Monday, August 14, 2017

Called to Act Against Type

One of the things I’ve been bumping up against in the past year, with great frustration, is being called to audition for a role that seems the polar opposite of the roles I’m usually cast to play (i.e. senator, judge, executive, strong women). Blue-haired granny is the one I see most frequently – small, plump, caring, no strong identity, sometimes comical. It's like when you get older you become a ghost; just the faintest impression of a person.

The only apparent fit for these roles is the age range. I’m not plump. I don’t have gray hair. I'm 5 ft. 8 inches tall. Nothing in my posted head shots or reels gives me any clue as to what the casting director might have been thinking of in asking me to audition.

Blue-haired Granny? Nah.

I’ve discussed this with actor friends and the responses have ranged from the limited vision of American film and TV (if you’re a certain age, you’re a blue-haired granny) to the possibility that I’m “above market” in the southeast, where many of these roles are being offered (although I’ve heard the market there is changing) to the idea that I am a blue-haired granny, but don’t yet see myself that way (!!!!!!).

Another suggested that, while I wasn’t a strong fit for the role being cast, perhaps – because of my strong résumé – the casting director just wants to see me on tape.

I've thought about that, but trying to pretzel myself into something I’m not, and often for a minor role, doesn’t seem like a good long-term strategy. It goes back to advice for young actors that I read some years ago: don’t put yourself in front of casting until you’re sure you’re giving them your best or you’re going to leave them with the impression that you’re a lousy actor. When I try to play a sweet little blue-haired granny, I’m a lousy actor.

Frances Bavier
What I finally concluded is that if casting simply wants to connect with an actor, and to learn more about them and their ability beyond what they see on their reel and clips, then a better strategy perhaps is to toss out the role’s character description and to interpret the lines as you would in your strongest persona. Not Frances Bavier but Anne Bancroft, for example.

It could be that casting isn't yet seeing other possibilities and that you'll be so different you'll stand out and get the role anyway. (Remember, when they were casting The Graduate they originally thought of Ben as a young Robert Redford type, not dark and Jewish Dustin Hoffman.)

So for me, if plump with blue hair really is what they have in mind, I won't get the role but casting may remember me in a better light for next time when the role may play closer to my strengths. That's a better strategy perhaps than just groaning and taking a pass on the audition.

Anne Bancroft

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