5 Types of Acting Roles (Plus How To Find the Right One for You)

By Indeed Editorial Team

Published March 11, 2022

The Indeed Editorial Team comprises a diverse and talented team of writers, researchers and subject matter experts equipped with Indeed's data and insights to deliver useful tips to help guide your career journey.

An actor is a professional in the entertainment business who portrays different characters. Many actors find work on television shows, films and in live theater productions. As there are many types of acting roles to pursue, it can be helpful to learn about the various roles available so you can prepare effectively and find auditions with strong potential for booking. In this article, we consider how you can find which type of acting is best for you and explore a list of five types of acting roles.

Related: 18 Jobs in Acting (Plus Acting Skills To Develop Your Career)

How to find your preferred type of acting role

Since there are several types of acting roles, it can be helpful to consider what type you might fit best with before submitting for auditions. Here are some steps you can use to find your preferred type of acting role:

1. Consider your physical appearance

As much of an actor's job involves being watched by production teams and, eventually, audience members, physical appearance can play a large part in which roles an actor secures. For example, an actor who stands very tall and has a muscular frame might have a better chance of securing parts like superheroes, athletes or villains who are supposed to be physically intimidating. When considering your physical appearance, think about the following characteristics:

  • Height

  • Build

  • Hair color

  • Haircut

  • Gender presentation

  • Skin tone

Related: How To Find Acting Jobs Without an Agent (Plus Tips)

2. Look for roles in different types of media

Once you think about your own appearance, start watching pieces of published media to find roles that seem to match your identity. You can do this by viewing movies and television shows or by attending live performances, such as plays, musicals or art installations. When watching other performances, look for actors who appear similar to you physically or who use the same acting techniques as you. For example, if you notice that actors who seem to play investigative-type roles, such as detectives or police, match your speaking tone and personality, you might consider submitting for similar parts.

Related: 8 Pros and Cons of Being an Actor (With Job Duties)

3. Consider your previous acting roles

Another great way to determine your type in acting is to think about the roles you've played in the past. This can help you identify patterns in the kinds of roles you receive and which parts you seem to excel in the most. For example, if you review your acting history and discover that the majority of your previous roles are in the ensemble of stage shows, you might thrive as a background-type actor in film projects or as a performer in front of live audiences.

You can apply the same logic when thinking about types of characters, such as if you have primarily played villain roles, ingenue roles or comedic relief roles.

4. Ask your peers

You can also reach out to your peers to ask for insight into what your acting type might be. This can be especially beneficial if you have friends or family who are also actors, as they can offer specific advice about how they view your acting and performances in the context of the entertainment industry.

Another great resource can be friends or family who have seen you perform before in different roles because they can give feedback about which parts they think you were most successful or impressive in. Then, you can use this information to look for similar roles in the future.

5. Attend an acting class

While trying to figure out what your acting type is, it can also be helpful to take an acting class. In an acting class, there's usually an instructor who has special expertise in the entertainment industry and specific types of acting. Because of this, taking a class and asking a professional instructor about what roles might best suit your talents can help you identify the type of acting that you excel in from an industry professional's perspective.

Related: How To Become an Actor (With FAQs)

5 types of acting roles

Here are five of the most common types of acting roles:

1. Background role

A background role is a part that typically involves moving in the background of a scene and interacting with other background actors. Some actors also refer to background roles as extras or atmosphere actors. These roles usually are not speaking roles, meaning the actors don't memorize or recite lines. Background roles often appear in films, television shows and live performances with large ensembles, such as musical theater productions.

2. Cameo

A cameo role refers to a part that a production team writes with a well-known actor in mind. These roles often cater to a specific celebrity and sometimes exist to convey a particular joke or reference. For example, the creator of a superhero comic might appear in the film version of the comic book as a cameo. It can be common for cameo roles to have limited screen time, as they typically are short appearances within a single episode or only a few episodes.

3. Recurring character

A recurring character role is a smaller role that usually appears in several episodes of a television show. Recurring characters often have the same amount of lines as a side character, but the primary difference between a recurring character and a side character in a show is that recurring characters are not members of the main cast, while side characters are. Recurring characters might also appear for a few episodes and then be absent for others, returning later in the season or series.

4. Side character

A side character, also called a co-star or day player, is a part that supports the lead characters but sometimes follows their own storyline. These types of roles can exist in television shows, films and theater productions. Side characters often have few lines and usually appear in fewer scenes than lead characters. Some side character roles also exist for a specific purpose, such as to add comedic relief or to introduce a love interest for one of the main characters.

5. Series regular

A series regular is a member of a television show's main cast who appears in the show consistently over its run. These actors typically have contracts that secure them for a certain period of time or number of episodes. Many series regulars have lead character roles, but it can also be possible to have series regulars who play side characters. Working as a series regular can involve memorizing lines and movements frequently and being present on set for most of the filming process.

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