Wednesday, 7 July 2010

Show Some Character

What the fuck is a ‘character actor’!?

Seriously, someone explain to me just what is meant by this term.

That reliable fountain of misinformation Wikipedia defines a character actor as:

A character actor is one who predominantly plays a particular type of role rather than leading ones. Character actor roles can range from bit parts to secondary leads. However, character actors often play supporting roles, for characters not subject to a major change or revelation in the course of the plot, and whose role is less prominent.

What? Isn’t that what a supporting actor is? I don’t recall there ever being a Best Character Actor OSCAR.

As has probably become abundantly clear by now I am rather easily annoyed and get irritated by the most innocuous of things. That said, to quote Wes Mantooth, “I pure, straight, hate” the term character actor and I abhor anyone who utters it.


To me ‘character actor’ could be used to define almost any actor ever, aren’t they all playing characters thus making them ‘character actors’. Basically if someone plays a couple of quirky characters or ends up typecast in the same sort of roles then they are labeled a character actor. Is Brad Pitt a character actor? What about Ed Norton?

It is a ludicrous term that really irrationally irritates me.

Which brings us to character actors and TV; TV even more so than film affords actors the opportunity to play a far reaching range of characters but that is just the nature of the beast.

I read an article from a peer that referred to Zeljko Ivanek as a character actor. Now don’t get me wrong I loves me some Ivanek but the guy basically plays the same role in everything: a bad guy. Oz, 24, Lost, True Blood, Heroes – bad guy, bad guy, bad guy, bad guy, bad guy.

He’s a great actor and he makes a great bad guy but surely this doesn’t make him a ‘character actor’, it makes him typecast.

Although to be fair, in the upcoming The Event it looks as though he’s playing the President’s Chief of Staff… I bet he turns out to be a bad guy though.

Is this what a character actor is, a nice way of saying someone is always typecast?

I also recently read a piece that stated that the brilliant Justified had assembled a great collection of character actors, or words to that effect. No, it has just assembled a cast of good actors capable of bringing these vibrantly written characters to life.

Surely, at least half the credit for great characters needs to go to the writer. Kurt Sutter writes great characters, does that make him a ‘character writer’? No it just makes him a damn fine writer.

Maybe I’m looking at this too literally, but to me, the term character actor does a disservice to everyone else involved with a project other than the actor. That said though surely referring to an actor as a character actor is also doing a disservice to the actor because in my eyes there’s no such thing as a character actor there are just good actors.

If I am taking it too literally then that’s only because this ridiculous term would appear to carry that connotation. Writers, reporters and the industry in general need to come up with a better term to describe actors who get caught under the umbrella of this term, which let’s face it is basically anyone who isn’t necessarily a big star.

To summarize, I hate the term ‘character actor’ and I’m starting to hate anyone who uses it.

Rant over…


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