It’s about pursuing it rather than waiting to see what comes along. That’s partly because I found myself getting typecast, as everyone does unless they pursue roles that are very different from what they’ve done before.
If there’s one thing actors love more than the sound of thunderous applause and the warm glow of a radiating spotlight, it’s a challenge. One test of an actor’s ability lies in the range of parts they can comfortably play. Along with this challenge however, comes a fear of being typecast. There are certainly worse things than being typecast… (like not being cast at all) however, many actors want the chance to show their range and diversity.
If you’re nervous about getting stuck in a rut, here are some tips that will help you avoid getting typecast:
Know your limits
All actors want to believe that the world is their oyster when it comes to all the parts they can choose from, but unfortunately, that’s just not the case. It may sound counterintuitive, but before you can take steps to avoiding being typecast, it’s important to know your own limits both as a person and a performer.
Factors you have little control over can heavily influence the parts you are able to play, whether it has to do with your physicality, vocal range or dance skills. It will do you no good to turn a blind eye to the things that make you who you are — and the things that don’t.
Take the time to recognize your strengths and weaknesses, and then accept them (for now). This establishes a range of your abilities that coincides with the different types of roles you’ll be best suited to play. But that certainly doesn’t mean you can’t improve on certain skills to expand your range as an actor.
Never stop learning
The best way to avoid being typecast is to constantly push your boundaries. Every show you perform in adds something new to your acting arsenal, so take the time to reflect on how you may have changed with each new influence you’re exposed to.
If you’re between auditions, take the opportunity to hone your skills. If you’ve found you’ve been relegated to the ensemble because of your harmony-friendly alto voice, try to work on reaching those higher notes. Step-ball-change your way to success with a dance class. Sign up for vocal lessons to perfect that Eliza Doolittle lilt. You’re always going to be better at some things than others, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep doing them.
Prepare thoroughly for your audition
I get it — it’s an audition. No matter how many you’ve been to and how many parts you’ve won, they’re still a nerve wracking, cold sweat-inducing and stressful experience. Because of this, you might be tempted to lean on your more familiar and comfortable acting chops for the sake of getting through without melting into a puddle of the Wicked Witch of the West — excuse me, Elphaba.
The best way to overcome this impulse is to prepare, prepare, prepare. Versatility in your audition book is key. Even if you blow the roof off every time you sing Sondheim, or like to stick to dramatic monologues, you need to be willing to branch out if your old standbys don’t relate to the part you’re looking to get.
This is the time to push yourself out of your comfort zone while remaining properly prepared. For instance, if you’re trying to avoid getting cast as the romantic lead again in favor of a more comedic part, choose a song that’s a little more Moonface Martin than Billy Crocker.
When preparing for your audition, think about the characters you typically play and the role you’re trying to get. Recognizing the differences between the “types” you are often cast in and the character you want to play will help you find a fresh approach. How do they speak? How do they hold themselves? How would the two characters react to the same situation? Though you may have been typecasted in the past, this is your opportunity to use that experience to your advantage by highlighting where your past and future characters intersect and diverge.
Take different headshots
You might think that your tried-and-true headshot has done perfectly well for you in the past, thankyouverymuch, but it can’t hurt to have a few different types of pictures for various types of roles. Of course, you want any headshot to still look naturally like you, but play around a bit with your expressions. Auditioning for a dramatic role? Try a pensive, sinister or determined look a la the Phantom of the Opera — without the mask, obviously. Auditioning for a comedy? Let out a laugh and let your goofy side shine.
According to actor Nick Moulton, one of the best ways to avoid being typecast is to look for inspiration outside of the theatre.. Whether it’s a trip to a museum, rock concert, classical performance, opera or a dance performance, Moulton says it’s important to find things that inspire and influence you and then allow them to pull you back into theatre…
Being inspired and having a vision and being creative with your vision and making it unique to you is going to put you in a better spot ultimately. If you don’t want to be typecast, don’t be like other people. It’s not being different for the sake of being different, it’s being different for the sake of an interesting choice and being unique.
As Broadway’s Bryan Cranston (“All the Way”) says, “It’s up to the actor to make sure they don’t get typecast.” Even though the final casting decision doesn’t rest in your hands, the deliberate acting choices you make during your audition, the roles you choose to try out for and the materials you provide to those casting you are one of the very few things that are in your control.