Resistance and resignation: Responses to typecasting in British acting

Sam Friedman, Dave O’Brien

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


This article draws on 38 in-depth interviews with British actors to explore the operation of typecasting. First, we argue that typecasting acts as the key mechanism through which the ‘somatic norm’ is established in British acting. It delivers an oversupply of leading roles for white, male, middle-class actors while ensuring that those who deviate somatically are restricted to largely socially caricatured roles. Second, we focus on the career trajectories of ‘othered’ actors. While they frequently experience acting roles as offensive and discriminatory, we demonstrate how most nonetheless reluctantly accept the terms of their ‘type’ in order to survive and succeed. Third, we focus on the minority who have attempted to challenge their type. Here we find that successful resistance is accomplished by carefully choosing work that subverts the somatic norm. However, the ability to exercise such choice is highly contingent on resources associated with an actor’s class origin.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359-376
Number of pages18
JournalCultural Sociology
Issue number3
Early online date13 Jul 2017
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2017


  • acting
  • typecasting
  • the somatic norm
  • cultural and creative industries
  • United Kingdom
  • social class
  • work
  • labour market
  • stereotypes


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