These Actors Always Play The Same Characters

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When I first watched the trailer for Bright, the Netflix movie set in a fantasy Los Angeles that comes out December 22, I couldn't shake the feeling that I had seen this trailer before. Something about Bright made the movie seem utterly familiar. And then I realized: Will Smith is playing a cop in Bright, just as he had done in many, many past movies.
Bright gave me acute typecasting déjà vu, but Will Smith isn't the only actor who's found a schtick that works and is eminently replicable. The more I thought about it, the more I realized Hollywood is full of actors whose role choices follow patterns like Smith's. Keira Knightley, for example, loves to play wealthy women in a period pieces. Samuel L. Jackson has a tendency to wryly deliver one-liners before pulling some badass move.
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Once you see these patterns, you can't unsee them. Get ready to peer into the Matrix. Here are some of Hollywood's most typecast actors.
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Danny Trejo

Typecast As: Tattooed tough guy

Trejo knows that his roles are all vaguely similar, and he doesn't mind. In an interview with Variety, Trejo recalled the first time he realized he had a "type."

"The first time I was interviewed in L.A., this girl asked me, 'Aren’t you afraid of being typecast?' And I said 'What?' And she said, “You’re always playing the mean Chicano dude with tattoos.” And I thought about it, and I said, 'I am the mean Chicano dude with tattoos. Somebody got it right.' I thought I was having a great career."

Trejo has forged a long-lasting career out of playing intimidating antagonists. You can catch Peak Trejo in Heat, Con Air, and Desperado.
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Helena Bonham Carter

Typecast As: The highly eccentric woman with a streak of the macabre

Carter's characters straddle the line between quirky and scary. Many of her famous characters — Bellatrix Lestrange in the Harry Potter series, the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland, and Mrs. Lovett in Sweeney Todd — are all darkly unpredictable, but in almost a whimsical way. They take time with their evil. Carter can also play a whimsical and fundamentally good character, like the Fairy Godmother in Cinderella.
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Johnny Depp

Typecast As: The weirdo hero

At the start of his career, Depp used to make varied role choices (looking at you, What's Eating Gilbert Grape). Now it seems most of his role are first cousins of Jack Sparrow of Pirates of the Caribbean. We're talking about the vibrantly colored, yet emotionally detached, Willy Wonka in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, the Mad Hatter in Alice in Wonderland, Sweeney Todd in Sweeney Todd, Mortdecai in Mortdecai, and upcoming, Gellert Grindelwald in Fantastic Beasts and Where to Find Them: The Crimes of Grindelwald.
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Jason Bateman

Typecast As: The bewildered straight man

Things happen to Jason Bateman's characters. He's always on the receiving end of some other, more interesting characters' strange actions. His Arrested Development character, Michael Bluth, spent most of his life cleaning up his family's disasters. In the upcoming 2018 movie Game Night, his character goes to a murder mystery dinner party, and then ends up becoming involved in an actual murder. More madness happens to him in The Switch, when his friend accidentally uses his sperm to get her pregnant, and Identity Thief, when his information is stolen by Melissa McCarthy's character.
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Alan Dale

Typecast As: The magnate

Dale's roles bear striking similarities. On The O.C., Dale played a real estate magnate who died of a heart attack. On Ugly Betty, Dale played a publishing magnate who also died of a heart attack. Dale's wealthy industrialist on Lost didn't die of a heart attack, though — he died of a gunshot wound.

Currently, Dale plays a butler on the Dynasty revival. He's no longer the rich guy, but his character is just as snobby as his former magnate characters were.
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Michael Cera

Typecast As: The quivering man-child

We first saw Michael Cera as George Michael Bluth in Arrested Development, when he could barely get a word in amid his loud family. Since then, his characters have always been boys in their fullest, most awkward sense. He's the guy you would have been best friends with, and not realized was in love with you all along. Catch that version of Cera in Juno, Superbad, and Nick and Norah's Infinite Playlist.
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Keira Knightley

Typecast As: The period piece heroine

So many of Knightley's movies take place in a past when people wore glamorous clothing. In Atonement, she played a woman living in England during WWII. Anna Karenina is set in 19th century Russia, and The Duchess is set in 18th century England. Even Pirates of the Caribbean falls into the period piece category — her character faints from wearing a tight corset!

Knightley has given thought to her repertoire of period piece movies. In an interview with TV Times, Knightley said, "I've been asking myself about that an awful lot, and I think when I was younger I felt really bad about it and felt I was doing something wrong in doing so many period films. And then, all of a sudden, I went, 'OK, this is obviously what I'm drawn to.'"
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Alec Baldwin

Typecast As: The intimidating, self-confident asshole

Baldwin has settled into his gravelly, idiosyncratic voice and played a host of suave, successful men, ranging from Jack Donaghy in 30 Rock to the Boss Baby in Boss Baby.
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Leslie Mann

Typecast As: The slightly uptight mom/wife

Why is it that every time Judd Apatow needs to fill the role of a married woman, his first choice is actress Leslie Mann? Oh, right — they're married. If Mann's characters come off as uptight, it's probably just because they're always married to man-children. In This is 40, Mann has to train her onscreen husband, Paul Rudd, to be supportive. In Knocked Up, Mann is once again married to Rudd, and is once again dissatisfied with his apathy. In a nutshell: Leslie Mann is good at scolding Paul Rudd.
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Samuel L. Jackson

Typecast As: The downright badass

You want Samuel L. Jackson's gun-toting, irreverent, and very wise characters on your side. His characters speak in quotable one-liners and look good in eye patches. Check out this version of Jackson in Star Wars, The Avengers and the after-credits reel of movies in the Marvel Universe, Kingsman: The Secret Service, and Chi-raq.
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Katharine Heigl

Typecast As: The romantic lead in a movie about romance

In the mid 2000s, Heigl starred in a string of rom-coms, many of which were about weddings or love to begin with. Her characters' main struggle tends to be that they can't get a date. In 27 Dresses, her character has been in 27 weddings and longs for one of her own. In The Big Wedding, her character reconciles with her husband after going through lots of wedding-related hijinks. She also appeared in Valentine's Day, a movie which is literally only about romantic relationships.
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Morgan Freeman

Typecast As: Wise man — or God

Morgan Freeman's characters just want you to achieve your higher self! He's the calm, wise man in movies like The Shawshank Redemption, Se7en, and Million Dollar Baby. He took this typecasting to its natural apex when he played God in Bruce Almighty and Evan Almighty.
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Zooey Deschanel

Typecast As: The quirky girl

Who's that girl? It's Jess! Deschanel almost always plays a dreamy, slightly impractical romantic interest who awakens her bland romantic interest to the wonders of life. Often, just as quickly as she comes in humming on a ukulele, her character leaves. Catch her in 500 Days of Summer, The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, and Elf.
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Will Smith

Typecast As: The wise-cracking law enforcement agent

Smith has played his fair share of mischievous, but fundamentally good, cops. In the mythical Los Angeles of the new Netflix movie Bright, Smith plays a human LAPD officer reluctantly sharing his patrol car with an orc. He's also donned uniforms in the Bad Boys and Men in Black series, as well as in Independence Day, Wild Wild West, and I, Robot.

Smith's takeaway? He told Yahoo Entertainment he's confident enough in his policing abilities that he could arrest someone. “I could definitely make someone think that I knew what I was doing," he said.
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Jim Carrey

Typecast As: Face-contorting goofball

Back in the '90s, Jim Carrey became an international superstar for his manic, physical brand of comedy that involved changing expressions more time in a minute than you probably do all year. We're talking The Mask, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, The Cable Guy, and Dumb and Dumber.
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Michelle Rodriguez

Typecast As: The tough chick

Rodriguez plays a woman whose main personality trait is that she can keep up with the boys. In fact, her tough women characters, featured in movies like Resident Evil and the Fast and the Furious franchise, can probably take down all of the boys. Lost fans will always think Ana Lucia Cortez is the best of Rodriguez' gun-toting badasses.
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John Wayne

Typecast As: The cowboy

But of course is John Wayne not the most typecast actor of all time? John Wayne made a career out of playing John Wayne, and he'll will go down in history as the embodiment of the lone ranger, traversing the Wild West.
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Melissa McCarthy

Typecast As: The wild comic relief

So many of Melissa McCarthy's characters resemble the role that skyrocketed her to fame: the unabashedly crass Megan Price of Bridesmaids. Much of McCarthy's character's humor is elicited through gags connected to her weight, or to her bodily functions. McCarthy's brand of comic relief is on full display in movies like Tammy and Identity Thief.
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Hugh Grant

Typecast As: The foppish and adorable British rom-com lead

Odds are, one of your all-time favorite romantic comedies features Hugh Grant. Ever since Four Weddings and a Funeral, he's played the role of a sweet, clumsy leading man, who stutters out his emotions to his romantic interest. See: Notting Hill, Love Actually, Sense and Sensibility, Maurice.
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Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson

Typecast As: The endearing nice guy, who could also beat you up

This schtick has also made Johnson one of the most profitable stars of all time, so who's to knock typecasting? The Rock's glowing smile and gigantic muscles are on full display in so many of his movies, from The Fast in the Furious to The Other Guys and Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle. Even his animated character Maui in Moana has the same brawn, charm, and expressive eyebrow as his other roles.
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Jason Statham

Typecast As: The stoic killer

He's gruff. He's bald. He will calmly finish up an assassination job, and then retire home to eat a simple meal of steak and potatoes. Statham's unflappable and British action heroes are featured in movies like The Expendables, Spy, and The Fast and the Furious franchise.
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Sofia Vergara

Typecast As: The fiery Latina

Most American audiences were first introduced to Sofia Vergara on Modern Family, where she played Gloria, the new wife of the family patriarch. Since Modern Family, Vergara has repeated her schtick in movies like Hot Pursuit, Machete Kills, and even the critically reviled Emoji Movie, in which she voiced the flamenco dancer.

Vergara has responded to being cast in a narrow box on an interview with CNN. "It is the reality. I am a Latin woman. I'm voluptuous, I'm loud, I'm exactly what a Latin woman is. I mean, what am I going to go against it? No. I don't think there's anything bad in being a Latin woman. What is it? That we are loud, that we are passionate, that we are voluptuous? I prefer to be called that than, 'You're boring; you have a flat a**!'"
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Ben Mendelsohn

Typecast As: The villain

A huge proportion of Mendelsohn's IMDb page consists of characters that fall somewhere on the spectrum of evil. From the devious Danny Rayburn in Bloodline to the architect of the Death Star in Rogue One, Mendelsohn gravitates towards playing the kind of guy your mother warned you about. Recently, he's been cast as the villain in the upcoming Captain Marvel movie, and no one is surprised.
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Jodie Foster

Typecast As: The supremely capable, intelligent leader

If you're ever trapped in a scary situation, look around for Jodie Foster. She'll save you, and stay stoic all the while. Her characters have been known to interview serial killers (The Silence of the Lambs), track down missing daughters on airplanes (Flightplan), sinisterly rule over a privileged space colony (Elysium), and fight off home invaders (Panic Room).
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Doug Jones

Typecast As: The Guillermo del Toro creature

You've probably never seen Doug Jones' human face, but you have certainly seen his creature faces. Many of his most famous costumes have come from collaborations with director Guillermo del Toro. For example, Jones played both Fauno and the Pale Man — aka the guy with eyes on his hands — in Pan's Labyrinth, the teal Abe Sapien in Hellboy, and the bright-red, skeletal Mrs. Sharpe in Crimson Peak. Most recently, Jones played the amphibian man in Del Toro's The Shape of Water.

Jones told Vulture he doesn't mind the hours of makeup his roles usually require. “I don’t go stir-crazy. I’m a lazy person in real life, so if you give me a chance to sit still with nothing expected of me, great.”
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Andy Serkis

Typecast As: The digitally-enhanced creature

You can thank Serkis for many of the creatures found in your favorite movies. He played Caesar in War for the Planet of the Apes, Kong in King Kong, and Gollum in the Lord of the Rings trilogy. Serkis doesn't act typically act with prosthetic make-up; rather, his motions are recorded using motion capture technology, and then are enhanced digitally to resemble creatures.

"It's crucial that people do understand that when you're approaching a role, there is no difference between performance-capture technology and conventional acting," he told The Independent. "You're not inhibited by layers of prosthetic make-up. You can actually play something much more truthfully. The technology has arrived at a point where the fidelity to the original performance is much greater."
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Christopher Mintz-Plasse

Typecast As: McLovin

Mintz-Plasse's fate was cemented after playing McLovin in Superbad — he was consigned to play the nerdy guy from there on out. In Role Models, for example, he played a character whose primary interest was medieval LARPing. No judgment to medieval LARPing, though.
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Timothy Spall

Typecast As: The evil henchman

Spall has played the sidekick to many an evil character. In Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street, his character is a sniveling beadle that helps Judge Turpin (Alan Rickman) with his dastardly plans. Spall is similarly sniveling as Peter Pettigrew in Harry Potter, and as the evil queen's sidekick in Enchanted.
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David Bradley

Typecast As: The unpleasant old man

Bradley plays Filch in the Harry Potter series and Walder Frey in Game of Thrones. He's cornered the market for playing long-haired and mean men.
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