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  • Writer's pictureMichigan Actors Studio

What is a “type” and why do you need to know yours?

“Type” is a term the industry uses to define whether or not you physically look like someone who could realistically play a specific role.

According to Tonya Tennenbaum in Acting Magazine: “An actor’s “type” generally refers to the category or categories that the actor is loosely placed in for purposes of casting. An actor’s type is useful for narrowing down which actors, among the vast sea of potential actors, might fit the breakdown of a role being cast. Sometimes referred to as an actor’s “niche,” type is also useful for actors in their understanding of where they fit into the market, relative to other actors.”

Determining your type is important as you move forward in your acting career, and the first step–before you get your headshots and go on auditions– is figuring out how you naturally present to others. This will help ensure you are putting yourself out there in front of people who are looking to cast someone like you.

It can be hard for actors to figure out their type because, of course, you know your range and that artistically you can play anything! Acknowledging your type can feel like you’re cutting yourself off from opportunities. However, knowing how you come across in the room is essential to help you get those first few gigs and get your foot in the door. Once people know you (and you impress them with your professionalism and skill), then you get the opportunity to be cast against type. Consider this an important building block in your acting career.

What does it mean when we talk about how you come across in the room? Next time you’re out and about, take some time to observe people. Do they look kind and approachable? Or angry and stressed? Do they look like they would bake you some cookies or sell you drugs? In a nutshell, that is what type is: barring all other information and without taking time to really get to know you: who do people think you are? There are ways to influence how others interpret you (how you dress, style your hair etc), but in reality, type goes beyond those superficial trappings and is really about your energy. Do you have goofball energy? Do you intimidate people? Knowing how you’re perceived allows you to narrow your focus when pursuing work.

If you are an awkward and funny person, but your headshot makes you look like a sexy vixen you’re going to get called in for the sexy vixen role and when an awkward, funny person walks in, you’re not giving the casting director what they are looking for. If they don’t know you, the only thing they have to go by is what your headshot is telling them.

You have to know exactly what you’re selling in order to consistently make the sale.

In business, you have to know what your product is in order to sell it effectively. You might be thinking “Well… DUH!” But you not only have to know what your product is, but how it can be used, so you can find your customers.

Let’s say for example you start a chips and salsa business.

So, you sell chips and salsa; easy, right?

But is that all people need to know? That you sell “chips and salsa”?

Mango peach salsa and corn chips is a totally different product than spicy tomatillo salsa and soy chips. You need to let people know what TYPE of chips and salsa they’re getting when they buy your product. If I’m looking for a mild peach salsa to serve at a child's birthday party I’m not going to be pleased with the super spicy jalapeno kind- no matter how good it is.

Such as it is with actors.

Basic Types

There are two broad categories and then a lot of smaller types that fit into each of the categories.

First there is the Leading Man/Leading Lady/Leading Person. This is often the hero or romantic lead and are typically what you would consider universally attractive. Examples of this type are Angelina Jolie, Denzel Washington, or Sophia Vergara. Being in this category doesn’t mean you’ll never get to play quirky or comedic roles (We see you Jennifer Aniston). Likewise, being attractive does not mean you will always be cast in a leading role.

The second type is called Character Actor and they tend to be more quirky. They will often play the sidekick or best friend. Some examples of character actors are Luis Guzmán, Kathy Najimy, Leslie Jones, Steve Buscemi and Sara Ramírez. Being a character actor doesn’t mean that you won’t ever get to be the lead (Thinking of you Adam Sandler).

There are lots of subcategories that you can explore within each of these two broad categories, but oddly enough, you don’t want to be so specific with your type that you can only be cast one way. For example, if you look clean-cut, tough and honest, you may find yourself being cast as a police officer, but if you are wearing a police uniform in your headshots, you would really be limiting your opportunities. Therefore, knowing your type in this situation allows you to adjust accordingly.

Here are some samples of not putting yourself into a too-specific bucket based on type. You can see that a casting director if you received the headshots on the left you would put each actor in a bucket. However, the headshots on the right give a clear idea of what type the actor is while still showing that they can fit into multiple roles.

What if looking at this information, you’re still confused? It happens a lot, honestly. It can be difficult to look at yourself with an outside eye because you already know who you are. If that’s the case, that’s when it’s time to ask others how you are perceived. Friends and family can be helpful, so can looking at the career trajectory of actors who look like you. It can be difficult to ask the people closest to you though. This means one of the best ways to discover or explore your type is in an acting class. Even if you don’t do specific activities meant to help you uncover your type, pretty much everything you do in acting class is a clue. What kinds of characters are you drawn to? How does your teacher cast you in scene work or in a monologue? You can outright ask the instructor what they think your type is, and how you can ensure you are not put in one specific box, which is also referred to as “typecasting”.

Remember that just like you, your type is always changing and evolving. One of the most challenging aspects of being an actor is possessing the ability to assess yourself honestly, without judgment, to understand what your type is. Knowing this information will help your career in multiple ways - from getting a good headshot, to selecting audition pieces, to what to wear or how to style your hair for auditions.

If you don’t already know your type, put that at the top of your to-do list for your acting career.

Knowing is half the battle.

If you’re interested in finding out more about how to determine your type, here are some additional resources:



Mexicut Films (headed by MAS alum Maurizio Dominguez) is casting for an upcoming short film shooting in Metro-Detroit: VANISHED!

Multiple roles for Latine youth are available.

Vanished is a heartfelt, gripping story about the devastating impact of immigration enforcement and family separation on the Southwest Detroit community.

You may send in a 60-second monologue of your choosing, OR read from the sides provided in the link below:

Send any submissions and/or questions to


Now casting new talent for a paid, live murder mystery show - "The Dinner Detective".

Performances are year-round, including 1 performance per month in the summer and 2-3 performances per month in the fall/winter. Performances are on Saturday nights and ensemble cast is selected before each performance based on cast member availability.

Must be located in the Lansing area.

Comedy/Improv performance experience is preferred but not required.

Please email your resume, headshot, and availability to to schedule an audition and for more info!


Flint Repertory Theatre is seeking AEA and Non-Union actors for the 2022-23 Season.

Flint Repertory Theatre is committed to diversity and encourages performers of all ethnicities, gender identities, and ages, as well as performers with disabilities, to submit.

For submission instructions, more information and casting breakdown:


Fall Registration Starts Soon!

Join us for a fun semester of acting, voice over classes, and Kids & Teens classes! Registration is now OPEN!

Are you ready for representation?

If you’re at that point in your training where you feel ready to get out there and start auditioning, SAG-franchised agency The iGroup located in Metro-Detroit is always accepting submissions.

Check out this link for explicit instructions on how to submit for representation:

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