Every performer has a range — the ages he or she can realistically play. But who says an adult can’t play a child, or vice versa? Enterprising and versatile men and women may be able to take on a wider range of character parts. If you can convince the casting team, the director, and, ultimately, theaudience, you can open yourself up to a variety of other assignments.
Take television, for instance. We have all seen performers playing characters way younger than themselves or taking on considerably older roles. TV relies a lot on audience members “suspending their disbelief.”
With the help of a good makeup team, feature films also offer opportunities for actors to portray elderly people before their time or youngsters when past their prime.
TV shows and movies do have plenty of time-bending casting examples, but it’s in the theatre where actors are most commonly called upon to essay roles that are furthest from their actual age. Every school production in the world will feature students playing much older parts, and community presentations will often allow a veteran company member to tackle Romeo or Hamlet while he still can, despite his advanced age. Character makeup and creative costuming can go a long way in helping complete the illusion. Regional productions also provide an outlet for someone who may not fit the description on paper, but can still pull off playing a youthful ingénue or fill the shoes of a middle-aged lead.
“What is your age range?” may be the most difficult question facing an actor on an audition application, because one may not be the best judge of one’s own capabilities.
The bottom line: Don’t limit yourself. When you feel you may be appropriate for a role, regardless of age limitations, submit your headshot and resume and try out — you may give the casting folks an alternative they never would have thought of otherwise. From “18 to play younger” to character actors playing older, from exploring teenage angst to applying old-age makeup, almost any performer can benefit from not acting their age.