For the most part your age range, look and body will determine your type. Your personality, energy, and essence will also factor in. CDs, directors, and producers will remember you as a certain type based on their first impression.
Here’s an exercise to figure out your type: Ask fifteen people which three celebrities you remind them of and which roles those celebrities have played that would suit you. Ask five industry professionals, five friends, and five strangers. Don’t suggest any names, just get three answers from each person.
Write down all 35 answers and see which double up to finish with five celebrities to whom you are most similar.
Go to IMDb and look at the types of projects and roles the celebs played when they were your age. Are they the bad girl or the good girl? Hero or victim? How do they market themselves? What do their headshots look like? How did they start out? Are their credits in film or TV? Drama or comedy? Find out what sort of press takes an interest in their work. Are they in FHM Magazine or Time Magazine? What is their BRAND? Emulate their formula to mold your marketing tools around your type.
This is not to say you shouldn’t be your own person (you absolutely should), but your individuality will be marketed more successfully if you know what you’re selling.
Know if you are too young or old for a type. I spent years pitching myself as the wrong type. I thought that with a strong personality and features I should play Jodie Foster type cop, detective, and strong female roles. I took plain looking headshots with a very unsexy, serious look. I wondered for a long time why I wasn’t getting auditions.
The thing I overlooked was that Jodie Foster is twenty years older than me. If a CD wants a seasoned detective, she is not likely to hire a twenty-six year old actress. However, when casting a strong, smart female in her mid- twenties (even to play a lawyer or cop) filmmakers usually want her to be relatively attractive. I was taking myself out of the running for both types of roles by marketing myself as something I wasn’t.
Luckily, a friend of mine showed my website to a VIP in town, asking why I wasn’t getting work. The VIP replied something like “In most of her headshots she looks harsh and unattractive. It’s easy to make a beautiful girl look plain, but hard to make an unattractive girl look gorgeous. I may not audition her if those headshots were all I’d seen because there’s nothing marketable or appealing about her look”.
I immediately took all my photos down, and a week later, I got a round of new headshots where I said to the photographer “The goal is to look strong and sexy”. I went from averaging two auditions a month, to having around ten auditions in late September and close to twenty in October that year. It worked fast and I’ve hit very few slow patches since!
Hollywood wants to be able to pick your type and know how to sell it, so make it easy for them. Most actors believe they can do every role, but in LA there are so many actors from which to choose.
Some shows won’t even hire you to play a few lines as a nurse or EMT unless you actually are a qualified nurse or EMT. For larger roles, obviously, acting chops take precedence over authenticity, but for the smaller roles why wouldn’t they hire the real deal?
Don’t try to be everything to everyone. Figure out who you are and what you excel at then market yourself accordingly to get your foot in the door. Once it’s open, you can show them all of the other amazing things you can do.
Here are some examples of types into which most people will fit. You may be able to ‘play’ several, but one or two will suit you perfectly.
Child or teen or 18–24
- Lead (charismatic, cute, smart)
- Sidekick (chubby, quirky, geeky, shy)
- Antagonist (baddie, bully)
25–35 (ingénue) or 36–55 (experienced)
- Sidekick (geeky, gothic, comedic best friend types)
- Main antagonist (gang boss, ring leader)
- Low-level antagonist (baddie, street thug, gang member)
- Smart, strong characters (detective, doctor, lawyer, stockbroker)
- White collar (accountant, nurse, teacher)
- Blue collar (builder, cop, coach)
- Sex object (hookers, strippers, girls with obvious plastic surgery)
- Same as list above, but add the word ‘retired’ or ‘boss’.
- Young Grandparents
- Mentor, Ex-pro
- Rich ‘old person’ (board member, guest at society party)
- Poor ‘old person’ (on welfare, homeless, still working)
By Kym Jackson
An Extract From: The Hollywood Survival Guide For Actors
She has played lead and supporting roles in over thirty feature films & TV shows. Her book ‘The Hollywood Survival Guide – For Aussie Actors’ is on sale in almost a hundred bookstores and is recommended reading in over forty acting schools Australia-wide, including NIDA and QUT.