Character acting is an extremely confusing term because so many people have different definitions for it. At it's core, it's all about playing non-lead roles. Typically, character actors will play unusual or eccentric characters – characters who have a very particular physical look or off-beat personality.
In this article, we'll dive deep on what character acting really is, and I'll show you how to use it to book more work as an actor.
Since there is no general consensus on what character acting really is, here are the three most popular definitions you'll find for it:
If any of the above definitions are met, you can safely say it's a form of character acting.
Martin Bentsen (author of this guide) is an actor marketing coach who uses “outside the industry” thinking to help actors book more work. He’s helped over 6,000 actors with their careers and actor headshots since 2009 and his photography studio City Headshots is ranked #1 on Yelp. He’s spoken at NYU, The New England Theater Conference, The Actor’s Green Room, and other venues.
Want to book more acting work by thinking different? Start with his free Actor’s Toolkit to create new opportunities right away, or visit his website at www.martinbentsen.com.
Some Additional Q&A
What is a Character Actor Example?
An example of a character actor would be someone who typically always finds themselves playing similar roles, such as detectives, or gang members, or police officers, etc.
What is the Difference Between Method Acting and Character Acting?
Character Acting is not really a style of acting, whereas Method Acting is. With Method Acting, you're preparing for your role by living as the character. With Character Acting, you're generally playing non-lead roles of specific types of characters. You can use Method Acting as a way to prepare for character acting, however!
How Do You Get into Character Acting?
To get into character acting, you must first figure out your Type(s). The more specific you are, the better. Once you figure out the kinds of characters you're best at playing, start submitting to those roles over and over again, and you'll begin to notice that you keep getting called back by casting directors you've already worked with. Eventually, you'll find yourself typecast into those roles and will be booked solid with acting work!
Who is the Best Character Actor?
There is no one best character actor because there are so many variables to consider. That said, some of the most popular character actors include Hiam Abbass, Becky Ann Baker, Bill Camp, Jennifer Coolidge, Dale Dickey, Maggie Smith, and Colman Domingo. But this list is missing hundreds (or even thousands) of character actors I didn't take the time to look up. Just google "best character actors" and you'll find WAY more!