In the world of entertainment and audiovisual narrative, there are many techniques that are used to return a story that is as credible, representative and suggestive as possible. Usually, the task of actors and actresses is crucial in trying to empathize as much as possible in history, even going as far as change shape for the purpose of the story. In this regard, there are cases in which interpreters truly become unrecognizable! Thanks to an extraordinary work, which also and above all involves make-up and hairdressing, the fictitious characters come to life on the screen. From the appearance altered for the purpose of the narrative, some stars of the small and big screen end up looking like anything else, moving on a unusual boundary between reality and fiction. Unrecognizable in real life, often the very different aesthetics of the characters interpreted even end up taking over: for example, it took America Ferrera years to get rid of the cumbersome label of the fictitious Betty Suarez. In fact, contrary to what is usually thought, the physiognomic transformations from actor to character do not only concern the world of horror and/or science fiction fiction. To date, such a vast and varied serial panorama is made up of eccentric stories and interpreters with a thousand abilities and forms within each genre and format. From extravagant comedies to darker horrors, there are many actors and actresses who have become physically unrecognizable according to the roles they play.
1) America Ferrera – Betty Suarez
One of the most famous cases in which actress and character do not physically coincide is precisely that of the acclaimed US dramedy Ugly Betty. North American remake of the Colombian soap I am Betty the Ugly onethe ABC broadcaster show tells the tragicomic story of the simple Betty Suareza young man of Mexican origin who tries to make his way in the competitive and controversial field of publishing, becoming the personal assistant of the editor-in-chief of the fictitious fashion magazine MODE. Naive, positive and humble, the protagonist immediately captures her attention through his distinctive physical appearance. Indeed, the character is intentionally brought to the screen with an aesthetic far from standard canons connected to femininity and charm. Braces and questionable clothing, Betty Suarez is known for being the ugly duckling of the show, in contrast to the elitist world of fashion within which it tries to extricate itself. To give body and soul to the character, America Ferrera she devoted several hours on set to preparation each day, a process she calls herself Bettification, with reference to the preparations necessary for the physical transformation. Aesthetically very different, America and Betty have often ended up being considered a single individual: for many years the character took over in the media, marginalizing the true aspect of the interpreter.
On top of that, the role of Betty Suarez even earned America Ferrera several awards and accolades. Thanks to Ugly Betty, she was the first woman of Latina descent to win a Primetime Emmy Award in the category dedicated to Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series (2007).
2) Naomi Grossman – Pepper
One of the most discussed cases, which still makes the rounds of the web cyclically today, is the impressive physical detachment that exists between Naomi Grossman and the creepy Pepper. In the second and fourth seasons of Ryan Murphy’s anthology horror, American Horror Storythe American actress plays a freak with anomalous, rare and grotesque features. Pepper is a recurring character in Asylum e Freak Show, striking impact for its strong appearance, far from the canonical aesthetic and human standards conventionally shared. In particular, the marked physiognomic features (which in part refer to the hycrocephaly) serve as an immediate contrast with the children’s costumes and pastel colors which enrich the controversial aesthetics of such a character childish and mischievous. In the eccentric TV series, Naomi Grossman is truly unrecognizable, becoming one of the faces that most contributes to the bizarre and disturbing atmosphere of American Horror Story. In fact, to return to the screen the intentional restlessness for which the character was designed, Grossman underwent a long and arduous preparation to be able to transform completely into the very different Pepper.
3) Brays Efe – Paquita Salas
Not particularly known in the Italian serial context, Paquita Salas is a Spanish webseries available internationally on Netflix. The fast-paced comedy is a real one one-woman-showwith the center Paquita Salas, one of the best entertainment agents of the Nineties. With a career in decline and ways of doing and working frozen in time, the protagonist tries to relaunch her talent agency together with her inseparable assistant Magüi. Nostalgic, proud, unscrupulous, Paquita is a woman in one piece, unusually interpreted by the Spanish actor Brays Efe, which is precisely one of the strengths and identity of the show. The physiognomic and gender contrast it is hidden but not too much, with a comic result that immediately highlights the aesthetic differences between the performer and the character. Far from stereotypes and conventions, Paquita Salas it breaks down barriers with a female protagonist animated by a male actor, a trait that has however been at the center of various criticisms. Nonetheless, it is striking to her how the two are to the eye as very different as they are similar. Blond hair and backcombs, no beard, make up: unrecognizable in the guise of a middle aged business womanBrays Efe has given the right humorous and sarcastic value to an iconic and unconventional character like the irresistible Paquita Salas.
4) Bryan Cranston – Walter White
In the thick and long-lived world of TV series, one of the most famous and influential characters is Walter Whitetormented protagonist of Breaking Bad. With an instantly recognizable iconic physical appearance, Heisenberg usually appears (for most of the episodes) with a wide-brimmed black hat, to cover the bald nape, goatee and eyeglasses. Despite being characterized by a not particularly flashy appearance, Walter White is today an icon to the point of being instinctively identified among a flood of characters. In particular, the former chemistry teacher is played by Bryan CranstonAmerican actor also known for other roles very different from those of the controversial protagonist of Breaking Bad (es. Malcom in the Middle, Seinfeld). In this regard, in the AMC TV series, the interpreter appears physically very different from real life, assuming amuch darker and gloomier aura. The icy gaze that intersperses Walt and Heisenberg is famous and hardly attributable to the mild aesthetics and personality of Bryan Cranston. In particular, over the seasons, the look of Walter White evolve, signaling precisely the very transformation of the character, an awareness and power that distort the life of a previously passive and clumsy teacher. As the episodes progress, the costumes, in particular, become more gloomy, imposing, dark, communicating aesthetically the same physical and psychological change of the protagonist.
5) Conleth Hill – Lord Varys
Within a long-running series such as Game of Thrones, there are many characters who have followed one another, often entering the narrative for very few episodes. Among the many passing faces and tormented protagonists, within the eight seasons of the HBO show it is not easy to resist for long. One of the individuals who paradoxically has recurred more often in popular events is Lord Varys. Interpreted by Conleth Hillas in the case of Walter White, the fine line between actor and character demonstrates just how much a hairstyle can make all the difference. Indeed, Lord Varys and Conleth Hill appear physically very different. And it is no coincidence that only the clothing contributes, coherent with a dark fantasy and costume story. Varys is characterized by a face devoid of many details, clear, with white skin and a bald nape. Which gives the man a style in line with his shrewd, mysterious, calm and unpredictable personality. In real life, however, Conleth Hill looks completely different, with a thick hair grey, long beard and mild smile, so unrecognizable that they weren’t even able to tell him apart on set.
6) Evan Peters – Jim
Evan Peters he is known for playing an unusual selection of characters, often aesthetically very different and disturbing. In fact, the American actor has distinguished himself above all for his work in predominantly thriller and horror genre productions, which by convention require a particularly incisive aesthetic. Just think of the large number of seasons of American Horror Story in which he took part, each time in different guises, arriving in some cases to be completely unrecognizable. In particular, in American Horror Story: Cult (seventh season of the TV series by Ryan Murphy), the interpreter covers various roles. In the main guise of co-star Kai Anderson, Evan Peters also plays various minor roles within the chapter, proving his indisputable performative and shapeshifting skills: Andy Warhol, Marshall Applewhite, David Koresh, Jesus, Charles Manson and Jim Jones. The latter in particular is among the characters physically furthest away from the American actor, who is completely transformed for the occasion. Black hair, sunglasses and fatsuit to give body and soul to a real American criminal and preacher, best known for inducing members of his cult (the People’s Temple) to commit an unhealthy mass suicide in Jonestown.
7) Kayvan Novak – Nandor
Resembling a vampire in real life is rare enough. While possessing some physiognomic traits that allow an easier success, Kayvan Novak however, it is very different in reality from the unusual Novemberprotagonist of the comedy What We Do in the Shadows. In the FX mockumentary, the British actor plays one of the main supernatural creatures: Nandor is an Ottoman vampire over 700 years old who lives with his other ghostly roommates Laszlo, Nadja and Colin Robinson in a decadent villa on Staten Island. In an attempt to integrate into the very modern reality in which the centenary creatures find themselves living, the contrast has comical results, often playing on differences and oppositions. In that regard, the centuries-old vampire aspect crystallized in time is glitzy, grotesque and very attached to stereotypes related to genre fiction. For this reason, Kayvan Novak physically appears very different in real life compared to the bizarre Nandor, who is characterized on the screen by a frizzy and thick hair, sharp teeth and white skin. In addition to a wardrobe with a certain old-fashioned taste, in line with the style of the era in which he was transformed into a monster. Certainly a very different look from the one with which Novak shows himself in public.