Television

The many transformations of ten famous actors who are also in CBC shows

From Henry Cavill to Idris Elba, take a look at how these ten stars have transformed over their careers.

They take their craft seriously, just take a look at how they transformed over their careers.

( Left to right: Stanley Tucci, Serinda Swan, Henry Cavill, Alexander Skarsgård and Idris Elba.)

Acting is a Sisyphean task that requires not only mental but also physical transformation — hours spent in hair and makeup, exercising, taking various kinds of training to truly embody and become the character. 

There are quite a few extraordinary transformations we know of: Robert De Niro in Raging Bull, Christian Bale in The Machinist, Charlize Theron in Monster, and who could forget Tom Hanks in Castaway. "Wilsooooon"!  

Well, we have a few of our own noteworthy "transformers" to boast about. These stars have appeared in everything from Superman, Mission Impossible, Inhumans and The Magicians to Beetlejuice, Thor, Avengers, The Man in the Iron Mask, The Wire and, we're proud to say, our CBC shows like Coroner, Fortunate Son, The Tudors and many other shows and movies. 

With careful crafting of their skill, dedication and sometimes years of perfecting, our mavericks forged remarkable characters taking us along on a fervent journey. 

Scroll through to see who they are and their decorated career metamorphoses.

Henry Cavil

Talk about taking the task of character embodiment seriously, we see you Henry Cavill! His latest role in The Witcher has him at the top of his game and looking creepy and sexy at the same time. Go figure. But he does a complete 360° in Mission Impossible: Fallout where he stars alongside Tom Cruise, and then another one in Superman/The Man of Steel and Justice League. Not to mention his countless other roles where he looks completely different: Stardust, Count of Monte Cristo, Immortals, etc.

The Witcher transformation is insane and Cavill revealed, during an appearance on The Graham Norton Show, that he had to systematically dehydrate for three days in order to look as shredded as possible in those shirtless scenes. He added: "It makes your skin really thin, so it sits on the muscles," explaining that he'd start with one litre of water on day one and gradually decrease the intake and by day three he would have no water, only to shoot on day four.

In The Tudors, which you can watch for free on CBC Gem, Cavill portrays a young and vibrant bachelor Charles Brandon/Duke of Suffolk a.k.a King Henry VIII's best friend, who flawlessly morphs into a much older version of the character. The amazing makeup and wardrobe team had him look convincing.

If you haven't seen The Tudors yet, it better be on your binge list because this one is a must watch. Put it on your re-watch list too, if you ask me!

Catherine O'Hara

Catherine O'Hara is a Canadian legend! Her resume sheet goes on and on: from Beetlejuice, Home Alone, SCTV, A Series of Unfortunate Events and A Mighty Wind to Killers to Away We Go, For Your Consideration and even Six Feet Under, Modern Family, and 30 Rock. But, most importantly Schitt's Creek where she once again stars opposite Eugene Levy! She's the ultimate metamorph.

The many looks of Moira Rose in Schitt's Creek are out of this world and this character will quite possibly go down in history as one of the most memorable characters ever written… and dressed. Her wigs will also have their own special place in the history of TV books.

Her style was not inspired by Madonna but that doesn't stop fans from comparing the two. There's even a Twitter account called MadgeOrMoira.

Stanley Tucci

A decorated award winning actor who's been in the business from a young age, Stanley Tucci is one of those recognizable actors — until he transforms into a character. Then people don't mistake him for Mark Strong.

(Mark Strong vs. Stanley Tucci.)

Tucci's on-screen track record has everything from comedy to drama, among many: Miami Vice, Monk, Frasier, Beauty and the Beast with Emma Watson, The King's Man and The Hunger Games — earning countless awards (Emmy, Tony, Golden Globe, ect) and nominations including an Academy Award nom for best supporting actor in The Lovely Bones.

Ah, now you remember! His performance in CBC's neo-noir series Fortitude, where he plays a detective, is impeccable and again completely different from his previous roles.

John Malkovich

John Malkovich. Enough said! As of early this year, he ventured into a new TV role in HBO's The New Pope alongside Jude Law. But he's been in the business for as long as, well, forever and there's no way we can list all of his high profile movies but, to name a few: Mary Reily with Julia Roberts, Con Air with Nicholas Cage, The Man in the Iron Mask with Leonardo DiCaprio, Places in the Heart, Dangerous Liaisons, The Great Buck Howard, Colour Me Kubrick, Making Mr. Right, Changeling alongside Angelina Jolie. And there are many many more.

Seems that everything he does turns to gold and his sly performance in The ABC Murders, based on Agatha Christie's novel of the same name, is a testament. 

The audience gets to see one of Christie's most famous and long-running characters, Hercule Poirot, in a new light as Malkovich inhabits him in the show — where he has to contend with a series of killings by a mysterious murderer known only as "A.B.C." 

Biz New Orleans magazine featured some of his other photographed transformations where he morphed into known pop culture personalities. Mind blown!

Actor John Malkovich and fine art photographer Sandro Miller recreated 61 iconic photographs at The Mac-Gryder Gallery. (Sandro Miller)

Kacey Rohl

Kacey Rohl is a true chameleon who also likes to change it up in real life. 

She became one of 2019 TIFF rising stars for her role in White Lie where she dared to go full on bald. And, in no particular order, Rohl moved on to portray a dangerous leather and lace hedge witch, Marina, in The Magicians, another tough and unflappable character named Kerry Campbell in Wayward Pines, Alena Whitlock/Kojo Sledgehammer in a recurring role in the fifth, sixth, and seventh seasons of Arrow, and strong-headed Prudence alongside Amanda Seyfried in Red Riding Hood

Rohl also appeared in The Killing and Hannibal but our favourite, of course, is her role in CBC's Fortunate Son.

Looking very different, fab and on point in real life too.

Serinda Swan

Another Canadian star who wears many different and magnificent looks is Serinda Swan. She's a transformer in real life as much as in her career, and she pulls off a mean Marilyn Monroe look.

The plethora of roles she's been in are so varied. She shines in all of them, changing from pink haired Medusa in Inhumans to biker chick Maggie in Blood Ride and a hotel management executive Chloe in Ballers opposite Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson. Swan also appeared in Breakout Kings, Graceland and in Smallville as Zatanna Zatara.

Of course, our fave character of hers has to be Dr. Jenny Cooper from CBC's Coroner where she dives deep into the role's core raw emotion portraying real life struggles and showing us once again that there's no character she can't tackle and embody with conviction.

Coroner follows the life of the fierce and quick-witted Dr. Jenny Cooper (Serinda Swan), who investigates sudden or unexplained deaths as a coroner in Toronto. (CBC)

Swan is probably one of the most transformable celebrities who can pull off any hairstyle and colour. Check out her IG for even more looks.

Jonathan Rhys Meyers

Jonathan commands every screen and owns his characters, whether as Alexander Grayson/Vlad Tepes in Dracula, a '70s glam superstar Brian Slade in Velvet Goldmine, Bishop Heahmund in Vikings or as an icon like Elvis.

He's also done movies including Mission Impossible III and Matchpoint, and TV series such as Vanity Fair. But, his King Henry VIII in The Tudors — where he plays a character who ages over a few seasons — is perfection. He takes you on a love/hate rollercoaster ride as you watch him scheme, behead his many wives, go to war and so much more.

This show is such a must watch!

Alexander Skarsgård

Everyone knows Tarzan, so when Skarsgård became him in The Legend of Tarzan, many enjoyed seeing their childhood hero resurrected on the big screen. And the fact that he portrayed him so well just made the movie that much better. The physical transformation from lean to buff made him look like a completely different person. Yes, the foundation was already there but if you saw him in one of his other known roles, like Eric Northman in the HBO series True Blood or Perry Wright in the television series Big Little Lies, you know how different he can look.

Some have compared him to a young Viggo Mortensen.

He seems to be looking a little more like he does in real life in The Little Drummer Girl.

Vanity Fair reported that Skarsgård showed up in drag to the premiere of his film The Diary of a Teenage Girl. His best transformation yet. Unrecognizable!

Idris Elba

Elba's been in several popular Hollywood movies including Ridley Scott's American Gangster, Prometheus, and in the role of Heimdall in Thor and its sequels The Dark World and Ragnarok as well as Avengers: Age of Ultron and Infinity War, Beasts of No Nation and Star Trek Beyond. He also plays Nelson Mandela in the biographical film Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom and stars in many other high profile movies and shows, but we'll let the pictures speak for themselves.

He's also got a pretty decent roster of shows under his acting belt: HBO series The Wire, where he plays a drug dealer named Stringer Bell, and as the titular detective Luther.

(CBC)

Tatiana Maslany

Best known for portraying multiple characters in the sci-fi series Orphan Black, Tatiana Maslany is also a household CBC name who can hold her own and shine bright opposite bigwigs like Viggo Mortensen and Naomi Watts in Eastern Promises, Rachel McAdams and Channing Tatum in The Vow, Nicole Kidman in the Destroyer or Ryan Reynolds and Helen Mirren in Woman in Gold.

She also appeared in a few of our CBC shows and movies: Heartland, Cracked, Picture Day and Being Erica.

Her Orphan Black character transforms so many times.

We're only scratching the surface, but hope you enjoyed taking this look at stars transforming before our eyes.

You can watch their CBC appearances on CBC Gem.

About the Author

Vanja Mutabdzija Jaksic is a producer, journalist and a perpetual optimist who loves a good show/film, breathes music, writes poetry, and dabbles in tech and innovative ways of storytelling (including through XR/VR/AR/MR). You can find her stories at cbc.ca/television and cbc.ca/comedy or follow her on Twitter and Instagram: @neptunes_blues.

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