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10 Actors That Are Polar Opposites from Their Characters

by David Long
fact checked by Rachel Jones

Have you ever had a crush on the brooding villain? The cavalier killer? There’s something about dark characters in our favorite films and TV shows that just compels the audience to swoon and cheer. Maybe it’s the fact that the characters get to be all of the things viewers harbor inside themselves and see unfold on screen.

No one understands the freedom that comes with exploring the other side of the spectrum better than actors, and for some weird reason, the nicest people play the biggest and baddest villains in our favorite stories. Here is a list of 10 celebrities who are polar opposites from their characters.

Related: 10 Classic Films That Nearly Starred The Last Actor You’d Expect

10 Tom Felton vs. Draco Malfoy

Known for his dashing and dark role as Draco Malfoy from J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter film franchise, British actor Tom Felton is the farthest thing from Draco’s abrasive demeanor. Any time he’s asked about his experience over the course of filming, he expresses nothing but joy and appreciation, which is something his character never did.

Felton admitted that it was fun playing the bad guy because you usually wouldn’t have the opportunity to explore those emotions or circumstances in everyday life. He even wanted to keep his wand from the Harry Potter films but wouldn’t even steal it after using the prop for over ten years. Despite his charming charisma, his on-screen capability for such serious characters has earned him roles in other angst-filled films like The Apparition (2012), Stratton (2017), and The Forgotten Battle (2020).

9 Stephanie Beatriz vs. Rosa Diaz

‘Brooklyn 99’ Star Stephanie Beatriz Shows Off Her Rosa Diaz Voice & Teases ‘In the Heights’

Argentine-born, Texas-grown actress Stephanie Beatriz is unrecognizable though many have grown to love her character from the Fox/NBC TV series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Rosa Diaz. Every time Beatriz’s character is on screen, she has her infamous leather jacket, low voice, and screw-the-world attitude, which is the exact opposite of Beatriz!

In numerous interviews, she’s stated that fans will approach her then be shocked when they hear her voice, even going so far as to admit they don’t like her personality; they only like her TV persona. Additionally, none of Beatriz’s characters wear glasses despite the actress having severe astigmatism, causing her vision to be blurred. She revealed on Twitter that it was so bad that she kept missing her marks while filming. And that was with the crew using hot pink tape and making massive crosses on the floor.

8 Keanu Reeves vs. John Wick

Keanu Reeves Plays With Puppies While Answering Fan Questions

With dystopian futures, dark thrillers, and detectives hunting down the supernatural, Keanu Reeves is nothing like his characters, and yet, he’s just so good at them. Despite his characters being gunslingers, Reeves enjoys literature and can almost always be found with the newest novel in hand. He’s such a bookworm that he’s admitted he would love to visit the 1600s and discover the true writer behind Shakespeare’s work.

Reeves is the opposite of his vengeful hitman character, John Wick, since he’s even taken pay cuts to allow other big-name actors to star in movies alongside him. He knows that he’s been lucky in his career and always tries to live simply. Even after receiving mega-stardom, the actor has sat and talked with homeless people, helped drive a stranded stranger home, and given up his seat on public transportation.

7 Tom Hiddleston vs. Loki

Tom Hiddleston Breaks Down His Career, from ‘The Avengers’ to ‘Loki’ | Vanity Fair

You know him for his international fame as Marvel’s Loki, but off-screen, he is the biggest softie in the business. He recognizes his humble beginnings from performing in theater and expresses gratitude for the circumstances which led him to his success, unlike his Norse God character, who is hurt, selfish, maniacal, and devious, complete with slicked-black hair.

Hiddleston has supported numerous charities and is a UK ambassador for UNICEF, the United Nations Children Fund. Fellow castmates and actors have said that Hiddleston is very in tune with himself and his characters and enjoys working with directors creatively to deliver meaningful stories and performances.

6 Lena Headey vs. Cersei Lannister

Lena Headey Gets A Lot Of “Game Of Thrones” Hate | CONAN on TBS

HBO’s Game of Thrones swept the globe from the beginning of the 2010s to the very end, in 2019. A loathsome character many love to hate, and hate to love, is none other than Lena Heady’s Cersei Lannister. The King’s Landing heiress is notorious for copious amounts of wine, extravagant gowns, and cutthroat theatrics. But Heady is actually very candid in comparison to Cersei, who says everything with a sense of passive aggression.

Heady expressed her nervousness to make appearances on late-night talk shows, but the opposites don’t stop there. While Cersei may revel in the death of her enemies, Heady grieved with cast members after reading scripts for the fantasy drama that involved their deaths. Headey is also a vegetarian and has supported Alzheimer’s Research UK, as well as the International Rescue Committee that advocates for European migrants.

5 Pedro Pascal vs. Javier Pena

Pedro Pascal Breaks Down His Most Iconic Characters | GQ

Another Game of Thrones icon that is nothing like his characters is Chilean-born actor Pedro Pascal. Though he usually plays dark and brooding characters from Nathan Landry, assertive attorney, to over-confident Oberyn Martell, none is farther from his personality than Javier Pena from Netflix’s Narcos.

The crime drama follows the rise and fall of Pablo Escobar in the lush landscape of Colombia. To prepare for the role, Pascal and his co-star had to undergo training at an actual Drug Enforcement Administration facility since they would be playing DEA agents. In an interview, Pascal confessed his apprehension and rigor of the training as well as his appreciation for officers who dedicate their lives to bettering communities. Pascal has an uplifting and bubbly personality mixed with honesty and humility and has had difficulty sitting next to A-list celebrities while filming Kingsmen: The Golden Circle (2017) despite being an A-list celebrity himself.

4 Kerry Washington vs. Olivia Pope

Kerry Washington on Scandal

Shonda Rhimes is known for creating gripping characters, but no one brings them to life like Kerry Washington in ABC’s Scandal. Her character, Olivia Pope, runs a crime management firm that handles political, you guessed it, scandals. Washington would live Tweet during each episode every Thursday when the show was aired and would interact with fans in real-time. When her character was kidnapped in a season finale and her glass of wine was spilled on the couch, as planned, the moment the scene ended, she ran to grab paper towels and clean the mess her character created.

It’s not the first time Washington has been in roles for firm-handed characters. Other film and television shows she’s starred in include Law & Order (2001), Fantastic Four (2005), and Django Unchained (2012). Washington is a member of the Creative Coalition that explores issues at the forefront of national discourse and how to address those in the media. She is also a member of V-Day, the movement that brings awareness to violence against women and girls.

3 Ming-Na Wen vs. Melinda May

On Set at Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. with Ming-Na Wen

It’s difficult to watch any pop culture media these days without running into Ming-Na Wen. And if you don’t recognize that name, you’ll recognize these. Wen has starred in Marvel’s Agents of Shield (2013-2020), Star Wars’ The Book of Boba Fett (2021-2022), and Disney classic Mulan (1998).

From princess to superhero to bounty hunter, you know Ming-Na Wen’s characters as strong, confident in their opinions, and capable of their skills. While Wen does share these traits, she has none of Melinda May’s or Fennec Shand’s hardness and disregard for others. She’s actually very quiet, calm, cool, and collected. She actually had to film a fight sequence on a moving train and was scared due to her fear of heights.

2 Misha Collins vs. Castiel

Misha Collins Funny Bloopers VS Real Life

The majority of Misha Collins’s experience on the CW’s Supernatural (2005-2021) was spent trying not to break character. Collins plays a serious angel known for his pensive, furrowed brow and low, raspy voice. His co-stars didn’t help him maintain the facade very much as they often tested his boundaries with teasing and menial pranks.

Castiel is firm and strict to the rules of heaven; meanwhile, Collins is lively with a voice full of inflections and a deeply caring personality. The actor’s charity, GISHWHES, is the largest international scavenger hunt dedicated to creating and spreading human kindness. He also has a cookbook of various fun, flavorful, and whacky meals due to his being homeless as a child.

1 Mads Mikkelsen vs. Le Chiffre

Mads Mikkelsen Explores 5 of His Most Pivotal Roles & Why He Lied in His ‘Casino Royale’ Audition

With an unconventional face and a knack for playing the bad guys, Danish actor Mads Mikkelsen is the epitome of being polar opposite from his characters. In recent years, Mikkelsen has become a staple in Hollywood’s bag of dependable villains. Though he could seek out the lighter side of Hollywood films, he would prefer to stick to what he knows to be part of the limelight. He has a rather chaotic side that he explores and utilizes for his work in Denmark. Still, his first successful international film was another addition to the James Bond franchise of Casino Royale (2006).

In a recent interview, Mikkelsen admits feeling nervous filming so far away from Denmark and performing in a language other than his mother tongue. Mikkelsen was originally a gymnast and a dancer until he was introduced to acting, later entering drama school.

fact checked by Rachel Jones