It has been a few weeks since I met with representativesat Abrams Artists and honestly not much has happened on that end.
Granted, they took a meeting with me in the middle of pilot season and as we approach the upfront presentations in NYC I figured they may not have that much time, energy, or motivation, to deal with new talent at the moment. Especially new talent with NO television credits.
I’ve been keeping busy touring with both THE SHIPMENT and BELLONA while also getting involved in new play readings and workshops to meet new playwrights and expand my network of collaborators in the city. But what I’ve realized is that the type of work I’ve done the most of (experimental new contemporary works) just doesn’t register on the radar of CDs for Film, Commercials or Television. So i’ve been taking concerted steps to reshape my resume and expose another side of my talents/interests. This brings me to the point of this post, and the dreaded reality of every actors life and career – typecasting.
A few years ago, after beginning a relationship with a manager, I decided I did not have the tools to cope with the commercial path I was on. I was young, naive, right out of school and thought that I had to take everything that came my way…even if I didn’t feel particularly good about it. I was auditioning for things I didn’t think I was right for only to prove to my manager that I could book something. My focus was all wrong and my self esteem was suffering because of it.
Now I feel much stronger about my skills and more focused on maintaining the foundation for a long career. But I’m still having trouble distilling my commercial “type”. I enjoy comedy in all its forms, and watch a LOT of standup and sketch comedy, and most of my friends will say I’m funny…but am I the funny guy? I think I’m smart…but am I the intellectual? And let’s be honest in the current landscape of entertainment I’m never going to be “leading man” material. So where does that leave me if I’m not a lead and I’m not exactly a character type?
I took a wonderful workshop “A SHOT IN THE ARM” with an actress/coach named Elizabeth Gamza and she broke through a lot of my bs with a deft image reading at the top of the session. She took one look at me and said:
“You think people think that you’re ‘out there’ but you don’t feel that way about yourself do you?”
I’ve thought hard about that experience and found it invaluable then and now. An agent said to me once with my current hairstyle they just couldn’t send me out for everything; for example they could send me out for a quirky barista as opposed to an insurance salesperson. Now come on! In real life that is just not true. But we’re not talking about real life are we? This type question is all about perception and the creation of illusions – that is the world I have chosen to live in.
I feel as though I’ve been approaching this typing issue all wrong. No one is one thing. That’s what makes us dynamic and special. And the images we as actors create gain interest in their contradictions and idiosyncrasies. It is a difficult thing to reimagine yourself as an immediately identifiable personality-product when our cultural inclination is towards the individual and unique (I disagree with that but this post is getting long as it is). Then once you’ve decided what your type is and where you fit into the industry you’ve got to figure out how to market that in a fresh, immediate, accessible, appropriate and attractive way. In a way, actors must accept that image — if not everything — is the frontline to human interaction. Actors must hone their skills, not only in performance, but also to communicate who they are, what they are about, and why that is exciting in the fleeting moment a CD decides to look at their two-dimensional headshot. As actors in an industry that thrives on the immediate exhilaration of newness this is not gonna change anytime soon.
Now when I look at my headshots I think to myself…who is this guy? It’s not really “all” of me, and currently it’s not really the strongest bits. As an adult and having had to fight to create a healthy sense of self with all my complexities and contradictions, to now comb through my personality for the most easily identifiable and marketable aspects in this strangely objective way is puzzling, exciting, and discomfiting. On the one hand I love a challenge, I love to succeed, and I’m dedicated to being successful in this industry. On the other hand, and a bit more existentially, typing forces me to confront the notion of authenticity and the constructed nature of personality. I create characters. I have created myself. I am only what I show you. Can you tell which one is real? If it’s exciting does it really matter?
No one ever said this business was easy.