What 25 'Dowdy' TV Actresses Look Like in Real Life

What 25 'Dowdy' TV Actresses Look Like in Real Life
Image: Netflix

shannon pursor

Ever watch a television show, fall in love with a character -- because she is lovable, hateable, or weirdly awesome -- tune in to see said character on the weekly, and completely flip out when the real actress makes an appearance in real life? It can be a totally mind-blowing experience!

For the most part, actresses look the same as the characters they play on TV. While their overall wardrobe or hairstyle may differ, it's rare that an actress is practically unrecognizable from the person we see every week on our televisions. That said, there are a few uncanny exceptions that can make us do a double take. Oh, the power of hair and makeup -- it's fascinating, isn't it?

From Maisie Williams's Arya Stark on Game of Thrones to Taryn Manning's Tiffany "Pennsatucky" Doggett on Orange Is the New Black, here are 25 actresses who look strikingly different from the renowned characters they play on television. You might even argue that they're two completely different people. 

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While some of these actresses, including themselves, have referred to their less done-up counterparts as "dowdy," we think they're beautiful either way -- and to be completely frank, we're seriously impressed by the un-glam squads. (That's got to be a special talent to make that kind of transformation to such beautiful ladies, right?) 

We also have to give it up for the actresses who really get into their character for the show. Props! 

  • Tiffany 'Pennsatucky' Dogget on 'Orange Is the New Black'


    Taryn Manning's character on Orange Is the New Black doesn't look like her IRL at all -- especially the teeth!

  • Taryn Manning in Real Life

    Taryn Manning
    Fortunata/Splash News

    From her hair to her dewy skin to her pearly whites, Taryn Manning looks completely different from her OITNB character. 

  • Suzanne 'Crazy Eyes' Warren on 'Orange Is the New Black'


    Speaking of Orange Is the New Black, Uzo Aduba, who plays Suzanne "Crazy Eyes" Warren on the show, looks much more polished -- understandably -- when she's not in character.

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  • Uzo Aduba in Real Life

    Uzo Aduba
    Richard Buxo/Splash News

    Glowing skin and an LBD? Uzo Aduba looks nothing like the character she's known for playing. 

  • Gilly on 'Game of Thrones'

    Gilly on 'Game of Thrones'

    She always looks gorgeous to us, but as a Free Folk in Game of Thrones, Gilly is never done up to the nines. 

  • Hannah Murray in Real Life

    Hannah Murray
    Splash News

    On the red carpet, though, actress Hannah Murray does it up. And that hair -- love!

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  • Pepper on 'American Horror Story'

    Pepper on 'American Horror Story'

    You would never in a million years recognize actress Naomi Grossman as Pepper, the character she played on American Horror Story: Asylum and American Horror Story: Freak Show. 

  • Naomi Grossman in Real Life

    Naomi Grossman
    London Entertainment/Splash News

    Talk about an unbelievable transformation. Wow.

  • Alex Dunphy in 'Modern Family'

    Alex Dunphy

    Alex Dunphy is as adorable as she is awesome on Modern Family. We're partly chalking it up to those now-iconic glasses.

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  • Ariel Winter in Real Life

    Ariel Winter
    Tony DiMaio/Splash News

    In real life, Ariel Winter is a complete bombshell -- with different colored hair to boot. She looks incredible both ways, but not gonna lie: kind of miss the glasses!

  • Kate McKinnon on 'SNL'

    Billie Jean King on SNL

    On Saturday Night Live, Kate McKinnon (pictured here as Billie Jean King) plays a range of characters during the show's sketches. However, while her various costumes and wigs help make her look like the people she's parodying (such as her spot-on Justin Bieber), very few of them look like she does IRL. 

  • Kate McKinnon in Real Life

    Kate McKinnon
    Press Line Photos/Splash News

    On the red carpet, Kate McKinnon usually rocks dewy makeup and loose, long locks. Here she is giving the camera a smoldering look at the 2014 Emmy Awards.

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  • Frankie Heck on 'The Middle'

    Frankie Heck On The Middle

    Patricia Heaton, who plays a Midwestern mom on The Middle, once admitted that she goes out of her way to make her character, Frankie, "a little bit frumpy."

  • Patricia Heaton in Real Life

    Patricia Heaton
    Photo Image Press/Splash News

    However, in real life, the 59-year-old doesn't mind glamming it up with a tight dress and some chunky earrings, like she was seen wearing at the 2015 ABC Upfront Presentation.

  • Queen Elizabeth in 'The Crown'

    claire foy queen elizabeth the crown

    Claire Foy can really "plain Jane" it up as the stoic young Queen Elizabeth II in The Crown. She makes every string of pearls look clutch-worthy.

  • Claire Foy in Real Life

    claire foy
    Zuma/Splash News

    But here's Ms. Foy at the 75th Golden Awards, totally owning the red carpet with slicked back hair and those piercing blue eyes. 

  • Arya Stark on 'Game of Thrones'

    Arya Stark on Game of Thrones

    As Arya Stark on Game of Thrones, Maisie Williams's character is often mistaken as a boy, due to her masculine haircut and muddy brown tunic.

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  • Maisie Williams in Real Life

    Maisie Williams
    Reimschuessel/Splash News

    In real life, it's doubtful anyone would mistake Williams for a dude, as she often glams it up on the red carpet. Here she's seen showing off a fun accessory at the Glamour Magazine Women of the Year Awards in London.

  • Mrs. Hughes on 'Downton Abbey'

    Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey

    "The key to Mrs. Hughes is no make-up, a rather unflattering wig, and letting my eyebrows grow. Also high-definition TV is very unforgiving and hones in on every wrinkle," actress Phyllis Logan says of her Downton Abbey character.

  • Phyllis Logan in Real Life

    Phyllis Logan
    AR Photo/Splash News

    Off-screen, it's almost impossible to tell that Logan is the one playing Mrs. Hughes. Talk about a transformation!

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  • Bernadette Rostenkowski on 'The Big Bang Theory'

    Bernadette Rostenkowski

    On The Big Bang Theory, Melissa Rauch's Bernadette Rostenkowski has an adorkable "nerd chic" kind of vibe.

  • Melissa Rauch in Real Life

    Melissa Rauch
    Splash News

    But in real life, Rauch errs more on the side of glam -- she's posed for Maxim and isn't afraid to show off a little cleavage on the red carpet.

  • Daisy Robinson on 'Downton Abbey'

    Daisy Robinson on Downton Abbey

    Playing a poor kitchen cook on a British period drama doesn't give Sophie McShera many opportunities to get gussied up on Downton Abbey.

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  • Sophie McShera in Real Life

    Sophie McShera
    Ferdaus Shamim/ZUMA Press/Corbis

    But on the red carpet, what with her blowout and designer duds, Sophie McShera looks more like a Crawley than a servant. 

  • Amy Farrah Fowler on 'The Big Bang Theory'

    Amy Farrah Fowler

    As the brainy scientist Amy on The Big Bang Theory, Mayim Bialik revealed that she likes to keep the character's makeup and hair as minimal as possible and the clothing "mitchy-matchy" and loose. 

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  • Mayim Bialik in Real Life

    Mayim Bialik
    Danny Moloshok/Reuters/Corbis

    However, off-duty, Mayim Bialik can glam it up with the best of them. Talk about having beauty and brains!

  • Abby Sciuto on 'NCIS'


    Described by one critic as looking like a "freak," Pauley Perrette's character, who sports a goth style, on NCIS requires the actress to dye her naturally blond hair black.

  • Pauley Perrette in Real Life

    Pauley Perrette
    Jen Lowery/Splash News

    Pauley Perrette's personal style is much more understated than the character she plays on TV, as demonstrated here by the red lipstick and LBD she wore to the GLAAD Media Awards. 

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  • Kimmy Schmidt on 'Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt'


    On Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Ellie Kemper's costumes, like the bright yellow sweater and hot pink pants seen in the photo here, sort of match the character's colorful but juvenile personality.

  • Ellie Kemper in Real Life

    Ellie Kemper
    Louis Fisher/Retna Ltd./Corbis

    But in reality, Ellie Kemper's style is much more glamorous and sophisticated. She can pull off anything!

  • Dr. Cristina Yang on 'Grey's Anatomy'

    Dr. Cristina Yang

    For 10 seasons, Sandra Oh's character on Grey's Anatomy basically lived in scrubs and lab coats.

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  • Sandra Oh in Real Life

    Sandra Oh
    Xavier Collin/Celebrity Monitor/Splash News

    However, while scrubs may be comfortable and require no Spanx, we can appreciate Sandra Oh's glam style in real life.

  • Betty Suarez on 'Ugly Betty'


    The name of the show pretty much says it all. Betty is made out to be the plain, nerdy girl who winds up in a fashionable lifestyle where she doesn't quite fit in. 

  • America Ferrera in Real Life

    america ferrera
    Photo Image Press/Splash News

    But, in real life America is ultra glam! She always looks fabulous and has no problem commanding attention. 

  • Liz Lemon on '30 Rock'


    On 30 Rock, Liz is talented, but socially awkward. She is known for being geeky and often gets teased. 

  • Tina Fey in Real Life

    tina fey
    Jen Lowery/Splash News

    But in real life, Tina Fey knows how to work a red carpet! She's a super talented comedian, actress, writer, and producer. 

  • Barb Holland on 'Stranger Things'


    Although Barb had a small role in Stranger Things, she made a big impact on fans! She was the less fun, less popular, but level-headed best friend. 

  • Shannon Purser in Real Life

    Shannon Purser
    Jen Lowery/Splash News

    But in reality, Shannon Purser is not to be messed with! She is super fabulous and she's breaking out into more roles, such as Ethel on Riverdale

  • Sue Heck on 'The Middle'


    Sue is the annoying, dorky sister in The Middle. She's very positive and lighthearted, but also pretty clueless about things. 

  • Eden Sher in Real Life

    eden sher
    AdMedia/Splash News

    However, Eden Sheer is a completely different person! She looks super confident in real life and although the pigtails are cute, she definitely has a more mature style. 

  • Eleven on 'Stranger Things'


    Eleven is actually an amazing character! But her tough childhood and supernatural powers can sometimes have her looking a little rough (which is totally understandable when she's fighting monsters from the Upside Down).

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  • Millie Bobby Brown in Real Life

    millie bobby brown
    Splash News

    In real life, Millie is a fashion killer! She's always graceful and super trendy at every interview, appearance, and red carpet she attends. 

  • Maggie Greene on 'The Walking Dead'


    Maggie is a little more concerned about staying alive during a zombie apocalypse than worrying about what she looks like. Clearly this show is all about survival, so Maggie isn't going to have her makeup and hair done. 

  • Lauren Cohan in Real Life

    Lauren Cohan
    Splash News

    But, in the real world, Lauren Cohan looks totally pulled together. She is super fabulous. 

  • Aunt Lydia on 'The Handmaid's Tale'


    Anyone who has seen The Handmaid's Tale will probably agree that Aunt Lydia is one scary lady. Her appearance and behavior is cold and frigid. 

  • Ann Dowd in Real Life

    ann dowd
    AdMedia/Splash News

    However, that's not how we would describe the real Ann Dowd one bit! Look at that warm smile! 

  • Janine on 'Handmaid's Tale'


    Janine has gone through it on The Handmaid's Tale! Her eye was removed as punishment for scoffing at the idea of getting pregnant for someone else. 

  • Madeline Brewer in Real Life

    Madeline Brewer
    AdMedia/Splash News

    In real life, Madeline Brewer looks completely different. She is certainly rocking that bold lip and baby pink dress -- pretty much the opposite of what her character wears. 

  • Sarah Manning on 'Orphan Black'


    In Orphan Black, Sarah has a pretty tough life and it's reflected in her appearance. She is kind of dark and has more of a grunge style. 

  • Tatiana Maslany in Real Life

    Tatiana Maslany
    Splash News

    But, Tatiana Maslany doesn't seem like that at all. Her style is much more elegant and she's always seen smiling. 

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