What 27 'Dowdy' TV Actresses Look Like in Real Life

Nicole Pomarico | Nov 26, 2019 Celebrities
What 27 '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 27 actresses who look strikingly different from the renowned characters they play on television. In fact, We might even argue that they're two completely different people. 

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! Given that she played a meth addict, though, the teeth were crucial to making her believable when she was in character. In real life, Taryn looks nothing like Pennsatucky. 

  • 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. Of course, she and Pennsatucky have lived two totally different lives, so it makes sense. And now that the show is done filming, we'll probably be seeing a lot more of her like this. 

  • 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. On the show, Suzanne is usually pretty off kilter, and that goes for her appearance, too. Then again, fans have come to really love Crazy Eyes. 

  • 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. Unfortunately, being that Suzanne was still locked up in the end on OITNB, fans never got to see her in this kind of look. But Uzo is always dressing to impress. 

  • 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. Then again, if she was, she wouldn't exactly look the part. This is GoT we're talking about, of course -- what show takes us out of reality better than this one?

  • Hannah Murray in Real Life

    Hannah Murray
    Splash News

    On the red carpet, though, actress Hannah Murray does it up. And that hair -- love! If we didn't know better, we'd never guess that she and her character are actually the same person. Props to GoT's makeup and costuming departments! 

  • Pepper on 'American Horror Story'

    Pepper on 'American Horror Story'

    We 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. As beloved as her character was, she definitely looked the part -- even if that meant being a little scary at times. 

  • Naomi Grossman in Real Life

    Naomi Grossman
    London Entertainment/Splash News

    This is not the Pepper we know and love from AHS! Now that the role is behind her, she's back to looking super polished on the red carpet -- which is just a testament to her talent on screen. 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. But we definitely wouldn't compare this girl to what the actress who plays with looks like in real life. 

  • 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! if she wanted to pull them off in real life, she totally could!

  • 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. She cleans up pretty good when she's not taking on a new character on SNL!

  • 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." It makes sense for her character, and of course Patricia would go the extra mile to be true to who she believes Frankie would be. It's not her first rodeo, after all. 

  • Patricia Heaton in Real Life

    Patricia Heaton
    Photo Image Press/Splash News

    However, in real life, Patricia Heaton 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. The actress has been in this business for a long time, so we're not surprised she knocks it out of the park when she's at an event. So gorgeous! 

  • 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. Even though we know the real queen is anything but boring, we've gotta say that Claire definitely looked the part. 

  • Claire Foy in Real Life

    claire foy
    Zuma/Splash News

    But here's Claire Foy at the 75th Golden Globe Awards, totally owning the red carpet with slicked back hair and those piercing blue eyes. Kind of a glammed up Queen Elizabeth here... but with her own twist, of course. She's killing it! 

  • Arya Stark on 'Game of Thrones'

    Arya Stark on Game of Thrones

    As Arya Stark on Game of Thrones, Maisie Williams' character is often mistaken as a boy, due to her masculine haircut and muddy brown tunic. But we can't imagine Arya any other way. After all, GoT doesn't exactly lend itself to glam! 

  • Maisie Williams in Real Life

    Maisie Williams
    Reimschuessel/Splash News

    In real life, it's doubtful anyone would mistake Maisie 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. So adorable! 

  • Mrs. Hughes on 'Downton Abbey'

    Mrs. Hughes on Downton Abbey

    "The key to Mrs. Hughes is no makeup, 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. Totally makes sense. 

  • Phyllis Logan in Real Life

    Phyllis Logan
    AR Photo/Splash News

    Off-screen, it's almost impossible to tell that Phyllis Logan is the one playing Mrs. Hughes. Talk about a transformation! She's super classy and polished, and not at all what we're used to seeing of her character on Downton. Impressive! 

  • 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. It works for her character, but is it anything like who she is in real life? It's safe to say that Melissa and Bernadette are completely different. 

  • Melissa Rauch in Real Life

    Melissa Rauch
    Splash News

    But in real life, Melissa 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. The bangs, the smoky eye, the dress. What's not to love about this look?! 

  • 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. After all, if she was all done up in a full face of makeup, it wouldn't be right for her character at all. Who wants that? 

  • 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. If we didn't know any better, we'd have no idea that these two are actually the same person. She looks so good on the red carpet! 

  • 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. We love her commitment to this character! It's definitely paid off on such a long-running show. 

  • 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! We could never see Amy pulling off this look, especially not this dress. Let's be real: It just isn't her style, right?

  • Abby Sciuto on 'NCIS'

    Abby Sciuto

    Described by one critic as looking like a "freak," Pauley Perrette's character, who used to sport a goth style, on NCIS required the actress to dye her naturally blond hair black. But being that this look turned her into an iconic character, she gets all the props. 

    Such commitment! 

  • Pauley Perrette in Real Life

    Pauley Perrette
    Jen Lowery/Splash News

    Pauley Perrette's personal style is much more understated than the character she played on TV, as demonstrated here by the red lipstick and LBD she wore to the GLAAD Media Awards. Yes, she's still rocking the dark hair, but in her own way. Super different from her character, but in the best way.