As an actor, you’re expected to be able to fill virtually any role presented to you. It’s the ultimate game of pretend. Yet even with this requirement, we have all worked with those that can only seem to do one thing. Sure, they do their one thing really, really well, but it doesn’t exactly provide them with a diverse roster to choose from. On the same note, there are those that never seem to get the lead and are forever filling out side parts. That’s because, in the acting world, there are really only two types of actors – the straight actor and the character actor.
Playing it Straight
When you think of a straight actor, you think sought after lead roles like Hamlet or Lady Macbeth. These actors have perfected the art of being able to apply gravitas to any situation regardless of how absurd it might appear to the outside world. They are master wordsmiths that can evoke tears or relief simply by changing the inflection of how they say one word in a line. Of the greats, Sir Ian McKellen and Dame Judy Dench top this list.
Acting the Character
If a straight role isn’t your thing, then you’re no doubt a character actor. Everything you do is big and creative. You can take a single line and craft a role around it so entrancing that the audience goes wild every time you come on stage. It’s a gift as much as it is a curse. Character actors rarely find themselves in leading roles. They become craftsmen of altering their appearance to fit whatever creation they’re currently mastering. In today’s film industry, Gary Oldman stands as one of the best in the business.