How To Escape Typecasting By Playing Against Type

By Robert Ensign | Social Media & Content Specialist at InterFACE Talent, New York City – Friday October 18, 2013

Some famous actors have escaped their type casted pigeonhole by picking roles that are completely opposite of what they’d normally play. This is called “playing against type.” (When a casting director makes the decision, it’s called “casting against type.”)

InterFACE Model Agency* Acting Clients Want to know how to escape the TYPECASTING TRAP

InterFACE Model Agency reviews actors who have escaped typecasting and how they did it.

Some actors have escaped typecasting by playing against their normal type. This is different then being entirely miscast however

Look and learn from these celebrities who went against their type and successfully broke out, redefining and revitalizing their career.  

  • Eddie Murphy went from funny to dark and serious when he flipped his quick-witted funnyman act on its head and transformed into a vampire in the horror film Vampire in Brooklyn.
  • Emma Roberts went from family films like Nancy Drew and the Nickelodeon series Unfabulous, to a psychotic serial killing cousin in Scream 4, successfully breaking out of her untarnished family-friendly image.
  • Arnold Schwarzenegger, former Mr. Universe and Terminator, was trapped in tough guy commando roles. Then came Twins, during which he plays Danny DeVito’s gentle giant twin. From then on Schwarzenegger has enjoyed enduring career acting in both action movies and comedies.
  • Robin Williams went from funny to dangerous in the movies Insomnia and One Hour Photo, opening up his career for roles outside of his comic act.
  • Robert De Niro once played Italian-American mobsters and psychopaths. He made the leap to comedies with Meet the Fockers, eventually playing a cross-dressing pirate captain in Stardust.
  • Jim Carrey took a detour from his comedy career with a stunning performance in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, followed with more serious movies like The Majestic or The Number 23.
  • Cheech Marin was a stoner icon as part of the Cheech and Chong duo for the 1970s and 1980s. Starting in the 1990s, Cheech broke his typecast and scored a role as police detective on the TV series Nash Bridges. Since then he’s continued to feature in more serious character roles, while his former partner-in-crime, Chong, never escaped his type.
  • Anthony Perkins was once a 1950s romantic leading man…until he went against type as Alfred Hitchcock’s serial killer Norman Bates in Psycho. In a twist, Perkins would from then on be typecast a serial killer.
  • Ashton Kutcher went from silly and dim in That 70’s Show to dramatic actor in The Butterfly Effect.
  • Elijah Wood went from Frodo to serial-killing cannibal in Sin City, opening up his career for roles that didn’t limit him to “sensitive, goodhearted characters.”
  • Leslie Nielsen, believe it or not, was a serious drama actor throughout the 1960s to 1970s. He canned that type when he starred in the laugh-a-minute Farrelly brother’s comedy, Airplane! From then on Nielsen was enjoyably typecast as a comic for the remainder of his career, starring in movies like The Naked Gun series.

As you can see, many famous talents have successfully gone “against type.” There are always exceptions, but if you find you’re pigeonholed to your disadvantage it’s best to try gradually moving away from your type with progressively different roles.

Industry professionals have expectations of what kind of roles you could and should play.  You need to gradually shape their perception of you with each and every role you take, gradually moving away from your image. Then again, sometimes it only takes one role to break out of your type and transform your career into something different forever.

Many famous actors have successful went against type and redefined their careers. You can too!

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