It’s funny how typecasting can work. It can really hurt some people’s career. Some manage to avoid it, like Robin Williams who left Mork’s shadow behind very quick in his career. How about Michael Gross who feared typecasting when Family Ties ended, until Tremors killed those worries. Betty White could have been typecast after Mary Tyler Moore ended, but she did a total turnaround on The Golden Girls as a character who couldn’t be more different than Sue Ann Nivens…and it worked!! And often the actor will simply change fields, the way Henry Winkler and Penny Marshall became directors.
Then you have those actor’s who were really good actor’s even at the top for their field, until typecasting changed that. Suddenly an actor who was once regarded as serious and respected is known for something…not so serious and respected. But loved by millions! And no matter what they do after they can’t seem to shake that image, they will always be known best as that one character.
Here are a few example of what I am talking about.
Ok it my be a stretch having him on here. He was a serious actor but respected? Hard to say. But still when he started his career it wasn’t as a comedian. It was as a real actor, he even tried out for James Bond. Then a little campy show called Batman came along in the 60’s. I don’t think I have to explain how this changed his career, do I? West was perfect in the role and knew exactly how to play Batman so it didn’t come off as ridiculous. That of course was to let the campy stuff around him be silly while he stayed totally straight. And it worked. West didn’t have the easiest career when the series ended but is happy to be associated with that remarkable series.
It’s hard to believe but Leslie Neilsen started out in dramatic roles, mostly on television, and movies like the little film called Forbidden Planet. In fact that was the very reason he was cast in Airplane! The Zucker Bros were brilliant and tended to cast dramatic actors in their silly comedies (Robert Stack, Lloyd Bridges, and one other we’ll get to). But the role on Airplane! was so funny and well regarded it led to the TV series Police Squad and then The Naked Gun series of movies (By the way I watched those episodes of Police Squad and they 100% worth checking out). His reputation is of course for those silly comedies, a far cry from where his career started. And yes he made some bad movies down the line, but that’s not what we’re discussing today. I think no matter what came before or after, he will always be Frank Drebbin.
It’s really hard to believe but before he became the lovable Bones McCoy, Deforest Kelly was best known for being in Westerns. And not only that, he was usually the bad guy! In fact those roles almost kept him from Star Trek, until Gene Roddenberyy saw him as a doctor in another show and decided maybe that would work after all. The rest is history, no one could have played McCoy better. Typecasting really affected Kelley after Star Trek ended but thankfully there were conventions and movies. It really is amazing how many movies and TV series he did before Star Trek, seriously check it out!
Oh, and speaking of Star Trek. One of the reasons I love Shatner is because of how he embraced the reputation his acting has gotten the last few decades. Every one does the parodies and he has made fun of himself numerous times on SNL and 3rd Rock from the Sun. But before Star Trek, Shatner was on his way to being a very respected actor. He appeared in all kinds of sci fi and westerns, including Twilight Zone and Man From Uncle (in an episode which also featured Leonard Nimoy!). Then came Captain Kirk and the rest was history. After Star Trek was cancelled he had tough times but managed to come back. Not only with the Star Trek movies but with other projects like T.J.Hooker in the 80’s, Rescue 911 in the 90’s, and Boston Legal in the 00’s. But despite all his great work he is still generally considered a silly actor and people generally just associate him with the exaggerated style he used when playing Kirk.
Robert Reed is a strange example, because he loved The Brady Bunch kids and the rest of the cast. However at the same time I think he always resented what it did to his career. He was a Shakespearean trained actor who studies in London! He was a respected actor, appearing in The Defenders plus lots of theater. Then came The Brady Bunch, and suddenly he was America’s favorite father. Which he hated, thinking the role was beneath him and having constant arguments with the creators. The story of the final episode is to long to cover here, look it up if you’re unfamiliar. After the show ended he tried to break free of the typecasting, even appearing as a man undergoing a sex change operation in Medical Center. I have no way of knowing but I would guess he softened with age since he happily worked on The Brady Bunch Variety Hour and the reunion movies and TV series that followed. I think it was because he truly cared for the kids on the show which came through in how he played Mike Brady.
I had to discuss one woman on here. Ever hear ofÂ the movie Carnal Knowledge? There was a time when this is what Bergen was best known for. Then a little show called Murphy Brown came along. Before that she was an actress and a fashion model (yes, really). Of course Murphy Brown changed everything for her career, and she was pitch perfect as Murphy who of course was a tough as nails reporter who was also a recovering alcoholic. I think people knew she could be funny since she did Saturday Night Live several times in the old days, but could she carry a sitcom? The answer was a very loud YES! Since then she has kind of retired, appearing in things here and there like Miss Congeniality and Boston Legal. And while it’s true her show has faded a bit I think deep down everyone will think of her as Murphy Brown before anything else.
Kelsey Grammar/Ted Danson
Finally I wanted to talk about these two guys together because they manage to accomplish the same thing. After 11 years playing the lovable Sam Malone, who could have ever imagined Danson playing anyone else? But he managed to do just that appearing in movies like “Gulliver’s Travels” and of course starring in Becker. John Becker couldn’t have been more different than Sam Malone. He was an angry jerk, and it worked! These days he has a regular role on CSI.Â Kelsey Grammar had played Frasier for over twenty years between Cheers an Frasier, would be able to break out of that type? Well if you saw his series The Boss you don’t have to ask. He couldn’t have been more different in that role. He also has his voice over work to fall back on, including his regular recurring role onÂ The Simpsons. And yes he was Beast in X-Men. Both these actors prove you can be loved for a role and go on to have great careers anyway.
Think that will do it for now. Are there any missed you think I should have mentioned? Comment and let me know.