by Casting Director, Terry Berland
Many times I’m an industry panel guest and questions come up that reek of an actor approaching his career from a negative position rather than a positive one. I hear shares such as “there aren’t as many parts for my ethnicity”. “I have an accent, there are not as many parts for me”, “I can’t get as many appointments as others in my category”, “I’m very short”, “I’m very tall”, “more parts are being given to name actors”. The actors are upset and want to know how they can get ahead with these limitations.
The mere fact that someone is disturbed by facts such as these is going to hold them back from the possibility of surging forward to their greatest potential. The trick is to be aware of certain limiting characteristics, but not focus on them and give them power. On one hand the reality of a particular characteristic will limit you from certain parts, but on the other hand there are many other characteristics that will bring you possible opportunities.
To be concerned rather than aware is placing your focus in the wrong place. To move forward with ease, you have to think positive, not negative. I’m not talking about positive thinking or affirmations. Focus on what you can control which is actually your biggest strength—your craft of acting. You are in a risky, unpredictable business. The better you are at your craft, the greater possibility of roles that will come to you along the way.
Let’s look at a few celebrity and semi-celebrity prototypes whose acting has broken the rules of what could be thought of as limiting characteristics.
Did Morgan Freeman think of himself as an African American who could only do certain types of roles? I highly doubt that. Morgan Freeman thought of himself as an excellent actor. He has played detectives, husbands, cops and Shakespearean characters with no ethnic identity attached to the role. In addition, he has a voice over career as an intelligent, elegant sounding man unattached to any ethnic identity.
Linda Hunt who is short gets cast as intriguing, sometimes mysterious characters. Not short intriguing characters. Her acting continues to overpower any physical characteristics.
Steve Valentine, who has a Scottish accent, played a sarcastic and witty criminologist in Crossing Jordan. That part was not written for anyone with an accent. Steve won the role because of his acting and other comedic and charming characteristics.
Peter Dinklage, is a small person who was cast in an off -broadway show called Things We Want. This play is a dark comedy about three brothers. Dinklage, Paul Dano and Josh Hamilton played the brothers. His part never referred to him as being a little person. He was simply one of the brothers.
I encourage you to be aware of your characteristics and embrace them. Think of yourself as an actor first and become as strong as you can be. Do whatever you can do to not get in your own way and trust the right parts will evolve.
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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.”