The 20 Most Typecast Actors

Some actors manage to completely avoid the pitfalls of typecasting, spending their career playing multitudes of different roles in completely different veins. However, many aren’t so lucky. Whether through a breakout part, bad luck, or their own actions, they’re stuck playing essentially the same character over and over and over again. These 20 actors and actresses keep popping up in movies, and every time they do it’s the same damn role!

20. Reginald VelJohnson

If you ever needed a slightly overweight, generally friendly but occasionally kickass black cop, you just had to grab Reginald VelJohnson. Ghostbusters, Die Hard, Die Hard 2, and Turner and Hooch, he played a cop in all of them. And then there was Family Matters, where again, he played a cop. For more than 200 episodes over nine seasons, VelJohnson played father Carl Winslow, police officer and home maker. He’s also heavily rumored to be gay, but lets not get into that. It just seems like every time he pops up he’s either a police officer, or in a similar position of power.

19. Crispin Glover

Tall, thin, creepy, and just generally off-putting, Crispin Glover makes his living by playing oddball roles, and has for years. Hell, the only semi-normal thing he’s done that I can even remember was his work in Back to the Future, and other than that, it’s all stuff like Creepy Thin Man in Charlie’s Angels, Andy Warhol, interviewing Werner Herzog, being the motion artist for Grendel, and the Wizard of Gore. Then there’s the infamous interview on Letterman, where he appeared in character for a movie that wasn’t coming out for years, essenitally freaking hte hell out of everyone.

18. Timothy Spall

If you need a creepy, obsequious overweight man, Spall seems to have the market cornered — which is sad, because he’s actually a pretty diverse actor. Just about every time he pops up, he’s slimy and fork-tongued, culminating in his part as Peter Pettigrew/Wormtail in the Harry Potter films. However, if you go back to his UK roots, you see that he’s an immensely diverse actor, a fact born out by his recent role as Winston Churchill in the King’s Speech — but he’s still mostly just fat and creepy.

17. Jason Statham

Bald, soft-spoken, ass-kicking and British. It’s hard to think of a Statham role which isn’t almost exactly like his other. I honestly couldn’t tell you where Transporter ends and Crank begins. War, the Bank Job, and Death Race. It really does seem that they love casting him as a driver, don’t they? He performs all his own stunts, is absurdly toned. He was a childhood friend of Vinnie Jones, a national diver, and eventually discovered while exercising and chosen as a model for FCUK. From that, he broke into acting, and now whenever you want a reliable action star you just stick him behind the wheel of a car, and have him toplessly beat the crap out of legions of badguys, and you’re away.

16. Vin Diesel

Vin Diesel’s an interesting case. Despite starring almost entirely as a gravelly voiced meathead, he’s actually a pretty sharp customer, and his early film work was built around him avoiding such stereotypes. His first big role was in Saving Private Ryan, but what got him Spielberg’s attention was a short film he had made, which was about him trying to find roles but not being the muscle-bound idiot he looked like, while struggling to define his ethnicity. Now, all he does is action and scifi movies where he gets to beat people up, say one liners, and cause explosions.

15. Chris Tucker

Motor-moutched and annoying, that’s Chris Tucker’s MO. Think of him as Ruby Rhod in Fifth Element, or in any of the Rush Hour movies. Hell, anything he’s ever been in, and it’s just him screeching words out at a million miles per hour, driving everyone insane. That’s his schtick, after all. Annoying and high speed, there really isn’t enough call for that for him to pop up much, he barely shows up in any movies, and most of them are franchises, either Rush Hour or Friday. I can’t even believe the Friday movies are still going, more than 15 years after the original.

14. Zach Galifianakis

The overweight and supremely awkward one. As far as I can tell, Galfianakis is some sort of alien who uses cringing as a fuel source. Seriously, if you want to do a psuedo-documentary or comedy in which the entire theater is too busy hiding behind their fingers to actually laugh, he’s your guy. Watching him on Between Two Ferns is so incredible and just bizarre that you don’t know what to think. I also can’t tell which is better, the ones where the celebrities know what’s going on and play it up, or the ones where they don’t get it and get really flustered.

13. Seth Rogen

Oh hey, it’s that fat stoner goofbag who everyone loves! Even when he lost weight for Green Hornet, he was still a lovable, goofy chubby dude, now just slightly less chubby and fighting crime. It’s like he got into Freaks & Geeks, found a role he liked playing, and just kept going eternally. He’s always dishevelled, generally pretty awesome, and always manages to score the girl much, much hotter than him. Seriously, thanks Judd Apatow for inflating the expectations of geeks the world over. Every one of his movies have weird looking dudes getting some beautiful women.

12. Zooey Deschanel

While Zooey Deschanel isn’t the only example, there’s a trope she personifies: the manic pixie dream girl. Quirky, but not downright crazy, they’re described as “that bubbly, shallow cinematic creature that exists solely in the fevered imaginations of sensitive writer-directors to teach broodingly soulful young men to embrace life and its infinite mysteries and adventures.” Yeah, crazy and offbeat indy girl who the quiet and artsy lead man falls for, and they have lots of whacky quirky adventures, letting him grow but she remains the same. That’s Zooey Deschanel. And Ellen Paige. And Kirsten Dunst, (sometimes) Natalie Portman, and whichever other skinny hollywood starlet wants to have childlike innocence on film this summer.

11. Christopher Walken

That bizarre cadence. The unflinching stare. The general creepiness. It’s everyone’s favorite villainous weirdo, Christopher Walken! More than just about anyone else, he’s embraced the typecast that’s been thrust upon him, gleefully taking his unique delivery and off-kilter characters anywhere that would have him. That’s why he pops up on talk shows doing spoken word versions of popular songs, or posted a cooking tutorial on YouTube. He’s Christopher Walken, and he’s awesomely creepy without needing to take himself way too seriously.

10. Hugh Grant

Oh look, it’s the bumbling foppish British guy in all those romantic comedies! That’s right folks, the one, the only Hugh Grant. Stammering, gesticulating, generally being a mess while seducing the pants off of American women and getting caught with transsexual prostitutes. If you ever needed proof that comedy works for impressing ladies, just look at Grant’s success with the women-folk. Dang. I need to work on my British accent and generally being awkward and lovable. It’s worked for him. Now that he’s a bit older, his roles seem a little less fumbling, but he still constantly seems to be at a loss for words.

9. Danny Trejo

Danny Trejo is a mean, Mexican gangster in films, well, because he was one in real life. Yup, he really is a big, tattooed, scarred, ugly sonofabitch, which I bet helps with the roles. After doing a stint in prison, he was hired on a film in order to help with the fight scenes, before being picked up as the eternal Mexican badass that he is now. Even when he’s in kids movies (like Spy Kids) he still plays more or less the same character — one you really don’t want to fuck with. All of which culminated in the sublime beauty that was Machete.

8. Jeff Goldblum

The stammering, stuttering mad scientist. While Goldblum actually does a fair few more bits than this, it’s automatically what we think of when we see him on screen. To be fair, it all started with the Fly, but between that, him as a “hacker” in Independence Day, and Jurassic Park, he seems to have perfectly carved out a niche where he gets up there, umms and aaahs a bit, and then pulls out a bullshit pseudo-scientific excuse for whatever the plot needs. The crazy hair and glasses just make him seem that much more legit.

7. Michael Cera

Michael Cera always plays the same character. Super awkward, soft spoken, shy, and generally introspective, he’s the same in Arrested Development, Juno, Superbad, Nick and Norah, and every other time we’ve seen him. Even Scott Pilgrim, which was meant to be a character outgoing but clueless about life, when performed by Cera became mumbling and annoying. I’m still not convinced that this is what he’s like in real life. Surely, he must have some charisma in the real world to convince everyone that his character is the one they should be putting in all the indy movies with hand drawn titles, right?

6. Steve Buscemi

Barring his remarkably brutal turn in Boardwalk Empire, Buscemi is your go to guy for slimy, weaselly little scumbags. With his bizarre appearance and skinny build, he just makes the perfect weasel guy. By all accounts he’s a deeply cool guy and has some serious acting cred, yet at the same time he tends to get typecast into these neurotic criminal roles, and people with severe mental problems. Even when he’s in goofball comedies or Coen brother films, he’s almost always just not quite right.

5. Michael Ironside

Ironside is insanely prolific, lending his voice and presence to movies, TV shows, and video games — most notably of recent being the voice of Sam Fisher in Splinter Cell. Want to have your mind blown? Jump on IMDB or Wikipedia, and look at how many of his roles are military. It doesn’t matter if he’s a good guy, antihero, villain, side character or what, he’s always military. There’s something about the way he carries himself that screams authority figure, for good or evil. Sadistic captain? Check. Hard assed drill sargeant? Check. Violent cop? Yup.

4. Malcolm McDowell

There are a great many villanous actors in the world, but none do slimy, creepy and scary quite the way Malcolm McDowell does. Ever since Clockwork Orange, he’s been the guy you want to be your villain, especially if you want to creep everyone out. What’s also pretty fantastic is that he’s completely cool with doing voice work, so you’ll often see him pop up as bad guys in cartoons and video games. I’m looking over his work, and struggling to find anything he’s ever done that isn’t creeptastic and thoroughly evil. He’s also pretty much every villain in the DC universe.

3. Morgan Freeman

Morgan Freeman as the narrator, or the advice giving older man. Sure, sometimes he does villain roles, like in Wanted, but most of the time he’s just there to sound soothing and dispense sage advice. Freeman could read the phonebook and sell it for huge amounts of money, thanks to his awesome vocal skills. He also typifies the “magical negro” trope, always there to help out and offer support to white main characters, while never experiencing any real plot development of his own. Sure, he’s typecast all to hell, but he seems to enjoy it, and it seems like a pretty chill life, being one of the screen’s most respected actors.

2. Michelle Rodriguez

I’m going to describe a Rodriguez’ role in a movie, and you try and guess which film it was. Okay? Ready? She plays a tough, action-ready latina with a soft center, who wears a wife-beater for most of the film, can trade barbs with the guys, but dies before the end. Give up? It’s all of them! Seriously, all of her tough girl roles just pour into one single piece. Dirty, sweaty, tank top, smeared grease and blood on her face, and a death before the final scene. That’s her thing. The funny thing is, Rodriguez is totally cool with it. She’s talked about it multiple times, and she likes playing tough girl roles in male dominated positions. She likes it, and the screen loves her.

1. Christopher Lee

The king of darkness, arch-villain extraordinaire. Christopher Lee has been playing bad guys in movies since 1957, and continues to do so even though he’s ancient. One of the most prolific actors of all time, he also does the occasional voice work, and puts out a bit of heavy metal every now and then. Yes, that’s right, he does metal. With almost 200 movies under his belt, he always plays the most malevolent, evil and twisted person in the room. He’s not disgusting or disturbed — he’s supervillain evil. Grandiose, magnificent, and pure, pure terror. He maybe the most typecast actor on the screen, but that’s because he’s the greatest villain of all time.

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