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In television, film, and theatre, typecasting is the process by which a particular actor becomes strongly identified with a specific character; one or more particular roles; or, characters having the same traits or coming from the same social or ethnic groups. There have been instances in which an actor has been so strongly identified with a role as to make it difficult for him or her to find work playing other characters.
Alternatively, a director may choose to cast an actor "against type" (i.e., in a role that would be unusual for that actor, to create a dramatic or comedic effect).
||The examples and perspective in this section may not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (June 2011)|
Actors are selected for their roles either by a casting director, typically found in small productions, or, in larger productions such as motion pictures, through casting agencies. Extras and stand-ins are often drawn from the company Central Casting, a company so influential since its 1925 start, that some people refer to all cast as coming from "central casting". The concept of "central" casting was also widespread during the studio-dominated era (from the 1920s through the 1940s) when each studio had a larger number of actors on contract who were assigned to whatever films were being made at the time by that studio. Such centralized casting was made more efficient by placing an actor in subsequent similar character roles after his or her first success, especially if an actor was particularly well received in that role by the audience or by critics.
Typecasting happens to actors of both great and modest ability: an actor may become typecast either because of a strong identification with a particular role or because he or she lacks the versatility or talent to move on to other roles. Some actors welcome the steady work that typecasting brings[by whom?], but in general it is seen as undesirable for actors in leading roles.[by whom?]
With character actors
An actor is sometimes so strongly identified with a role as to make it difficult for him or her to find work playing other characters. It is especially common among leading actors in popular TV series and films.
An example is the cast of the original Star Trek:
|“||Doohan regrets that Star Trek will not be renewed for next year, but he considers the exposure the show has given [his acting career] invaluable.||”|
—United Press International, 1969
During Star Trek's original run from 1966 to 1969, William Shatner was the highest paid cast member at $5,000 per episode ($36,000 today), with Leonard Nimoy and the other actors paid much less.:166–167,297 The press predicted that Nimoy would be a star after the show ended, however, and James Doohan expected that appearing on an NBC series would help his post-Star Trek career. The show so typecast the actors, however—as early as March 1970, Nichelle Nichols complained of Star Trek having "defined [her] so narrowly as an actress"—that only Shatner and Nimoy continued working steadily during the 1970s, and even their work received little attention unless it was Star Trek-related. The others' income came mostly from personal appearances at Star Trek conventions attended by Trekkies; by 1978 DeForest Kelley, for example, earned up to $50,000 ($181,000 today) annually. In 1979, the first of six films starring the cast appeared; Kelley earned $1 million for the final film, Star Trek VI (1991).:297 Being identified so closely with one role left the show's cast with mixed emotions; Shatner called it "awesome and irksome", and Walter Koenig called it "bittersweet" but admitted that there was "a certain immortality in being associated with Star Trek".
|“||If what happened to the first cast is called being typecast, then I want to be typecast. Of course, they didn't get the jobs after 'Trek.' But they are making their sixth movie. Name me someone else in television who has made six movies!||”|
Some of the Next Generation actors also became typecast. Patrick Stewart's most prominent non-Star Trek film or television role, Professor X of the X-Men film series, shares similarities to his Star Trek character Jean-Luc Picard. Stewart has stated "I don't have a film career. I have a franchise career.". Despite his comments, he continued having a distinguished career as a Shakespearean actor, receiving numerous awards and being granted knighthood for his stage performances. Jonathan Frakes has stated that "it’s better to be type-cast than not to be cast at all." The Next Generation had one of the largest budgets of its time, however, and its cast became very wealthy during its filming.
The opening premise of the movie Galaxy Quest was that a very Star Trek-like cast of actors was reduced to publicity appearances, such as opening stores and malls, in character. Except for the captain (Tim Allen), who was comfortably retired, the cast was constantly griping about how they could not find serious and appropriate roles, so typecast were they.
John Larroquette said that after winning four Emmys in a row, "it was 10 years after Night Court ended before I got a role as a dad. Because Dan Fielding was such a bizarre character, he had made such an impression, that typecasting does happen. Every role was some sleazy lawyer or some sleazy this or some sleazy that". During his years on the comedy Married... with Children, Ed O'Neill's scenes were cut from the film drama Flight of the Intruder after a test audience laughed when he was on the screen. Adam West as Batman in the 1966 show of the same name is another prominent example. Clayton Moore and George Reeves, who played The Lone Ranger and Superman, respectively, in the Golden Age of Television, were also victims of typecasting. Reeves' typecasting was so pervasive that an urban legend grew around his role in From Here to Eternity, which claimed that his major role was practically removed from the film after test audiences shouted "There's Superman!" whenever he appeared. (In reality, there were no test screenings, and no scenes from Reeves' minor role were cut from the final version. The article on Hollywoodland, a fictionalized account of Reeves' death, discusses this issue.)
Typecasting was a greater threat to an actor's long-term financial security prior to the 1970s when television actors were generally paid less and did not receive residuals from television shows being repeated in syndication. While the careers of actors in such series such as Star Trek and Gilligan's Island suffered from overexposure due to their previous series being aired ubiquitously they were no longer being paid while at the same time being unable to find new acting jobs.
Soviet actor Mikheil Gelovani depicted Joseph Stalin in 12 films made during the leader's lifetime - among them The Great Dawn (1938), Lenin in 1918 (1939), The Vow (1946), The Fall of Berlin (1950) and The Unforgettable Year 1919 (1952) - which reflected his cult of personality; those films were either banned or had the scenes featuring Stalin removed after the 1956 Secret Speech. Following Stalin's death, Gelovani was denied new roles, since he was identified with the dead premier. According to the The Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats, Gelovani had probably portrayed the same historical figure more than any other actor. Die Zeit columnist Andreas Kilb wrote that he ended his life "a pitiful Kagemusha" of Stalin's image.
Playing against type
Some actors attempt to escape typecasting by choosing roles that are opposite the types of roles that they are known for; alternatively, a director may choose to cast an actor in a role that would be unusual for them to create a dramatic effect. This is called "playing against type" or "casting against type".
In a few cases, an initial casting against type may lead to being typecast in a different style altogether (see, for instance, the case of Leslie Nielsen, who broke from his dramatic typecasting in Airplane! and was subsequently typecast as a deadpan comic the rest of his life; Nielsen embraced the latter).
Playing within type
Some actors embrace typecasting. Fans often expect a particular actor to play a "type", and roles which deviate from what is expected can be commercial failures. This beneficial typecasting is particularly common in action movies (e.g., Jackie Chan, Jet Li, Jean-Claude Van Damme) and comedies (Charlie Chaplin, Adam Sandler, Chris Rock) but much less common in drama, although many B-list and C-list character actors make careers out of playing a particular dramatic type, and it is often suggested to would-be actors that they audition for roles that fit their type.
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- Vogel, Harold L. (2007). Entertainment Industry Economics: A Guide for Financial Analysis. Cambridge University Press. p. 222. ISBN 0-521-87485-8.
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- Porter, Donald (July 1995). "Ed O'Neill, July 1995". Standard-Examiner (Ogden, Utah). Retrieved March 25, 2013.
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- Andreas Kilb (20 September 1991). "Die Meister des Abgesangs" [The Masters of the Swan Song]. zeit.de (in German). Die Zeit. Retrieved 19 September 2011.