Breaking Typecast

It was such a shock to the system. There he was – the affable, goofy guy from Splash and The Money Pit and Big and Dragnet. He starred in Bosom Buddies in the 80s, for goodness sake. He was the joker. The clown. The funny guy.

But there he was as a young, successful lawyer who was wasting away from AIDS in the 1993 film Philadelphia. For a while, my brain kept waiting for the comedian to show up. But no jokes were made. Instead, my expectations gradually melted away and I was able to enjoy a truly amazing performance. And from that day on, Tom Hanks wasn’t the goofball. He had broken the mold to become one of the great actors of our generation.

So many actors don’t get that chance. Even if they have success in one area, they are typecast and unable to break out of the mold. Christopher Reeve had much of his part in From Here To Eternity removed from the final cut because test audiences kept saying, “There’s Superman!” when he appeared on screen.

Actors get defined and forced to play the same part over and over again. Think Angelina Jolie as the tough sexy lady, Hugh Grant as the bumbling British guy, Michael Cera as the likeable geek or Morgan Freeman as the sage older guy.

Some are able to turn a typecast into a career. For most, the definition is death.

How do you define yourself?

I think we tend to define ourselves by some very strange criteria. It could be our weight or dress size. Or the amount of money in our bank account. Or our job title. Or the greatest mistake in our lives. Or…you get the idea.

The problem is that we usually act out of these definitions of self. We accept the role and act accordingly, rarely thinking that we could break out of the mold. So we play the same role over and over again. And that can be devastating.

Can you imagine if Tom Hanks was satisfied with simply being the goofball? We’d have never gotten to enjoy Forrest Gump or Apollo 13 or The Green Mile or Castaway in quite the same way.

We were blessed because he refused to be defined by his typecast.

You are more than your typecast.

Even if that typecast is inherently good, you are more. You are more than your biggest success or failure. You are more than the image that stares back at you in the mirror. You are more than a number on a bank statement.

So I commission you today to go break your mold. Refuse to be typecast. Play a different role. Be bold. Step out. Take some risks.

Bless someone else by refusing to be defined by such simple measures.

Because you carry the image of God. And you are more than your typecast.

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