Fine Arts

What does it mean to be defined as a character actor?
Answered by Stephen Tobolowsky
  • Stephen Tobolowsky

    Stephen Tobolowsky

  1. Stephen Tobolowsky Actor - Writer


    It means you've lost your hair, probably, to be a character actor. It's different in theater and in film.  In theater, they almost never use the term "character actor."  You're just a character in a play.  But in film or television, you're a character actor because you usually don't have a name or you only have one name.  I notice leading actors have two names, like, Captain Jack Sparrow (he even has a title), Richard Kimble -- these people all have two names. But when you play the parts I play, a lot of times you're Officer Johnson.  That usually means you're in a drama, if you have a title and a last name -- Officer Johnson.  If you're in a comedy, you'll have a title and a first name, like Sheriff Charlie.  Then you know you're in a comedy.

    And then it works its way down; the less of a name you have, the less time the writer has spent thinking about your part.  I think the worst name I ever had in a movie was "Buttcrack Plumber."  And I pled with the writer-director, to at least change it to "Plumber."  I'll do anything.  And in the end, he changed it to Dave the Plumber, which was such a step up.

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