In “Typecast,” we see Michael K. Williams, the actor behind indelible characters like Omar Little and Chalky White, in a reflective moment, wondering aloud if he’s been typecast. But we soon discover that although he’s talking to himself, he’s not alone. He’s tackling a personal, and complicated, question with versions of himself and his pop culture creations. Over the course of the film, we are privy to a debate between an actor and his other selves that is by turns dramatic, humorous and poignant.
“Typecast” was a powerful introduction to the Question Your Answers campaign, which was designed to bring The Atlantic’s core mission to life, and to establish the media outlet as a brand for people who question. The Atlantic is the third-longest running magazine in America, and part of the fabric of public discourse in the country. From the start, the magazine has been based on questioning authority, assumptions and affiliations, and has promoted the kind of in-depth examination of issues that often results in further questions rather than pat answers (its Declaration of Purpose, written in 1857, is almost uncomfortably relevant in 2017: “The Atlantic Monthly will be the organ of no party or clique, but will honestly endeavor to be the exponent of what its conductors believe to be the American idea.”). This is a particularly important idea now, as hot takes, fake news, instant outrage, and talking points often drown out considered opinion, and the nuance that tends to attend the truth.
The film was directed by David Shane of O Positive Films (read Shane’s POV on the making of the spot here).
“Typecast” debuted to acclaim from the media and from an influential audience.
The video was viewed over 12 million times across all platforms with minimal media support. Post-launch, it inspired over 150,000 shares and 30,000 comments on Facebook, and over 9,000 mentions on Twitter (with no paid media at all). We also got the right people talking— much of the engagement came from users 18-34 who worked in media or the arts, and they were highly influential in their communities (the top 50 people who mentioned the campaign had an average of 250,000 followers on Twitter).
The film won industry accolades including The One Show, Webbys and AICP and was named Ad of the Year at the Adcolor Awards.
The success of Typecast drove new iterations of the campaign and a new content partnership between The Atlantic and HBO. The campaign “reached a really wide and diverse audience and we definitely found new readers we wouldn't have through our everyday journalism,” according to The Atlantic’s head of growth Sam Rosen.
The second short film in the series, “Should I Be Scared,” features actor Jeffrey Wright, confronting some existential turbulence. See it below.