For an actor, getting typecast is a double-edged sword. On one hand, you can be fairly sure you'll always get work. On the other hand, if your breakthrough role was "guy with frantic diarrhea," you can look forward to a long career of feigned intestinal distress and people on the street yelling "Hey, diarrhea guy!" No one will care that you played Shylock in the Royal Shakespeare Co. or trained at Yale, only that you were hilarious in the straight-to-DVD movie Diarrhea Guy Saves Christmas. Below are nine actors who, for better or worse, are probably going to play the same part until they either die rich or get relegated to The Surreal Life, where they'll get sloppy drunk and bitch to their housemates about being typecast.
Role: Family-man cop with a bit of a weight problem, who often has to deal with idiots and is therefore exasperated
The Movies/The Shows: Ghostbusters, Kojak: The Belarus File, Plain Clothes, Die Hard, Perfect Strangers, Turner & Hooch, Family Matters, Die Hard 2
The History: There' no good reason why this openly gay, erstwhile short story writer, who dances and sings in his free time, should portray the same straight-laced, blue collar gumshoe every time he passes in front of a camera. Sure, he appeared as Sgt. Al Powell (Die Hard) early in his career, but before he was shooting German terrorists who had inexplicably come back from the dead outside the Nakatomi Tower, VelJohnson was donning a badge for bit parts in Ghostbusters, Kojak and something called Plain Clothes.
The Verdict: Some men are born with talents that just don't make much sense. We, for example, have the totally worthless ability to remember that Reginald VelJohnson is the guard who opens the jail cell in Ghostbusters. VelJohnson, on the other hand, just naturally looks like he should be wearing a police uniform and getting exasperated about something. So uncanny is his gift, that after only one season playing the bit part of Officer Carl Winslow on Perfect Strangers, ABC handed him a series that managed to fill nine seasons worth of the premise: "Officer Winslow expresses exasperation with his son Eddie and neighbor Steve." Sure he'd probably rather be playing the chubby girl in Hairspray-but trust us, there are worse gifts to have.
Role: Woman who is strong-willed but eventually shows vulnerability by breaking down into silent, gross-looking tears
The Movies Mystic Pizza, Pretty Woman, My Best Friend' Wedding, Notting Hill, Runaway Bride, Erin Brockovich, Ocean' Eleven, Mona Lisa Smile, Ocean' Twelve
The History: The goddess of plucky, scrappy, can-do women, Julia Roberts has made it in a man' world and not taken any crap enough times to form her own chapter of NOW. We get it: she' as good as any man and she' being blunt in a wry, humorous fashion designed to make Richard Gere/George Clooney/Albert Finney seem taken aback. But that' not all there is to Julia. Beneath that tough exterior, there' the softer side, where all her fragility and hurt is let out in a series of silent, puffy-lipped sobs that make her look revolting. By repeatedly packaging both of these extremes into a single role, Julia has achieved what idiots call "depth of character."
The Verdict: Judging by the critical acclaim and Oscar noms she' racked up, Julia' brand of empowered-but-not-too-empowered woman has served her quite well over the years. Not a lot of folks can be typecast and still be respected as a great actor, so all in all she should be thanking her lucky stars America' women need palatable, generally attractive role models.
Role: Dr. Frasier Crane
The Movies/Shows: Wings, Cheers, The John Larroquette Show, Frasier, The Simpsons, X3
The History: Of everyone on this list, Kelsey Grammer is the only actor that, in four of the six shows listed, literally played the same person. It wouldn't be so bad if Frasier were a deep character. The fact that he' just a stock sitcom character means Grammer has spent a lifetime realizing little more than the ability to arch his eyebrows in befuddled wonder when someone tries to match a leather sofa with a white marble coffee table. And, whether he' animated or in a suit made of blue carpet, let' face it: All his other roles have been Frasier, too.
The Verdict: Grammer holds the distinction of being the only actor ever to win three Golden Globes for the same role. Sounds great, until you realize he has three statues at home reminding him every day that, as they lower him into the ground, there' a good chance the priest will accidentally refer to him as "the departed Dr. Crane." All in all, it' kind of a toss-up.
Role: Gravel-voiced, intimidating asshole
The Movies: The Hunt for Red October, Glengarry Glen Ross, The Shadow, The Edge, The Aviator, The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie
The History: Not since Hellen Keller has a celebrity' voice so defined their career. Sounding as if he' perpetually afflicted with the most awesome bronchial infection you could hope to contract, Alec Baldwin is the aural equivalent of pouring three fingers of whiskey over crushed ice. Throughout his career, he' used that swarthy voice to intimidate everyone from submarine commanders to realtors, Howard Hughes to his disrespectful pig of a daughter. Even in The SpongeBob Squarepants Movie, the greatest of all Baldwins was cast as a giant, menacing, motorcycling fish. When all is said and done, Baldwin owes his entire career to the fact that his voice sounds like he just chewed and swallowed a set of guitar strings.
The Verdict: If being feared by those around you is any measure of success, then Baldwin' doing just fine. Plus, since landing his gig on 30 Rock, he' started to use his powers for comedy. While he still plays the same character as he always did, it' nice to see him surrounded by underlings who are intimidated by him in a funny way instead of a genuinely terrified way.