Why was the star trek cast so viciously typecast?

“After the series ended, Doohan found himself typecast and had a hard time getting other acting roles.” James Doohan’s wikipedia entry.

I’ve seen references to the typecasting of original series cast members.

Was the typecasting of the original cast more than other actors would have been typecasted? Or is it overblown? Why would an actor get typecast anyway; doesn’t the public know they are just actors?

Or was the cast actually typecasted that much – since “Kirk” went on to star in many different TV shows.

I assume typecasting comes from several possible sources:

  1. The fans.

  2. Casting agents who assume that the fans won’t accept a particular actor in a different role.

  3. The actors themselves. Maybe they have a limited talent range, and can’t do anything like romance, comedy, a convincing action hero, or whatever, so they are stuck with what they can do. Or, alternatively, they enjoy the heck doing that one kind of role, and will only accept jobs with that kind of role in mind.
    Hollywood is full up to over the eyebrows with competition, and the rules (of who ultimately gets a role) don’t always make sense.

Absent other evidence, I don’t think the Star Trek cast had it any worse than a lot of other actors who became very well known for one role and had trouble getting people to imagine them as anybody else. It’s very much discussed in their case, that’s all.

Why do actors get typecast? Because that’s how directors and casting people work. They talk about the type of actor they want in the role, based on similar roles in other movies and TV shows. If you’ve seen an actor play a grouchy cop and do a good job, you might consider casting him as the grouchy cop in your show. And once an actor is seen as a particular type, or is strongly associated with one role, some people might be reluctant to cast him as a different type or in their own show, fearing that the audience won’t buy it. I don’t think it’s because the public doesn’t understand these people are actors.

The Star Trek cast may have had a second factor working against them: the series wasn’t that successful in its first run, so the actors had very recognizable roles to their name but were connected to a show that didn’t make a lot of money initially.

I think type casting gets something of a bad rap, incidentally. I understand why it can be frustrating to actors and shows a lack of imagination, but then again, all actors have strengths and weaknesses and some are better for certain types of roles.

I was surprised to see TJ Hooker was an 80s show. I’d always thought it happened before Star Trek, not after.

Anyway, the only thing you can really compare Star Trek (TOS and TNG) to is Star Wars, I think. Both were completely breakaway hits that affected the mainstream public in ways few other TV shows or movies have. So you have these works that are completely unmatched in popularity, then you throw in the fact that they featured relatively unknown actors.

The viewing public didn’t know these people as actors (unlike stars like Cary Grant, Sigourney Weaver, or Brad Pitt); it was their first time seeing those actors and they saw them in these amazing roles. A person’s first association with James Doohan isn’t “Doohan playing Scotty,” it’s “Scotty!” When you get enough people for whom that’s the association, whether or not the people casting for future projects buy into it, they’re still going to shy away from the typecasted actor because they don’t want their project overshadowed by the fact that Scotty is in it.

Even Alec Guiness, an accomplished actor before Star Wars, couldn’t escape the typecasting, because the demographic Star Wars resonated most strongly with had never seen his previous movies. Although with Sir Guinness, his lack of roles post-Star Wars may have been due to other reasons, but it’s safe to say that after Star Wars the movie-going public simply knew him as Obi-Wan.

Guys like Shatner and Harrison Ford can escape typecasting sometimes. My guess is because they’re far more aggressive in seeking out new roles (or their agents are), they have a bit more clout than the other actors, and perhaps they’re just a bit more talented which gives them the edge.

Ford lucked out in having both Star Wars and Indiana Jones play around the same time, so people couldn’t just pigeonhole him; instead of just seeing Han Solo, they had to go, “Wait, so this guy is Solo AND Jones? That won’t do at all, what’s his real name?” And from there Ford earned star power instead of simply being an actor. Even then he got typecasted as being an action hero, but at least that’s a bit broader than Han Solo.

As for Shatner, I don’t know exactly why he escaped typecasting, but I suspect it was due to aggressiveness and an overabundance of personality. He made people see him, not Kirk. The rest of the cast of TOS were not such big prima donnas, I should think, and they lacked the clout he had.

It’d be nice if people were rational enough to understand that the actor and the character are separate entities, but fact is when the majority of people see a face for the first time, the identity attached with that face is what gets remembered, and first impressions are incredibly hard to break.

George Takei has worked pretty steadily, AFAIK.

Typecasting of TV actors was pretty common in the 50’s and 60’s, and there was a lot of competition for roles. You were seen as a certain type, or became associated with a particular character, so that’s who you were.

Hell, even in this decade it sometimes takes quite a bit of work to break out of playing certain kinds of characters.

I thought the same thing when I read about the Star Wars cast moaning about not getting anywhere after the original trilogy, save Harrison Ford of course (and Sir Alec who was big before after all).

Their talents lay elsewhere and those who could make good on them, did well. Mark Hamil and his voice acting for example.

DeForest Kelley did well after Star Trek. His biography apparently recounts a lot of time enjoying a drink, a smoke and a good read :stuck_out_tongue:

There’s a funny story Walter Koenig tells at conventions about how the director of some B movie contacted him and wanted him to play the Chekov character in his movie. You really got to wonder what goes through some peoples minds.

Still, if Koenig was desperate enough to pay the rent, he might have said Yes. :stuck_out_tongue: Doesn’t hurt to ask…

Of the actors mentioned here, Alec Guiness is by far the most talented with Harrison Ford coming in a distant second. The rest simply were not good actors with the exception of DeForest Kelly. Shatner is laughably bad. Hollywood employs actors if their name will draw in a crowd: sell tickets. Thus, Shatner gets work.

Ford is slightly versatile, but always projects an image of someone fun to be around. That sells tickets. Within his range he is good at playing a likable Harrison Ford, and that is entertaining.

Alec Guiness was at the end of his career when he played Obi-Wan. He had played a wide variety of very different characters. He thought he would make some bucks on Star Wars (more powerful than you can possibly imagine) and thought it would fade. It wasn’t a particularly juicy role, and he was quite put out by the fact that suddenly lots of people recognized him, but not for his long and interesting career, but the one role. He thought Obi-Wan was a minor character that didn’t show off his talents. And he was right about that. It demonstrated an wonderful minor character do a few things. But compare it to Kind Hearts and Coronets, Bridge Over the River Kwai, etc. and it comes out looking like Prince Faisal in Lawrence of Arabia: a bit part and cliched at that. He did play George Smiley in some Brit productions after the first Star Wars movie and did a fantastic job, but kids like me always remember him first for Obi-Wan.

I think it was Harlan Ellison who related this story, possibly in The Glass Teat:

An older woman approached Dan Blocker and started talking about his ‘father’, Ben Cartwright. Blocker said something like, ‘Thank you, ma’am; but I’m an actor. Hoss is just a role I play on a TV show. Ben Cartwright isn’t my father.’ The woman replied, ‘Yes, yes, I know. But when you get home, you tell your father Ben… [etc.]’

Nimoy was involved an producing and he narrated the series “In Search Of”. He has done voice overs for historical and space programs. So he managed to spin off a bit while not completely removing himself.

Let’s not forget Nimoy immediately went on to Mission Impossible. Also, he spent a lot of time on stage, proving his acting chops in a large variety of roles.

Janeane Garofalo has a neat observation about this problem: ‘They only offer you one kind of role, and then complain that you lack range’. In other words, the problem tends to feed on itself or be self-perpetuating.

Casting, as others have pointed out, is a complex business that doesn’t really obey any rhyme or reason. Sometimes actors get lucky and manage to break free of the ‘typecasting’ problem, because they have a good agent, have good connections, someone high up happens to like them, someone casting a major role knew them from way back when… or for thousands of other reasons that may have little or nothing to do with talent or range. Others stay typecast, even though they are talented, versatile and hard-working.

In I Am Not Spock, Nimoy spent a lot of time discussing the fact that he was often typecast after Star Trek, and how difficult it was to avoid that (or avoid making decisions that were “Spock like”). Of the entire cast, I think Nimoy was probably the most talented and the most dedicated to consciously shaping his career.

And, The Second Stone, Shatner is not a “godawful actor.” I know it’s really popular to claim as much and “everybody knows” he’s a “ham” but watching his actual work really doesn’t support that claim. He was a very well respected actor before landing the Star Trek gig, working in a wide variety of television shows and Broadway productions. He also did a fine job on Star Trek, proving himself to be nuanced and even subtle at times. He’s worked steadily his entire career, even if they weren’t always the most highly thought of productions.

This doesn’t paint an accurate picture at all. First, Star Trek was not a “breakaway hit.” It struggled to find an audience from the very first week, and while it had a very loyal following, it did not have a large following. Star Trek did not become really popular until the mid-70s. By then, all of the actors had been working in different television shows and movies (like Nimoy on Mission: Impossible).

Secondly, Shatner, Nimoy and Kelley were all well-known television actors when they started Star Trek. They weren’t huge stars, but they were showing up on people’s television on a very regular basis (and Shatner had been in some films at that point). Likewise, Doohan and Takei were also regular working actors before and after Star Trek. ST was in no way anybody’s “first big break.”

I think that the actors became so strongly associated with the characters due to the huge surge of popularity of the series in 70s, with people watching reruns every single day, rather than catching an episode once a week (or not because people weren’t watching TVs on Friday nights). In hand with that were the conventions and the fanclubs that encouraged ongoing association between the characters and the actors.

In some ways Harrison Ford was not known as an actor until fairly recently. One of the few times I watched the “Regis Philbin with Kathie Lee” show was when I was forced to while my my car fixed in the early 1990s. Kathie Lee made the observation that Harrison Ford was in seven of the tep ten highest grossing films of all time but most people didn’t realize it because they were “Star Wars” or “indiana Jones” films.

Indeed. Shatner did a good job in his scenes with Spencer Tracy in Judgment At Nuremberg.

This is the 2nd Trek thread this week that you’ve (albeit by omission) dissed the acting skills of Nimoy. There’s literally TONs of scenes in TOS where he absolutely sells the role & puts in an A+ performance: The Naked Time, Amok Time, This Side of Paradise, etc. Don’t mistake the Vulcan mask he (usually) wore with a lack of acting chops-you definitely got the sense of the human behind the Vulcan facade, conveyed with subtlety & understatement, something I think most actors would not have been able to pull off in the role (we’ll see about Quinto-based on his performance in said reboot there’s really no contest). Exhibit A is all the women who went gaga over him and the character-an actor who did try to play Spock as a stoic & truly unemotional being would not have gotten that reaction.

I recall an interview with James Doohan who said that once the conventions got going big he found he could make a comfortable living appearing at a few cons every year so the rest of the time he could also enjoy “a drink, a smoke and a good read.”

Indeed, Bill was the star of two of the best Twilight Zone epis, and won numerous awards for Boston Legal. Of course, not even he would claim to be on a level with Sir Alec Guiness.