Hollywood has a tendency to reduce its fat characters to comic relief. In the few instances when a fat character is more complex, the role often goes to a famous actor in a fat suit, such as Brendan Fraser in The Whale (which won an Oscar for Best Makeup, in addition to Best Actor) or Renée Zellweger in The Things About Pam.
However, just like any other actors, many plus-size actors want opportunities to play complex, nuanced, and desirable roles — or, you know, characters who are treated like people rather than punchlines.
Here are 17 times actors called out anti-fat storylines and typecasting in their roles or auditions:
1. David DeLuise "didn't like that they made the fat jokes" about his character, Jerry Russo, on Wizards of Waverly Place.
On the Wizards of Waverly Pod podcast, he said, "But then I lost all this weight, and then they kept making fat jokes. I didn't like that."
2. In the writers room for The Office, one cast member suggested that their character should tell Mindy Kaling's character, Kelly Kapoor, that she could lose 15 pounds as a "joke." For Mindy, it was "really devastating" because it was "[her] greatest insecurity, and someone just called it out."
She told Good Morning America, "I had a reckoning where I'm like, 'People are scrutinizing [me], and not only are they scrutinizing [me], they're verbalizing their displeasure with how I look because I don't look a certain way. That kind of dissonance has really affected so much of what I write about [and] the kind of characters I play."
3. When Rebel Wilson played Fat Amy in the Pitch Perfect franchise, she "couldn't lose a massive amount of weight because it was in the contracts."
On the Call Her Daddy podcast, she said, "You have to kind of stay at the weight. It’s in your contract. But I had been thinking for a while, like, Oh, I want to get healthier."
4. After her breakout role in Pitch Perfect, Wilson was "very much stereotyped into playing the fat funny girl, which [she] loved and which [she] played into and made millions of dollars doing." However, after losing weight, she realized that "there can be benefits to that and people look at you and say, 'Oh, she's different now, maybe we should cast her in different projects.'"
She told the Hollywood Reporter, "Unfortunately, in Hollywood, people need to see you differently in order to cast you differently or give you new opportunities. There are always some directors who are not like that, and they can imagine a comedic actress being a serious actress, but others need to see it first. The physical transformation helped with that, for me, but it’s too early to tell still."
On the Call Her Daddy podcast, she said, "I love doing the roles; I love those characters. But then I did want to do more things, but I felt like, being the bigger girl, you’re just more pigeonholed."
5. In the early days of her career, Melanie Lynskey was only offered roles along the lines of "the fat friend or the jokey kind of fat person," including a script "where the person had a candy bar in every scene."
She told the New York Times, "I very much want to be onscreen representing an interesting person who’s not paying attention to what her tummy looks like. ... If there were more people who look like me [on TV], then I wouldn’t have to talk about it as much."
6. While shooting Coyote Ugly, Lynskey dealt with body-shaming from production, many of whom forced her to change her appearance to fit their beauty standards. For example, she was put on a weight loss "regimen" and forced to wear "a lot of Spanx."
She told the Hollywood Reporter, "The costume designer [was] like, 'Nobody told me there would be girls like you.' [There was] really intense feedback about my physicality, my body, people doing my makeup and being like, 'I’m just going to help you out by giving you a bit more of a jawline and stuff.' ... In your early 20s, so much of it is about beauty and how people respond to you, and do people want to fuck you? Do people think you’re their best friend?"
7. Early in her career, Amber Riley was only offered roles like "the girl who sits in the corner and eats all day" and "the girl who wanted to commit suicide because she was fat." However, she "never wanted to play a character that hated herself" and "wanted people to know that those aren't the only kinds of roles for women like [her]."
"Being the size that I am, being a woman, being a Black woman, there's not a lot of roles for us," she told MTV's This Is How I Made It.
8. Lord of the Rings actor Sean Astin didn't "want to play the fat guy or the friend all [his] life."
He told the Guardian, "What I am aiming for and what I hope will happen is that I will be able to carry a picture."
9. While preparing for The Hunger Games, Jennifer Lawrence refused to bow to production's pressure to lose weight because she didn't "want all of the girls who are going to dress up as Katniss to feel like they can't because they're not a certain weight."
During Variety's "Actors on Actors" interview, she added, "And I can’t let that seep into my brain, either."
10. When David Harbour auditioned to play the Blob in X-Men Origins: Wolverine, he jokingly lifted his shirt, squeezed his belly, and said, "I got your Blob right here!" Later, he met with the director, who told him he didn't get the role, adding, "It's just, you lifted up your shirt and we saw the… we're just a little worried about your health."
11. In 2015, Alex Newell was called in to audition for the lead role in a production of Kinky Boots. They hit all their marks, but the director "said [their] weight would inhibit [them] from playing the role, which is not true."
He told Stylecaster, "I was like, 'This is a show where they're encouraging you to be who you want to be. Don't let them tell you who you should be.' They literally looked me in the face and told me I was too big to play a role. There's no limitation. My weight does not prescribe what I cannot do."
Newell went on to make her Broadway debut as Asaka in Once on This Island in 2017. Currently, she's playing Lulu in the musical Shucked, which is currently in previews on Broadway.
12. While looking for work outside of Saturday Night Live, Aidy Bryant was only offered offensive roles pertaining to her weight. For example, there was a "prison wife" role in a project where "a man was in prison and the other guys in prison were like, 'You’ve got to get an ugly girl to be your prison wife, and she'll come and bring you food and have sex with you!'"
She told AdWeek, "I remember being like, 'Oh, they think that this is a fun thing for me,' and it's so insulting. Those were some of the moments where I was like, 'Is this what it is in Hollywood? I think I might have to write for myself...'"
13. According to Melanie Lynskey, her late friend Brittany Murphy "was perfect just as she was, but people were trying to cast her as, like, 'the fat one,' because when she was a very young teenager, her cheeks were a little bit round."
Melanie told InStyle, "The way she viewed her self was always really heartbreaking to me — the things she felt she had to change to be a successful actor. ... People tell you that you're a particular thing, and it's very hard to fight back against."
14. Earlier in his career, Chris Pratt "had gotten used to the idea of making a living as an actor by playing the fat friend who makes you laugh." However, he "saw that if [he] wanted to have a serious career and play serious characters, [he] needed to get into shape." After losing weight, he was called into Marvel's offices, where they held up a selfie he took while training for Zero Dark Thirty and told him, "You're too fat for Star-Lord. How long will it take you to look like this?"
15. Following backlash over her decision to wear a fat suit to play Linda Tripp in American Crime Story: Impeachment, Sarah Paulson publicly acknowledged that "that controversy is a legitimate one" and said she "wouldn’t make the same choice going forward."
She told the Los Angeles Times, "I think fat phobia is real. I think to pretend otherwise causes further harm. And it is a very important conversation to be had. ... I think the thing I think about the most is that I regret not thinking about it more fully. And that is an important thing for me to think about and reflect on. I also know it’s a privileged place to be sitting and thinking about it and reflecting on it, having already gotten to do it, and having had an opportunity that someone else didn’t have. You can only learn what you learn when you learn it. Should I have known? Abso-fucking-lutely. But I do now."
16. Studio executives made Margaret Cho lose weight before filming began for her sitcom All-American Girl. After dropping a significant amount of weight in a relatively short amount of time, she went into kidney failure while on set.
She told the Guardian, "I have a lot of regret because I did not appreciate how beautiful I was. I just thought I was fat and ugly, and I was so angry about the way I looked."
17. And finally, on Twitter, Stranger Things actor Shannon Purser called out the lack of opportunities for fat actors in general and how they aren't always cast when the script calls for a fat character. She said, "They're not hiring fat actors for iconic fat characters because they want a big-name star. There are almost no fat big-name stars because fat actors aren't allowed upward mobility."
She continued, "We aren't allowed upward mobility because the industry sees us as two-dimensional set pieces."