I promised I would talk about headshots, but there’s something important we need to discuss before we get to that: casting type. If you want your headshot to actually get you work, it has to look like you – but it also has to bring out the right elements of you. If you get a headshot that brings out your sexy side, but your casting type is not sexy at all, then your headshot won’t help you in the long run. So let’s get to know ‘type’.
Typing is good for you
A lot of actors resist their type. You have probably heard whinging or bitching about certain actors being ‘typecast’ as the same roles over and over again – generally considered lazy, unlucky, or a result of no talent, whereas the reality is quite the opposite.
It’s very common for actors who have just graduated from a training institute to try and resist their type, because they have probably been cast against type during their training, to challenge their abilities, and therefore think they can play anything. This may be true, they may have the ability to act a large variety of roles, but no actor is EVER cast like that. You will get, at most, a small amount of variety. (We’re talking screen work here – stage work may give you a medium variety of roles.) This is purely practicality – screen productions generally work within the realm of realism, and it doesn’t look ‘real’ to have a cute 18-year-old play an ancient hag or the CEO of a company. So you need to know your type, and embrace it.
Let me be blunt for a moment: If you’re whinging about how your characters are always the same, then you’re not delving deep enough into your characters. And that’s nobody’s fault but your own. You’re just short-changing yourself by staying at surface level. If you’re bored, work harder – create detail for your characters and they’ll never feel ‘all the same’. As you get older, your type will change along with your skills, looks and personality. There’s plenty of time to play a large variety of roles, it just won’t happen at once. Deal with it.
So what’s my type?
Figuring out your type can be a tricky when you first start out (especially since actors are notoriously self-assured or self-deprecating), so if possible, ask an industry professional you trust. If in doubt, you could always take a survey of a number of friends and family, or visit typecastme.com, where you can upload photos of yourself and have people submit their opinions as to your type (the benefits of this are probably fairly limited but have a look, it may give you more of an idea of what types to consider).
To start you off, here is a concise and insightful list of types that you might fall into, taken from Jason Pugatch’s Acting is a Job (Allworth Press, 2006):
Ingenue (young leading lady)
Comedic (Quirky, Wry, Zany, Wacky)
Character (Older or Younger)
Joe Edelman’s blog The Business of Modeling uses different names, which you may find easier to identify with:
The Innocent (Meg Ryan, David Schwimmer)
Regular Guy/Gal (Ray Romano, Sandra Bullock)
The Explorer (Ellen Degeneres, Johnny Depp)
The Sage (Leonard Nimoy, Oprah Winfrey)
The Hero (Sylvester Stallone, Linda Hamilton)
The Outlaw (Al Pacino, Kathy Bates)
The Magician (Lucy Lui, Jon Voight)
The Lover (Aaron Eckhart, Drew Barrymore)
The Jester (Adam Sandler, Queen Latifah)
The Ruler (Sean Connery, Judy Dench)
The Caregiver (Frances McDormand, Alan Alda)
The Creator (Steve Martin, Better Midler)
I’d recommend giving his blog post a read (link above) to understand a bit more about how typing can help get you work. Read around as much as possible about how type casting works, because the more you understand about type casting, the more you understand about what is needed from you as an actor. It’s the beginning of understanding how this industry works.
A final word about typing: chances are nobody will ever ask you your type. They will decide for themselves what they think you are, so you can safely choose without fear of rebuttal. But be honest. Almost everyone wants to be sexy and gorgeous, but not everybody is. That doesn’t mean you can’t be a beautiful, amazing, talented girl-next-door. They all have their advantages and disadvantages. Being honest with yourself is the only way to becoming the best version of yourself that you can be.