Beloved TV Stars Who Couldn't Be More Different From Their Signature Characters

List Rules
Vote up the actors who differ most from the TV roles they're best known for.

Fame can be a double-edged sword for actors: Once they're well-known for a role, it's often impossible to shake off their association with it. It can be even more frustrating when actors play characters who are nothing like them in real life. Whether it's a wholesome sitcom dad who isn't afraid to get raunchy off-screen, or a TV serial killer who is a big softie in real life, plenty of TV actors couldn't be more different from the roles that made them famous.

Vote up the TV actors you think are most unlike their on-screen personas.


  • Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen is of course not a ruthless cannibal. Because of Mikkelsen's sharp features and cold expression, however, he's often cast in roles like that of Dr. Hannibal Lecter on the TV show Hannibal. But Mikkelsen has a wonderfully bizarre sense of humor, which makes him notably different from most of the characters he plays on-screen. 

    Whether he's taking a cactus to the premiere of a movie, dressing up like a cat, or pretending to fight iconic French directors, Mikkelsen is constantly smiling for the camera, playing up his severe appearance for laughs. It's no wonder that entire social media accounts are dedicated to recording his behaviors on and off the screen.

  • As Danny Tanner, the father figure on Full House, Bob Saget was the picture of wholesomeness, moral purity, and 100% inoffensive dad humor. As a stand-up comedian, he represented the exact opposite. 

    Saget's comedy routine was notoriously raunchy, full of expletive-laden rants and dark, lurid anecdotes about his childhood. Audience members who came to his shows expecting Danny Tanner were often shocked by Saget's sense of humor.

    "When I do comedy, people are like, why aren't you Danny Tanner?" Saget told the Los Angeles Times in 2016. "It's like, do you want Anthony Hopkins to eat people? I was acting, guys!"

  • Rowan Atkinson's most famous character is the mute, ridiculous, and not-so-bright Mr. Bean on the British TV show of the same name. Those who aren't familiar with Atkinson's history might be surprised to learn that the actor is a scientist who attended the most prestigious university in the UK. 

    After attending Durham Choristers prep school at the same time as future Prime Minister Tony Blair, Atkinson went on to receive degrees in electrical engineering from Newcastle University and The Queen's College, Oxford. Atkinson wrote his master's thesis on the application of self-tuning control, and took steps towards doctoral work after graduating from Oxford - that is, until his acting career began to take off. 

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    Stephanie Beatriz/Rosa Diaz

    Detective Rosa Diaz of Brooklyn Nine-Nine is known for being tight-lipped, closed off, and extremely serious. Everything we know about the actor who plays her, however, suggests she's much different.

    The first thing you notice when you watch interviews with Stephanie Beatriz is that her voice is much higher-pitched and expressive off-screen, in contrast with Diaz's trademark growl. Beatriz is also open about her life as an actor, sharing both embarrassing and exciting anecdotes with interviewers. That's different from a character who takes pride in her ability to hide everything about her personal life from even her closest co-workers.

  • Neil Patrick Harris's career was revitalized after the actor played serial exaggerator and womanizer Barney Stinson on the sitcom How I Met Your Mother. But although Harris is openly gay and Barney is hyperbolically hetero, sexual orientation is far from the only difference between the two.

    "I played a character for nine years who was nothing like me," Harris told the British newspaper The Times in a discussion about the appropriateness of casting straight actors to play gay characters. The actor said he's as sardonic as his alter-ego Barney, but is also "much more settled down than he is."

  • Plenty of perfectly nice actors have taken on the roles of evil, ruthless people. But few are as associated with their characters as James Gandolfini was with mob boss Tony Soprano - and even fewer are better known for their off-screen kindness, compassion, and good nature.

    Gandolfini was beloved by his fellow actors for his professionalism, but also for his sense of fairness. According to actor Drea de Matteo, who played Adriana La Cerva, Gandolfini was so angered by the news that none of his fellow actors would be getting a cut of The Sopranos DVD sales that he called each one into his trailer and wrote them individual checks out of his own pocket.

    And the actor was just as given to random acts of kindness toward non-actors, doing everything from standing up for harassed bar patrons to leaving massive tips.