Every story has its characters, the ones around whom the story revolves. And often, those characters are more or less the same “type.” The hero, the villain, the ingénue, the clown, etc. As actors, it’s our job to know what type we are, and market ourselves according to that type. Now, there are some actors who are so chameleon-esque, that they seem to have no type at all, because they glide effortlessly from one role to another, with none of the roles seeming similar to one another (lookin’ at you, Meryl Streep). But even these brilliant actors have limitations. Meryl Streep, for example, would never be cast as Juliet, because she is simply too old to play the role of a 14-year-old girl, falling in love for the first time.
As tall as I am, I have had very few opportunities to play the ingénue. More often than not, especially in high school and college, I was cast as the older woman in the story. The mom, or the Queen, or the cop. And, to be fair, some of those were really great roles for me that I am genuinely thankful for, and that I remember fondly. But it makes it difficult now that I am no longer in an educational setting, and I have to rediscover what roles are likely to be a good fit for me. I’m really too young to play many of the roles in which I was cast in my educational theatre career, but I’m too tall to be cast as a romantic lead, if the male lead isn’t at least 6′ tall. It puts me in an interesting position, because I really have to think about how I want to be perceived.
Before I go any further, please understand that this is not meant to be a “woe is me” post. I’m simply stating the facts of the industry. With my physical look, I simply won’t be considered for certain roles. For example, unless a lot of the actors auditioning for the male lead are over 6′ tall, I’m not going to be considered for the female lead, because we won’t look “right” on stage together.
When I was younger, I would have given ANYTHING to be the princess of the story; but as I’ve gotten older, I’ve come to find that I’m drawn more so to the non-princess roles: the villain, the best friend, the mentor, etc. They are often (not always) more interesting and more fun characters, and they’re just as important to the story, otherwise the playwright wouldn’t have included them. So I really have to step back and think about each production I consider auditioning for. Because if I submit myself to a role that I am genuinely wrong for, I make myself look inexperienced, and no one will want to hire me. I still would love to be the Princess that gets rescued by a Knight in Shining Armor, but the reality is that I’m much more likely to be cast as the Evil Stepsister, or Princess’s Best Friend. Gina Torres said, “I walk into a room, and for this industry, I’m impossibly tall. When they find it hard to pair you up with the opposite sex, then what’s left for a woman? Either you’re the ball-buster or the not-so-attractive girlfriend standing by the lead. I mean, traditionally not so attractive. Because you have your starlets and then you have their best friends who are these character actresses. When you fall within the cracks, you thank God for sci-fi, because they’ll give you a gun, and they’ll say, ‘Go over there and conquer that world. You kick some ass, girl!’”
Gina and I are the same height. So if she’s impossibly tall, you know I’m impossibly tall. But she made it work for her. And that’s what I want to do. I want to own my height, and be proud of it! So knowing that sci-fi is a genre that is alive with parts for tall women, I should probably enroll in a stage combat class, gain some sort of martial arts training, and just steer into the skid. I can be the best friend who is easily forgotten, or I can be the heroine who fights and becomes a real role model for young girls. I haven’t had the chance yet to see Wonder Woman, but Gal Gadot is 5’10”, too! See, guys? I just have to own my height and know that THAT is my type: Tall. Proud. Warrior.
And when I’m not auditioning for a sci-fi flick? I can still find those qualities in the available roles, and bring those qualities to my audition. And, frankly, I’d rather be a Warrior than a Princess any day.