Type Casting

"I've made a career out of playing blind black men."
LeVar Burton, Dragon*Con 2010, when asked about this trope

You recognize the character immediately as being right off the Characters list. He hasn't said anything yet, but you know him because he is an example of typecasting. There are a host of ways to be typecast. Whereas stage actors are shuffled around quite a bit, allowing them to play all sorts of roles, it's a different story with movies and television.

This is not entirely the fault of casting directors. When Ed O'Neill left Married... with Children to spread his wings as a dramatic actor, audiences laughed the instant he appeared onscreen in The Spanish Prisoner. The extreme example of this is I Am Not Spock (and also I Am Not Leonard Nimoy).

Meta Casting is playing off this Type Casting to push it into another realm of familiarity.

Tropes Are Not Bad. There are some actors whose typical role has become known so well that as soon as you see them in a movie, whatever it is, you know it's going to be awesome/hilarious/full of asskicking/etc. (CinemaSins, for example, lampshades this with the comment whenever he appears in a movie in a normal presence, "Liam Neeson is not killing anyone in this scene.")

When lampshaded in the work itself, this becomes Adam Westing. When it happen with voice actors, it's called Pigeonholed Voice Actor.

The opposite is, naturally enough, Playing Against Type (subtropes of which include Tom Hanks Syndrome, Leslie Nielsen Syndrome and Playing with Character Type).

A not-so-short list of:

Both genders

  • Actors with dwarfism, like Warwick Davis, Kenny Baker, Verne Troyer, Tony Cox, Phil Fondacaro and Patty Maloney, are always stuck doing fantasy films because that's the only roles they can get. David Rappaport most likely suffered from depression because of this, which probably led to him being Driven to Suicide. Ditto for Hervé Villechaize. Peter Dinklage has been breaking this trend, playing characters who merely happen to have dwarfism if the subject comes up at all instead of being a primary characteristic of their character. Tyrion Lannister is one of the few exceptions.
  • Genre roles have a reputation for pigeonholing actors forever. Chalk it up to the Sci Fi Ghetto. If you become famous for a role in a sci-fi show or movie, accept the fact that you'll get no work, especially in Film or Live-Action TV, except in guest spots that are parodies of your most famous role.
    Miles Antwiler: I also think we all need to give up on the idea of Lance Henriksen “starring” in any movies anymore. The man is the John Carradine of the new millennium. He will just show up for five minutes to any movie offering craft services. Chuck a few free tacos his way and BAM he will show up to your nephew’s bar mitzvah. I just assume he is in every crappy Scifi movie from now on. Yeah, as you can guess, he shows up for five minutes grunts out a few lines and collects his paycheck (despite being top billed).
    • Especially seen with actors who appeared on Star Trek. Many of them wound up becoming directors like Jonathan Frakes, Roxanne Dawson or LeVar Burton (each of whom directed episodes of Star Trek). Frakes frequently casts Star Trek alums in his projects, like Leverage. (Does this count as an improvement?) And it's doubly bad if you're an actress known for a role on Trek.
    Nana Visitor: I was in my 40’s, being put out in the world. And if you think about it, I was a Star Trek actor, in my 40’s, female, and it was hard not to think, 'This is not going to be good.'
    • Patrick Stewart has been able to avoid the Trek curse; sure, his other major mainstream role is Professor X in the X-Men film continuity, but outside of film, he is a very, very respected Shakespearean actor, one of the finest of his generation. On the other hand, Sir Pat has faced typecasting in another way: He's stuck playing slogan-spewing, patriarchal old men, something his contemporaries (like Malcolm McDowell) enjoy ribbing him about.
    • Shatner isn't so much typecast in Sci-Fi as he is typecast as himself. Doesn't seem to bother him, though, and he does it well.
      • It wasn't until The '80s with T.J. Hooker that he had any success as a character actor outside Star Trek. Nimoy gave up altogether, which some might consider a miscarriage of justice.
    • John de Lancie as a field reporter in Without Warning: Fire from the Sky rather quickly shattered the effect they were going for (a spiritual homage to The War of the Worlds). He did, however, play a poignant role on Breaking Bad as Krysten Ritter's grieving father.
    • However, if you count voice acting as serious, a number of Next Generation actors found their way into Gargoyles. JDL also got to voice Benton Quest. Uh-huh, a flat-out good guy.
    • LeVar Burton has a few other well-known roles. He played Kunta Kinte in Roots, voiced Kwame in Captain Planet and the Planeteers, and was the host of Reading Rainbow.
    • Poor De Forest Kelley, on the other hand, jumped from one type of Type Casting (villains in Western movies and shows) to another (he would never do a well-known role again after being cast as Dr. McCoy). However, he was the only major Star Trek cast member who never bitched about it.
    • Michelle Forbes managed to avoid falling victim to this. After her recurring role as Ro Laren on ST:TNG she went on to play Dr. Julianna Cox on Homicide Life On The Street, Lynne Kresge on 24, Samantha Brinker on Prison Break, and Maryann Forrester on True Blood, to name just a handful.
    • The main actors in the 2009 reboot have thus far avoided the problem because they were already well known for other roles, and/or very quickly after the movies release had other projects playing very different roles.
  • Doctor Who tends to have permanent effects on anyone who played the Doctor. Traditionally, the show has had a "Three-Year Rule" of actors exiting the lead role to avoid being typecast in the future. This tradition began with Patrick Troughton (in 1969!), who eventually gave up and realized that he would always be The Doctor. Quite literally, as he died in-costume.
    • Tom Baker, the longest-serving and most iconic Doctor, struggled with this severely after leaving the role. The first thing he did to break out of the role was to alter his appearance by cutting his iconic curls off, reacting with exaggerated Creator Backlash to his role, and swearing a lot on television, but it didn't work. Most of his later roles have been things that have related in some way to the Doctor, such as playing Oscar Wilde and Sherlock Holmes (his Doctor was based somewhat on Wilde, and he even did a Holmes-pastiche episode), although he gets decent work as a voiceover artist on adverts and so on thanks to his famously pleasant voice. On the bright side, he loved being the Doctor, has said that the role 'saved' him, and mentioned in his 80th birthday interview that everyone in his village calls him "Doctor", which he enjoys.
    • In a rumour perhaps inspired by the sad tale of Tom Baker, Christopher Eccleston was announced to have left after only one season to avoid this, though he later revealed he'd left because he'd witnessed directors bullying crew-members and overworking his costar Billie Piper, and he felt that staying in the role could not be morally justified. That, and few people believed the revival would last past one season.
    • This is one reason why the Big Finish audios are so beneficial: It's a quick paycheck for people who contributed a lot to the classic series, something which doesn't involve milling about conventions like pandas at a zoo.
  • The main characters of Command & Conquer 3: Tiberium Wars are typecast since their previous roles, as pointed out in a Ctrl+Alt+Del comic.
  • Quinton Flynn seems to voice three kinds of characters: Badasses, comedic villains, or just plain Ax Crazy pyromaniacs.
  • Like above with Marlee Matlin, if you have any disability whatsoever, your character is usually tied to that disability, and is the focus of the episode if you're a guest star. See Disabled Character, Disabled Actor for more of these.
  • After starring in A Hard Days Night, The Beatles couldn't avoid getting written as slightly exaggerated versions of their real-life personalities in subsequent movies. Ringo Starr, who went on to have a fairly successful acting career, used to say that he'd like to play a villain just to shake things up. When the band were still making movies together, he even suggested that he and Paul McCartney, commonly considered the sweetest Beatles, play Those Two Bad Guys.
  • Cracked's 6 Actors Who Play the Exact Same Role in Multiple Movies mentions similarities among multiple roles of Keanu Reeves, Jennifer Connelly, James Earl Jones, and more.

Alternative Title(s):

Type Cast