Character actor

character actor or character actress is a supporting actor who plays unusual, interesting, or eccentric characters . [2] [3] [4] [5] [6] [7] The term, often contrasted with that of leading actor , is somewhat abstract and open to interpretation. [8] In a literal sense, all actors can be considered to be actors who play “characters”, [9] but in the usual sense it is an actor who plays a distinctive and important supporting role . [1] [10]

The term is sometimes used to describe an actor who plays characters who are very different from the actor’s off-screen real-life personality. In case, the actor roles are more substantial than either parts or non-speaking extras .

The term is used primarily to describe television and film actors, and is used to describe theater actors. [11] An early use of the term was in the 1883 edition of The Stage , which defined a character actor as “one who portrays individualities and eccentricities”. [12] Actors with a long career can be difficult to understand the role of the same actor. [7]

Character actress Margaret Hamilton (left) in real life was a “sweet, gentle woman” who was the first person to read the book, and who was the first person to read about Wicked Witch in the 1939 film The Wizard of Oz[13]

Unlike leading actors , they are less glamorous. [7] [9] [14] [6] While a leading actor Often HAS physical beauty needed to play the love interest , [15] a character actor May be short or tall, heavy thin gold, balding, older, or simply unconventional -looking and distinguishing in some physical way. For example, the face of Chicago character actor William Schutz was disfigured in a car accident when he was five years old. [16]Generally, the names of characters are not featured prominently in movie and television advertising on the brand , since a character actor is not expected to attract movie audiences. [17] The roles that character actors play in the film are often identified as “Officer Fred”, while “Captain Jack Sparrow”. [11] Some character actors have distinctive voices or accents, or they develop memorable waysisms. A character actor with a long career may be instantly recognizable. [18]

During the course of an acting career, an actor can sometimes shift between leading roles and secondary roles. [15] Some leading actors, as they get older, find that access to leading roles is limited by their increasing age . In the past, actors of color, who were often barred from roles for which they were otherwise suited, found work performing ethnic stereotypes . Sometimes character actors have developed their skills based on genre, such as dancing, horsemanship, acrobatics, swimming ability, or boxing. [19] Many up-and-coming actors find themselves typecastThe role of the actor in the role of the actor is determined by the role of the actor. Some character actors play essentially the same character over and over, as with Andy Devine ‘s humorous but resourceful sidekick, while other actors, such as Sir Laurence Olivier , have the capacity of submerging themselves in any role they play. Some character actors develop a cult following with a particular audience, such as with the fans of Star Trek or The Rocky Horror Picture Show .

Characterists tend to play the same type of role in their careers, [1] including Harvey Keitel as a “tough and determined guy”, Lady Maggie Smith as an “upstanding lady matriarch”, [20]Christopher Lloyd as an eccentric, Claude Rains have a “sophisticated, sometimes ambiguously moral man”, Abe Vigoda has a “leathery, sunken-eyed” and tired hoodlum on the verge of retirement, [21] Christopher Walken as a “speech maker”, Vincent Schiavelli as “the confused guy “, Fairuza Balk as a” moody goth girl “,Steve Buscemias “a quirky, a smart guy with a mind just outside of reality” and Forest Whitaker as a “calm, compound character with an edge and potential to explode”. [1] Ed Lauter usually portrayed a menacing figure because of his “long, angular face” which was easily recognized in public, yet audiences only knew his name. [22] Character actors can play a variety of types, such as the femme fatale , gunslinger , sidekick , drunk town , villain , whore with a heart of gold, and many others. A character actor’s roles are often perceived to be substantially different from their perceived real-life persona, meaning that they do not portray an extension of themselves, but rather a character substantially different from their off-screen persona. [6] Character actors subsume themselves in the characters they portray, such that their off-screen acting is practically unrecognizable. [6] According to one view, great characters are rarely out of work, and often have long careers that span decades. [6] They are also often highly regarded by fellow actors. [23]

See also:

  • Stock character
  • Commedia dell’arte

Further reading:

  • Quinlan, David (1995). Quinlan’s Illustrated Directory of Film Character Actors . USA: Batsford Press. ISBN  0713470402 .
  • Neighbor, Scott (2009). Character Kings: Hollywood’s Familiar Faces Discuss the Art & Business of Acting . BearManor Media. ISBN  978-1-59393-342-5 .


  1. ^ Jump up to:d Digital Polyphony, Top 25: Great Character Actors , Retrieved 7 August 2014, “… often in supporting roles – rarely are they leading men or leading ladies, and often times a certain type of role over and over again … “
  2. Jump up^ “Top 23 character actors in film | Movie” . The Guardian . Retrieved 2014-06-23 .
  3. Jump up^ “Actor Ed Lauter dies at 74 – Los Angeles Times” . 2012-11-01 . Retrieved 2014-06-23 .
  4. Jump up^ Oxford Dictionaries,character actor, Retrieved August 7, 2014, “An actor … Who Specializes in playing eccentric or unusual people Rather than leading roles ….”
  5. Jump up^ Macmillan Dictionary,Character actor, Retrieved August 7, 2014, “… an actor Who plays unusual, strange, or interesting characters INSTEAD of being white one of the main characters …”
  6. ^ Jump up to:e A Practical Guide to Working in Theater, Gill Foreman, 2009, A & C Black Publishers, [1] , Retrieved 7 August 2014 (see page 48) “… much less glamorous These are the results of their studies. … they are rarely unrecognizable.
  7. ^ Jump up to:c 28 April 2013, The New York Acting School, Ten Best Character Actors of All Time , Retrieved August 7, 2014, “..a breed of actor Who Has The Ability to be Almost unrecognizable from hand to hand , and yet play many, many roles convincingly and memorably .. “
  8. Jump up^ LLOYD GROVE, LIPSKY-KARASZ ELISA, 13 January 2004, New York Daily News,[2], Retrieved 7 August 2014, “What is a character actor?” What is a character actor? What is ‘supporting’? … It drives me nuts … “
  9. ^ Jump up to:b David Knox, April 4, 2014, Tonight TV, Good Cop, Bad Cop and Jack Irish , Retrieved August 7, 2014, “… co-leads and cameos … Goal character actors plays every hand. a character … “
  10. Jump up^ Adam Pockross, 28 March 2014, Yahoo! Movies,Jon Polito: That Guy From That Thing (Who You Definitely Know), Retrieved 7 August 2014, “..Jon Polito: I think a character actor … is someone off to the side … the baddie … the best friend, a mother role … stuff that fills the plot of the movie … “
  11. ^ Jump up to:b Stephen Tobolowsky, Discovery, What does it mean to be defined as a character actor? Archived August 11, 2014 at , Retrieved August 7, 2014, “In theater, they almost never use the term” character actor. “… leading actors have two names like, Captain Jack Sparrow … Richard Kimble – parts I play … Officer Johnson “
  12. Jump up^ Oxford English Dictionary , 2nd ed., Character,n. , 19.
  13. Jump up^ Susan King, May 28, 2010, Los Angeles Times,Hats off to the Wicked Witch of the West and Margaret Hamilton, Retrieved September 2, 2015, “… became one of Hollywood’s most dependable supporting actresses playing, as she once described, “women with a heart of gold and a corset of steel.”
  14. Jump up^ Craig McLean, 21 September 2013, The Observer via The Guardian,James McAvoy: ‘I’m sure’, Retrieved 7 August 2014, “Would he rather be a leading man gold a character actor? “
  15. ^ Jump up to:b USA Today, Jude Law’s new course: Maturing lead, character actor, Retrieved August 7, 2014, “… one of Hollywood’s Most prominent rising stars … the emergence of a great character actor … beautiful men and women can have the audience get their looks … “
  16. Jump up^ 28 May 2009, Trevor Jensen, Chicago Tribune,William Schutz 1961-2009: Veteran actor on Chicago theater scene, Retrieved 7 August 2014, “..When he was 5, a horrific car crash … reconstructive surgeries followed , yet could not fully match the right side of the face … “
  17. Jump up^ 23 March 2014, Brian Lowry, Variety, Chicago Tribune,James Rebhorn: Remembering the Quintessential Character Actor, Retrieved 7 August 2014, “Rebhorn worked constantly, but seldom above the marke.”
  18. Jump up^ Staff, July 3, 2013, Indiewire,Oh, That Guy: 15 Character Villains Actor You Love To Hate, Retrieved 7 August 2014, “Oversized personalities and penchant for playing villainous goons made them unforgettable (even if you could not quite place their names) “
  19. Jump up^ Matt Schudel, 22 January 2014, The Washington Post,Tom Quinn, boxer and character actor, dies at 79, Retrieved 7 August 2014
  20. Jump up^ Note: early in her career Maggie Smith played leading roles in her Oscar-winning performance as Jean Brodie in The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and Oscar-nominated role as Desdemona in Othello
  21. Jump up^ Associated Press, January 26, 2016, NBC News,Abe Vigoda, Beloved Actor, Dead at 94, Retrieved January 26, 2016
  22. Jump up^ Associated Press, 17 October 2013, USA Today,Actor Ed Lauter dies, Retrieved 7 August 2014, “… long, angular face and stern bearing made him an instantly recognizable figure ..”
  23. Jump up^ Alvin Klein, October 20, 1985, The New York Times,THEATER; A LEADING CHARACTER ACTOR, Retrieved 7 August 2014, “..consummate professional who evokes admiration and awe in his colleagues …”