Most people even lightly versed in the world of film are pretty familiar with the concept of the type-cast actor and actress. Nobody will ever expect to see Michelle Rodriguez cast as the manic pixie dream girl who jovially brings a depressed hipster out of his rut by sneaking into a neighbor’s swimming pool to go skinny dipping. No, she will never escape kicking ass and not caring what her male counterparts think. Kelsey Grammer will always play the intellectual in the room who can expound on any given subject with that beautiful, melodious voice of his. Evidently, Grammer isn’t such an intellectual in real life considering he endorsed, of all people, Michelle Bachmann for president and can’t seem to figure out how to drive a car with a blood-alcohol level lower than .25.
So what of the actors who are not bound to such repetitive roles? The ones whose only connection between each of their characters is that they utterly disappear into their performance? While some very talented actors can get solid mileage out of playing roles of a similar nature, the true greats are the ones who make you believe that the role they are playing exists only in that universe. This list is dedicated to those actors and actresses.
8. Jessica Chastain
Jessica Chastain is not just a marvelously talented actress; she’s such a good actress that many people have seen her in multiple roles without even knowing it. I dragged a group of my friends to see Tree of Life and while they all left that movie hating me, when I pointed out to them after seeing The Help months later that the irresistibly bubbly Celia Foote was played by the same actress who portrayed the gracious, oppressed Mrs. O’Brien, they were floored.
While the two characters have largely different appearances, Chastain’s mannerisms and demeanor are worlds apart in the two films. In The Debt, she plays the younger version of Helen Mirren’s character, Racher Singer, and is just as enveloped in her role. If you haven’t seen the film, Chastain plays a Mossad agent in a mission to capture a Nazi war criminal. She’s featured in the most intense gynecological exam you’ve ever seen. I’ll let you reread that last sentence a couple times.
Chastain makes transforming from role to role look effortless. She can do bad-ass and fearless, naive and perky, ethereal and altruistic, and that’s all before 9 AM. Look for her in the upcoming Kathryn Bigelow bin Laden hunt film Zero Dark Thirty.
This article was first posted on December 4, 2012