Typecasting (acting)
In TV, film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

, and theatre
Theatre is a collaborative form of fine art that uses live performers to present the experience of a real or imagined event before a live audience in a specific place. The performers may communicate this experience to the audience through combinations of gesture, speech, song, music or dance...

, typecasting is the process by which a particular actor
An actor is a person who acts in a dramatic production and who works in film, television, theatre, or radio in that capacity...

 becomes strongly identified with a specific character
Fictional character
A character is the representation of a person in a narrative work of art . Derived from the ancient Greek word kharaktêr , the earliest use in English, in this sense, dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of...

; one or more particular roles; or, characters having the same traits
Trait theory
In psychology, Trait theory is a major approach to the study of human personality. Trait theorists are primarily interested in the measurement of traits, which can be defined as habitual patterns of behavior, thought, and emotion. According to this perspective, traits are relatively stable over...

 or coming from the same social
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 or ethnic group
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

s. There have been instances in which an actor has been so strongly identified with a role as to make it difficult for him or her to find work playing other characters
Fictional character
A character is the representation of a person in a narrative work of art . Derived from the ancient Greek word kharaktêr , the earliest use in English, in this sense, dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of...

. Some actors attempt to escape typecasting by choosing roles that are opposite the types of roles that they are known for; alternatively, a director may choose to cast an actor in a role that would be unusual for them to create a dramatic (or sometimes comedic) effect, such as John Wayne
John Wayne
Marion Mitchell Morrison , better known by his stage name John Wayne, was an American film actor, director and producer. He epitomized rugged masculinity and became an enduring American icon. He is famous for his distinctive calm voice, walk, and height...

, who was usually cast in leading hero-type roles. Typecasting also occurs in other performing arts
Performing arts
The performing arts are those forms art which differ from the plastic arts insofar as the former uses the artist's own body, face, and presence as a medium, and the latter uses materials such as clay, metal or paint which can be molded or transformed to create some physical art object...

. An opera
Opera is an art form in which singers and musicians perform a dramatic work combining text and musical score, usually in a theatrical setting. Opera incorporates many of the elements of spoken theatre, such as acting, scenery, and costumes and sometimes includes dance...

 singer who has a great deal of success in one role, such as Denyce Graves
Denyce Graves
Denyce Graves is an American mezzo-soprano opera singer.-Early life:Graves was born on March 7, 1964, to Charles Graves and Dorothy Graves-Kenner. She is the middle of three children and was raised by her mother on Galveston Street, S.W., in the Bellevue section of Washington...

 as Carmen
Carmen is a French opéra comique by Georges Bizet. The libretto is by Henri Meilhac and Ludovic Halévy, based on the novella of the same title by Prosper Mérimée, first published in 1845, itself possibly influenced by the narrative poem The Gypsies by Alexander Pushkin...

, may become typecast in that role.

Actor selection

Actors are selected for their roles either by a casting
Casting (performing arts)
In the performing arts, casting is a pre-production process for selecting a cast of actors, dancers, singers, models and other talent for a live or recorded performance.-Casting process:...

 director, typically found in small productions, or, in larger productions such as motion pictures
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...

, through casting agencies. Extras and stand-ins are often drawn from the company Central Casting
Central casting
Central Casting is a casting company located in Burbank, California, United States. They currently specialize in casting extras, body doubles, and stand-ins.-History:...

, a company so influential since its 1925 start, that some people refer to all cast as coming from "central casting". The concept of "central" casting was also widespread during the studio-dominated era (from the 1920s through the 1940s) when each studio had a larger number of actors on contract who were assigned to whatever films were being made at the time by that studio. Such centralized casting was made more efficient by placing an actor in subsequent similar character roles after his or her first success, especially if an actor was particularly well-received in that role by the audience or by critics.

Typecasting happens to actors of both great and modest ability: an actor may become typecast either because of a strong identification with a particular role or because he or she lacks the versatility or talent to move on to other roles. Some actors welcome the steady work that typecasting brings, but in general it is seen as undesirable for actors in leading roles.

With character actors

An actor is sometimes so strongly identified with a role as to make it difficult for him or her to find work playing other characters
Fictional character
A character is the representation of a person in a narrative work of art . Derived from the ancient Greek word kharaktêr , the earliest use in English, in this sense, dates from the Restoration, although it became widely used after its appearance in Tom Jones in 1749. From this, the sense of...

. It is especially common among leading actor
Leading actor
A leading actor, leading actress, star, or simply lead, plays the role of the protagonist in a film or play. The word lead may also refer to the largest role in the piece and leading actor may refer to a person who typically plays such parts or an actor with a respected body of work...

s in popular TV series and film
A film, also called a movie or motion picture, is a series of still or moving images. It is produced by recording photographic images with cameras, or by creating images using animation techniques or visual effects...


Star Trek

An example is the cast of the original Star Trek
Star Trek: The Original Series
Star Trek is an American science fiction television series created by Gene Roddenberry, produced by Desilu Productions . Star Trek was telecast on NBC from September 8, 1966, through June 3, 1969...


During Star Treks original run from 1966 to 1969, William Shatner
William Shatner
William Alan Shatner is a Canadian actor, musician, recording artist, and author. He gained worldwide fame and became a cultural icon for his portrayal of James T...

 was the highest paid cast member at $5,000 per episode ($ today), with Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Nimoy
Leonard Simon Nimoy is an American actor, film director, poet, musician and photographer. Nimoy's most famous role is that of Spock in the original Star Trek series , multiple films, television and video game sequels....

 and the other actors paid much less. The press predicted that Nimoy would be a star after the show ended, however, and James Doohan
James Doohan
James Montgomery "Jimmy" Doohan was a Canadian character and voice actor best known for his role as Montgomery "Scotty" Scott in the television and film series Star Trek...

 expected that appearing on an NBC series would help his post-Star Trek career. The show so typecast the actors, however—as early as March 1970, Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols
Nichelle Nichols is an American actress, singer and voice artist. She sang with Duke Ellington and Lionel Hampton before turning to acting...

 complained of Star Trek having "defined [her] so narrowly as an actress"—that only Shatner and Nimoy continued working steadily during the 1970s, and even their work received little attention unless it was Star Trek-related. The others' income came mostly from personal appearances at Star Trek conventions attended by Trekkies
Trekkies is a 1997 documentary film directed by Roger Nygard about the devoted fans of Gene Roddenberry's Star Trek franchise. Starring Denise Crosby , the movie contains interviews with Star Trek devotees, more commonly known as Trekkies...

; by 1978 DeForest Kelley
DeForest Kelley
Jackson DeForest Kelley was an American actor known for his iconic roles in Westerns and as Dr. Leonard "Bones" McCoy of the USS Enterprise in the television and film series Star Trek.-Early life:...

, for example, earned up to $50,000 ($ today) annually. In 1979 the first of six films starring the cast appeared; Kelley earned $1 million for the final film, Star Trek VI (1991). Being identified so closely with one role left the show's cast with mixed emotions; Shatner called it "awesome and irksome", and Walter Koenig
Walter Koenig
Walter Marvin Koenig is an American actor, writer, teacher and director, known for his roles as Pavel Chekov in Star Trek and Alfred Bester in Babylon 5. He wrote the script for the 2008 science fiction legal thriller InAlienable.-Early life:...

 called it "bittersweet" but admitted that there was "a certain immortality in being associated with Star Trek".
The Next Generation actors also become typecast. Patrick Stewart
Patrick Stewart
Sir Patrick Hewes Stewart, OBE is an English film, television and stage actor, who has had a distinguished career in theatre and television for around half a century...

's most prominent non-Star Trek film or television role, for example, is Professor X
Professor X
Professor Charles Francis Xavier, also known as Professor X, is a fictional character, a Marvel Comics superhero known as the leader and founder of the X-Men....

—like Jean-Luc Picard
Jean-Luc Picard
Captain Jean-Luc Picard is a Star Trek character portrayed by Patrick Stewart. He appears in the television series Star Trek: The Next Generation and the feature films Star Trek Generations, Star Trek: First Contact, Star Trek: Insurrection, and Star Trek Nemesis...

, a science fiction "grand, deep-voiced, bald English guy"—and he has stated "I don't have a film career. I have a franchise
Media franchise
A media franchise is an intellectual property involving the characters, setting and trademarks of an original work of media , such as a film, a work of literature, a television program or a video game. Generally, a whole series is made in a particular medium, along with merchandising and endorsements...

 career." Jonathan Frakes
Jonathan Frakes
Jonathan Scott Frakes is an American actor, author and director best known for his role as Commander William T. Riker in the Star Trek franchise, as well as for his tenure as host of Beyond Belief: Fact or Fiction ....

 has stated that "it’s better to be type-cast than not to be cast at all." The Next Generation had one of the largest budgets of its time, however, and its cast became very wealthy during its filming.

Other examples

Clayton Moore
Clayton Moore
Clayton Moore was an American actor best known for playing the fictional western character The Lone Ranger from 1949–1951 and 1954-1957 on the television series of the same name.-Early years:...

 and George Reeves
George Reeves
George Reeves was an American actor best known for his role as Superman in the 1950s television program Adventures of Superman....

, who played The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger
The Lone Ranger is a fictional masked Texas Ranger who, with his Native American companion Tonto, fights injustice in the American Old West. The character has become an enduring icon of American culture....

 and Superman
Superman is a fictional comic book superhero appearing in publications by DC Comics, widely considered to be an American cultural icon. Created by American writer Jerry Siegel and Canadian-born American artist Joe Shuster in 1932 while both were living in Cleveland, Ohio, and sold to Detective...

, respectively, in the Golden Age of Television
Golden Age of Television
The Golden Age of Television in the United States began sometime in the late 1940s and extended to the late 1950s or early 1960s.-Evolutions of drama on television:...

, were also victims of typecasting. Reeves' typecasting was so pervasive that an urban legend grew around his role in From Here to Eternity
From Here to Eternity
From Here to Eternity is a 1953 drama film directed by Fred Zinnemann and based on the novel of the same name by James Jones. It deals with the troubles of soldiers, played by Burt Lancaster, Montgomery Clift, Frank Sinatra and Ernest Borgnine stationed on Hawaii in the months leading up to the...

, which claimed that his major role was practically removed from the film after test audiences shouted "There's Superman!" whenever he appeared. (In reality, there were no test screenings, and no scenes from Reeves' minor role were cut from the final version. The article on Hollywoodland, a fictionalized account of Reeves' death, includes a discussion of this issue, with references.)

Additionally, examples of typecasting are prominent in other prime-time TV series, such as M*A*S*H and Little House on the Prairie
Little House on the Prairie (TV series)
Little House on the Prairie is an American Western drama television series, starring Michael Landon and Melissa Gilbert, about a family living on a farm in Walnut Grove, Minnesota, in the 1870s and 1880s. The show was an adaptation of Laura Ingalls Wilder's best-selling series of Little House books...


Historical characters

Soviet actor Mikheil Gelovani
Mikheil Gelovani
Mikheil Gelovani was a Georgian-Soviet actor, known for his many portrayals of Joseph Stalin in cinema.-Early life:Mikheil Gelovani was a descendant of the old Georgian princely house of Gelovani. He made his stage debut in a theater in Batumi during 1913. From 1919 to 1920, he attended the Drama...

 depicted Joseph Stalin
Joseph Stalin
Joseph Vissarionovich Stalin was the Premier of the Soviet Union from 6 May 1941 to 5 March 1953. He was among the Bolshevik revolutionaries who brought about the October Revolution and had held the position of first General Secretary of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Central Committee...

 in twelve films made during the leader's lifetime - among them The Great Dawn
The Great Dawn
The Great Dawn is a 1938 Soviet Georgian film directed by Mikhail Chiaureli...

(1938), Lenin in 1918
Lenin in 1918
Lenin in 1918 is a 130-minute long Soviet revolution film released in 1939. It gives the background of the Russian Civil War after the October Revolution.The film was directed by Mikhail Romm with E. Aron and I. Simkov as co-directors...

(1939), The Vow
The Vow (1946 film)
The Vow is a 1946 Soviet film directed by Mikhail Chiaureli. It is considered a representation of Joseph Stalin's cult of personality.-Plot:...

(1946), The Fall of Berlin
The Fall of Berlin (film)
The Fall of Berlin is a 1950 two-part Soviet film directed by Mikhail Chiaureli. The plot revolves around the history of the Great Patriotic War, focusing on the role that Joseph Stalin played in the events...

(1950) and The Unforgettable Year 1919
The Unforgettable Year 1919
The Unforgettable Year 1919 is a 1952 Soviet film directed by Mikhail Chiaureli. It is considered an important representation of Joseph Stalin's cult of personality.-Plot:May 1919...

(1952) - which reflected his cult of personality
Cult of personality
A cult of personality arises when an individual uses mass media, propaganda, or other methods, to create an idealized and heroic public image, often through unquestioning flattery and praise. Cults of personality are usually associated with dictatorships...

; those films were either banned or had the scenes featuring Stalin removed after the 1956 Secret Speech. Following Stalin's death, Gelovani was denied new roles, since he was identified with the dead premier. According to the The Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats, Gelovani had probably portrayed the same historical figure more than any other actor. Die Zeit
Die Zeit
Die Zeit is a German nationwide weekly newspaper that is highly respected for its quality journalism.With a circulation of 488,036 and an estimated readership of slightly above 2 million, it is the most widely read German weekly newspaper...

columnist Andreas Kilb wrote that he ended his life "a pitiful Kagemusha
is a 1980 film by Akira Kurosawa. The title is a term used for an impersonator. It is set in the Warring States era of Japanese history and tells the story of a lower-class criminal who is taught to impersonate a dying warlord in order to dissuade opposing lords from attacking the newly vulnerable...

" of Stalin's image.

Playing against type

Some actors attempt to escape typecasting by choosing roles that are opposite the types of roles that they are known for; alternatively, a director may choose to cast an actor in a role that would be unusual for them to create a dramatic effect. This is called "playing against type" or "casting against type". An example of playing against type is Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Schwarzenegger
Arnold Alois Schwarzenegger is an Austrian-American former professional bodybuilder, actor, businessman, investor, and politician. Schwarzenegger served as the 38th Governor of California from 2003 until 2011....

, who, thanks to his role as The Terminator
The Terminator
The Terminator is a 1984 science fiction action film directed by James Cameron, co-written by Cameron and William Wisher Jr., and starring Arnold Schwarzenegger, Michael Biehn, and Linda Hamilton. The film was produced by Hemdale Film Corporation and distributed by Orion Pictures, and filmed in Los...

, has been frequently typecast in action films as a brute force tough guy, whether good or bad, who has an incredible physique and a knack for evading death. However, in the comedy Twins, he plays the gentle giant behemoth Austrian twin of the much shorter, portly Danny DeVito
Danny DeVito
Daniel Michael DeVito, Jr. , better known as Danny DeVito, is an American actor, comedian, director and producer. He first gained prominence for his portrayal of Louie De Palma on the ABC and NBC television series Taxi , for which he won a Golden Globe and an Emmy.DeVito and his wife, Rhea Perlman,...

. Bill Murray
Bill Murray
William James "Bill" Murray is an American actor and comedian. He first gained national exposure on Saturday Night Live in which he earned an Emmy Award and later went on to star in a number of critically and commercially successful comedic films, including Caddyshack , Ghostbusters , and...

 also was cast against character, as in his role in Lost In Translation
Lost in Translation (film)
Lost in Translation is a 2003 American film written and directed by Sofia Coppola; her second feature film after The Virgin Suicides and it stars Bill Murray and Scarlett Johansson...

he plays a more serious-dramatic role compared to his popular comedic parts. In Tropic Thunder
Tropic Thunder
Tropic Thunder is a 2008 American action satire comedy film written, produced, and directed by Ben Stiller, and starring Stiller, Robert Downey, Jr., and Jack Black. The main plot revolves around a group of prima donna actors who are making a Vietnam War film...

, Tom Cruise
Tom Cruise
Thomas Cruise Mapother IV , better known as Tom Cruise, is an American film actor and producer. He has been nominated for three Academy Awards and he has won three Golden Globe Awards....

 plays an arrogant, fat, bald, and selfish corporation manager, to create a comedic juxtaposition of his usual immortal and overcoming cliche action hero. Another method in which actors avoid typecasting is by acting
Acting is the work of an actor or actress, which is a person in theatre, television, film, or any other storytelling medium who tells the story by portraying a character and, usually, speaking or singing the written text or play....

 or promoting themselves in a way that is the complete antithesis
Antithesis is a counter-proposition and denotes a direct contrast to the original proposition...

 of their best known role; comedian Bob Saget
Bob Saget
Robert Lane "Bob" Saget is an American stand-up comedian, actor, and television host. Although he is best known for his roles as Danny Tanner in Full House, host of America's Funniest Home Videos and Future Ted Mosby on How I Met Your Mother, Saget is also known outside of television for his blue...

 is a good example of this, playing wholesome characters in sitcoms and performing foul-mouthed stand-up routines, as is Robin Williams
Robin Williams
Robin McLaurin Williams is an American actor and comedian. Rising to fame with his role as the alien Mork in the TV series Mork and Mindy, and later stand-up comedy work, Williams has performed in many feature films since 1980. He won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for his performance...

' performances in Insomnia
Insomnia (2002 film)
Insomnia is an American psychological thriller film directed by Christopher Nolan and starring Al Pacino, Robin Williams, and Hilary Swank. The film, released on 24 May 2002, is a remake of the 1997 Norwegian film of the same name.-Plot:...

and One Hour Photo
One Hour Photo
One Hour Photo is a 2002 American psychological thriller written and directed by Mark Romanek and starring Robin Williams. Fox Searchlight Pictures distributed the film in the United States. One Hour Photo also starred Connie Nielsen, Michael Vartan, Gary Cole, and Eriq La Salle. Williams won a...

in which he abandoned the charming and lovable persona he projected for most of his career in favour of playing dangerous, troubled individuals. Another example is Elijah Wood
Elijah Wood
Elijah Jordan Wood is an American actor. He made his film debut with a minor part in Back to the Future Part II , then landed a succession of larger roles that made him a critically acclaimed child actor by age 9. He is best known for his high-profile role as Frodo Baggins in Peter Jackson's...

Frodo may mean:*Frodo Baggins, a character in The Lord of the Rings by J.R.R. Tolkien*"Frodo", a song by New Zealand folk-duo Flight of the Conchords*Fróði, the name of a number of Danish kings, Latinized as Frodo*Frodo...

 in The Lord of the Rings film trilogy
The Lord of the Rings film trilogy
The Lord of the Rings is an epic film trilogy consisting of three fantasy adventure films based on the three-volume book of the same name by English author J. R. R. Tolkien. The films are The Fellowship of the Ring , The Two Towers and The Return of the King .The films were directed by Peter...

) as Kevin, a cannibalistic serial killer in the movie Sin City
Sin City (film)
Sin City, also known as Frank Miller's Sin City, is a 2005 crime thriller film written, produced and directed by Frank Miller and Robert Rodriguez...

, and other roles. In addition, Emma Roberts
Emma Roberts
Emma Rose Roberts is an American actress, model and singer. She is the daughter of actor Eric Roberts and niece of Julia Roberts. Roberts became known for her role as Addie Singer in the Nickelodeon television series Unfabulous. She released her debut album, which also served as the show's...

, best known for her credits in good-natured roles in family films such as Hotel for Dogs
Hotel for Dogs (film)
Hotel for Dogs is a 2009 American children's comedy film based on the 1971 Lois Duncan novel of the same name. The film, directed by Thor Freudenthal and adapted by Jeff Lowell, Bob Schooley, and Mark McCorkle, stars Johnny Simmons, Emma Roberts, Jake T. Austin, Lisa Kudrow, Kevin Dillon, Kyla...

, Aquamarine
Aquamarine (film)
Aquamarine is a 2006 Australian-American teen fantasy comedy film starring Sara Paxton, Emma Roberts, and Joanna "JoJo" Levesque . The film, which was made in both the United States and Australia, was released in North America on March 3, 2006...

and Nancy Drew as well as the Nickelodeon
Nickelodeon is a US cable TV channel.Nickelodeon may also refer to:-In television:*Spinoffs of the Nickelodeon channel:** Nickelodeon Magazine, a children's magazine.** Nickelodeon Universe, an amusement park....

 TV series Unfabulous
Unfabulous is an American children's television series that aired on Nickelodeon The series is about an "unfabulous" junior high school student, played by Emma Roberts...

, plays Jill Roberts, the psychotic serial killing cousin of Neve Campbell
Neve Campbell
Neve Adrianne Campbell is a Canadian actress. After beginning her career on stage, and on numerous commercials, she starred on the Canadian television series Catwalk. She then rose to international fame on the Golden Globe-winning 1990s television series Party of Five, playing the role of teenager...

's character in the Wes Craven
Wes Craven
Wesley Earl "Wes" Craven is an American actor, film director, writer, producer, perhaps best known as the director of many horror films, particularly slasher films, including the famed A Nightmare on Elm Street and Wes Craven's New Nightmare, featuring the iconic Freddy Krueger character, the...

 horror film Scream 4
Scream 4
Scream 4 is a 2011 American slasher horror film and the fourth installment in the Scream film series. Directed by Wes Craven and written by Kevin Williamson, writer of Scream and Scream 2, the film stars an ensemble cast which includes David Arquette, Neve Campbell, Courteney Cox, Emma Roberts,...


Playing within type

Some actors embrace typecasting. Fans often expect a particular actor to play a "type", and roles which deviate from what is expected can be commercial failures. This beneficial typecasting is particularly common in action movies (e.g., Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan
Jackie Chan, SBS, MBE is a Hong Kong actor, action choreographer, comedian, director, producer, martial artist, screenwriter, entrepreneur, singer and stunt performer. In his movies, he is known for his acrobatic fighting style, comic timing, use of improvised weapons, and innovative stunts...

) and comedies (Adam Sandler
Adam Sandler
Adam Richard Sandler is an American actor, comedian, screenwriter, musician, and film producer.After becoming a Saturday Night Live cast member, Sandler went on to star in several Hollywood feature films that grossed over $100 million at the box office...

) but much less common in drama, although many B-list character actor
Character actor
A character actor is one who predominantly plays unusual or eccentric characters. The Oxford English Dictionary defines a character actor as "an actor who specializes in character parts", defining character part in turn as "an acting role displaying pronounced or unusual characteristics or...

s make careers out of playing a particular dramatic type, and it is often suggested to would-be actors that they audition for roles that fit their type.

See also

  • Brat pack
  • Brit Pack
    Brit Pack (actors)
    The term Brit Pack is a moniker often used to described young British actors who are touted to achieve success in Hollywood. According to one article, 'every decade brings a new Brit Pack, another disparate group of actors backed by the media to achieve simultaneous Hollywood stardom...

     – 1980s
  • Child actor
    Child actor
    The term child actor or child actress is generally applied to a child acting in motion pictures or television, but also to an adult who began his or her acting career as a child; to avoid confusion, the latter is also called a former child actor...

  • Frat Pack
    Frat Pack
    The "Frat Pack" is a nickname given to a group of male Hollywood comedy actors who have appeared together in many of the highest grossing comedy movies since the late 1990s...

     – 1990s & 2000s
  • Rat Pack
    Rat Pack
    The Rat Pack was a group of actors originally centered on Humphrey Bogart. In the mid-1960s it was the name used by the press and the general public to refer to a later variation of the group, after Bogart's death, that called itself "the summit" or "the clan," featuring Frank Sinatra, Dean...

     – 1950s & 1960s
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