by Casting Director, Terry Berland
What type are you? I’m going to give you a mixed message. Here goes…know your type, but don’t limit yourself. Don’t focus on something and turn it into a negative. For instance, don’t focus on your accent, ethnicity, age, height or look and say “I’ll never be called in for that because…” Instead, focus in on your acting. Know your type so you don’t feel bad about not being called in for something. Focus in on being the best actor you can be and maybe, just maybe, you will be the exception in a particular role that is being cast. Let’s look at two superior actors as examples of breaking type barriers. One being Peter Dinklage, who is extremely short and now gets cast in roles with no reference to his height. Think about Morgan Freeman who does not get cast as an African American. Morgan Freeman gets cast in any type of role with no reference to ethnicity because he is a fantastic actor.
You should have a realistic idea of what type you are commercially (age range, physical look, and personality traits). Examples of physical “looks” include:
- Character: This is someone with extreme features (large nose, bushy eyebrows, puffy cheeks, heavy, etc.), or even funny-looking, tattoos and piercings, extreme hair styles. If you fit into the character category, a chipped tooth or a space between the teeth could add to or be natural for the character
- P&G (Proctor & Gamble look): A generic, middle-American look with well-proportioned, middle-of-the-road, attractive features. Extremely beautiful people or character types do not fit this category.
- Pretty or handsome (but not a model, not glamorous): This is someone who is natural and approachable.
- Model type: above-average looks, beautiful or handsome. Model-types generally have high cheekbones, strong jaw line, perfect teeth, excellent skin, can be exotic looking, and a well-proportioned, toned body.
- Slightly offbeat/slightly quirky: Specifically different from the average, middle-American look. Prototype: Ben Stiller, Benedict Cumberbatch, Jonah Hill.
- Quirky/good-looking and funny: Prototypes: Emma Stone, Paul Rudd, Joseph Gordon-Levitt and Zooey Deschanel.
- Urban/city type: Someone with a stylish edge, with an intense, trendy look.
- Suburban type: Plainer, casual, relaxed, sporty, rugged, outdoorsy looking.
- Ethnic/Multi-ethnic: African-American, Asian, Latino/Hispanic, Indian, Native American, European, Italian, Jewish or a mix.
- Ethnically Ambiguous – A hint of ethnicity, not being able to tell exact ethnicity. E.G. olive skin tone, brunette or black hair.
- Slacker: Age about 16-25, lazy, laid-back, unruffled by anything.
- Scruffy: Male-unkempt, couple-of-days’ beard growth.
When viewing commercials, study the actors. Make note of the types of people and which products they are used for. What are their energies? What are they wearing? What hairstyles do they have? Which products use humor? Where might you fit in? Could you be the “mom” or “dad?” A seasoned executive? A student? A construction worker? Don’t box yourself into one type. Notice all the opportunities available to you.
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Terry Berland is an award-winning casting director for on-camera, television, voice-over, and hosting. Her casting awards include Clio, The Houston International Film Festival, Art Director’s Club, Addy, and the International Film and Television Festival. Her former casting staff position for Madison Avenue giant BBDO/NY has lent to her deep understanding and involvement in the advertising industry. She is known throughout the country for her talent development and is the co-author of the how-to industry book,”Breaking Into Commercials.”