If auditions are a numbers game, which they are… then acting, like most forms of business, is a poker game. It’s imperative you lead with power. Getting cast, as luck would have it, is largely based on type.
Knowing what you do best, how you’re immediately thought of as a professional, is leading with power. We’re talking about ‘type’.
On-camera, how you read as a talent speaks volumes before you even utter a sound. Your look, your face, your build, already have an entire performance built right into them. Hopefully, it’s saying what you intend it to say. (Now there’s the rub.) The same applies to your presence. Whether you realize it or not, that presence says a great deal more than mere looks. It adds to the surface story told in your initial appearance. It keeps us interested to learn more… or it doesn’t.
When it comes to voiceover and type, we’re largely referring to that presence, because with voiceover we’re addressing thought and point-of-view. Elusive items that ultimately color everything: emotional tone, convey concept, allow for a deeper empathy and understanding of subjects and realities. We all appreciate the story and feel more connected to the characters and their situations once we learn or imagine what they are thinking.
This is precisely why the single most sought-after type is you being you. Everything on the page that you might utter should seamless tell us this is what you think, this is what you know for yourself to be true, and this is how you feel about it.
Yet, determining type for so many remains elusive, probably because you’re used to you. You’ve been with you all your life. You’re sick of you. You didn’t become an actor to “be yourself”! It’s far more interesting to become someone else; to see the world through their eyes. To think the way someone else might think, perhaps. To empathize or to play devil’s advocate in order to ultimately convey the point.
What speaks to us most from a mass medium speaks to us individually first. As actors we’re no different. When we first start out in the talent business, we take comfort in the knowledge that no one does what we do.
“I’m me. I’m the only one of me. I don’t want to be compared with anyone else.”
When Bruce Springsteen first broke through on the American music scene, in the mid-1970’s he was featured on the cover of TIME magazine. He wasn’t well-known yet and was referred to as “the next Bob Dylan”. It would be another ten years before Springsteen achieved the full-bore notoriety he’s now associated with as an American singer and songwriter.
Comparing these two musical icons may seem like a dramatic stretch, if not flat out ridiculous, but the truth is they share quite a few qualities, while remaining distinct individuals.
Both are gravel-voiced singers known for anthem-like songs. Both happen to be short and dark in stature, as well, for that matter. The commonalities in their music could be classified as unvarnished R & B, with folky-soulful roots. And, if that weren’t enough, they both have their own distinct parallels and comparisons with Woody Guthrie. Each represent the generation they evolved from, but I’d wager if you had all three in the same room not one would ever compare themselves to the other.
The benefit of distance offers us a better vantage point to observe the individual, rather than remain with the initial comparisons among these three great talents. The fact remains, all performers are subject to comparisons, regardless of the medium. We have to be described in someway with what’s familiar.
It’s much harder to understand the unknown without some tiny speck of a reality we already accept. Familiarity offers that initial handle on a new identity, while allowing for an opportunity to embrace something new at the same time.
The problem is most talent repel comparisons of themselves to anyone. As if that might strip them of their own personal identity.
You’re still YOU. There’s no denying that.
While it’s true no one does what you do quite the way you do it, you are, certainly at first blush perceived as a relatable type. This is true whether you embrace this concept or not. You may as well like it at least a little bit, because without type no one will be able to identify with you or establish your value to their future production—and that, my friend, is a cold, hard fact.
So, your type is in large part how you read to others; how you come across; how your personae is conveyed to the listener/viewer. In short, it’s who you are in the most basic, broadest sense. Identity and branding speak to your specific color, nuance, and creation. The devil’s in the details, which could be why so many struggle with the subject.
Rest assured, determining what you do best is a constant pursuit for talent of every skill level throughout your career, because it will inevitably change with you, and, in part, why training is a constant throughout your career as well. Challenging how you see yourself, and how you understand the work is something you must dedicate yourself to if you intend to continually grow and keep your skills sharp.
Copyright © 2017 by Kate McClanaghan. All Rights Reserved.