An unfortunate choice of typecast roles…

If you’ve seen a romantic comedy or a sitcom, you’ve probably seen Judy Greer. In case you don’t know who I’m talking about, here’s a picture:

Judy Greer

Not bad, right? She’s a pretty attractive woman, and you can tell that she has great comic timing and is probably a really great actress.

I say “probably” because I have literally only seen her act in one kind of role every time I see her, and I’ll bet you my ’94 Mercury Tracer that you have, too. If you recognize her at all, you know what role I’m talking about. It’s the overly slutty and usually super desperate supporting woman — the best friend, the secretary, the coworker.

For those of you who don’t believe me or don’t really know what I’m talking about, here are a few quotes from two of her most popular roles. Let’s see if you recognize a common theme…

“Casey” (27 Dresses): “He asks if you want a drink. You smile and say, ‘Vodka soda.’ If you already have a drink, you down it. Then there’s some flirting, some interoffice sex, an accidental pregnancy, a shotgun wedding, and a life of bliss.” (explaining how to respond to a man’s advances)

“The only point in wearing an awful bridesmaid dress is to have a drunken groomsman rip it to shreds with his teeth!”

“Kitty” (Arrested Development): “Well, this is the last time you’ll see these!(flashes boobs)

I understand that she’s a character actress, and that these crazy roles are part of what she does.  Character roles are fun, and are actually often more challenging than many other types of roles, believe it or not.  You have to have good comic timing and enough understanding of the role to make it a believable performance, not just a shell of a character that happens to be funny.  I know all of this.

My question to you is this; When do typecast character roles stop being good for an actor’s career?  It’s been working for her so far, that’s for sure.  But then again, take this guy:

The \"O\" Face Guy

No idea who he is?  Take another look — he’s Greg Pitts.  You may know him as the “O” Face Guy from Office Space…and that’s it!  There have been interviews with him in which he actually admits that his choice of character roles in that movie has essentially cost him his career.  He hasn’t appeared in hardly anything since then where he hasn’t played either that exact character, or something similar to it.  Don’t believe me?  Look at his role in a recent Sarah Silverman show episode!  Other victims of the Typecast Syndrome: Kelsey Grammer, Seann William Scott, and the entire cast of Seinfeld.  Most of these actors have tried to break their typecasting streak, but precious few have ever succeeded.

Some have embraced their roles and been really successful, like Jackie Chan and Chuck Norris.  When you look that those guys, though, who could blame them?  Being a hero is a cool typecasting groove to get into.  It lasts and lasts, and people love you more each time you play another one of those roles.

To me, though, the morally bankrupt, desperate slut role doesn’t really stick as a great typecast to get into.  Of course I’m no expert — but I feel that if Ms. Greer continues to take these types of roles, her career is probably going to end pretty poorly…with nothing to show for it but a career trail of mediocre characters.

So, my point is this:  Judy Greer, I like you!  I’ve heard you say in interviews that you’d like to move on to more serious roles.  Do it fast, before you become Kelsey Grammer…or the “O” Face Guy.


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Oh — and how could I forget??? BRUCE CAMPBELL as the jerky-yet-loveable womanizer! He’s one of the successes in typecasting, though…dudes can get away with that sort of thing, apparently. (That mention’s for you, Tim!) =)

Comment by sopranogrl22

I don’t actually know of her — but if she went for more serious roles less to type then I probably would… so, yes, I say she should go for it, too.

There’s got to be a writing-related piece on type/pigeonholing in this… hmmm… thanks! 🙂

Comment by Gary Murning

Haha, no problem! Take it and run with it! =)

Comment by sopranogrl22

[…] You never live down the O-face (HearThis) […]

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Judy Greer – also from 13 Going on 30. Same type of role, only she was also a bit of a witch. That, I think, was the best of aforementioned stereotypical roles. The movie needed a ‘evil influence’ and a counterpoint to what we wanted Jennifer Garner to become. Judy was simultaneously guilty-pleasure fun and as villainous as a chick-flick can call for. You an tell she was a teenage geek and she played that role to the hilt!

Comment by grassrootsmovement

[…] Her blog is mostly about work, (her) work-life, and herself. On these matters, she’s made clear observations, and shares her bold opinions in humorous child-like way, so it’s fun to read. She’s also impressive at writing about celebrities. Read ‘An Unfortunate Choice of Typecast Roles‘ […]

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Call in to? I’m confused…clarify? =P

Comment by sopranogrl22

@grassrootsmovement I never did get a chance to see 13 Going on 30! I’m not much of a Jennifer Garner fan, to be honest. =P
It sounds like a role that Greer would be good in, though…I’d love to check it out. Thanks for the heads-up!

Comment by sopranogrl22

I was in a theater program at UC Irvine in the 80’s. Vincent Price gave a Shakespeare master class. He was brilliant. At the end we had a Q&A. One student asked him “Mr. Price, most people know you from horror movies and have no idea that you’re a classical actor. How do we avoid getting type cast?”

He answered “My boy, pray that you are type cast. It means that you have work.”

For every type-cast character actor, there are a dozen other brilliant actors who are waiting tables and doing 99 seat waiver shows to try to get an agent.

Comment by Richard R

Richard, great story! I guess that makes sense…it sucks for all those actors, but it makes sense. =)

Comment by sopranogrl22

@ sopranogrl22 . . . I am definitely a Jennifer Garner fan, so that trumped the fact that I tend to steer clear of movies that look like 13 going on 30! lol
Yeah, check it out. It was somewhat formulaic of course, but well-written and acted with a few pleasant surprizes and snarky lines.

Comment by grassrootsmovement

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