emotionally?
- The director will assume the perspective of the viewing audience in how they will regard each character and the character’s authenticity, as well as the authenticity of the pairing of certain actors.
In her book, Hollywood Here I Come: How to Launch a Great Modeling or Acting Career Anywhere, Cynthia Hunter describes a methodology using public survey techniques to help you discover your type:
So how do you discover the right image for you in order to get that edge? Well, now it’s time for that survey I referred to earlier. The idea I am about to propose may be a little challenging, but hear me out. Here’s what I want you to do. It’s a little technique that I call ‘canvassing.’ Basically, when you canvas, you are giving yourself an opportunity to get a disinterested third party to evaluate the you project based on their first impression of you. The image questionnaire provided at the end of this chapter will help you zero in on your natural sale. Therefore, your assignment, should you decide to accept it, is the following:
Association of Talent Agents (ATA)
National Association of Talent Representatives (NATR)
Association of Talent Agents (ATA)
Casting Society of America
Casting Society of America
Non-Traditional Casting Project (NTCP)
For a full listing of helpful associations and organizations click here