Jason Alexander (aka George Costanza from Seinfeld) is a great actor. But can you see him playing Hamlet? I mean the moment he started in with "To be or not to be," I'd be thinking, "you tell 'em, George!"
Such is the curse of typecasting. And the curse isn't confined to the world of acting. There are plenty of capable executives and managers who find themselves trapped in the same role over and over again. If you're in this rut and want to get out of it, keep reading.
Half Empty or Half Full?
Being typecast is a glass half empty/half full situation. The empty part is that once you've been typecast, it's almost impossible to take on other roles. For those seeking new challenges and personal growth, typecasting thus represents a tremendous source of professional dissatisfaction.
But there's a half full side perspective, too. After all, people only end up getting typecast after they've earned a reputation as being good at what they do. Consequently, to many executives and managers, being typecast is a source not of dissatisfaction but security. They take comfort from knowing that they're well regarded and that their role is clearly defined. It must be nice for Jason Alexander to know that he can be hired to play an underachieving goofball anytime he wants.
The Perils of Being Typecast
But is the sense of security associated with being typecast just an illusion? Are the typecast really as safe as they think they are? In fact, they're not. Kathy McAfee, president of Kmc Brand Innovation, cites some of the perils these individuals face:
- They come to define themselves by their titles and job responsibilities;
- They lose their confidence to take on new challenges and responsibilities; and
- Their lack of professional flexibility and resiliency makes them ill prepared for the layoffs and other career setbacks that are an inevitable part of business.
Next week, in Part 2 of this series, we'll talk about how to break out of the trap of being typecast.
Wishing you career success in every role,
By Glenn Demby [NOTE: Lauryn didn't write this piece. If you have comments on it, send them to firstname.lastname@example.org]
I can't resist. Lauryn's article made me think about all of the actors and actresses who have been on the receiving end of the typecasting syndrome. Here's my personal top 10. Although this is my own list, I want to acknowledge that I borrowed heavily from an internet source called "Blogger Beer," http://bloggerbeer.blogspot.com/2006/03/top-10-type-cast-actors.html.
10. Jason Alexander: I wonder if this serious stage actor now regrets taking his role as George Costanza.
9. Kelsey Grammer: Takes the concept of typecasting to the ultimate dimension by literally playing the same character over and over again: Dr. Frazier Crane.
8. Jim Nabors: The tragedy of it all is that Gomer Pyle actually has the basso voice of an opera star.
7. Henry Winkler: He'll always be "the Fonz."
6. Molly Ringwald: Turning 20 was her worst career move.
5. Bob Denver: One word: Gilligan.
4. Alan Hale: Two words: The Skipper.
3. Robert De Niro: No actor has ever played a mobster better - or more frequently.
2. Leonard Nimoy: Still in search of his post-Star Trek career.
1. William Shatner: The king of kings who has turned the typecasting dilemma into his personal industry.
Brandon Lee: Died tragically on the set in 1993
Actors Who Died on the Job
On a serious note, a number of actors and actresses have died while shooting a movie or TV show or during stage performances. Here are some of the more notable cases:
Molière: The French playwright and actor died during a performance of his play, Le Malade Imaginaire (The Hypochondriac) in 1673.
Tyrone Power: Suffered a fatal heart attack while filming Solomon and Sheba in Spain in 1958.
Nelson Eddy: Had a stroke during a play in Miami in 1967. Died in a hospital the next day.
Irene Ryan: "Granny" from the Beverly Hillbillies died at age 71, six weeks after collapsing during a performance of the musical Pippin in 1973.
Vic Morrow: Killed along with two child actors in a helicopter accident that took place during filming of the Twilight Zone movie in 1982.
Dick Shawn: Comedian who fell and hit his head during a 1987 stand-up performance at UC San Diego. Lay unconscious for nearly five minutes before audience realized it wasn't part of the act. Died in the hospital 45 minutes later of an apparent heart attack.
Redd Foxx: Suffered the "big one" on the set during filming of the sitcom The Royal Family in 1991.
Brandon Lee: Died tragically in 1993 at age 28 during filming of The Crow by the metal tip of what was supposed to be a dummy bullet fired from a blank gun fired as part of a stunt.
John Ritter: Died at age 54 of an undiagnosed heart problem during filming of the sitcom 8 Simple Rules for Dating My Teenage Daughter in 2003.