Gender Bender Exercise

Are you opening your mind with Gender Casting?


If it doesn’t start with you…it won’t happen in the biz…

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’s usually the women who are hungry for “meatier” or “powerful” roles which have traditionally been given to men. This time it was a man who pushed this envelope!

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 into the industry,” ask what kinds of roles do you feel connected to emotionally.




Q: If you are on Law & Order, which role would you first connect to?

Victim, Lawyer, Perpetrator, Detective, or 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 type and essence…


Q: Which actors of a different gender do you feel you are most similar to in terms of type/personality/emotional style?

A: Make that list. Are you more like a Zack Galifianakis? Margaret Cho? Morgan Freeman? Asia Kate Dillon? John Leguizamo? Jennifer Lopez? Emma Corrin? Helen Mirren?


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

TIP: This approach of casting yourself against gender type can make your auditions—the ones where you get to choose your material—much more fun for you and your viewer! They won’t quite be able to place which film or TV show that scene is from…it seems familiar…but I can’t place it…(perfect).


And, it will broaden the viewer’s mind about diversity casting.

BONUS TIP: Try this with roles that are people of color or different ages or specific ethnicities, too.


Now, when gender is not a part of the equation in an obvious way, 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 traits that exist irrespective of gender, age, or race.


Challenge your own thinking about stereotypes.


Do the Gender Bender Exercise to unearth your own possible limited thinking.

In particular, start to challenge your initial thinking about roles that you yourself are selecting for network events, scene study classes, demo scenes, films that YOU write/produce. How are YOU choosing to present yourself? What might you already be playing into?

Challenge your own stereotypes about yourself.


Here’s some creative inspiration.


Did you know that when Sandra Bullock read the script Our Brand Is Crisis, 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 tiny boxes of thinking and be creatively stimulated.


x, Heidi


  1. 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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