“Pick a Type…”
“Discover your Brand…”
“Find your USP (unique selling proposition)…”
“… Then, market the hell out of it!”
Whatever you call it, this is the marketing advice most experts give to actors.
And there’s a good reason for it: It Works.
Except when it doesn’t.
The reason that it works for so many is simple: It’s easier to sell your product if it’s simple to sum it up in a single, known concept.
For actors, this means “the quirky neighbor”, “the mom”, “the middle-aged dad”, “the young ingenue”, “the tough guy”, “the crazy scientist”, or any of the standard character types.
But what if you can play more than one “Type”?
What if you’re (dare I say it) “Versatile!”
Well, I’ll admit, it’s a much longer road to sell versatility.
However if you are versatile (and you have to be truly honest with yourself about it), then maybe the stock marketing advice is not so good for you.
Two Types Of Actors
Here’s my simplified view of all actors in the world:
There are two types of actors:
- Personality Actors (those who stick to a single, recognizable type)
- Chameleon Actors (people you don’t recognize until halfway through the film)
I chose these two labels because the existing “Leading Man/Woman” vs. “Character Actor” didn’t fit the bill. Many character actors only play one type, and some leading men/women are very versatile.
Examples of “Personality Actors” include: Harrison Ford, Christopher Lloyd, Tom Cruise, Peter Lorre.
Examples of “Chameleon Actors” include: Peter Sellers, Gary Oldman, Johnny Depp, Anthony Hopkins.
Even in the field of animation, where you’d expect to find mostly chameleons, there are still quite a few who only really play one character type.
Both Paths Lead To Success
In my experience, most actors are really “Personality Actors”… so the marketing advice to stick to your type is the easiest and most lucrative path to take. It may take some coaching and exploration to find the one that works best for you, but it is worth the effort.
For “Chameleon Actors”, it can be a harder road. You’ve got to sell the amorphous quality of versatility, instead of a single type. It will take time to get those who hire to know you and your capabilities. It is definitely a harder path, but can be equally lucrative.
The Truth Is In Your Heart
Be honest with yourself about your abilities. If you have a dominant type, embrace it. If you are truly booking all over the board, however, you may be a chameleon. Either way, be proud of who you are and what you can do!
What type of actor will you become?
Originally published in “The Pickup: A Newsletter For Voice Actors”, October 2014, Issue 5.
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All content written and voiced by Joe J Thomas online at: JoeActor.com
Good advice, Captain Putch–I mean, Mr. Joe, sir. I’ve bookmarked this article and I followed the link to subscribe. Thanks for posting this. As I get myself back onto the VO road, this will be an article to come back to.
Glad you liked it, Abner!
Best of luck on the path to VO-ness!!!