What is “Type”?
An actor’s type plays an essential role in the casting process
(by Tonya Tannenbaum)
An actor’s “type” refers to the initial impression the average person tends to have about an actor upon first glance. It is the range of assumptions made about the actor based on their appearance, presentation, energy, movements and overall essence.
Breaking down “Type”
An actor’s type plays an essential role in the casting process. No matter how talented an actor is, he or she can only, believably, play a limited number of roles.
For example, a very short, scrawny actor generally cannot portray a physically imposing bodyguard. A very young woman with a girlish appearance generally cannot portray a mature, well-established CIA agent. An actor who appears to be overweight and out of shape cannot believably portray a character who is supposed to be a professional athlete.
Type is one of the first things casting directors examine when determining from whom to request a self-tape or to bring in for an in-person audition. If an actor does not fit the essence of the character as described in the breakdowns, the casting director will likely move on to the next actor.
While there are always exceptions made during the casting process, actors rarely get cast outside of a small collection of roles. This collection of roles represents the actor’s various “types”.
Why is Type Important to an Actor?
Understanding type is essential for an actor’s success. Auditioning for roles that don’t fit your type is mostly a waste of time, since the odds of getting cast are stacked against you.
It is the proverbial fitting of a square peg into a round hole. If you constantly audition for roles that don’t fit your type, your success rate will suffer, no matter how talent you are. There are just some roles an actor cannot do or, at least, cannot do nearly as well as another actor who better fits the type that the role demands.