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An Actor's Eyes
Last updated 5/22/11

Know Your Type And The Roles You Can Be Cast For


The typing of actors usually begins with an gender/age-based description such as teen girl, as well as to contain more specific descriptions such as teenage girl, 16, angry, but sensitive, must be able to cry.  It all begins here.  Probably the most important aspect in starting and sustaining a career as an actor.  Unfortunately not many texts address this aspect of the process of becoming an actor in very great depth or detail, but normally books about, or certain chapters in books, concerning the role of casting directors and/or the audition process can reveal valuable information on how to discover one’s type.  Once you’ve realized your specific type a marketing plan can begin in earnest.  Agents specifically need to know who actors are type-wise since this will make it easier for the agent to know exactly what to send the actor out on.

Check List To Discover Your Acting Type

The first qualifier of an actor’s type may come through the submission of the headshot and resume which are what agents and casting directors will screen applicants by first.
Being the right age for the role.
Having the right physical dimensions for the role.
Having the right kind of voice for the role.
Having special talents the role requires, like dancing.
Able to take direction when it is given.
Having the right set of skills obtained through training and years of experience.
A match with the theatrical requirements of the role. For example, if the part calls for someone to “take charge” (dominate the proceedings) the actor should indicate this ability.
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 Casting people and agents are accustomed to categorizing actors according to type, and do use stereotypical character descriptions when placing casting notices.  Typing is part and parcel of the acting business and has little to do with talent or acting range.  Acting is a business where success is derived from being in the right place at the right time for the right role.  If you want to be considered castable, you must discover your type, enhance it, and learn to play it superbly.  But identifying with a character psychologically doesn’t necessarily mean you will be able to play the role effectively.

At a preliminary stage the director is getting a sense of the available talent from which to choose the cast.  Some known qualities that directors are generally watching for include:

 While the director tries to be as objective as possible, casting decisions are based largely on instinct -- the actor’s as well as the director’s.  The more experienced either is, the sharper those instincts tend to be.


A good audition announcement will give some specifics for each of the characters:

Study these to see which of the characters fits you best.  If the announcement does not give this information, it may be available as a separate handout from the director or company.  If there is no specific information, then read the play with particular care.  Some scripts give this information up front; in other cases you will need to determine it from your own analysis.  Take notes, not only of which characters you might be suitable for, but also for personality, motivations and relationships that might help you better prepare for the auditions.

Most directors make cast choices based on the appearance of the entire show.  If an actor looks out of place, the overall image for which the director is striving can suffer.


Terms To Know

Casting. When a casting director puts out the news that he needs to fill a certain role that requires an approximate age range and appearance such as a certain ethnicity, height, build or look.

Character Role. A supporting role with pronounced or eccentric characteristics.

Head Shot. An 8" x 10" photograph that acts as your calling card for securing television, film and theatrical work, showing your face as it actually appears. The head shot should capture your best and most unique physical features, while still remaining true to your actual image.

Image. The casting type or quality you wish to convey and portray to the theatrical community.

Open Casting Calls. Auditions open to anyone.

Photo Double. An actor, usually an extra, used in place of a principal actor who is either unavailable or only seen partially, and never has any speaking lines.

Presence. An actor’s ability to command attention onstage, even when surrounded by other actors.

Screen Test. A recorded audition to determine a person’s suitability as an actor for film or television.

Type Casting. Assigning a role to an actor on the basis of his or her surface appearance or personality.

Typed-out. The elimination of an actor during auditions because of such obvious features as height, weight or age.

For a full glossary listing click here

To illustrate further, and to get you to begin thinking about types you would be able to portray well, here are some types that might be called for in a casting section:


 After the play has been selected, the director may reread it several times making notes on each character from these perspectives:


Useful Books

An Actor’s Guide: Making It in New York City
by Glenn Alterman
288 pages; (April 2002)
Allworth Press; ISBN: 1581152132
Promoting Your Acting Career
By Glenn Alterman
224 pages; (October 1998)
Allworth Press; ISBN 1880559978
Acting from a Spiritual Perspective: Your Art, Your Business, Your Calling
by Kathryn Marie Bild
284 pages; (September 2002)
Smith & Kraus; ISBN: 1575252945
How to Sell Yourself As an Actor
by K. Callan
250 pages; (March 1999)
Sweden Press; ISBN: 1878355155
Acting Professionally: Raw Facts About Careers in Acting
by Robert Cohen
192 pages; (August 1997)
Mayfield Publishing Company; ISBN: 0072562595
How to Get the Part...Without Falling Apart!
by Margie Haber, Barbara Babchick (Contributor), Heather Locklear
225 pages; (October 1999)
Lone Eagle Publishing; ISBN: 1580650147
How to be a Working Actor
By Mari Lyn Henri & Lynne Rogers
336 pages; (June 2000)
Watson-Guptill Publishers; ISBN:
How to Audition: For TV, Movies, Commercials, Plays, and Musicals
by Gordon Hunt
336 pages; (June 1995)
Harper Collins; ISBN: 0062732862
Hollywood, Here I Come!: How to Launch a Great Modeling or Acting Career Anywhere
by Cynthia Hunter
275 pages; (March 2001)
SCB International; ISBN: 1891971085
The Back Stage Guide to Casting Directors
by Hettie Lynne Hurtes
224 pages; (June 1998)
Watson-Guptill Pubns; ISBN: 0823088065
The Actor’s Encyclopedia of Casting Directors: Conversations with Over 100 Casting Directors on How to Get the Job
by Karen Kondazian, Eddie Shapiro (Contributor), Richard Dreyfuss
475 pages; (2000)
Lone Eagle Publishing Company; ISBN: 1580650139
Auditioning: An Actor-Friendly Guide
by Joanna Merlin, Harold Prince
224 pages; (May 2001)
Vintage Books; ISBN: 0375725377
Audition: Everything an Actor Needs to Know to Get the Part
by Michael Shurtleff, Bob Fosse
264 pages (January 1980)
Bantam Books; ISBN: 0553272950
Getting the Part: Thirty-Three Professional Casting Directors Tell You How to Get Work in Theater, Films, Commercials, and TV
by Judith Searle
320 pages; (September 1995)
Limelight Editions; ISBN: 0879101946

Click the titles of the above books for their availability, or enter the title of a book not shown in the above listing in the search box below.


Search for magazines by entering the title or keywords in the search box below.


In her book, Hollywood Here I Come: How to Launch a Great Modeling or Acting Career Anywhere, Cynthia Hunter describes a methodology using public survey techniques to help you discover your type:


So how do you discover the right image for you in order  to get that edge?  Well, now it’s time for that survey I referred to earlier.  The idea I am about to propose may be a little challenging, but hear me out.  Here’s what I want you to do.  It’s a little technique that I call ‘canvassing.’  Basically, when you canvas, you are giving yourself an opportunity to get a disinterested third party to evaluate the you project based on their first impression of you.  The image questionnaire provided at the end of this chapter will help you zero in on your natural sale.  Therefore, your assignment, should you decide to accept it, is the following:


1.  Make copies of the questionnaire.

2.  Find a partner to canvas with you, so that when your partner approaches other people to ask for their participation they will not be influenced by hearing your own voice.

3.  Go to a public place where people are waiting and have time to kill.  (Ideal spots include college campuses, airports, malls, bus stations, etc.)

4.  Have your partner ask someone if he or she would be willing to take a few minutes to fill out a questionnaire.  (My favorite approach is: “Would you like to fill out a questionnaire’  It’s fun and it’s free.”)

5.  Assuming you get a willing participant, have your partner explain that he or she will point out a person (you) to them and that, after observing that person (you) for a while, they will be asked to give their impressions by checking off their first impulses about this person on the questionnaire.  Have your partner give the participant the questionnaire and a pencil.  Then, have your partner point you out, and let the games begin!  (If you don’t have another actor to do this with, get a friend or relative to do it with you.  It is critical that the person being observed not speak to these people in order to get a honest survey.)

6.  Do this enough times to get a significant amount of surveys from which you can either make a fairly accurate assessment or, at least, get a good, strong sense of the image you project.



Relevant Associations & Organizations

Association of Talent Agents (ATA)
9255 Sunset Blvd., Suite 930
Los Angeles, CA 90069
Phone: 310-274-0628
Fax: 310-274-5063
Trade association composed of approximately 100 agency companies engaged in the talent agency business. The membership includes agencies of all sizes representing clients in the motion picture industry, stage, television, radio (including commercials) and literary work.
Email:  agentassoc@aol.com
National Association of Talent Representatives (NATR)
c/o The Gage Group
315 West 57th St., #4H
New York, NY 10019  
Phone: 212-262-5696 or 212-541-5250
Fax: 212-956-7466  
Email: gageny@aol.com
Association of Talent Agents (ATA)
9255 Sunset Blvd., Suite 930
Los Angeles, CA 90069
Phone: 310-274-0628
Fax: 310-274-5063
A nonprofit trade association composed of approximately 100 agency companies engaged in the talent agency business. The membership includes agencies of all sizes representing clients in the motion picture industry, stage, television, radio (including commercials) and literary work.
Email: agentassoc@aol.com
Casting Society of America
606 N. Larchmont Boulevard, Suite 4-B
Los Angeles, CA 90004 -1309
Phone: 323-463-1925
Email: castingsociety@earthlink.net or castingsociety@hotmail.com
Casting Society of America
2565 Broadway, Suite 185
New York, NY 10025
Phone: 212.868-1260 ext. 22
Email: castingsociety@earthlink.net or castingsociety@hotmail.com
Non-Traditional Casting Project (NTCP)
1560 Broadway, Suite 1600
New York, NY 10036
Phone: 212-730-4750
Fax: 212-730-4820
NTCP works to promote inclusive hiring practices and standards, diversity in leadership and balanced portrayals of persons of color and persons with disabilities.
Email: info@ntcp.org
For a full listing of helpful associations and organizations click here

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