Typecasting

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In film, television, 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 them to find work playing other characters.[citation needed]

Character actors[edit]

An actor is sometimes so strongly identified with a role as to make it difficult for them to find work playing other characters. It is especially common among leading actors in popular television series and films.

Star Trek[edit]

An example is the cast of the original Star Trek series. During Star Trek's original run from 1966 to 1969, William Shatner was the highest paid cast member at $5,000 per episode ($39,000 today), with Leonard Nimoy and the other actors paid much less.[1] However, the press predicted that Nimoy would be a star after the series ended,[2] and James Doohan expected that appearing on an NBC series would help his post-Star Trek career.[3]

The series so typecast the actors, however—as early as March 1970, Nichelle Nichols complained of Star Trek having "defined [her] so narrowly as an actress"[4]—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 ($196,000 today) annually.[5] Residuals from the series ended in 1971[6] but in 1979, the first of six films starring the cast appeared; Kelley earned $1 million for the final film, Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (1991).[1]

Parade stated of the cast in 1978 that "[They] lost control of their destinies the minute they stepped on the bridge of the make-believe Enterprise in 1966",[7] and The New York Times observed in 1991 that "For most of the actors in the original "Star Trek" series, Starfleet has never been far off the professional horizons." Being identified so closely with one role[8] left the series' 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".[7]

Some of the Next Generation actors also became typecast. Patrick Stewart recalled that a "distinguished Hollywood director I wanted to work for said to me 'Why would I want Captain Picard in my movie?' That was painful".[9] His most prominent non-Star Trek film or television role, Professor X of the X-Men film series, shares similarities to Jean-Luc Picard. Stewart has stated "I don't have a film career. I have a franchise career"; he continues to work on stage as a Shakespearean actor.[10] The Next Generation had one of the largest budgets of its time,[11] and the cast became very wealthy.[12][13] Jonathan Frakes stated that "it's better to be type-cast than not to be cast at all."[14] Michael Dorn said in 1991, "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!"[15]

Other examples[edit]

John Larroquette said that after winning four Emmy Awards 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."[16] During his years on the comedy Married... with Children, Ed O'Neill's scenes were cut from the film drama Flight of the Intruder (1991) after a test audience laughed when he was on the screen.[17]

Jon Hamm stated that after the success of Mad Men, he received "about 40 scripts that were all set in the 60s, or had me playing advertising guys" like his character Don Draper.[18]

Clayton Moore, who played the Lone Ranger in the Golden Age of Television, was also a victim of typecasting. Moore embraced his typecasting, stating that he had "fallen in love" with the character of the Lone Ranger, and regularly appeared in public in character, to the point that Jack Wrather, who owned the character, issued a cease and desist order to Moore in 1979 (the dispute was dropped in 1984 and Moore resumed his appearances).[19]

Ben McKenzie agreed with Frakes about typecasting. He became a star in the role of Ryan Atwood in The O.C. at age 24, after two years of seeking acting work in New York and Los Angeles. Eleven years later, after starring in two more television series playing what The New York Times described as a "quiet, guarded leading man", McKenzie said "if you are being stereotyped, that means you have something to stereotype. So they're casting you. That is an amazing thing. That is a gift. Worry about being pigeonholed in your 50s."[20]

Daniel Radcliffe was typecast as Harry Potter after having played the role in the eight films of the franchise. Radcliffe was faced with two transitions, that of moving from child actor to adult star and from being typecast as Harry Potter to playing other roles.[21]

Historical-real characters[edit]

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.[22] According to The Guinness Book of Movie Facts and Feats, Gelovani had probably portrayed the same historical figure more than any other actor.[23] Die Zeit columnist Andreas Kilb wrote that he ended his life "a pitiful Kagemusha" of Stalin's image.[24]

Playing against type[edit]

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 or comedic effect. This is called "playing against type" or "casting against type".[citation needed] Notable examples include:

See also[edit]

References[edit]

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  2. ^ Kleiner, Dick (1967-12-04). "Mr. Spock's Trek To Stardom". Warsaw Times-Union. Warsaw, Indiana. Newspaper Enterprise Association. p. 7. Retrieved May 7, 2011.
  3. ^ "'Star Trek' Ace Is Former Pilot". Beaver County Times. Beaver, Pennsylvania. United Press International. 1969-04-21. pp. B12. Retrieved May 6, 2011.
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