For Hollywood actors, one of the greatest concerns can be the possibility of being typecast as a certain character. There have been many instances in which an actor becomes so well known for a particular role or certain characteristics that it becomes almost impossible to find work playing different parts. It’s the reason some actors take less money to show their chops in independent film or hold out for other roles, sometimes without positive results.
Of course, that doesn’t mean that all actors reject the idea of being typecast — some actors embrace it and in some cases have made careers of it. Here are seven actors who have been widely typecast as a specific character over the course of their careers.
1. Michael Cera
When it comes to the role of “awkward but lovable geek,” Michael Cera’s name almost inevitably follows. After rising to prominence in the television series Arrested Development in the role of George Michael Bluth, Cera would later star in Superbad, Juno, Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, and Year One, each of which had Cera playing more or less the same character that had earned him fame.
Unfortunately for Cera, the type of role that got him famous would eventually backfire. Not only did the actor continue to find himself being asked to perform similar roles, but moviegoers eventually got tired of the Cera type entirely, leading to a huge decline in the actor’s box office draw. In recent years, Cera has made significant pushes into independent cinema, likely in an attempt to shed his previous typecasting.
2. Danny Trejo
Arguably the most typecast actor in Hollywood, Danny Trejo has made a career of portraying the tough-guy characters, villains, and antiheroes. A mainstay of B-movies, Trejo has been in more than 250 films throughout his career, which first began when he was offered a role as an extra on 1985′s Runaway Train. Notable film credits include stints in Desperado, From Dusk Till Dawn, Con Air, and Reindeer Games, along with more recent roles in Machete, Machete Kills, and a small part in TV drama Breaking Bad.
While most actors try to shed their typecast image as soon as it starts, Trejo has embraced the tough-guy role throughout his career and continues to find himself entrenched in film work year after year. A frequent collaborator of Robert Rodriguez, Trejo’s acting credits have grown to include prominent roles in films outside of the action genre like A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas and Muppets Most Wanted.
3. Michelle Rodriguez
Michelle Rodriguez is another actor who has come to be typecast in tougher roles, often portraying tomboyish characters in the police or armed forces. A bona-fide action star, Rodriguez had her breakout role in the 2000 film Girlfight, which likely had a huge impact on the types of jobs she was offered moving forward. In recent years, the actress has starred in Resident Evil: Retribution, Battle: Los Angeles, Avatar, and has been mainstay in the Fast and Furious series since the first film in the franchise was released in 2001.
Count Rodriguez as another actor comfortable with her tendency to be typecast; she explains that it is ultimately up to the actor. “I was typecast the minute I did a film called Girlfight years ago. That has nothing to do with anything, it just to do with — you allow yourself to be typecast,” she told The Playlist in 2010. “I’m here to entertain people and make a statement about female empowerment and strength and that’s what I’ve done for the last 10 years, and people can call it typecast, but I pigeonholed myself and I put myself in that box for saying no to everything else that came on my plate.”
4. Jennifer Aniston
Jennifer Aniston isn’t likely to complain about a lack of roles or money in the bank, but there’s no doubt that the part of Rachel Green — her character in the hugely popular television series Friends — has had an enormous influence on the type of roles she’s been offered since the show ended in 2004. Often playing the role of the hopeless romantic, films like She’s The One, Along Came Polly, The Break-Up, Marley & Me, He’s Just Not That Into You, Love Happens, and The Switch all display the character that Aniston has become best known for.
In recent years, Aniston has shied away from Rachel-like roles in films like Wanderlust and the hit summer comedy We’re the Millers. Considering that Aniston has previously shown acting chops in independent films like The Good Girl, there’s no doubt that the actor has talent — she just needs the right part.
5. Hugh Grant
Hugh Grant has made a career of being the awkward English romantic lead in a seemingly endless list of rom coms dating back to the early 1990s. Four Weddings and a Funeral, Nine Months, Notting Hill, Bridget Jones’s Diary and its sequel, and Love Actually are just a few of the films in which Grant plays the familiar trope.
But Grant has also showed range, despite his tendency to slide back into the part that he made famous. In particular, About a Boy (2002) stars Grant as the narcissistic and selfish Will Freeman – a character that almost works better due to the audience’s preconceived notions of who Grant usually portrays. Praised by critics for the performance, About a Boy sees Grant shed the nervous and stuttering characteristics of his past films.
6. Morgan Freeman
Morgan Freeman is by far the most talented actor on this list, but his inclusion shows that even the greatest actors can sometimes become victims of typecasting. Whether it’s Se7en, Driving Miss Daisy, The Shawshank Redemption, the Dark Knight trilogy, or Million Dollar Baby, Freeman has a tendency to take on roles in which he plays a wise, benevolent character who often serves as a moral compass.
Of course, there’s a reason for that — he’s really, really good at it. Since typecasting tends to have a negative connotation, it might seem strange to include Freeman on this list, but there’s no doubt the actor tends to gravitate toward similar roles over and over again, though he does not have the kind of limited body of work that often follows career character actors. The point is, Freeman is definitely not an onscreen chameleon. But he is really great at what he does.
7. Samuel L. Jackson
It’s hard to dislike Samuel L. Jackson, either as an actor or a person, but there’s zero doubt that when Jackson stars in a film, you don’t see any character other than Samuel L. Jackson. Pulp Fiction, the Marvel superhero films, Jackie Brown, Die Hard with a Vengeance, and Snakes on a Plane are just some of the films in which Jackson’s bombastic, trademark characters star front and center.
That’s not to say Jackson hasn’t taken roles against this type in the past — Django Unchained, Black Snake Moan, and the Star Wars prequel trilogy are just a couple of examples of parts that stray a bit from his usual characters, but there’s also no denying that Jackson’s trademark acting style is firmly embedded in even the most quiet of roles.