Disclaimer : Many people will disagree with me... This is only my personal opinion on why actors need to stop looking at themselves as "Character Actors".
According to Wikipedia the definition of a Character Actor is: a supporting actor skilled at playing distinctly unusual, interesting, or eccentric characters, such that they are "almost unrecognizable from part to part, and yet play many, many roles convincingly and memorably." It is a term to distinguish between the leading actor and the supporting actor. This blog is not about the Character Actor in general, but more about why it does the actor a disadvantage to look at themselves as a Character Actor instead of just an Actor.
As a Portrait Photographer, who specializes in Actors Headshots, I get to meet a great deal of actors year after year and it always boggles my mind when I hear that they want character shots. It never truly makes any sense to me. Do you want to dress up like different characters, make dorky faces at the camera? I never really understand it. Heck most of the time they do not understand it either. They tell me that their agent or manager want different looks. I remember about a year ago I photographed this actor who brought 9 different looks... Everything from a business suit, to a lumberjack look, to a college sweatshirt to be a Dad type look, and I remember photographing him thinking to myself how is the actually benefiting you. I hope a casting director or an agent is reading this right now and they can explain it to me. Is it more important to see an actor dressed up in a costume portraying a character that they may or may not be qualified to play? Or is it more important to truly see "The Real Person?" Another question I have is this: If an Actor walks into an audition and you the casting director saw their lets say "Doctor Headshot" and they completely bombed the audition, would you look at them differently the next time you call them in? What I mean is because of the fact that they look like a doctor in the Headshot, but could not play that doctor in an audition, does that affect all the other roles that they could get cast in such as, "Well you look like a lawyer in this Headshot, but I saw your doctor audition and I just can't take the chance on another bombed audition." Isn't it better for you the casting director or agent or manager to just see the "Real Person" and from their you can make your own mind up what you want to cast this Actor in?
Another reason why I think Actors need to stop viewing themselves as a Character Actor is because you close yourself off to so many amazing roles. I do truly believe that the line between Character Actor and Leading Actor is becoming more and more a blur. Just look at Hollywood right now... I use Benedict Cumberbatch as an example all the time... Based on just looks alone, ten years ago you would never cast him in a leading role... He would be a character actor and that is it... Now everyone thinks he is the hottest Actor out there and He is popping up in leading role after leading role after leading role... Hollywood will always be changing with what society find to be the next fab. You as an actor need to view yourself as an Actor and only an Actor. Let the casting director decide to call you in or a manger /agent to send you out of character or leading roles. That is what they are paid for. You just be an actor and be you... Play everything and anything that truly drives your passion.
Now I am not opposed to taking lifestyle shots and whatnot during a session. Photographs for your website I am totally for... but when you are photographing your Headshots I truly believe that photographing you and allowing the Real You to shine through is what is most important. That will make the IMPACT on the casting directors, agents, managers and that is what is going to get you called in. When you are in that audition room then you can shine and show them that you can play everything and anything...
So lets break the term "Character Actor", lets make an IMPACT and lets get YOU booking the roles you always dreamed of booking!