‘Typecasting fears led me to avoid musicals’ – Jill Halfpenny

Jill Halfpenny in Abigail's Party at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2012. Photo: Tristram Kenton
Jill Halfpenny in Abigail's Party at the Menier Chocolate Factory in 2012. Photo: Tristram Kenton
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Actor Jill Halfpenny has revealed she “purposefully” avoided doing a musical for the first 10 years of her career for fear of being typecast.

Halfpenny has appeared in musicals including Chicago and Legally Blonde, the latter earning her a 2011 Olivier award for best performance in a supporting role.

But she has admitted that she actively avoided appearing in a musical for a decade. When asked about how easy it was for performers to straddle different genres, Halfpenny told The Stage: “The only thing I have thought is people find it hard to cross over from musicals. But I have never thought it was the case with straight theatre. Theatre and film go hand in hand.”

She added: “For the first 10 years of my career I purposefully didn’t do one [a musical] as once you do one, everyone says, ‘She’s that girl who sings’.”

Halfpenny, who is about to star in Channel 4’s comedy drama Babylon, added that performers should be able to work in any medium. “I like to do everything and mix it up, and I don’t see why you shouldn’t be able to do that – but you do get pigeonholed quite easily,” she said.

For a full interview with Halfpenny, see this week's print edition of The Stage or subscribe to our digital edition here.


  1. I was under the strong impression that the splendid Jill Halfpenny was an actress, not an “actor” as you erroneously state and her published photograph does little to persuade me I am wrong. She has apparently had a fear of being “typecast”. I am not surprised, if The Stage are unaware of her gender how is she going to persuade casting directors?

  2. Hello Marc, we’re well aware of her gender! I know you take issue with The Stage referring to all performers as actors, regardless of gender, as you have written to the editor about this before! But it’s a house style.

  3. Hear, hear on the above comments. Political correctness gone mad. If I called a waitress a waiter in my favourite restaurant she’d probably throw the soup in my face.

  4. The fact that there is no word in the english language for a female plumber/lawyer/doctor indicates they have always been accepted as male professions, whereas since the word actress has, and admittedly this is only a guess, been around for as long as they have existed, it suggests that to be an ‘actress’ is exactly the same as to be an actor/singer/director/stage manager etc. The fact that there is not a word in our language for the female of these other professions is to their detriment, and not the other way round, as some of the comments suggest.

  5. Perhaps Matthew, it would be a good idea for The Stage, when conducting an interview or writing a piece, to ask the subject whether THEY would like to be referred to as actor or actress, as opposed to inflicting a ‘House Style’ on them. You may be surprised at the answer…

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