Gender Bender Exercise

February 23, 2017 | (2 comments).

Recently, I received a really cool reply to the first class assignment that I send to incoming actors in my studio.

Among other things, I ask students to list working “recognizable” actors that they feel they are similar to in presence and types.

Who are actors that you are similar to?

One man sent me his list.

It included actresses. Yes, women. He felt similar to several women in type or essence. I loved it! How creative, and how honest.

This is not only the first time a student has done this (in years), but it was a man who pushed this envelope! Not even my kick-ass feminist actresses have done this with this specific exercise!

And then I got to thinking…

What happens if actors gender bender themselves when thinking of their Types?

If you could play any role, regardless of the requested/required gender, would it affect the types that you would be auditioning for or seeking??

Instead of asking…where do I fit in to the industry… ask what kinds of roles do you feel connected to emotionally.

Here’s a Quiz.

Q: If you are on Law & Order, which role would you first connect to? Victim, Lawyer, Perpetrator, Detective, Witness?

A: Nowhere in this list is a gender related to any of these roles – they can ALL be any gender.

Let’s go further in exploring your types/essence….

Q: Which actors in the opposite sex do you feel you are most similar to in terms of type/personality/emotional style?

A: Make that list.

Women, are you really more like a Zack Galifinakas or a Morgan Freeman?

Men, are you like a Margaret Cho or a Jennifer Lopez?

Perhaps this really simple exercise can offer up some new perspective’s for you, and new scene study ideas.

Choose a scene from any of their films and play with that – regardless of gender of the casting of the role. How would you approach that role?

You would find the humanity in the role, regardless of the surface descriptors (ie, gender, age, and ethnicity).

You would say this character is ambitious and stubborn. Or, this character is sensitive and playful.

You would dig into the character irrespective of gender, age, race.

Challenge your own thinking about stereotypes.

In particular, start to challenge your initial thinking about roles that you select for network events, scene study classes, demo scenes, films that YOU write/produce. Challenge your own stereotypes about yourself.

Did you know that when Sandra Bullock read the script Our Brand Is Crises, it was originally written for a man? Well, she read it and said why can’t a woman play this role?

Stop limiting yourself.

Think wider in scope.

Tell them how to cast you.

Got bullocks? (Yes, pun intended.) Creatively play with other actors and share your list of opposite gender similar types.  Post below!

May we all get outside of our teeny boxes of thinking and be creatively stimulated.

x, Heidi


  1. alexandra foucard says:

    I love this! Thank you, Heidi!

  2. Laura Daniel says:

    Seriously LOVE this! It reminds me of Melissa McCarthy’s take on her Bridesmaid’s character, whom she envisioned as Guy Fieri from the Food Network. 🙂

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