How do I tell what my “type” is?
How to figure out your actor type:
People talk a lot about “type” in this industry but the concept of type is inherently flawed. Of course you’re more complex than a single type! You’re a small town girl from Ohio but you trained at RADA and you love nothing more than rocking out to 80s hair metal! You’re worldly and wise, down to earth AND a scatterbrained dreamer with your head in the clouds. Once you’re established as an actor you’ll have the chance to portray characters as multi-faceted as you are, but in the meantime you need to be able to market yourself in a way that is targeted, specific and immediately accessible to agents, managers and casting directors. You have to know how to speak their language.
So what’s an actor’s “type,” exactly?
The Boy Next Door
Your “type” is less about who you are, intrinsically, as a person or an actor, and more about who peopleperceive you to be. It’s your first impression, plain and simple, and your default casting. Knowing and understanding your type is a key component to marketing yourself to agents and managers. What type of actor are you? If you have a wholesome, girl-next door look you shouldn’t send out a headshot that exudes exotic sensuality, for example. Don’t send mixed messages. If you want to play the exotic beauty then you need to look like the exotic beauty inside of you at default. Your headshot needs to reflect what people see when you walk into a room. That is your “actor type.”
How do you tell what your type is?
The Quirky, Smart Girl
Lesly Kahn does a fantastic exercise on the first day of her comedy intensive where she holds up your headshot and asks the class (a group of total strangers) to call out adjectives that describe the person in the picture. She then has you stand up and take notes on the type of roles they think you could play. If your two lists are different it might be time to think about getting new headshots.
I also know an agency that holds “typing sessions” for new clients, where all the agents and assistants fill out a questionnaire based on a short meeting.
The key similarity between both of these exercises is that you are gathering the opinions of strangers. Your close friends and family might have a difficult time being objective about your type because they know just how complex and wonderful you really are– they’re never going to tell you that you’re the quirky computer expert after they’ve seen you play Hamlet!
I’m not saying you won’t get to play meaty dramatic roles in your career– you may get the chance right away! There is no single established path to success in this business. But knowing your type is a useful tool that can help you understand and exploit the assumptions people make about you at a glance and this knowledge can help you get the most out of your headshot session.