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.

  • 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. Then again, she was locked in an underground bunker for so many years. Can anyone blame her for not being up on the latest styles? 

  • 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! And given that she's played some pretty distinctive characters, like Kimmy and Erin from The Office, and still looks so different, it says a lot about her talent. 

  • 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. Cristina is a no-nonsense kind of surgeon -- getting glam isn't her thing. After all, she was so uncomfortable with all the primping that came when she (almost) married Burke. 

  • Sandra Oh in Real Life

    Sandra Oh
    Xavier Collin/Celebrity Monitor/Splash News

    However, while scrubs may be comfortable and require no shapewear, we can appreciate Sandra Oh's glam style in real life. Whether she's hosting an awards show or walking the red carpet, she is always glowing. Even though they'd never share a wardrobe, we think Cristina would be proud. 

  • Betty Suarez on 'Ugly Betty'

    America Ferrera in Ugly Betty
    John Clifford/Walt Disney Television via Getty Images

    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. And not only did she look the part, but it wouldn't have been the same if anyone else had ended up snagging this role. 

  • America Ferrera in Real Life

    america ferrera
    Photo Image Press/Splash News

    But, in real life America Ferrera is ultra glam! She always looks fabulous and has no problem commanding attention. She may not have a lot in common with Betty, but that's totally OK -- she has her own personal style. 

  • Liz Lemon on '30 Rock'

    Tina Fey on 30 Rock
    Mitchell Haaseth/NBCU Photo Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

    On 30 Rock, Liz is talented, but socially awkward. She is known for being geeky and often gets teased. It's not that she's not stylish ... it's just that her style is exactly what a lady working as a comedy writer would wear, especially given that she's so busy. 

  • 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. It's no surprise that she knows all her angles -- after all, she has been doing the Hollywood thing for a long time. 

  • 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. And thanks to her style, she's become totally unforgettable ... and the perfect Halloween costume.

  • 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. We'd almost have a hard time believing she and Barb are the same person when we see her in real life! 

  • Sue Heck on 'The Middle'

    Eden Sher in The Middle (2009)

    Sue is the annoying, dorky sister in The Middle. She's super positive and lighthearted, but also pretty clueless about things. Her pigtails definitely aren't what most people are sporting these days ... including the actress who plays her (when she's not filming, of course). 

  • Eden Sher in Real Life

    eden sher
    AdMedia/Splash News

    However, Eden Sher 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. We can't even begin to imagine her dressing like her character when she's not on set. 

  • 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. Then, that's totally understandable when she's fighting monsters from the Upside Down.

  • Millie Bobby Brown in Real Life

    millie bobby brown
    Splash News

    In real life, Millie Bobbie Brown is a fashion killer! She's always graceful and super trendy at every interview, appearance, and red carpet she attends. And the longer she's been around, the more she really seems to get in tune with her own style. 

  • 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, duh. We'd never expect Maggie 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. Maggie would never have the time to do her hair and makeup like this while she's trying to survive day by day ... and this dress definitely isn't practical for a post-apocalyptic world.

  • 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. But being that physical appearance is the kind of thing that is tossed aside in Gilead, we get it. 

  • 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! The few times we've seen Aunt Lydia smile on the show, it was nothing like this -- and in real life, Ann is so pretty.

  • 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. We're not exactly shocked she's not putting on makeup every morning -- none of the handmaids do. 

  • 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. We're pretty thankful she doesn't have to share Janine's worries in the real world.

  • Sarah Manning on 'Orphan Black'


    In Orphan Black, Sarah has a tough life and it's reflected in her appearance. She is kind of dark and has more of a grunge style. It works for her character for sure, but is it anything like her style when she's not filming? 

  • Tatiana Maslany in Real Life

    Tatiana Maslany
    Splash News

    Nope -- Tatiana Maslany doesn't seem like that at all. Her style is much more elegant and she's always smiling. And thanks to this photo, we know one thing for sure: She can definitely kill it in a red dress! 

  • Pam Beesly on 'The Office' 

    Jenna Fischer in 'The Office'
    Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank/Getty Images

    For the first several seasons of The Office, Pam was very low effort when it came to her wardrobe. Later, she really found her groove in her personal style, but at first she was super plain. And anytime Kelly wanted to talk clothes and shopping, Pam looked like she wished she was anywhere else. 

  • Jenna Fischer in Real Life 

    Jenna Fischer
    Splash News

    That's not the Pam we know and love! In real life, Jenna Fischer's a busy mom and actress, but she always looks so well put together ... and if we said we didn't have some serious hair envy, we'd be lying. 

    This lady is goals! 

  • Tori Spelling on 'Saved by the Bell'

    Dustin Diamond and Tori Spelling in Saved by the Bell
    Paul Drinkwater/NBCU Photo Bank

    As much as Saved by the Bell is known for Zack, Kelly, A.C., and a long list of other characters, one Beverly, Hills 90210 star rocked a small but memorable role before captivating us as Donna Martin. Tori Spelling played the geeky but lovable Violet Anne Bickerstaff who was sweet, clumsy, and the apple of Screech's eye.

  • Tori Spelling in Real Life

    Tori Spelling, Dean McDermott and their kids
    Rich Polk/Getty Images for Nights of the Jack

    Since Saved by the Bell, Tori Spelling went on to star for a decade as Donna Martin on Beverly Hills, 90210. She also starred in the reboot, 90210, and went on to stay in front of the cameras in a series of reality television shows. As a wife and mama of five kiddos, Tori recently gave us a taste of nostalgia on BH90210.

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