How many arguments ignite across playgrounds when deciding who gets to play the part of glorious and delightful Cinderella or the commanding and muscular Batman? Tempers don’t flare so fiercely over who gets to play a cruel and contemptible Step Sister or less-powerful and subordinate Robin. By high school, the desire might be to land the role of Romeo or Juliet–less tempting might be Juliet’s egotistical suitor Paris, or her vulgar, long-winded nurse. For some actors it’s clear: they’re driven to land that leading role. After all, their favorite actors’ performances penetrated their souls and inspired them to act in the first place; or maybe believe they have that “it” quality associated with leads; some may regard “best actor/actress” awards as the Holy Grail to strive for. It’s also clear that leading actors tend to draw the biggest salaries, and can claim the utmost fame. Who wouldn’t desire to portray the most glamorous, most handsome, most compelling character in the storyline? Besides, lead roles can lead to other lead roles. Time-honored leads include Marlon Brando, Paul Newman, James Earl, Jones, Steve McQueen, Toshiro Mifune, and Sidney Poitier for the guys, and Bette Davis, Katharine Hepburn, Ruby Dee, Marilyn Monroe, Elizabeth Taylor, Shirley Temple, and Audrey Hepburn for the ladies. What’s not to want?

Well, the lure for many actors to play character roles can be just as irresistible. Character roles are often distinct, interesting, and crucial to the plot as well as to the lead character. Generally speaking, these roles are less enchanting or charming, the actors’ names aren’t featured in the advertisements as much, and the characters are often known by one name like “Anchorman Jeff” as opposed to “U.S. Army Special Forces Colonel Walter E. Kurtz.” All those special skills actors garner are great assets to character actors; in fact, many have gotten their foot in the industry door via their dancing, boxing, singing, stretching, musical, rapping, horse-riding abilities, or stunt work. Others are well cast because of a distinct look from having, say, a bald head, are older, of a certain ethnicity, are stout, or have an ordinary appearance. They also tend to work consistently, and can boast long-spanning careers. Not to mention, their fellow actors often highly respect them.

Judy Greer is a prolific character actress who has been featured in about a hundred film and TV projects. When interviewer Jian Ghomeshi asked her if she finds character work satisfying, she answered, “I would love to have a leading role, yeah. But I’m certainly not unhappy with where things are now. Like I’m not giving up, I’m not saying ‘this is my lot in life,’ but I also think what I do, it’s special, and it has its own specialities, and perks.” What kinds of perks?

“I like that I have a normal life, and I like that I get days off when I’m on location; for example, I was in Toronto a year and a half ago shooting a movie called ‘Carrie,’ and had so many days off I really got to enjoy the city, I got to make friends here. I mean, when you’re starring in a movies, you don’t really ever [have any free time] and also in your career, I think I’ve seen, it’s a little bit weirdly limiting to be a movie star because then all of a sudden you have to keep starring in movies, and it’s like looked at as sort of not a good career move if you go down and do something more supporting. You know, there’s something more to maintain. I don’t really have that. Like, I can keep working, I can do all different characters, different roles, I can do television, movies, commercials, I can write a book–like whatever. You know…nothing’s ever gonna really hurt my career.”

Greer appreciates how she can walk about the city, and her acting work hasn’t interfered with her personal privacy or her ability to enjoy her life. The paparazzi  doesn’t follow her around, but she does get stopped occasionally by people who recognize her. Judy credits the success of her career with being relatable. “I think that people relate to me really well because I’m not the movie star, because I am like their best friend, or like them,” she asserts.

Greer has recently authored a book entitled “I Don’t Know What You Know Me From: Confessions of a Co-Star” which many reviewers have described as warm, genuine, self-deprecating, and charming. Surely you’ve seen her on the screen in any number of movies including The Descendants, The Wedding Planner, 27 Dresses, and Three Kings.

So how about you? What kind of roles do you most aspire to play: Leading or Character roles–and why? Please share!

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