There is discussion sometimes about whether Jews, black people, gay people etc should be the only people allowed to play Jews, black people, gay people etc in film, TV or plays. What is a good word to describe this? The closest I can think of is "type casting" but I don't think that is right. Something like "diversity sensitive casting" maybe?

A sample sentence might be:

We believe that BLANK is very important when casting roles in theatre and film.

As an example, the discussions can look like this and this and this.

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    MODERATOR WARNING: If you have an answer, post an answer. Do not rant about politics, not even in comments — especially in comments.
    – tchrist
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 20:53

4 Answers 4


"Authentic" seems to be the word that best renders the expected meaning.

Here are a few examples of its use (bold mine) :

Authentic casting has been one of the most prominent issues facing the film, theatre and television industry in recent years. In a nutshell, ‘authentic casting’ maintains that characters from minority groups should be played by actors with the same ethnicity, sexual identity, gender, or disability. Unlike ‘blind casting’ (which has taken a backseat recently), authentic casting encourages directors to make conscious casting decisions to maximise the authenticity of their characters.
Jews: The Minority Which Authentic Casting Ignores (archive)

Hollywood is starting to hire more actors with disabilities to play characters with disabilities Some recent momentum in disability inclusion has been around "authentic casting," or casting actors with disabilities to play characters with disabilities.
People with disabilities are nearly invisible in TV and film. Industry insiders point to authentic portrayals of disabled characters as models for inclusion.

It's been incredible to watch more trans and gender diverse actors telling their own stories, whether through coming out in their career or navigating it from early in their career, and to see discussions around casting change. While authentic casting is becoming increasingly common, discussions around it can still be complicated when many factors come from beyond the industry and tie into ways that trans people have often been perceived.
Authentic Storytelling - Oliver Ross: Challenges and opportunities for trans creatives

Media has the potential to break down stereotypes and reduce the stigma that is more disabling than any physical, emotional, or cognitive disability. If society is ever going to see disability as natural diversity then full inclusion has to be the norm. Deaf filmmaker and executive Delbert Whetter said, "The many nuances that make a performance believable is informed by lived experience. Acting deaf or disabled does not equal performing a character who is deaf or disabled. Authentic casting helps ensure you’ll have actors that understand that and position you for success."
University of New Hampshire

Casting queer actors in queer roles gives us the chance to tell our own stories on our own terms. I know this from my years as a gay actor, and in my current experience as a queer casting director. It gives LGBTQ youth out and proud role models on stage and screen. For parents struggling to accept their queer children, or for those who think they have never met an LGBTQ person, authentic casting gives them openly queer people to admire. When queer people grow up with proud gay role models, we become proud adults. When straight and cisgender people see nuanced and strong LGBTQ characters on stage and screen, they support our rights at home and at the ballot box.
What We All Gain When We Cast Queer Actors in Queer Roles

Scarlett Johansson says comments she made on the “authentic casting” debate have been taken out of context and asserts that she supports diversity in film.
The actress came under fire in 2017 for playing an Asian character in Ghost in the Shell and canceled plans last year to portray a transgender man in the upcoming film Rub & Tug after transgender actors and advocates questioned the casting.
In a recent interview with As If magazine, she said actors should be allowed to play any person “because that is my job and the requirement of my job.”

Scarlett Johansson says comments on 'authentic casting' in Ghost in the Shell, Rub & Tug misconstrued


The word being looked for is hard to find. It rather depends on exactly how far the questioner is wanting to take it. I wonder, for example, whether the idea is that, for example, the part of a rich person can only be played by a rich person and correspondingly for a poor person.

The most general adjective I can suggest is generic.

So we could speak of 'generic casting', meaning that actors for particular types of person should be of a similar types as the characters they portray.

So why not typecasting? Well, that already has a known range of usage. The reason is that this word or phrase (depending which spelling you choose) is that it already has a narrower meaning with the implication of crude assumptions made about various types of people. In other words, the expression itself already has a derogatory aura.

So you could try to use 'generic casting' as a more neutral expression. We can argue without offence about whether generic casting is useful or desirable.

The trouble with either expression is that any suggestion of casting according to genus or type brings with it the the magnetic assumption that its members are in some sense the same in ways other than their membership of the genus.

What actors can all do is act - that is, impersonate the characters they portray in a play or film. Drama in the distant past, say in the times of the Athenian Sophocles, of Roman Plautus or English Shakespeare, seems to have gone down well without females playing the female parts. More recently the Royal Shakespeare Company cast a female as the male Jacques in As You Like It, whose entire performance was the anchor to the whole play, while a little after, that the whole cast of Hamlet was of colour ... except Rosencrantz and Guildenstern, and was among the finest productions of that difficult play I have seen, especially the part of Hamlet. Acting is a gift and a skill. There may be times when a real member of the group is necessary in some respect. For example, an obviously male actor of a suffragette might not be a convincing piece of casting.


I've seen the term "race-conscious casting" though that doesn't encompass gender identity, etc.

"Descriptive representation" also comes to mind, which is a political term that refers to the idea that representatives with certain characteristics in some way represent those individuals with that characteristic (e.g., a woman representing women). Perhaps something like "descriptive casting" could be used as a neologism.


Type casting refers to the character, not the actor. If you are type cast, it's because the casting agents think you fit that character but that is not ONLY due to your physical aspect but because of the type of acting you do.

Now, about this: Jews, black people, gay people etc should be the only people allowed to play Jews, black people, gay people etc in film, TV or plays

This question is very screwed up, sorry. I have not seen any widespread discussion of this, especially as given in the question.

First of all, the only people you can identify by type by looking at them in terms of skin color and/or ethnic group. However, even that fails since there are Hispanics (for example) that are Spanish speakers but do not have the "type".

Gays and Jews are not identifiable like that.

Watch a few British series. They use a lot of Black English actors not because they are Blacks but because they can act well and fit the part. Color is rarely an issue in these programs.

This: There is discussion sometimes about whether Jews, black people, gay people etc should be the only people allowed to play Jews, black people, gay people etc in film, TV or plays. is simply unacceptable as a serious idea for debate.

There is no category or practice that fits all this except: racism, antisemitism and anti-gay (or anti-LBTGQ).

If "race" is important in a film or play, obviously, a white person cannot play certain ethnic types. Or certain ethnic types cannot play a white person.

  • There may have been some confusion. It is widely regarded as unacceptable to "black up" and also for straight actors to play gay roles.
    – Simd
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 16:44
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    @Simd I have not gone through every single possibility. I find your question to be untrue. There is no debate that fits all that in one bad. Of course, white people would not play Black people if the script makes race an issue. The thing about Jewish people is simply not true.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 16:46
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    @Simd I think you have fallen prey to a lot of misconceptions.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 16:48
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    @Simd That is one article and they do not lump everyone in the same bag. That is your error.
    – Lambie
    Commented Jan 14, 2023 at 16:53
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    This does not answer the question. It is a comment.
    – Greybeard
    Commented Jan 15, 2023 at 20:41

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