What is wrong with typecasting an actor?
There is nothing wrong with being typecast, but there's something wrong with not working hard enough to be versatile enough to prove that you deserve not to be boxed.
Just like in Hollywood, some of the best actors are typecast in Nollywood. Usually, the typecasting kicks off after their first 'hit' or major movie. Immediately filmmakers discover that certain actors connect well to a role, they typecast them over and over.
Who is to blame for typecasting? The casting director or the actor?
Most times, it is very difficult for actors to depart from the public persona they have built in films. In most cases, typecasting is so strong that an actor cannot move beyond their characters to find other work. Over the years, we have watched Chinwetalu Agu as the wicked village uncle, but that doesn't mean he won't do an excellent job interpreting a rich uncle in the city managing a million dollars empire. But, he is already in a box, and cannot move beyond that character.
Some embrace this, and take advantage of this. Patience Ozokwor for example, is typically well known for her evil mother, stepmother, mother-in-law roles. She doesn’t move far from these type of roles that are always expected from her audience. Another popular typecast actor is Nkem Owoh, whose career has been based in one particular genre (comedy) so the audiences probably won't accept him in any other genre.
I remember the first movie I saw Nkem Owoh in a suit (not the "Osuofia in London" kind of funny suit). It was still hilarious, but more of surprising, and I struggled to accept him as a serious character. I kept waiting for that moment where he would make me laugh out loud. Yes, he finally made me laugh hard, but the idea of a serious minded Owoh in a suit wasn't one I appreciated.
Nkem Owoh is attached to his funny, village uncle, elder, hilarious father, and connects so strongly to those roles, that even the audience would not want to watch him as an action hero, billionaire, President among others. There's absolutely nothing wrong with embracing typecasting as an actor for the success it is bringing you.
You definitely cannot blame a casting directer who chooses to cast an actor based on a similar role he had played, with hope that the audience will accept them once again, thus making the movie a success. You also cannot blame an actor who doesn't have much control over the role he gets. Yes, he could decide to reject a role, but what if it's a great story? What if it is a story that needs to be told? Would he continuously reject roles because he doesn't want to be typecast? I don't think so. While acting is about 'passion,' it is also about making profit, and if an actor keeps rejecting roles, he definitely will keep feeding on his 'passion.'
Typecasting doesn't always occur because an actor doesn't have the talent required to play a different role, but because he or she finds a strong identification with a role after one or more films.
Recently while watching Gregory Ojefua in "Just Not Married," I saw a glimpse of his character in "Suru L'ere," and I thought "would they please not stereotype" this actor? But he did a great job, and sitting there, I couldn't think of any other actor who could pull off the role. Sambasa Nzeribe brings to life a perfect and talented villain and action hero, but I don't think I would be excited watching him as the dotting husband or lover in a romantic comedy drama.
Depending on the way one looks at typecasting, it can either be perceived as a positive or negative influence on an actor or actresses’ career. While we admire some stereotyped actors, their skills, talent and ability to morph from one character to the next unfortunately are not acknowledged. A sterotyped actor probably would not be admired the way a Leonardo DiCarpio or a Meryl Streep would be.
Most actors avoid being typecast in order to broaden their personal range as an actor and try to broaden their public persona from film to film by mixing up their roles. We have seen actors like Bimbo Akintola, Joke Silva, Olu Jacobs, Tope Tedela, Nse Ikpe Etim and Ramsey Nouah successfully play different role.
Every job needs training to get better at it. The unfortunate thing is that most actors get comfortable playing a particular role back to back, and they forget to train for other roles. They get used to playing a particular role and when presented with an opportunity to be the President or something tougher or simpler, they make a joke out of the character because they weren't prepared. At that moment, they become 'not talented or versatile' to the audience.
Tedela has played same role more than once, he has also played different roles in different movies. He had the choice of being that actor who only does well in action movies, thus creating the room for being a stereotyped actor, but he trained well enough to leave that box. Tope Tedela went from being the gangster Lala in the action movie "A Mile From Home" to being the metrosexual Kyle in "SuruL'ere."
While some actors have been stereotyped because they have no control over roles they get, others have been stereotyped because they couldn't train hard enough to adapt to different roles, so they found themselves stuck with a particular role.
There is nothing wrong with being typecast, but there's something wrong with not working hard enough to be versatile enough to prove that you deserve to play any character. Producers will offer you to play a character which they think you are suitable for, based on the performance they have seen you in.
Stars are born from the typecast system, and while others prefer to avoid it, others find themselves boxed and still become stars.
Either way, the typecast system can be avoided if an actor or actress trains and works hard enough, because once one is fixed in the minds of public as a particular character, dispelling your status as a typecast actor can be difficult.
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