Mask Off: 40 Sci-Fi And Fantasy Characters Who Look Nothing Like The Incredible Actors Behind Them

By Ekhama O

Don’t you just love tv? There’s always so much content to watch and all kinds of genres available to enjoy. We’re not one to pick favorites, but we have to say science fiction and fantasy are where it’s at! We’re not just saying this because they’ve got the most gripping storylines and some pretty impressive and amazing scenery, but it’s also about those very interesting-looking characters.

Whether they are achieved through CGI or plain old costumes and makeup, we’re often so mesmerized by the work that we can’t help but wonder what the actors behind those faces would look like. Want to find out what the people who play some of the most renowned characters in the world of sci-fi and fantasy look like? Here’s a list of 40 of them!

Andy Serkis, as… everyone

Some actors are type-casted for a kind of role, others for a specific genre, and sometimes, it can even be both. The best example of an actor like that just so happens to be one of the highest-grossing of all time, the multifaceted Andy Serkis.

(Andy Serkis) – Robert Deutsch / USA Today(Caesar) – WETA / 20th Century Fox

He played “Caesar” in the Planet of the Apes movies, the hobbit “Gollum” in the Lord of the Rings trilogy, a humanoid supreme leader named “Snoke” in the 2015 Star Wars: The Force Awakens, and many more. It’s amusing to us that he bears no resemblance to any computer-generated character he’s ever played.

Sofia Boutella as Jaylah

Makeup and prosthetics can do wonders in transforming an actor or actress into an extraterrestrial character in a movie, and “Jaylah” in Star Trek Beyond is proof of that. Sofia Boutella took on that role in 2016 and was virtually unrecognizable in the film!

(Sofia Boutella) – Jim Ruymen/UPI(Jaylah) –

It took a good five hours plus to apply all the makeup and prosthetics to transform Sofia into the grey female humanoid survivor “Jaylah,” and all we can say is the artists made great use of those hours. Just look at the staggering difference between these two!

Karen Gillian as Nebula

The MCU has given us some of the most intriguing storylines in movie history. It also has incredible scenes and the most fantastic characters in the world of sci-fi today. One of those characters is “Nebula,” a well-skilled assassin and “Thor’s” adopted daughter.

(Karen Gillan) – karengillan / ig(Nebula) –

For the look, Karen Gillian was given blue facial prosthetics to cover up her pale skin and make her more in tune with “Nebula,” as well as super thick contact lenses that turned her hazel eyes black. A far cry from what she looks like in reality.

Dave Bautista as Drax

Many actors and actresses use prosthetics on their faces, arms, and even legs for different roles. For Dave Bautista to transform into “Drax the Destroyer” on Guardians of the Galaxy, the makeup artists had to apply about eighteen prosthetic pieces to the actor!

(Dave Bautista) – Gage Skidmore / wiki commons / CC BY-SA 3.0(Drax the Destroyer) – DatBot / wiki commons / Fair user

Usually, this was done during a five-hour makeup session, which is quite impressive since we can all appreciate how complex and intricate the character’s whole look was. Though they’re both quite big, the grey and red “Drax” with dirty teeth and red eyes is so unlike the human who brings him to life.

Zoe Saldana as Neytiri

Set on a fictional moon-like planet in a faraway planetary system, Avatar’s plot taught us just how dangerous being greedy can be and how bad it is to be insensitive and violent. Aside from the storyline, another thing that really stuck out to us was the character “Neytiri.”

(Zoe Saldana) – Film Magic(Avatar) –

Played to perfection by the stunning Zoe Saldana, the character and the whole movie were ahead of their time, seeing as the film used motion capture in tandem with detailed CGI in the early 2000s. With how good the animation was, one might think everything was shot on camera, but interestingly, almost nothing was!

Lee Pace as Ronan

We’ve got to admit that the MCU gives us some of the best movie special effects and character appearances. From the epic fight scenes to the looks of the characters, they’re always spot on, and that’s the exact term that best describes Ronan’s look in Guardians of the Galaxy.

(Lee Pace) – leeepfrog / ig(Ronan the Accuser) –

Lee Pace, alongside Karen Gillian, had the most outstanding makeup in this film franchise. The blue paint with black details was incredibly convincing, as you can see. The makeup artists did one heck of a job in turning the charming-looking Lee into the fiercely strong Ronan.

Pom Klementieff as Mantis

Anyone who’s seen the second installment of the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise must recognize the humanoid bug-like alien, “Mantis.” Raised alone on a planet, the character was incredibly naive, but at the same time, she had the remarkable ability to put powerful beings to sleep!

(Pom Klementieff) – pom.klementieff / Instagram(Mantis) –

Under those antennas was the beautiful Pom Klementieff. Interestingly, she actually wasn’t really there sometimes at all! That’s right, Mantis was actually just another part of the heavy CGI the movie employed at some point, and Pom was just doing the voice acting behind the scenes.

Peter Mayhew as Chewbacca

The Star Wars franchise has got to be one of the longest-running and biggest commercial successes in the history of Hollywood. There are so many memorable scenes and characters from all the movies and productions relating to it, one of them being “Chewbacca.”

(Peter Mayhew) – Luigi Novi / wiki commons / CC BY 3.0(Wookie) –

The gigantic fur-covered alien was played by Peter Mayhew, who had a similar physique, towering at seven feet and three inches! The actor would wear a costume made from a mix of animal hair and fitted with a cooling system so he wouldn’t have a hard time acting under all that fur. How amazing!

Cate Blanchett as Hela

If you’ve been following the MCU, you know the franchise has introduced a number of formidable villains. From “Doctor Octopus” to “Loki,” ‘Thanos” to “Ultron,” there have been so many fierce bad guys. One of them that stands out to us is “Hela” (“Thor’s” sister), played by Cate Blanchett.

(Cate Blanchett) – cate_blanchettofficial / ig(Hela) –

It’s not often we see an actor playing an alien whose actual appearance isn’t a far cry from the character’s, and that’s why we think Cate as “Hela” is unique. The fact that she looks much more menacing with her smoky eyes and devilish smirk is a great bonus!

Simon Pegg as Unkar Plutt

In cases where CGI is sparsely used or not even employed, a lot of work goes into making the actors that play alien characters look as believable as possible. That was the case for Simon Pegg when he played the minor antagonist in the 2015 Star Wars movie.

(Simon Pegg) – Plutt) –

He had to put on thick layers of silicone to mimic “Unkar’s” body features. However, though the costume was great, a little CGI had to be employed to make him look totally different from Simon and more convincible as an alien junkyard scraper.

Seth Rogen as Paul

We have never seen a film with as many sci-fi movie references as we saw in Paul, the 2011 movie about an alien of the same name. Once we discovered that the main character, “Paul,” would be played by Seth Rogen, we knew what kind of movie to expect.

(Seth Rogen) – Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – Seth Rogen/ wiki commons / CC BY-SA 2.0(Paul) – bingesociety / youtube

Seth lent his voice as well as his charisma, attitude, and demeanor to “Paul,” making the character identical to him in persona. We can’t say the same for his physical attributes, though, as “Paul” himself is a bubbleheaded, big-eyed, green alien, which definitely doesn’t fit any of Seth’s physical attributes.

Lupita Nyong’o as Maz Kanata

Although many alien and humanoid characters in science fiction movies today are computer generated, the production companies still need a little help from the actors to make their appearance more life-like. And we’re not just talking about voice acting here, but actual acting whenever motion capture is being employed.

(Lupita Nyong) – Gage Skidmore / wiki commons / CC BY-SA 3.0(Maz Kanata) –

One example of such is “Maz Kanata” from the Star Wars franchise, played by the Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o. It was not how we’re used to seeing Lupita on the big screen, but she did a great job, and we absolutely loved her for it!

Bolaji Badejo as Alien

There are many actors that fit a role perfectly because of their expertise and how well they’re able to portray the character (think Bryan Cranston in Breaking Bad). On the other hand, many others fit a character because of their physical features, and Bolaji Badejo is one of them.

(Bolaji badejo) – – Paramount HE

He starred in the 1979 blockbuster, Alien and was cast for the role due to his unique build. Standing at six feet and ten inches, Bolaji was incredibly tall and also thin, hence perfect as an extraterrestrial being. Under all the costumes, at least.

Jason Cope had many roles

We are used to seeing one actor being assigned to a single role in many movies. But that wasn’t the case for Jason Cope in the sci-fi District 9, an Academy Award-nominated movie that was released in the year 2009.

(Jason Cope) – – keCmqeD / Imgur

He lent his voice to the narration of the film and gave a motion capture performance for his role in the movie as the alien, “Christopher,” who was entirely computer generated. That’s not surprising, considering how different the alien looks from Jason himself.

Josh Brolin as Thanos

2018 was a year of many big and unforgettable things, one of them being the mega-hit blockbuster, Avengers: Infinity War. One of the defining factors of the movie was the main antagonist, a fierce and formidable purple alien named “Thanos.”

(Josh Brolin) – joshbrolin / ig(Avengers) –

Although we never got the chance to be graced with his presence almost throughout the first Avengers film and its sequel, Josh Brolin was the man behind “Thanos.” Despite being computer generated, we do see some resemblance in the facial features of the character and the actor.

Eric Bana as Nero

There are some actors who get so into the character that they become barely recognizable. This can be because of their acting, their costume, or both. In Eric Bana’s case as “Nero” for the 2009 Star Trek movie, it was both.

(Eric Bana) – David Shankbone – Own work / wiki commons / CC BY 3.0(Nero) –

The vengeful and villainous character was the main antagonist of the movie. He was played wonderfully by Eric Bana, whose costume was so well made that even his own agent didn’t recognize him! Yes, the prosthetics, makeup, and costume were that good.

Rory McCann as Sandor Clegane

It’s not only sci-fi actors who have to endure hours in makeup to get the look of their character. Actors in fantasy movies go through that, too, especially those who play characters that aren’t meant to be human. Unfortunately for Rory McCann, he had to be transformed into “The hound” on Game of Thrones.

(Rory McCann) – TeamNovak / Flickr(The Hound) –

According to reports, the actor spent a staggering three and a half hours on a chair so the artists could achieve “Sandor Clegane’s” look. This isn’t surprising, judging by the stark differences between the two. The character sports shoulder-length hair and a droopy eye which the actor obviously doesn’t.

Jemaine Clement as Boris

People often forget that not too long ago, visual effects weren’t half as good as they are today. So, it was much better to use makeup and costumes for an actor playing a unique-looking character than using computers to generate these beings.

(Jemaine Clement) – Shutterstock(Boris) – IVAMovies

One example of such was Jemaine Clement in the third installment of the Men In Black movie franchise as “Boris.” It would usually take four hours (and, for the first time, eight!) to apply his makeup. With the large forehead wrinkles and unique teeth, Jemaine looked completely different from his actual self.

David Bowie as Jareth

Although he is widely known and recognized as a popular English singer and songwriter, it might surprise you to know that the legendary David Bowie also dipped his fingers into acting. The talented musician played a character in the 1986 movie Labyrinth.

(David Bowie) – Jimmy King / HBO(Jareth) – qikemcruz / ig

David played “Jareth,” a goblin king, and was pretty convincing in the role. With just spiky blonde hair and light makeup on, he became unrecognizable. As expected, he put his all into it, and we will fondly remember that performance forever.

Maïwenn Le Besco as Diva Plavalaguna

The 1997 film, The Fifth Element is a science fiction movie directed and co-written by Luc Besson. This guy also happened to be the husband of the beautiful Maïwen Le Besco at the time, who played the blue humanoid opera singer named “Diva Plavalaguna.”

(Maïwenn Le Besco) – Georges Biard / wiki commons / CC BY-SA 3.0(Alien) – David Myers / Pinterest

Just one look at the picture, and you can tell that Maïwen had to put on so many prosthetics to get “Diva’s” head structure and antennas. Additionally, she wore blue makeup all over her visible body parts to cover up her skin, making her look completely different from her actual self. 

Idris Elba as Krall

Just like Sofia Boutella, Idris Elba also had an equally time-consuming and intricate makeup routine on the set of Star Trek Beyond in 2016. The charming and talented British actor played “Krall” – a human military officer turned mutant warlord. 

(Idris Elba) – idriselba / ig(Krall) – Paramount Pictures

Honestly, we are not surprised that it took a lot of time to get this look. If we were asked to guess who played “Krall,” there’s no way we’d have said, Idris Elba. How can anyone tell it’s him under all those blue prosthetics that make him look like some kind of reptile?

Gemma Chan as Doctor Minerva

No one ever considers what the tasking parts of creating a sci-fi movie are for the actors. Even if they did, they would never think it would be the makeup and prosthetics. But if you’d ask Gemma Chan, we think she might disagree.

(Gemma Chan) – gemmachan / ig(Minn-Erva) – Chuck Zlotnick / Marvel Studios

It’s not just about how tiring it might be for the artists, but the actors too. Gemma had to wake up really early for the four-hour makeup session that turned her into the blue alien. She might not have liked it, but the results speak for themselves.

Mads Mikkelson as Kaecilius and Hannibal Lecter

Before Danish actor Mads Mikkelson was cast for a role in Doctor Strange, we all knew him for playing “Hannibal Lecter,” a cannibalistic serial killer. In the Marvel film, he played the villainous sorcerer, “Kaecilius.” He was very convincing in both, thanks to his brilliant acting and fantastic makeup.

(Mads Mikkelsen) – theofficialmads / ig(Kaecilius) – Marvel Studios

Mads had to sit down for a three-hour-long makeup session to turn him into “Kaecilius,” the highlight of his look being those intricate eyes. Although his transformation isn’t as stark compared to others on this list, it was still so good that anyone would have a hard time recognizing him.

Williem Dafoe as Tars Tarkas

Science fiction movies usually rely heavily on CGI, so it’s nice when we get great scenes or convincing extraterrestrial characters that don’t have much of it every now and then. “Tars Tarkas,” a compassionate warrior in John Carter, is one of those characters.

) (Willem Dafoe) – Martin Kraft – Own work / wiki commons / CC BY-SA 4.0(Tars Tarkas) –

The formidable William Dafoe did not just voice this character, oh no; he also got on three-foot-tall stilts while playing the alien, whose difference from Dafoe is incredibly staggering.  Isn’t that fantastic?! Being an actor sure sounds like fun sometimes.

Jacob Anderson as Grey Worm

Many characters in sci-fi movies, as well as fantasy films, have extremely unique backstories that affect their overall appearance. One such character is the “Grey Worm” from the HBO fantasy series, Game of Thrones, played by English actor Jacob Anderson.

(Jacob Anderson) – Gage Skidmore from Peoria, AZ, United States of America – JacobAnderson / wiki commons / CC BY-SA 2.0(Grey Worm) – HBO

In the series, “Grey Worm” was castrated during his childhood when he was just a slave, and as such, he retained some of his childlike features. This is well illustrated in the series thanks to the incredible makeup artists who made Jacob look very young when, in reality, he is a grown man.

Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Kurse

So far, we have seen actors and actresses who have put on all sorts of makeup and prosthetics to make them look different. But we haven’t seen an actor put on a forty-pound costume and fiberglass to fit into their role! 

) (Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje) – Benjamin Ellis / flickr(Algrim) –

That’s right, Adewale had to don such a heavy costume and undergo a makeup session lasting more than two hours to turn him into the formidable “Kurse.” With the huge facial prosthetic, costume, and makeup, there’s no way anyone could identify Adewale.

Emilia Clarke as Daenerys

Game of Thrones is by far one of the most memorable and successful television series of the past decade. It’s given us loads of memorable scenes, a bomb storyline, and of course, some great characters. “Daenerys Targaryen” just so happens to be one of those characters.

(Emilia Clarke) – emilia_clarke / ig(Daenerys) – HBO

Emila Clarke plays the role and is fantastic at it. She wears a blonde wig and a costume to get her in character. As the mother of dragons, we think she looks both stunning and fierce. Unlike most actors on the list, though, she doesn’t look all that different from the character.

Kevin Peter Hall as Predator

In many sci-fi movies today, there’s so much uniqueness in different characters that couldn’t have been achieved without technology. People often forget that before all the advancements in video editing and animation, makeup and costumes were the only options available.

(Kevin Peter Hall) – CyberpunkF1 / Reddit(Predator) –

Take the 1987 movie, Predator, for instance. The “Predator” in question was played by Kevin Peter Hall, whose unique frame and towering height made him the perfect match for the antagonist. He and the cast and crew did such a great job that the movie got nominated for an Oscar after its release.

Vladimir Furdik as the Night King

While both “Daenerys” and “Lord Varys” looks didn’t need that much work to be achieved, it was an entirely different case for the “Night King.” The character was played by Vladimir Furdik, and his look took a good six and a half hours to accomplish.

(Vladimir Furdik) – iltallguy / Reddit(Night King) – Sky Atlantic

The “Night King’s” pale blue prosthetics, including the eye contacts, really cloak Vladimir’s handsomeness. There is absolutely no way anyone would have ever guessed the man behind all that. We see why it took a quarter of a day to get right.

Terence Stamp as William Harcourt

The 1988 movie, Alien Nation, is a story about how an unlikely pair team up against a common enemy. It’s set in the early ’90s when humans in Los Angeles were cohabiting with a humanoid alien species, one of them being the co-worker of the main protagonist.

(Terrance Stamp) – Star wars insider(William Harcourt) –

Terence plays “William,” the movie’s main antagonist and the common enemy in question. Like all other members of his species, he bears a unique frame with his large head and eccentric facial features, making him look quite different from the actor.

Lena Heady as Cersei Lannister

As long as a character has great makeup on and some believable costume, we tend to love them and be intrigued by them. It doesn’t matter if they’re protagonists like “Hulk” or “Vision” from the MCU or “Tywin” and “Cersei Lannister” from Game of Thrones.

(Lena Heady) – iamlenaheadey / ig(Cersei Lannister) – HBO

Speaking of “Cersei Lannister,” the character was played wonderfully by Lena Heady, who donned medieval-looking costumes and long flowing golden hair, which later transitioned into a pixie cut. These changes made the character look even more distinct from the actress, who’s a brunette.

Conleth Hill as Lord Varys

Remember what we said earlier about Game of Thrones having great, multifaceted characters? Well, “Lord Varys” is another. The eunuch was a manipulator and had a similar style throughout his appearance in the series. Its main feature was a bald head.

(Conleth Hill) – Varys) – HBO – / wiki commons / Fair use

That’s a bit surprising, seeing as “Lord Varys” was played by Conleth Hill, who happens to have a full head of hair. It might be one detail, but it makes all the difference in making the character look entirely different from the actor.

Zachary Quinto as Spock

Zachary Quinto is no stranger to acting as an antagonist., He embodies each and every villainous character he’s cast to play perfectly. From series to movies, he’s played so many notable characters. One of his most memorable roles was “Spock.”

(Zachary Quinto) – Gage Skidmore / wiki commons / CC BY-SA 3.0(Spock) – Paramount Pictures

“Spock” is one of the main characters in the Star Trek franchise, and Zachary has played him in three movies so far. In each, he’s got the signature bowl cut and those incredibly arched brows that are a far cry from his own enviable ones!

Carice Van Houten as the Red woman

As a priestess in a fantasy series, you’d think “The Red Woman” would have a more elaborate look. However, the Game of Thrones makeup artists made a good call by making the character look quite simple yet menacing. Carice van Houten also did great by embodying the character.

(Carice van Houten) – leavecaricealone / ig(Melisandre) – HBO

In fact, she did it so well we didn’t even recognize her the first few times we saw her. That’s mainly due to the fact that she’s actually a brunette, not the redhead she’s portraying, and she doesn’t look half as pale as the priestess.

Vincent D’Onofrio as Edgar the Bug

Since the late ’90s, the Men in Black movie franchise has been an incredibly successful one with so many memorable scenes and notable characters. One of the characters we can’t help but think about every time we remember the movie is “Edgar the Bug.”

(Vincent D?Onofrio) – Jadewoolgar – Own work / wiki commons / CC BY-SA 4.0(Edgar the Bug) –

The terrorist (whose true form was actually a cockroach) was played by Vincent d’Onofrio, and unless “Edgar” was in his humanoid form, there was no telling Vincent was the man behind the gigantic roach. Even then, the demeanor he took on made him look completely different.

Hannah Murray as Gilly

Seeing Hannah Murray walking down a red carpet and comparing her to “Gilly,” a character she plays on Game of Thrones, really makes us appreciate makeup artists. We gained a whole new perspective on the power of makeup and clothing on one person and just how transformative a few changes can be.

(Hannah Murray) – Gage Skidmore / wiki commons / CC BY-SA 3.0(Gilly) – GoTSeason / Youtube

She’s been seen as a blonde and redhead, but on the show, she plays the brunette “Gilly,” a mother and one of the “free folk.” Once she ditches those dirty, raggedy clothes and gets a different hair color, you can hardly tell it’s the same person.

Natasha Henstridge as Eve and Sil

In the 1995 sci-fi movie, Species, a human-alien hybrid escapes from a facility and tries her best (and by her best, we mean really, really hard) to find a mate to procreate with. The hybrid in question was played by Natasha Henstridge.

(Natasha Henstridge) – natashahenstridge / ig(Sil) – Gatunek

Her alien form is truly astounding and incredibly different from the actress herself. It’s got metallic skin with antenna-like hair (that somewhat resembles “Medusa’s”) and details all around her body. The only thing the character and actress really have in common is their tall frame.

Jason Mamoa as The Great Khal

Some people are just the perfect fit for a role by virtue of their mere existence. They don’t even need to do too much to get into the persona they ought to play; it just comes naturally. We like to believe this was the case with Jason Mamoa as “Khal Drogo.”

(Jason Momoa) – prideofgypsies / ig(Khal Drogo) – HBO

Besides the tribal tattoos and his unique features, Jason has this sort of “tribal king” aura going on, which was instrumental in him playing “Khal” perfectly. However, he still needed a little help from makeup artists to truly bring the character to life.

Taika Waititi as Korg

The Marvel Cinematic Universe has got to be one of the biggest franchises in the film industry today. It’s seen a lot of characters, most of which are based on comics, come and go, and one of those characters happens to be “Korg.”

(Taika Waititi) – Gage Skidmore / wiki commons / CC BY-SA 3.0(Korg) – SurfintheThreads / Reddit

Voiced by Taika Waititi, “Korg” was first introduced in Thor: Ragnarok as a gladiator forced to battle. Like many animated characters, he looks nothing like his actor, and it actually interested us to know who the voice was behind one of our beloved Marvel warriors.

Kristian Nairn as Hodor

To end our list, we have “Hodor,” a simpleminded yet loyal servant in Game Of Thrones. His adult role was played to perfection by Irish actor Kristian Nairn. Like several other actors on our list, he was perfect for the part, thanks to his acting chops and his physique.

(Kristian Nairn) – Gage Skidmore / wiki commons / CC BY-SA 3.0(Hodor) – HBO

“Hodor” has always been a big guy since he was little. He also has incredible strength and is capable of vicious violence even though he doesn’t instigate it himself. Kristian is six feet and eight inches tall, so with that height, a bushy beard, and the right costume, he made us all fall in love.