Whatever these actors are doing, it’s working.

Our Sponsor

“After The Wizard Of Oz I was typecast as a lion, and there aren’t all that many parts for lions.” – Bert Lahr

MGM / Courtesy of the Everett Collection

Actors typically don’t like to be typecast, and it’s easy to understand why. Doing the same types of roles for years on end may limit their creativity, but some actors don’t mind being first up for an action movie or period piece. These actors may be typecast, but they’re doing a magnificent job at it:

1. Vin Diesel – We all know the role, do I even have to say it?

Universal Pictures

Iconic Performance: The Fast and the Furious

Who would’ve thought that “Point Break but with cars” would’ve turned into a multi-billion dollar franchise? Vin Diesel, that’s who. After playing the role of hardened yet paternal Dom Toretto for a few movies, Diesel became a producer in the franchise. He has been instrumental in defining the Fast Saga, but that doesn’t mean his acting resume isn’t a tad one-note. His best movie so far? The Pacifier, of course.

2. Chris Pratt – At a certain point, Pratt became this generation’s Harrison Ford.

Marvel Studios

Iconic Performance: Guardians of the Galaxy

Plenty of people knew about Chris Pratt by the time he was cast in Guardians of the Galaxy. The childishly lovable Andy Dwyer on Parks and Recreation was actually supposed to leave the show after Season 1, but he was so popular that Pratt became an integral cast member. In the months and weeks leading up to the release of Guardians of the Galaxy,  the biggest headline was Pratt’s transformation from schlub to stud. After the movie debuted, however, the conversation shifted to Pratt’s charisma as an action star. Ever since, he has been Hollywood’s go-to leading man. Whether it’s a dinosaur wrangler, space voyager, or Italian plumber, Pratt is likely to be the first choice.

3. Hugh Grant – If you need your romantic lead to say “Oh, dear” a lot, get Grant.

Working Title Films

Iconic Performance: Four Weddings and a Funeral

Family Guy said it best when they described Grant as “charmingly befuddled.” At the peak of his popularity, Hugh Grant could stumble and stammer his way through a phone book and people would tune in. The quintessential British romantic lead, Grant has an earnestness and boyish charm that makes him perfect for roles just like the one that put him on the map. Is the photo above from Four Weddings and a Funeral, About a Boy, or Love Actually? We may never know.

4. Michael Cera – The king of the awkward kid you can’t help but root for.

20th Century Fox Television

Iconic Performance: Arrested Development

Superbad made Michael Cera well-known, but Arrested Development is where he perfected the role of the uncomfortable teenager. As he tries to kiss his cousin, run a banana stand, or pass a muscle suit off as his own body, Cera’s natural delivery of every line makes each moment feel painfully real. In SuperbadScott Pilgrim vs. The World, and many others, Cera plays the loveably awkward teen. He’s well-aware of his typecasting and seems to have a good sense of humor about it, as you can see here when a fan asks him whether it’s something he worries about.

5. Tom Cruise – One of the most quintessential action stars of the ’90s and 2000s.

Paramount/Courtesy Everett Collection

Iconic Performance: Mission: Impossible

Tom Cruise is no stranger to romance and comedy, but he’s an action star above all else. Running his way into our hearts with films like The Outsiders and Risky Business, it was Top Gun that made Cruise a bona fide movie star. But Top Gun is more of a love story than an action film, and Cruise’s last two decades have been defined by Mission: Impossible more than any of his other work. Besides the fact that Mission: Impossible 7 AND 8 are in production simultaneously at the time of writing, action movies like Minority Report and Jack Reacher have been common Cruise while there have been less romantic or comedic roles. Magnolia and Rock of Ages are good reminders that Cruise has the acting chops for a variety of characters, but I’m guessing he’ll stick to being the action hero for at least another two decades (probably still not aging). 

6. Michelle Rodriguez – The badass [insert cool job] that doesn’t have time for your shit.

Universal / courtesy Everett Collection

Iconic Performance: The Fast and the Furious

Rodriguez’s first acting job in Girlfight got her critical attention, but she wasn’t Hollywood’s biggest badass until The Fast and the Furious. Playing Letty in the first film that would go on to be one of the biggest franchises in cinema, Rodriguez is a dominating and magnetic actor. She has since brought that same energy to films like Avatar and Machete. Rodriguez also played a police officer in Lost, which is a show that will pop up more than once on this list. Whatever Rodriguez decides to do after the final Fast & Furious movie, I just hope we get to see her in Machete Kills Again…In Space

7. Anya Taylor Joy – If it’s a horror film or a period piece, they probably called Anya (bonus points if it’s a horror period piece).


Iconic Performance: The Witch

Anya Taylor Joy barely made this list, and it’ll be interesting to see how her career evolves from 2021. But with Last Night in Soho premiering this year, Joy has proven to be a wonderful choice for films that either have murder or take place in the past. In The Queen’s Gambit (set in the 60s), Joy’s confidence and determination sold the role of Beth Harmon. She also starred in Emma, another period piece. 

In Split, she channeled a scream queen that would make Sarah Michelle Gellar (#17 on this list) proud. And in Thoroughbreds, her character’s uppity detachment helped establish the dark film’s tone. The Witch and Last Night in Soho are horror/period pieces, which Anya Taylor Joy thrives the most in. Watch out for her 2024 role of Furiosa in the Mad Max universe to see where she goes from here.

8. Hiroyuki Sanada – He has to have enough hours logged to be a full-on samurai by now.

Warner Bros

Iconic Performance: The Last Samurai

Who said actors were soft? Hiroyuki Sanada may be a world-class actor, but I wouldn’t recommend challenging him to a sword fight (I wouldn’t recommend challenging anyone to a sword fight actually, that’s weird). A senior member of the Japan Action Club, Sanada was already a successful Japanese actor by the time he got cast in The Last Samurai. Once he hit the global stage, Sanada’s name became synonymous with fierce swordsmen. He also ties three separate entries on this list together. Sanada appeared in Lost, which Michael Emerson was a star of, as we’ll see in #16. The co-creator of Lost, Damon Lindelof, called Sanada the “Japanese Harrison Ford,” and we’ll be covering Ford in #12! Typecast gang!

9. Keira Knightly – If you need a romantic lead in a period piece, you need Keira Knightly.


Iconic Performance: Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl 

Kiera Knightly’s breakout role was in Bend It Like Beckham (she was relatively unknown when starred in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace three years earlier). But since Beckham, it’s been rare to see her in a role wearing clothes made in this century. You’re much more likely to see her in a period piece, and that’s thanks to her incredible performance as Elizabeth Swan in Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl. As with many of her roles, Knightly brings dignity and ferocity to characters that are often underestimated by the people around her. According to Knightly, she simply finds more interesting roles for women in period pieces. And technically, The Phantom Menace was a period piece too.

10. Helena Bonham Carter – Dark, edgy, and ruthless, Carter often plays characters that will ruin your life.

20th Century Fox

Iconic Performance: Fight Club

Helena Bonham Carter had a lot of film and television roles under her belt by the time she got the role of Marla Singer. While Carter can play countless types of characters, it was the messy and blunt Marla that caused the actor to become a household name. Since Fight Club, Helena Bonham Carter has played many characters with…unique looks. Bellatrix Lestrange, Mrs. Lovett, and even the Corpse Bride all owe a debt to Marla Singer.

11. Timothée Chalamet – The angsty yet lovable teen.

Sony Pictures Classics

Iconic Performance: Call Me By Your Name

One of the biggest actors working today, many people first saw Timothée Chalamet in Interstellar. While he handled the role well, Call Me By Your Name showed the world how talented (and angsty) Chalamet really was. If you need a young character to stare into a fireplace (Call Me By Your Name), act like a cringey philosophy major (Lady Bird), profess their love for someone (Little Women), or have an existential crisis over whether or not they’re a messiah (Dune), Chalamet is your man.

12. Harrison Ford – Few actors could pull off cocky action characters like Ford (mainly because he took all those roles).


Iconic Performance: Star Wars

Harrison Ford is the only actor on this list that has gone through two eras of typecasting. Today, he is the grumpy grandpa that doesn’t easily give out his approval. But in the 80s and 90s, Ford rivaled Stallone and Schwarzenegger as one of the best action stars in the world. From the cool, couldn’t-care-less attitude in Han Solo to the smoldering academic in Indiana Jones, Harrison Ford was the guy to call when you needed a man on a mission.

13. Jason Statham – Casting someone else as a Cockney tough guy? Bollocks!

Gramercy Pictures / courtesy Everett Collection

Iconic Performance: Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels

Transporter cemented Statham as the Cockney James Bond, but Guy Ritchie’s Lock, Stock, and Two Smoking Barrels first introduced us to the brash tough guy. Part of Statham’s typecasting comes from his ability to do most of his stunts — he is proficient in mixed martial arts (kickboxing and jujitsu). Statham also proves that typecasting is usually not a bad thing, it’s just an actor excelling at a particular role. As he puts it, “It’s not like I’m dying to do work that’s taken seriously, and I’m not looking to become a thespian. It’s not what I’m looking for; I’m just looking to do quality work.”

14. Rebel Wilson – You think you have a funny friend? Wilson is THE funny friend.

Universal Pictures

Iconic Performance: Pitch Perfect  

Rebel Wilson goes far beyond what could simply be “comedic relief.” Wilson isn’t just the funny friend or the lovable, quirky character. Let me give you an example of what I mean. Iconic film critic Roger Ebert was lukewarm on Pitch Perfect, giving it two out of four stars. However, he did say this: “[Rebel] plays a character so ebullient, unstoppable, and raucous that she steals every scene she’s in….” No wonder Rebel Wilson played relatively similar characters for the years following Pitch Perfect.

15. Ryan Reynolds – This movie established Reynolds as the charming guy that gets on other characters’ nerves and loves to talk.

Artisan Entertainment/Courtesy Everett Collection

Iconic Performance: Van Wilder

Deadpool may have been the role Ryan Reynolds was born to play, but really you could say that about any cocky, upbeat, loud-mouth character. I mean, can’t you imagine any Reynolds character delivering the line, “Her name’s Naomi. That’s ‘I moan’ backwards.” Van Wilder may as well be a prequel to Deadpool because it’s easy to imagine the Merc with a mouth delivering the exact same lines as Van. Or even better (and my own personal theory): every Ryan Reynolds film exists in the same universe. So it’s not really typecasting, is it?

16. Michael Emerson – The quiet yet calculating evil genius.

ABC/Courtesy Everett Collection

Iconic Performance: Lost

If you’ve never seen Lost, I kind of just spoiled a minor part of it for you (something one of Michael Emerson’s characters would probably do). Don’t worry, I’ll spoil it further. In Emerson’s first appearance in Season 2 of the legendary ABC show, we’re not sure whether he’s friend or foe. At that point in Lost, the main characters have been stressing over The Others. The big question is whether this man, giving the name Henry Gale, is one of them (the episode is even called “One of Them”). 

Giving an acting performance that got him an Emmy, Emerson spends the entire episode convincing everyone — including us — that he’s not a bad guy. When he finally reveals that he’s the leader of The Others, Emerson spends the next five seasons showing us why he’s the master at playing the evil, patient, soft-spoken, conflicted, genius.

17. Sarah Michelle Gellar – The scream queen that redefined what it means to be a scream queen.

TCD/Prod.DB / Alamy Stock Photo

Iconic Performance: I Know What You Did Last Summer 

Actors like Jamie Lee Curtis and Dee Wallace have earned their place among the greatest scream queens of all time, but few others have done what Sarah Michelle Gellar has with horror. Not only has she played the traditional leading role in many horror movies, but she also helped redefine the modern scream queen. With roles like Helen Shivers and Buffy Summers, Gellar has helped transform the scream queen trope into a role that can have layers, complexity, and warmth. 

Who are some other typecast actors that you can think of? Let us know in the comments below!

Our Sponsor

Leave a Reply