It’s unlikely that any actor got into the business because he/she had a yearning desire to portray the ugliest character on a TV show. After all, it’s normally the good-looking ones who seem to get the awards and fans, since we live in a world where beautiful somehow means that someone is superior to everyone else.
The mark of true acting talent, though, is being able to do magic with whatever is thrown an actor’s way. In most instances, this could involve a role that doesn’t show off their prettiest or most flattering side.
Whether it be through the use of prosthetics, a change of hairstyle, or facial contortion, the challenge is to make people believe they’re really that butt-ugly.
The best parts require some chameleon work – just ask Daniel Day-Lewis – and these are the ones that live long in the memory of fans after the production has wrapped and the program has aired.
If you look at a picture of a celebrity on the web or in a magazine and can’t believe that’s what they look like in real life, then it’s mission accomplished for them.
Proving beauty is in the eye of the beholder, here are the 20 Ugly TV Characters Who Look Shockingly Better In Real Life.
20. Ariel Winter (Modern Family)
On Modern Family, poor Alex Dunphy plays second fiddle to her sister Haley. She’s undoubtedly the brains amongst her siblings, but she doesn’t get the attention that she so desperately craves.
When she’s not in the role of Alex, though, actress Ariel Winter has become one of the “it” girls of Hollywood. Looking more like a Kardashian than a member of Mensa, she’s becoming a style icon and paparazzi favorite – a far cry from Alex’s frumpy appearance on the show.
Now 19 years old and coming into her own, Winter is starting to break free from the shackles of her stereotyped role and making a significant dent in the film and TV world. Originally from an acting family, she is quickly establishing herself as a star in her own right.
19. Naomi Grossman (American Horror Story)
In season two of American Horror Story, we were introduced to the eccentric Pepper, an inmate at Briarcliff who suffered from the medical condition of microcephaly, whereby the brain doesn’t develop properly. In other words, she had a really small head.
While the character’s initial appearance shocked a fair number of viewers, it was a clear case of looks being deceiving, since Pepper turned out to be one of the nicest characters in AHS. So much so that she was brought back for the fourth season.
Outside of this role, actress Naomi Grossman looks nothing at all like the gremlin-esque Pepper. With a full head of hair and without the creepy prosthetics, Grossman wouldn’t appear out of place at any social setting.
18. Emily Browning (American Gods)
In American Gods, Emily Browning portrays Laura Moon, the now-deceased wife of the main protagonist Shadow.
Initially, we’re introduced to her in her regular human form – through the use of flashbacks – but it isn’t long before she becomes a decomposing, armless corpse, with a ghastly need to expel the embalming fluid from her bowels.
Browning took her part extremely seriously and even tied her arm behind her back so that she could add further authenticity to the role. Additionally, a blue screen sleeve assisted the crew to separate her arm, remove it, and/or rebuild it with some CGI magic if need be.
However, back to her festering zombie appearance: it’s more than enough to make you lose your stomach’s contents. She’s so nasty to look at that she makes the walkers on The Walking Dead seem like Miss Universe winners in comparison.
17. Thesy Surface (It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia)
Who could ever forget Margaret McPoyle in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia?! From her overpowering unibrow to the constant reminders of her incestuous relationship with her brothers, she was unforgettable for all the wrong reasons. Except for maybe Mac, who has incredibly low standards and didn’t hesitate to get jiggy with her.
In the real world, however, Thesy Surface is drop-dead gorgeous – it’s like night and day when you compare the character and the Chicago-born actress. Seriously, she could’ve been a runway or swimsuit model if she’d chosen to be.
16. Rory McCann (Game of Thrones)
Not only does Game of Thrones’ Sandor Clegane, aka the Hound, possess a face that only a mother could love, but he also has a mouth that requires a full bar of soap and detergent. Between him and Olenna Tyrell, they’ve got filthy tongues that’ll make your ears bleed.
To his credit, he doesn’t let his burnt face bother him too much and he’s actually one of the most self-confident characters on the show. Mind you, he had to serve as Joffrey Baratheon’s bodyguard, so that’s definitely a character-building experience right there.
Fortunately for Scottish actor Rory McCann, he doesn’t have the Hound’s scarring – nor did he ever need to work for a sadistic, little inbred king. Instead, he appears as normal as any uncle of yours.
15. America Ferrera (Ugly Betty)
The reason for Ugly Betty’s massive success is because it highlighted the importance of finding inner beauty rather than focusing on the external appearance.
It was a powerful coming-of-age story of aspiring writer Betty Suarez, as she found out who she really was and shook off the insecurities to become Beautiful Betty – both inside and out.
In many ways, this show resembled a live-action version of The Ugly Duckling fairytale, with actress America Ferrera becoming a “swan” by the end of the series. Yet, Ferrera never needed a makeover, since she hid her true self rather well under the braces, glasses, ’80s hairstyle, and questionable clothing.
14. Jaleel White (Family Matters)
From 1989 to 1997, there was one name that ensured Family Matters mattered: Steve Urkel. As the geeky, annoying neighbor of the Winslows, Urkel stole the show with his suspenders, spectacles, and squeaky-voiced quips.
Originally, the plan was for the character to only appear in one episode, but he proved so popular that he was added to the main cast.
In season five, Urkel created a “Cool Juice” serum that transformed him into his charming alter ego, Stefan Urquelle. The roles of Urkel and Urquelle were both portrayed by actor Jaleel White, who resembled the latter far more than he did the former.
Smoother than a fat-free yoghurt, White is suave, well-spoken and unlike the noisy Urkel. Unfortunately for him, though, he can’t seem to escape from the Ghost of Urkel Past, and has struggled to break free from this typecast.
13. Judy Greer (Arrested Development)
While Judy Greer’s transformation in Arrested Development isn’t as radical as some of the other actors on this list, you wouldn’t exactly call her nice-looking, with those googly eyes and unkempt hair.
In fact, her appearance makes you wonder why George Bluth even had a not-so-secret affair with her. Maybe it was the constant flashing and that famed third nipple?
Greer’s niche is playing off-the-center characters and Kitty Sanchez proved to be one of her best yet. Fans and producers seemed to agree, too, as she appeared in 11 episodes across the four seasons of the show.
Back in the real world, Greer is certainly not cross-eyed, nor in need of a good anti-frizz treatment. She carries herself with grace and exudes an old-school Hollywood presence that many of her peers lack. There’s just something real classy about her.
12. Matthew McConaughey (True Detective)
Often cited as one of the sexiest men alive, Academy Award-winning actor Matthew McConaughey is no stranger to altering his physical appearance for a role.
However, his transformation into the scraggly and unrefined Detective Rust Cohle in season one of True Detective caught us all completely off guard.
Looking like he was allergic to a water and razors, you could practically smell the stench off him. Of course he portrayed the character across different time periods, but it was the weedy 2012 version of Cohle that really made us sit up and ask, “Is that really Matthew McConaughey?”
11. Josh McDermitt (The Walking Dead)
When you look at The Walking Dead’s Eugene Porter, the first thing that comes to mind is Jean-Claude Van Damme’s ridiculous hairdo in 1993’s Hard Target.
Bearing in mind that he’s still alive while stronger characters have perished, however, that mullet must be some sort of zombie-repellent.
Quite frankly, the most dastardly thing that Negan could do in the next season is chop off Eugene’s hair. If he does that, it’s a sure sign that it’s game over for our favorite faux-scientist and he’ll be thirsting for brains rather than knowledge.
When Josh McDermitt isn’t playing Eugene, though, he styles his naturally lighter – and shorter – locks in a slicker fashion. In fact, he could even give Jared Leto a run for his money on who has the best hair in Hollywood.
10. Pablo Schreiber (Orange Is The New Black)
One of the most hated characters from Orange is the New Black is George “Pornstache” Mendez. Seedy in both appearance and behavior, Pornstache made us hate in new and original ways, as he terrorized the ladies prison. The guy is a creep with a capital “C.”
The actor behind the ‘stache is none other than Pablo Schreiber, half-brother of Ray Donovan star Liev Schrieber. When he’s off set, though, he looks nothing like the ex-prison guard rapist who he portrays.
While he still plays around with his facial hair – which is dependent on the role he’s busy with – he doesn’t look like he needs to be banned from school parking lots. His latest gig as Mad Sweeney in American Gods is a strong reminder that he’s quickly becoming a sought-after character actor.
9. Shannon Purser (Stranger Things)
She might’ve had a relatively small role in Stranger Things, but Barb Holland became a cult hero of the series. Her impression was so strong that actress Shannon Purser even received a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series nomination for her performance.
For Purser, Stranger Things was her first professional job and she had no qualms as to why Barb became as popular as she did.
Speaking to Deadline, Purser said, “I think a lot of people definitely relate to the people who are less than conventional — at least by Hollywood standards — people who are an outcast and awkward, because more often than not, we don’t feel like the cool, popular kid who had everything together in high school.”
If you miss Purser and want to catch her in another Barb-esque role, then you can see her on Riverdale where she portrays Ethel Muggs.
8. Taryn Manning (Orange Is The New Black)
When you talk about beautiful smiles, Orange is the New Black‘s Pennsatucky should never, ever, be mentioned in the same breath. Missing as many teeth as she was marbles, she epitomized what the dangers of meth abuse can do to you in the long run.
Ultimately, Pennsatucky did receive a new set of teeth after Piper knocked her rotting ones out, but her original grin provided more nightmares than the last four Nightmare on Elm Street films combined. Yes, they were that frightening.
Petite actress Taryn Manning took on the challenge of portraying this wacky broad and did so with great aplomb.
Not only were her acting chops remarkable, but she also embraced the physical ugliness of her character. Considering what she looks like on a normal day, this must’ve been a massive undertaking for her.
7. Ian Colletti (Preacher)
From snarky vampires to gods and demons, Preacher is an utterly insane TV show. So you must know that, when a character is called Arseface, you should expect exactly that. Honestly, did you really think that something from Garth Ennis’ mind would be any less shocking?
Rather unsurprisingly, actor Ian Colletti looks nothing like an anus in real life. The young star has a fresh baby face and could get away with portraying a teenager for the next couple of years. At the moment, though, he is well-hidden under a layer of prosthetics that must take hours to apply.
6. Amy Sedaris (Strangers With Candy)
As one of the darkest sitcoms in the past few decades, Strangers with Candy proved to be a hit due to the outlandish behavior of its former junkie/prostitute/con lead character, Jerri Blank.
Almost entirely lacking in self-awareness, Jerri provided some of the trashiest quotes in TV history and left us all in stitches in the process.
When you look at actress Amy Sedaris, it’s practically impossible to link her back to this role. The wildly talented comedian put on the disguise of all disguises to play Jerri and deliver a side-splitting performance for the ages.
If you miss her off-the-wall sense of humor, you can catch Sedaris providing the voice of Princess Carolyn on BoJack Horseman. It’s not quite Strangers with Candy-level of offensive, but it has its moments, too.
5. Neil Patrick Harris (A Series Of Unfortunate Events)
Neil Patrick Harris had the unenviable task of following Jim Carrey’s portrayal of Count Olaf. While the film might not have been as successful as originally anticipated, Carrey stole the show as the greedy antagonist.
So, when Harris was cast as Olaf in the TV adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events, he had some rather big shoes to fill. Boy, did he fill them, as the former Doogie Howser star is practically unrecognizable as the villain here.
Harris spent two-and-a-half hours every day getting into makeup, as he not only portrayed Olaf, but the villain’s disguises of Stephano, Captain Sham, and Shirley as well.
4. Kathy Kinney (The Drew Carey Show)
Sure, it might’ve been called The Drew Carey Show, but the real scene stealer was Kathy Kinney’s Mimi Bobeck. As the flamboyant and vindictive enemy of Drew Carey on the show, she became one of the most popular TV characters of the late ’90s.
Much like Steve Urkel, Mimi was set to only appear in the pilot episode. However, she proved to be such a hit with the audience that she became a crucial part of plans going forward. Really, can you even imagine The Drew Carey Show without her?
Since the end of the series, Kinney has struggled to reach the same level of success that she achieved as Mimi. But hey, at least she doesn’t have to put on those ridiculous outfits every day now, right?
3. Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory)
You wouldn’t exactly label any of the lead characters of The Big Bang Theory as heartthrobs. They’re awkward, socially unintelligent, and more likely to be found loitering in a comic book store than lifting weights at gym. Sure, they’re funny, smart guys, but that’s where the accolades end.
When Johnny Galecki sheds the Leonard Hofstadter guise, however, it’s like a completely different person walks into the room. He radiates cool and confidence – two qualities you wouldn’t associate with his nerdy TV character – and dazzles everyone with his smile.
In some circles, the Belgium-born Galecki might even be termed a ladies’ man since he has dated a string of Hollywood beauties, including co-star Kaley Cuoco and Kelli Garner. Perhaps we should start referring to him as the geekier Brad Pitt instead.
2. Ewan McGregor (Fargo)
The scariest thing is that it was almost impossible to recognize Ewan McGregor in season three of Fargo. If he hadn’t been revealed as the person behind the dual roles of Emmit and Ray Stussy, no one would’ve ever guessed it was him – that’s how well he’s disguised on the show.
Though, the fact that he pulled this off shouldn’t come as a surprise for anyone. In case you’d forgotten, McGregor has played everything from a relapsing junkie to a Jedi master, so this was probably just another Tuesday for him.
Obviously discontent with dominating the cinematic world, McGregor had to make the foray into TV and show us that he’s superior in this medium as well. Mind you, there was never any chance that he was going to do a simple, straightforward role in Fargo, was there?
1. Phyllis Logan (Downton Abbey)
The stoic Mrs. Hughes became a firm fan-favorite of Downton Abbey viewers. Her no-nonsense approach to her job as the head of the female servants, coupled with her kind-hearted ways, cemented her status as one of the darlings of this period drama.
Lest we forget, she also provided some of the most quotable lines from the show, such as “better a broken heart than a broken neck” and “tea gowns? We’re not in the 1890s, Mr. Mosely.”
In her life off camera, Scottish actress Phyllis Logan radiates the same warmth and kindness of her TV character. There’s definitely a glint of Mrs. Hughes behind her eyes, though, and she doesn’t look like she’d take too kindly to the beds being left made or the dishes unwashed.
Which other ugly TV characters look better in real life? Let us know in the comments!
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