Gerald Langiri
November 22 / 2011

Which role best fits you? Sadly, most actors do not know or have a straight answer to that question and most actors proudly say “I can take up any role assigned” or I am versatile , like I have seen most actors having defined themselves as so on their actors profiles . Unfortunately, those could be the last words you say to a casting director auditioning you for a project. Versatile is what most actors describe themselves as. Wishful thinking perhaps or lack of not knowing the importance of clearly defining who you are and what you want to be.

In this tough Kenyan acting industry, chances are limited and by stating that you are versatile or can adapt to any role given, you hope your chances of standing out will increase and get called up for a lot of projects. Whatever reason you may have to claim that you are versatile, I am here to tell you that a clear definition to which role best fit you is necessary and you should avoid running around in a desperate attempt to get work and grabbing the first role given to you. As an actor, you should make the work of a casting director easier by letting him/her know where you want to fit it. In more cases than not, the casting director, within those 5 seconds you walk into the audition room, has already known where you fit in. It however still is vital to know your niche and selling point.

Stating that you are versatile leaves the casting directors with more questions than answers and you are not there to make the situation worse but better. By being versatile, you are basically telling them, you choose which role best fits me and whilst it is their job to cast, would they prefer to work with an amateur who does not know his/her niche or with a professional who has everything defined? More often than not, a casting director who has no time on his hands will immediately dismiss you for the person who already presents them with a solution to their casting problems.

The tricky part therefore comes in where you want to find out which role will fit you best. Well, you could use the simple honest man in the mirror technique where you use the mirror to judge yourself or use a technique that I learnt during an acting classes that I attended held by Neil Schell . During the class dubbed “developing character”, each person was asked to sit in front of the class and the other students were given 3 simple questions to answer about the person in front of them.: 1: what is your 1st impression of the person in front of you? 2: which character does he/she best fit in? 3: Which famous person does he/she remind you off?

Each of the 25 students took a turn to sit in front of the class and let the rest answer those questions. By the end of the class, every student had 25 pieces of paper with descriptions of who they are. We were then asked to write down the common characteristics that we came across from others observations. I have always thought I can pass for a funny guy in a series or movie but to people’s eyes; I emanate characteristics of a serious, lawyer, corporate, president, manager, mafia boss, father figure person. That is what people see when they set eyes on me and that is what I will write down the next time I am asked the question “which role best fits you?”

Try out that exercise and see the responses you get. You may not like what you hear but guess what, that is what you portray to the world and you should embrace that and use that to your advantage. The role or character that you are unfortunately is something that cannot be changed. It is who you are. It is how you dress, how you walk, how you talk. You cannot change that.You can of course build on your character no doubt.

As much as I may be seen as the serious lawyer guy, that should not stop me from still cracking jokes and be the funny serious guy that I want to be. That is me trying to develop my character. However, at the end of the day, I know which character I belong to and the next time a director is looking to cast a lawyer, manager, mafia boss in their movie, they know who to call because I have clearly defined my niche.

To note however is that this applies in screen acting. Theatre acting is a little different and these rules can be broken. Whilst on screen we need to believe the characters and the actors need to portray those characters they say they are, in theatre, all the audience have to do is listen to what you have to tell them.

So, which role best fits you?

Advised by: Gerald Langiri

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