By Marci Liroff
A follower of mine on Twitter sent this email to me.
“As a casting director, how much of the decision on casting a role is based on looks? I don’t mean how the character is supposed to look, I mean in terms of beauty. It’s just something that’s always held me back. I don’t feel like I look the same as everyone else, because I have a few unique features that I’m not ashamed to say I’m proud of, i.e., dark red hair that can either look like fire in the sun or deep brown in the shade—and pale freckles. But having grown up being bullied I feel like all those traits are against me. I’m afraid that if I ever get my chance in a casting room, and hopefully my acting skills get me to a callback, it’d be my looks that stop me from getting the role. I was wondering if there was a certain look that’s popular at the moment. Does it help to have no freckles, and tanned skin, [and] brown hair? If so, would that affect things in an audition?”
First of all, I want to thank you for sharing this with me and being so candid. Of course, I had to reply.
No, there isn’t a certain look that’s popular at the moment. Sure, we’re looking for people who are “screen worthy”—but as you can see when you watch film and television, they come in all shapes and sizes. Take a look at Merritt Wever on “Nurse Jackie”—an amazingly funny character actor who’s also great with drama (check her out in “Michael Clayton” with George Clooney). I could continue to name hundres of actors who are not what you’d think are “beautiful” and have huge and thriving careers. Look at Bryan Cranston from “Breaking Bad”—not a traditionally handsome man, but I can’t take my eyes off him because he’s so compelling to watch.
I’m so sorry that you were bullied when you were younger. I think it’s great you’re attempting to turn it around, and I love the way you describe your attributes. But you’ve got to carry that thought through (in the acting world) and “own” it and wear it proud—just like you’ve described yourself to me. It’s those features that make you unique and not like anyone else. 
Unique is what we want. There are a lot of “traditionally” beautiful people out there, and frankly, after a while, that becomes boring to watch. As viewers we crave people we can relate to, whom we can live through vicariously.
It’s interesting to me that the words you use to describe yourself are filled with such pride and so beautiful—yet you think that these things are holding you back in the acting world and seem somewhat ashamed of these attributes. If you truly embrace them, you’ll go far.
I’d love to hear your stories about your experiences with your look and how this article made you feel.  It’s always good to share with the community.
Glad you’re here!


P.S. You can also read this article on Back Stage Magazine here.


  1. Hi Marci:

    I can certainly relate to this Actress. I think we all struggle with the way we look. I certainly came across people who were borderline cruel when pointing out my flaws and how I have to fix them if I ever want to work. The latest included a client who wanted to cast me because I did a “fantastic job, but didn’t because I did not look Hispanic enough”. I was very frustrated, because as you know, I am 100% Hispanic. Born and raised in Puerto Rico, Spanish being my first language.

    Then I remembered words I heard at a Workshop: “you really need to love yourself to be in this business”. I won’t pretend to be the most
    resiliant person in the world. Far from it… But when even I fail to “love me some me”; I turn to the people who love me just the way I am and
    look. I take comfort in knowing they love me whether I look Hispanic enough or not, whether my forehead is too big, my left eye is smaller than
    my right one, regardless of my size or age.

    This article is beautiful. Thank you for letting us know we are not alone.

  2. Perfect timing for me to read this since I just posted another article posted by a woman who saw that
    By “Industry Standards” she wasn’t thin enough, nor was she large enough to be given many roles. Clearly the idea is to love yourself, be well prepared for your audition and then say your prayers and let go. It’s what I’ve always done. Not saying its made me a household name, but I’m still getting hired. Any advice on how to take it up a notch would be greatly appreciated. I am ready and willing. Maggie Egan

    • “How to take it up a notch”? I’m pretty sure that comes from within and is different and unique for every person. What would make me love myself more wouldn’t necessarily work for you. Your job is to find that thing that gives you balance and makes you feel good in your own skin.

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