Hollywood is full of extremely beautiful people. We see them grace the silver screen with other worldly beauty and grace. But, not all characters in movies are meant to be attractive.
Here, actors reveal what it's like going out for a role as an "unattractive" character.
1/24. I went in for the main part, it wasn't until I got there that they told me I was reading for 'fat ugly dude in line at the grocery store'...
2/24. This used to be something that really bothered me. As a child, I always wanted to be an actor, and I'd spend so much time practicing monologues, memorizing screenplays and making up characters. But, it wasn't enough.
I was pretty unattractive as a child, nothing I had even thought about until it came time to find an agent. My first audition in front of an agent, they seemed really pleased with my acting. They praised me for being "extremely talented" for my young age. Then, she turned to my mom and said, "We've got some unique child roles coming up." My mom looked worried towards me, then back at the agent. I knew exactly what "unique" meant. It took a massive toll on my self esteem and even though I did book a couple small T.V. roles, I never really took to acting with the same joy as before. Eventually I stopped acting all together.
I really miss it.
3/24. Well, I'm currently in rehearsal for my school's production of the Addams Family. I'm probably the biggest guy that tried out for the show. So that probably has something to do with being cast as Uncle Fester. At first I was a little hurt, as that's the one character I marked as not wanting. After speaking with the director, though, I figured that I'm the only person that could really pull off the part.
I guess it's kinda funny how, as the big guy, I'm the only one that fit.
4/24. I act in LA and about 2 or 3 years ago, I was called by a casting director for the Disney show "Jessie". They asked me if I was still 6'4" 275 (Of course I'm still 6'4". What a stupid question.). I told her yes, and she told me about the role. She said that they would make fun of my size, saying the line is "He's got more square footage than a Manhattan apartment" and asked if I was okay with that. I mean, I'm not a fat guy by any means. I'm football player big, but I didn't really care. I appreciated them being up front about it, though.
Interestingly enough, after the first take, a producer came up and introduced herself and the told me "You're too skinny for this part". Never heard that said in my life. But, she said, "Don't worry. Go right over there and wardrobe will fatten you up." Then three women stuffed towels in my shirt until I was suitably fat enough for them.
5/24. Remember the I'm a Mac, I'm a PC commercials? Remember when Microsoft came out with their response commercial, and a guy who looked like John Hodgman (Apple's "PC" character) walked on screen and said "I'm a PC, and I've been turned into a stereotype?" Well, that's me.
When I was selected for the role, they didn't tell me why I was selected or what I would be doing. They just brought me in and started dressing me up like Hodgman's character. The wardrobe person then walked me out to the Director, who had a crew of like 15 people around him. They all stopped and looked me over like a piece of meat for like 30 seconds. It was dead silent. The Director then said "My God, it looks just like him!" I replied "I'm not sure if I should be honored or insulted."
Don't get me wrong, John Hodgman isn't ugly, but he's no Brad Pitt. Well, I guess I'm not either.
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6/24. I'm a model based in Los Angeles, and I have seen the casting sheets from my agents and for adults & kids alike. When they are sorting for fat/ugly they always use the term "real people" at least once. For fat, they'll say "preferably overweight" or something so that they know the actor will be okay with being portrayed in that light. For ugly, they'll sometimes say "unconventional, quirky, awkward" etc.
7/24. I was cast as an extra in the "fat girl" sorority on the show Greek. Since I was an extra, all I was told beforehand was the name of the show, where and when to show up, and the fact that clothing would be provided. It was not until I got there, got my clothes on, and saw all the other girls with matching outfits that I realized we were the unwanted dorks of the campus. It kinda sucked, but I took it in stride as a commentary on LA beauty standards, as I was a size 14 at the time.
8/24. When I was a young kid, I was kind of odd looking. My parents had me do commercials/ small T.V. roles since I really loved acting, but I would always be cast as the "weird" or "awkward" child. It kind of hurts me to this day that my parents would take me specifically to casting calls looking for children described as "outcasts".
That's the thing with Hollywood; you can't be cool if you are ugly. And that can really mess with a young persons mind. Especially all those kids out there watching this stuff.
9/24. My agent used to send me the breakdowns (for LA) and they're basically all either "fat/ugly person" or "ripped/model look" It's fairly depressing. They have to be blunt about it, though, otherwise they'll get 80,000 submissions for people not remotely what they're looking for.
10/24. If you get your feelings hurt, acting is NOT the job for you. Serious actors take whatever part they can get because there's 1000 other applicants who will take the part.
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11/24. I'm pretty overweight, and I've been acting for the past year now. At first, the idea of going out for roles that were specifically for overweight people bothered me but then I came to this realization - "Yep, I'm fat."
It was hard to come to terms with in certain ways, but now I'm much more successful and enjoy the job way more. Still sucks that all of the roles are pretty much the same; loser fat kid or large loner bully, it's all the same. Wish there were bette roles for people who aren't "attractive".
12/24. My friends entered their baby (1 yr old) into one of those competitions where the winners go into a tv commercial. They were so excited when their kid was one of the 10 to make it into the commercial, they were telling everyone on Facebook etc etc.
Then when they saw the final version of the commercial, they realized that their baby was the 'not so cute' character who wore the "leading brand" diapers. They made him look unclean and made the lighting all dark and kinda brownish.
It was hilarious (for us).
13/24. I would think actors would be extremely pragmatic about their body and the roles that they could get. It's part of their product, after all.
14/24. Character actors know they are character actors. It's acting. I've played the ugly fat girl and the pretty girl. Playing the ugly person is fun, and it's not a big deal to professionals.
15/24. I was on a reality show called 'Guntucky' several years ago. I was much heavier back then and kind of awkward, mostly because I had just gotten divorced.
They wrote me as a clumsy, sort of nerdy dude who went to gun ranges to pick up women. Another actress on the show was the daughter of the owner of the gun range, an attractive mid twenties chick I had never met. They had me hit on her and try to score a date, really awkwardly. I pulled it off pretty well because I was still distraught about the divorce and because I was pretty awkward irl anyway (story continued on the next page...).
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The director was pleased with my performance because I didn't question what they wanted me to do. "Too many people get in front of the camera and want to be cool, they're scared of looking stupid. But it's TV, not real life." I had a lot of fun, though. The TV guys were from New York and had no experience with fire arms, me and my dad got to train them a bit so they'd know how to write the show better. My dad was cast as a member of a 'secret gun club' that consisted of a bunch of old guys who had never met irl, with me standing guard in the shadows as something of an apprentice. Unfortunately the scene with me 'threatening' a trespasser with my (empty) ak47 didn't make the show due to time constraints. But it's a nice experience I got to share with my dad.
16/24. I was cast as Gregory in Gregory's Girl because I was a pretty scrawny and goofy teenager. The upside was that I got to snog a girl I really fancied on stage for several nights, including in front of her slightly douchey boyfriend on Valentine's Day.
A year or two later I'd drifted into my Goth phase and so was cast as Dracula in a musical, so I definitely got cast for certain roles.
That said I was also cast in a play about a metal band that formed a boyband.
Great times :)
17/24. I represent actors and musicians. They literally put it in the character description.
i.e. overweight, pudgy, could lose a few etc
A lot of times they will refer to a character as... well... character-y. And sometimes they'll flat out say unattractive.
18/24. We were shooting this film, sort of a comedic-drama. The film was mostly dramatic, but had some very funny elements to it. The scene we were working on at that moment was very serious. Very intense. A kind of argument, where the other character is kind of pushing me around.
We both ad libbed a few words here and there, but in one take the other actor shoved me and called me "fat a**" and it totally took me by surprise. I didn't really know how to feel. I was definitely embarrassed. I just wasn't expecting it. The crew consisted of a lot of people I knew, people I'd worked with before and considered friends. So to suddenly have this person call me that in front of all them, it felt kind of weird. Since the subject of my weight had just never been brought up before.
At first I was a little mad, but not really. Just that he'd throw the more personal insult in there, during a real take while on set and in front of everyone. Rather than doing it during one of our earlier (and more private) rehearsals or quietly mentioning it to me before we started the take. But it probably wasn't even planned, I'm sure it just sort of popped out in the moment.
I was just kind of surprised and embarrassed (story continued on the next page...).
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I don't hold it against him in the least. He saw an opportunity and he took it. His character was supposed to be constantly bothering me, so it makes sense for him to play off my weight. His character would have done it, and this guy was really deep into his character.
He stayed entirely submerged in the role between takes. Which was fascinating. I definitely stay somewhat in character between takes, I stay in the same mindset. But I will still respond as myself when spoken to by cast or crew. This guy though... he stayed entirely submerged in the role between takes... and he'd go out of his way to interact with people. He'd come up to you and keep talking to you in character, talking about the current situation as if the story was still playing out between scenes. It was especially interesting because this actor was so different from his character. Not in his voice or anything, but in personality. The character was this insane and angry and paranoid druggy, constantly swearing. The actor was this really nice and infinitely polite ultra-Christian guy who hated swear words and violence and anger.
Seeing him suddenly switch back to being the nice normal guy during certain breaks was truly surreal. One moment, this guy is screaming in my face and throwing me to the ground and yelling stuff like "You fucking piece of shit!", and the next moment, he is helping me up and saying "You okay, buddy? I didn't throw you down too hard, did I? You'll let me know if I push you too hard, right?"
19/24. I help staff events sometimes and recently needed five chubby guys to dress up like Cupid (diaper, bow, arrow, wings) for a TV promotion.
In this case, the only way to get what you want is to ask for it. If you need a chubby Cupid, you goddam-well better ask for a chubby cupid.
And that's what I did, that's what I got, and it worked out great.
20/24. I'm an actor... and fat. I would probably best describe my body as Shrek-like, in the sense that I have a big gut but I also have very big shoulders. So I give off more of the "big guy" look than the "little wimpy fat guy" look.
It's definitely something that comes up. Casting calls will ask for "larger" people or request someone of at least a certain weight or measurement. I can understand that, of course. They're looking for a specific type of person to play a specific type of character. They'll generally warn you in advance of any lines/gags that make fun of your weight.
Many young directors will be extremely cautious about that sort of thing. A lot of student directors won't work it into a script, they won't really play off it too much, because they don't want to hurt anyone's feelings.
When I'm writing a project that I know I'll be the one acting in, I'll sometimes play off my out-of-shape lifestyle a bit. Because it's there, it's no secret. I might as well take advantage of it for the sake of the script.
I've never really had my weight brought up on set before. Not that I recall.
21/24. I am a writer and actor in Los Angeles. My fat and ugly friends (with talent) are by far the most successful of all of us, from regular commercial work, to theatrical (drama/comedy) work, to modelling. It pays to be unique in a city full of pretty white people trying to get the same job.
Now ask them if they get any decent hero/villain roles that aren't a sidekick or a total joke, it's a different story.
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22/24. I went for casting as a face character for Walt Disney World. I was told I would make an excellent Ugly Step-sister due to my height (5'9") and my "abnormal" teeth. They say they want the villains to be tall so they loom over the children. It gives a more menacing feel if you look down at them. Disney casting starts with your smile. So they make it extremely clear.
23/24. Not all that related, but in the sixth grade we had to do Greek Plays, and our class was doing The Apple of Discord. We had acting "auditions" and the person who got the most votes got to choose their character, the second most votes chose next, and so on. I, by some miracle, got first place. At recess I talked to my teacher and she mentioned that the best part was definitely Eris. I didn't know anything about Greek Myths, so we get back into class and she started writing names on the board. She asked what part I wanted and I, of course, replied "Eris." Everyone started laughing and then I found out why.
Eris is the douchebag who started the whole fight between the goddesses. Screw her, I had to be the fat goddess of strife and everyone made fun of me for weeks. Screw you Mrs. Nichols.
24/24. Hey guys, actor here who works in a casting office. I initially scoffed at this question. Of course they do, a successful actor of this size/look makes every cent of their living from going in for "fat weird guy". But I realized the disconnect here.
What you guys might not understand is that in casting, actors are talked about like objects, and they're fine with that. It's rarely spoken of in say, late-night interviews, because no one in the general public wants to hear about what they might consider cruelty. Consider these perfectly plausible character breakdowns that the actor will SEE when they get the audition:
-big nose guy
-muffin top girl
Those may sound mean and blunt, but consider this: "big nose guy" knows he has a big nose and he makes thousands of dollars from it every year.