A FanSpeak phrase: this is what you say to yourself when [[TomHanksSyndrome someone gets their first serious role, instead of the goof-off they've always been,]] and you're at least half-expecting a train wreck, and then... wow! They pull it off! Turns out He Really Can Act afterall.

The in-universe version is MasterActor.
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!!Examples:

* [[Creator/LaurelAndHardy Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy]] got their chance to show their chops in their comedy feature ''A Chump At Oxford''. After Stan bonks his head and becomes Lord Paddington, he convincingly adopts an intelligent, educated, upper crust persona that couldn't be more different from the bumbling oaf he usually played. And Ollie, after being pushed one time too many by "Lord Paddington", uncorks his pent up frustration with a very convincing angry tirade.
** Oliver Hardy would later have the chance to play a proper dramatic role alongside Creator/JohnWayne in ''The Fighting Kentuckian'' where he still had some identifiable "Ollie" mannerisms but didn't play the part for laughs and spoke his own more pronounced Southern accent (which he usually suppressed for the Creator/LaurelAndHardy comedies).
* Creator/HughLaurie's star turn in ''Series/{{House}}'' would have been surprising to American audiences had they already been familiar with his work in British comedy. Not that anyone ever doubted his comedic chops, of course. The initial British reaction to hearing about the ''House'' series was to either avoid it, believing Hugh Laurie in drama would be a disaster, or to watch it solely to see if he could pull it off. The buzz the show generated in Britain was huge when consensus agreed that Hugh Laurie was ''good'' at drama.
* Most see Creator/BenStiller as a one dimensional comedy actor. Those people haven't seen ''Greenberg''. In Greenberg Stiller's a 40 something who hasn't really figured out what he wants to do with his life and is completely fine with that. He arrives at a crossroads when he gets involved with his brother's much younger secretary. Stiller's character is probably the least flat character he has played by a long shot.
** He also impressed in ''The Secret Life of Walter Mitty''. Most of Stiller's characters have been arrogant, sarcastic and short-tempered. His performance here shows that he can not only play completely against type but he gives an astonishingly understated performance and makes the audience fall in love with a character who could easily have been portrayed as hopelessly dull or delusional in another actor's hands.
* AvanJogia,known to some as Beck from the Nickelodeon show ''Victorious'',is now currently starring as the main character in the hit abc family drama/mystery ''Twisted''. His performance in ''Twisted'' really shows how well he can actually act when given a larger role and a more serious atmosphere.
** JakeTAustin also stars in a hit abc family drama called TheFosters. His character and performance in TheFosters is a stark contrast to his Cloudcuckoolander counterpart character on WizardsOfWaverlyPlace
* KevinBacon, commonly known as a teen movie star for most of his career, had almost ended that career when he starred in ''AFewGoodMen''. Critics also loved him in ''Film/TheWoodsman''. He was also excellent in ''Film/MurderInTheFirst''. And, on the other side of the fence from ''Film/MurderInTheFirst'', as well as being in a similar vein to ''Film/TheWoodsman'', he was wonderfully disturbing as a child-raping reformatory guard in ''Sleepers''. Then there was his phenomenal performance in ''{{Film/Apollo 13}}''. He also won praise for his portrayal of Sebastian Shaw in ''Film/XMenFirstClass'', particularly as everyone had dismissed him as too goofy, and he promptly proved them wrong. [[EvilIsCool Very wrong]]. ''The Woodsman'' also had a terrific example in Mos Def. His monologue about the child who had been torn apart by a rapist is both chilling and a Tear Jerker.
** Another one by Mos Def in the TV biopic ''SomethingTheLordMade'' where he played pioneering black cardiac surgeon Vivien Thomas. He managed to not only hold his ground but possibly surpassed it against Creator/AlanRickman. Mos Def was nominated for a Golden Globe and an Emmy.
*** Mos has also received praise for his performance in the sixth season of ''Series/{{Dexter}}''.
* Ask the ''KingdomHearts'' fandom, and most will say that the prologue for ''Kingdom Hearts II'' took a turn for the heart-wrenching towards the end. The sob-inducing performance of Roxas? Yeah, that was ''JesseMcCartney''. Same goes for Alyson Stoner (the English voice of Xion) in ''358/2 Days''.
** And if you were still unconvinced by Jesse in [=KH2=], then ''[[VideoGame/KingdomHeartsBirthBySleep Birth By Sleep]]'' and ''[[VideoGame/KingdomHearts358DaysOver2 358/2 Days]]'' will change your opinion.
** Here's another example: see him acting as Robin/Nightwing in ''WesternAnimation/YoungJustice.'' He gets to display a wider range of emotions in his role as Dick Grayson than in most of his other roles. DC fans who worried that a "pretty boy who can't act" would butcher one of the most beloved comic characters in history were silenced. His performance has always been solid- but he has moments of absolute brilliance every now and then. See "Disordered" and "Darkest" for proof.
** For a live-action example, check out ''[[http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0435679 Keith]]''. Though it can be argued that his character is something of a male ManicPixieDreamGirl, he plays well with the female lead, who is portrayed by Elisabeth Harnois.
* This is one of the reasons ''Film/TheTrumanShow'' is widely considered to be JimCarrey's best movie.
** Don't forget ''EternalSunshineOfTheSpotlessMind''. A much more StraightMan role for Jim.
** And ''TheMajestic''.
** Try ''Doing Time on Maple Drive''.
** Or ''Film/ILoveYouPhillipMorris''.
** And ''Film/ManOnTheMoon''
* EmilyOsment in {{Dadnapped}} and the SeriesFinale to HannahMontana
* ColinFirth was known primarily for being a cute British guy in some fluffy romantic comedies, but then he was cast as [[TheHouseOfWindsor George VI]] in ''TheKingsSpeech'', and nails a performance of a man who is both unprepared for the Crown and never wanted the job to begin with. His friendship with his speech therapist is wonderfully heartwarming, but the scene in which he [[TheWoobie breaks into tears]] with his wife, under the pressure of TheChainsOfCommanding, are what shows he deserved that Oscar.
* Creator/WillFerrell in ''Film/StrangerThanFiction'' and ''Film/EverythingMustGo''.
** And then there's his surprising heartwarming portrayal in ''Film/TheLEGOMovie'' as [[spoiler:The Man Upstairs, a.k.a. Finn's dad.]]
* A lot of viewers had this reaction to ZacEfron in ''SeventeenAgain''. His acting really is much better in this film than it is in his [[HighSchoolMusical more famous films]], especially since he's a 22 year old, playing a 37 year old turned into a 17 year old.
** Not to mention his even role in ''MeAndOrsonWelles'', which is receiving fair reviews.
** In ''{{Hairspray}}'' too.
** And ''Charlie St. Cloud''.
** Basically, Zac Efron is a good actor whose StarMakingRole had a very large PeripheryHatedom.
* The performances of RickMoranis and SteveMartin in ''Film/LittleShopOfHorrors'' were top-notch, not just in acting, but singing, too.
** Little known fact: Steve Martin was already a professional singer before launching off as a comedian.
* Speaking of SteveMartin, he played ''completely'' against type as Arthur Parker in the film version of ''PenniesFromHeaven'', only his second film after TheJerk. He proved there that he can act (and dance, too).
** He also does some first-rate work in ''Parenthood'' as a father facing the challenges of raising children with deep emotional problems that he realizes he can't fix. The scene where he lashes out at his boss for giving a promotion to a less deserving, morally bankrupt colleague and when his wife reveals that she is pregnant show just how angry his character is at the world.
* Creator/AdamSandler has been getting due to more serious films like ''ReignOverMe'' and ''FunnyPeople''.
** Seth Rogen's performance in ''Funny People'' was praised even in negative reviews of the film. While few critics consider him a ''bad'' actor, he was never much of a critical darling as a leading man.
** Sandler previously felt this effect from his role in ''Punch-Drunk Love''; however, that time, his dramatic turn didn't quite stick, and he went right back to doing goofy slapstick movies.
** ''Click'' too.
* EddieMurphy's performance in ''Film/{{Dreamgirls}}'' has been described like this. In fact, it's said that he could've won an Oscar for his performance had ''Film/{{Norbit}}'' not been released before the Academy voted.
** Beyonce Knowles in ''Film/{{Dreamgirls}}'' really shone. Just when it had been so easy to write her off, too...
* Creator/SylvesterStallone in ''Film/CopLand''.
** Interestingly, Stallone was wildly praised for his performance in the original ''Film/{{Rocky}}'' movie, with Creator/RogerEbert comparing him to Creator/MarlonBrando. Same thing with ''Film/FirstBlood'', only for both franchises to turn into simpler, more stereotypical action movies.
*** Same for ''Film/RockyV'' and ''RockyBalboa,'' which went closer to the feel of the first film.
*** Speaking of ''First Blood'', the [[ShellShockedVeteran ending of that film]] should convince anyone that he can act.
* Creator/JeanClaudeVanDamme in ''Film/{{JCVD}}''.
* WillSmith's rising career was down to a series of steps where he would set himself up with fans with his winning smiling, slightly goofy and fun personality and then use a dose of serious acting to establish his credibility and then open himself up to a bigger audience.
** In the episode of ''Series/FreshPrinceOfBelAir'' where his absentee father returns and [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GmerFuzRNZ4 yet again abandons him.]]
*** [[TearJerker "How come he don't want me, man?"]]
** The 1993 film adaptation of the play ''Film/SixDegreesOfSeparation'', his first movie role, in which he had the very challenging role of a very sweet, complicated [[spoiler:con artist]] and aced it.
** WillSmith in ''The Legend of Bagger Vance'' and ''Ali'', which was certainly needed after the huge dud of ''Film/WildWildWest''. If he didn't prove himself as an actor, it is likely that no one could have respected him after that. This was crystallized by his role in the utterly emotional ''ThePursuitOfHappyness''.
** ''Film/IAmLegend'' wasn't perfect, but this scene solidified it:
-->'''Neville:''' "I promised a friend I would say hello to you today. [[SanitySlippage Hello.]]"
--> [[{{Beat}} (starts to cry)]]\\
'''Neville:''' [[TearJerker "Please say hello to me."]]
* John C. Reilly went for a sort of meta example of this in ''WalkHard'', since we already knew he was a good actor, but in character, he has a lot of OscarBait-style "deep acting moments", like pulling the sinks off the wall a la ''WalkTheLine''. Also stretching the idea of playing the character from the youngest age possible, in this case 14, to oldest, as late 70's.
** Also on Reilly, his role in the movie ''Film/{{Chicago}}''. He can really sing and dance!
*** It was ''Film/BoogieNights'' (1997) that gave him the opportunity to serve notice on how versatile and intelligent a character actor he really was (as it also did for Philip Seymour Hoffman).
* Creator/RobinWilliams in ''OneHourPhoto'' gives a restrained and finely-nuanced performance as the photo store guy who's (probably) stalking a family with sinister intent. Who knew, eh?
** He has had several other sedate, respectable roles before ''One Hour Photo'', though (perhaps most notably in ''GoodWillHunting'', which he got an Oscar for).
** ''DeadPoetsSociety'', people! Earlier than that, there was the TV-movie adaptation of ''Seize The Day'' (no relation to ''DPS''), and of course ''The World According To Garp''... but people weren't really paying attention to those when they came out. They ''wanted'' wacky [[MorkAndMindy Mork]]-Robin. How times change...
** And ''Film/MoscowOnTheHudson'', ''{{Awakenings}}'', ''Film/BeingHuman'', etc...
*** To paraphrase a post-Oscar moment (which Williams received for ''GoodWillHunting''), when an interviewer asks him how he felt about taking on such a serious role: "I went to Juilliard!"
** Another example is his terrifying performance on ''Series/LawAndOrderSpecialVictimsUnit'' as an amoral psychologist screwing with people in real-life versions of the BavarianFireDrill (at first) before escalating to the infamous Milgram Authority Experiment.
* In an odd example, HilaryDuff's performance seems to be the only thing in ''WarInc.'' which the critics ''did'' like.
** ''Raise Your Voice'' is a much earlier example. The only reason it bombed was because of the demographic issues. It was too mature for her pre-teen fans.
* LindsayLohan in ''GeorgiaRule'' although it received mostly negative reviews, most critics praised her acting and said that her performance was the best part of the film.
** Lohan has shown that she's pretty good at playing more than one character, in such films as her debut ''TheParentTrap'' and ''Film/FreakyFriday2003''. Her impression of JamieLeeCurtis in the latter is uncanny. However, the winning streak ended with ''Film/IKnowWhoKilledMe'' - Lohan appeared to have a lot of trouble working with prosthetic special-effects makeup.
** It's more that people forgot she could act. She gained praise for her very first movie, "Film/TheParentTrap". Being that her performance in her last major movie, ''Film/IKnowWhoKilledMe'' is still pretty fresh in people's mind.
* JohnWayne is an older example of this. After seeing ''RedRiver'' (directed by Ford's friend, Howard Hawks) Creator/JohnFord famously said, "I didn't know the big lug could act."
* In his review of ''Film/InglouriousBasterds'', {{Moviebob}} captioned the photo of Creator/EliRoth with the phrase "When did ''he'' learn to act?" There was also Mike Myers' OneSceneWonder.
* Brendan Fraser has appeared in movies ranging from crap like ''{{Monkeybone}}'' to comedies like ''Film/GeorgeOfTheJungle'' to campy blockbusters like ''TheMummyTrilogy'' and ''JourneyToTheCenterOfTheEarth''. While his acting was fairly good, his role on ''Series/{{Scrubs}}'' seriously shows his chops as an actor. He also turned out to be a man of a thousand voices - listen to the audio books he's narrated.
** ''Film/GodsAndMonsters'', anyone? If you're sharing the screen with Sir Ian [=McKellen=], just holding your own has to qualify.
** Also ''Literature/TheQuietAmerican''.
** While ''BlastFromThePast'' wasn't exactly the most serious fare of his career, he did play a sheltered, socially-awkward gentleman very convincingly.
** Audio Books? How about Inkspell? He's the vocal inspiration for one of the roles! (Mo. And he played him in the well casted ''Literature/{{Inkheart}}'' movie.)
* JeriRyan's debut on ''Series/StarTrekVoyager'' was met with a degree of eye-rolling from the fanbase: "Oh great, here comes a shameless attempt at MsFanservice, {{Narm}} ahoy, etc..." Then came that episode where she had to manifest a dozen different personalities in twenty minutes... HiddenDepths indeed.
** "Drone," "One," and "The Voyager Conspiracy" all served as excellent and impressive episodes for her character and her acting ability.
** "Body and Soul" was also a very good episode for Jeri Ryan, as she had basically act as the Doctor...which she does flawlessly, right down to all of Robert Picardo's little ticks and mannerisms.
** Garrett Wang in "Timeless," the [[GoodTroiEpisode really good Harry Kim episode]].
** She also did well as a temporary substitute for Gina Bellman in ''Series/{{Leverage}}'', to the point that she occasionally returned for several episodes even after Gina returned to the show.
* Much of the young adult cast (the "Golden Trio", in particular) of the ''Film/HarryPotter'' franchise have been receiving relieved sighs from critics, who recognize that, as they've grown, they've all truly grown into their characters. DanielRadcliffe, who starred (nude, yes) in ''{{Equus}}'' in London's West End (and other places afterwards), also received positive reviews overall... And come to think of it, there are plenty of child actors that developed into, you know, actual actors.
** Emma Watson's crying after Hermione's fight with Ron in ''Goblet Of Fire''? Passable but seriously over the top. Her crying in ''Half Blood Prince'' when Harry is comforting her after seeing Ron kissing Lavender? Genuine TearJerker.
* Jamie Foxx earned his stripes with ''Ray''.
** ''{{Collateral}}''.
** ''TheSoloist'', as well.
* Colin Baker, aka the Sixth Doctor was widely considered the worst from his short TV tenure on ''Series/DoctorWho''. When the actor reprised the role for the [[AudioPlay/BigFinishDoctorWho Big Finish audio dramas]], he was later voted the ''best''.
** The Creator/BigFinish Audios also gave [[RescuedFromTheScrappyHeap pretty epic upgrades]] to some of the [[TheScrappy scrappier]] companions, such as [[ScreamingWoman Mel]] and [[MsFanservice Peri]].
* Whether Creator/ArthurDarvill was any good at acting in his earlier career was mostly up for debate due to the fact that he spent most of it playing back up for a much more [[Series/TheSootyShow famous]] teddy bear, and now... well, watch any episode of ''Series/DoctorWho'' he's in and you'll see what this guy can do. His conversation with Amy in "The Pandorica Opens" is arguably his best scene.
** This scene in "A Good Man Goes to War" shows that he can act a BadAss:
--> '''Rory''': I have a message and a question. A message from the Doctor... and a question from me. Where. Is. My. Wife?! Oh, don't give me those blank looks! The 12th Cyber Legion monitors this entire quadrant. You hear everything. So you tell me what I need to know, you tell me now. And I will be on my way...
--> '''Cybermen''': What is the Doctor's message?
--> (''The entire fleet explodes'')
--> '''Rory''': Would you like me to repeat the question?
** His turn as the male lead in the musical ''Once'' is astonishing. He sings! He plays guitar! He's got a great Irish accent!
* After Catherine Tate landed the role of Donna in ''DoctorWho'', many doubted she could she'd adapt to a more serious role from [[TheCatherineTateShow her catchphrase comedy]]. Not only did she manage to do that, but the writers also retained elements of her notorious "Am I bovvered?" character and ''actually made them funnier''.
* Owen Wilson in Creator/WesAnderson films: ''The Royal Tenenbaums'' and ''The Life Aquatic With Steve Zissou''.
** Speaking of ''Royal Tennenbaums'', typically sophomoric movie actor Ben Stiller convincingly plays a grieving, tightly-wound widower.
* When [[DesperateHousewives Teri Hatcher]] is cast as the Other Mother in ''WesternAnimation/{{Coraline}}'', let's just say that most people didn't expect her to pull it off ''that'' well.
* Channing Tatum, mostly known for being reasonably hot and dancing in ''Step Up'' and after being a critical punching bag for some time , actually pulled off a really powerful and tragic performance in ''A Guide To Recognizing Your Saints'', even going so far as to have a Method moment and throwing a table through a window in an unscripted and highly emotional scene. Has also been winning over critics a lot with his role in 21 Jump Street where he was not only very funny but many thought he stole the film from Jonah Hill. His role in Magic Mike has also been getting him some Dramatic praise as well. ◦ It helped that Magic Mike is loosely based on his own experiences as a male stripper.
** Even Dear John. Watch the scene where he's reading the letter to his father [[spoiler: who dies while he's reading it]] and try not to cry
* Frank Sinatra crooned and hoofed his way through ''Anchors Aweigh'' and ''On The Town'', and then won an Oscar as Maggio in ''From Here To Eternity''. In his acceptance speech, he admitted that he was just a "song-and-dance man." (One that would go on to play several more Oscar-worthy roles, such as ''The Man With the Golden Arm'', and ''Suddenly'', where he plays a stone-cold psychopath.)
** Not to mention his performance in ''TheManchurianCandidate''.
* Doc Hammer of ''WesternAnimation/TheVentureBrothers'' had this reaction to ''himself''. In the DVDCommentary to ''The Invisible Hand Of Fate'', he says that normally he and Jackson Publick are reading the lines for [[ManOfAThousandVoices their many side characters]], they're pretty much just reading the lines in a funny voice without even trying to act. In that particular episode, Doc discovered his acting chops, pointing out the scene where Billy Quizboy angrily confronts the people manipulating him.
* ''Film/EdwardScissorhands'' got this kind of attention for JohnnyDepp. During his ''Series/TwentyOneJumpStreet'' days he had been thought of more as a teen mag coverboy than an actor (a situation that did not make him happy).
* Dick Powell was a regular song-and-dance man in the forties used to doing lighthearted musicals, but his turn as a jaded and cynical private detective in ''Film/MurderMySweet'' was spot-on.
* VincentPrice is normally thought of a quite a LargeHam, more campy than generally scary. Even in straight-up horror suspense pictures like ''Film/HouseOnHauntedHill1959'', there's a fun quality to his character. Until you watch ''Witchfinder General'' (aka ''The Conquerer Worm''), where he's utterly terrifying.
** Or if you watch ''Dragonwyk'' where he deftly pulls off the charming leading man, capable of seducing GeneTierney. It's a role Gregory Peck was originally supposed to play.
** Anyone who still doubts Price's acting chops should see his role in ''Film/TheSongOfBernadette''.
*** Or listen to some of his old radio acting, especially his appearances on ''Suspense''.
* Who knew that Sean Hayes, the guy that played a bimbo CampGay [[WillAndGrace for years]], could act out a breakdown [[Series/{{Scrubs}} so easily]]?
* A lot of people said this about Creator/FarrahFawcett in ''The Burning Bed''.
* PattonOswalt getting an actual subplot after a few episodes of just being a joke-spouting friend on ''UnitedStatesOfTara''.
** Patton was amazing in ''BigFan''.
*** Don't forget ''WesternAnimation/{{Ratatouille}}''!
*** And he's had a recurring role on the 4th season of ''Justified'', soon to be followed by some guest work on the 2nd season of ''TheNewsroom''.
** Hell, Toni Colette on ''UnitedStatesOfTara''. Not only portraying five people living in the same body of varying ages and genders, but playing the main personality ''badly impersonating'' one of the other personalities. Wow.
*** ''Muriel's Wedding''.
*** And in ''Series/{{Dollhouse}}'''s GrowingTheBeard episode, "Man On The Street".
* Mo'Nique, whose entire filmography up until this point had consisted of [[LowestCommonDenominator low-brow]] comedies, shocked ''everyone'' with her portrayal of an abusive, mentally unstable mother in ''{{Precious}}'', a role which earned her a much-deserved Oscar.
** MariahCarey's performance in the same film was also praised.
* Although critics nowadays are generally big fans of LeonardoDiCaprio, his iconic role of Jack Dawson in ''Film/{{Titanic}}'' annoyed so many male viewers that it took him several following roles for them to begrudgingly admit that he's not just a [[{{Bishonen}} pretty boy]] actor any more.
** So they forgot ''Film/WhatsEatingGilbertGrape?'' He was awesome in that.
** For others, his real breakout performance was in ''TheDeparted''. Although ''BloodDiamond'' from the same year should be mentioned right next to it.
** The last holdouts were almost certainly converted by ''Film/ShutterIsland'' and/or ''Film/{{Inception}}.''
** And for ''anyone else'', there's his [[PlayingAgainstType role]] in ''Film/DjangoUnchained''.
* KristenStewart, best known for playing [[Literature/{{Twilight}} Bella Swan]], got this reaction with her performance as JoanJett in the {{biopic}} ''Film/TheRunaways''.
** She already had a [[Film/CatchThatKid good performance]] to her name.
*** From earlier on, ''PanicRoom'', especially [[spoiler:the hypoglycemic fit]] while trapped with her mother in said room.
*** ''{{Speak}}'' is a great performance too.
*** ''Film/{{Adventureland}}'' also counts, with a surprisingly realistic performance.
** Perhaps her most admired performance so far is her role as a prostitute from ''WelcomeToTheRileys''.
** Stewart seems to be a genuinely talented actress; she's simply best known for a role whose motivations and lines are incredibly hard to communicate convincingly.
*** Sadly, both she and Robert Pattinson seem to get this because of ''Twilight''. Even though both have proven to be capable actors, reviews of their newer non-''Twilight'' movies seem to have shades of this.
* Billy Connolly in a number of smaller roles, but the breakout is probably the film ''Mrs Brown''. As well as ''TheBoondockSaints'' franchise in which he plays the stoic, [[BadassGrandpa aging yet ruthless]] HitmanWithAHeart.
** Anyone who's surprised by Billy Connolly's acting ability obviously hasn't seen his stand-up, where he plays hundreds of characters of varying voices and accents. There's an early video of him playing a man doing a quiet AnguishedDeclarationOfLove, only to let off a fart in the middle of it.
* Neil Patrick Harris is an odd example. He's re-invented himself as a comedic actor in the last decade after being known as a child star in the 80s. Then came WebVideo/DoctorHorriblesSingAlongBlog. He already had plenty of fans because he's just a cool guy, but compared to his role in the Harold & Kumar films, his role as Dr. Horrible was surprisingly good.
** He was also very touching as a disturbed, socially-awkward murderer in ''Series/LawAndOrderCriminalIntent''.
** He also had some serious Broadway cred in between his stints on television.
* Firass Dirani was wasted on ''[[Series/PowerRangersMysticForce Mystic Force]]'', as demonstrated by his (Logie Award-winning) appearance on ''{{Underbelly}}: The Golden Mile''. Similarly, [[Series/PowerRangersJungleFury Anna Hutchison's]] fantastic performance as Allison Dine on ''Underbelly: A Tale Of Two Cities''. Also watch Anna Hutchinson in ''Film/TheCabinInTheWoods'' where [[spoiler: she is brutally killed]] and gives a genuinely frightening performance.
** So was Amy Jo Johnson. There's a great moment from the second season of the original show when Kim is kidnapped by Goldar and is turned into his perfect bride... which happens to be Rita Repulsa. The potion doesn't take, but Kim decides to mess with Goldar, Squatt and Baboo and turn in a pitch-perfect imitation of Rita, right down to the screeching and "I have a headache!", enough that Goldar thinks it worked too well. Even [[WebVideo/AtopTheFourthWall Linkara]] mentioned in his review of the series that this moment is scarily good.
** Power Rangers is actually pretty good for these moments. Considering that one of the prerequisites for being a Ranger is being a "Teenager with Attitude" (or at least a young adult), you end up with very young people who are doing their very first big job, and have little experience otherwise. It could be said that they become good actors ''because'' of their time on ''Rangers.''
** Melody Perkins jumps in leaps and bounds from her first appearance as Astronema in Series/PowerRangersInSpace. In her first few appearances, she [[ChewingTheScenery chews]] and [[EvilIsHammy hams]] more than the [[Series/PowerRangersTurbo previous season's]] villain [[MeaningfulName Divatox,]] including a great amount of [[LargeHam Shatner speech.]] A few episodes and she'd gotten better, and then came the epic 'Secret of the Locket' arc, where she portrayed Astronema teetered between good and evil so well that the viewer honestly didn't know where she would end up in the end. And THEN, after turning her back on being a bad guy, she is downright TERRIFYING when she is reprogrammed back into her Astronema persona.
** Olivia Tennet, and her performance as Dr. K, are just a couple of the reasons why ''Series/PowerRangersRPM'' is so awesome. Let's review: At first, she is totally deadpan and hardly changes facial expressions or displays emotions. (It's in character, so it's justified. Dr. K only loses it whenever [[BerserkButton someone mentions that the suits are made of spandex]], including a little kid.) And then there's the episode [[DayInTheLimelight "Doctor K"]], where Olivia really gets to shine. Holy cow. That she portrayed the various emotions her character felt throughout the episode, especially the [[WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds guilt she faced over her mistakes]], with seeming effortlessness was awesome enough--especially considering how difficult it would be to portray a TeenGenius that [[MikeNelsonDestroyerOfWorlds accidentally destroyed nearly the whole world]]. That she did it at only 17 years old (when ''RPM'' began production) makes it a CrowningMomentOfAwesome for her.
** Regardless of how you feel about ''Operation Overdrive'', the scene where Mack finds out he's really [[spoiler: a robot]] is well-acted. You can just hear the grief Mack and his father feel after learning and admitting the truth, respectively. Also from the same series, Ronny's sadness after [[spoiler: Mack supposedly dies]] is pretty jerking as well, even if it only lasts for a few lines.
** ''Time Force'' is an absolute gold mine for acting moments. Jen's reaction to [[spoiler: seeing Wes for the first time]] is one of only many.
* Jackson Rathbone's performance in ''Literature/{{Twilight}}''? [[{{Narm}} Hilariously terrible]]. His performance in ''Series/CriminalMinds''? Very believable. In ''Criminal Minds'', he played a shy, troubled, perennially mumbling, drug-addicted janitor [[spoiler: and said janitor's split personality]]. What makes this even more impressive is that [[spoiler:the other personality was a serial-killing woman with a Southern accent, contrasting with the normal personality in every possible way]]. To top that off, Rathbone had to [[spoiler: transition between personalities in the middle of a scene]], and he pulled that off as well.
** There are a ''lot'' of surprisingly good turns for [=UnSubs=]. [[Series/DawsonsCreek James Van Der Beek]] as a killer with three personalities, Jamie Kennedy as an unrecognisable cannibal, and Frankie Muniz as a haunted comic book artist are just three examples.
* Even though it was just voice-acting, ''Andy Dick'' (in)famously known for his shock-value comedy, gave a truly tragic performance as [[WellDoneSonGuy Nuka in his last moments]] in ''Disney/TheLionKing II''.
** He was also very good in the English dub of ''CastleInTheSky''. Maybe he should stick to voice overs.
* Somewhat subverted in the case of ElizaDushku and ''Series/{{Dollhouse}}''. Most fans agree that her acting skills at the show's beginning were, while not awful, very limited. But then came the season 2 finale [[spoiler:in which she hits it out of the park, when the realization of Paul's death finally hits her]].
** Alan Tudyk's breakout performance was as the nerdy, gregarious NonActionGuy [[{{Firefly}} Hoban Washburn]]. Then came his guest placement in ''Dollhouse'', where he plays the NonActionGuy to the asthmatic, scatterbrained hilt... only to bury it in an unnerving AxCrazy psychopath performance. No one saw it coming.
** EnverGjokaj (Victor) started out as just "that guy who can do a pretty good Russian accent." Then in one episode, they needed to interrogate a character who had been put in the Attic. For safety reasons, instead of shipping him back from where they had sent him, they just downloaded a copy of his brain into Victor. Enver was able to perfectly portray a character who had been in about a dozen episodes already. In a later episode, he gets a copy of Topher, and the two snark at each other over the phone.
* Creator/ParisHilton in ''RepoTheGeneticOpera'' surprised a lot of people.
** And her brief, almost self mocking appearance on ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' in season 5.
* In the early '90s, probably no one thought that rapper [[MarkWahlberg "Marky Mark" Wahlberg]] will once be nominated for an Oscar (''TheDeparted'', 2006).
** ''TheBasketballDiaries'' proved it first, but he also gave magnificent performances in ''BoogieNights'', ''Film/ThreeKings'', and ''IHeartHuckabees''.
** Similarly, his brother Donnie Wahlberg was just that dude from New Kids on the Block until he showed up in ''Film/{{Ransom}}.'' Later performances in ''TheSixthSense'' and ''BandOfBrothers'' cemented his status as a solid, talented character actor.
* Most people wrote Orlando Bloom off as basically worthless because of his [[EstrogenBrigadeBait popularity with]] [[UnfortunateImplications girls and women]] until his [[TakeThatMe self-deprecating]] appearance on an episode of ''Extras'' and his performance as a near-suicidal failed writer in the London play ''In Celebration.'' Fans could have told these people that all they needed to do was watch him in ''Ned Kelly'' or ''Haven'' to see what he can do.
** Or ''Elizabethtown''.
* BruceWillis in ''TwelveMonkeys''. Eh, we'd already seen ''Film/PulpFiction''. ''Film/TheSixthSense'' proves just how much range he really has. ''Death Becomes Her''. Who knew that he could be goofy too? (Well, anyone who remembered ''{{Moonlighting}}'', but such films as ''Film/DieHard'' had overshadowed his earlier comedy career.) Anyone who thinks he can only play wisecracking action heroes is advised to see him as a disabled Vietnam vet in ''In Country''. This has happened to Bruce a few times. He started off as a comedic actor in ''{{Moonlighting}}'' (winning an Emmy in the process) and when it came time for him to do action roles like ''Film/DieHard'', people laughed and couldn't believe this comedian could ever be an action star. Once those movies took off, he was known as an action star and when it came time for him to do comedic roles again, they couldn't believe this action star could ever be a comedian. Once he dipped back and forth for a while, he started doing more dramatic roles and again... people didn't think this guy could pull it off.
** Also a movie no one remembers Willis did called ''The Kid''.
* Lloyd Bridges came at it in the opposite direction, spending part of the 60s establishing himself as a dramatic, action hero actor on film and in television. And then came ''Airplane!'', and his comic career was born. More than ten years of parody films like ''HotShots'' later, his son JeffBridges is doing ''Webcomic/BlownAway'' and needs someone to play his character's uncle. When Jeff suggested his dad for the role, the producers apparently responded with, "Doesn't he only do comedies?"
* BradPitt in ''TwelveMonkeys''. Note that this is one of the first roles where his looks were seriously downplayed and he had to succeed on pure ability. And he aced it. Anyone who had seen Pitt in ''Kalifornia'' had also known what he was worth long before he became a household name.
** Many people had this reaction to his performance in ''Film/FightClub'', while others weren't converted until his performance in ''Film/TheCuriousCaseOfBenjaminButton''.
* Cher. When her name came up in the opening credits for ''Moonstruck'', the audience laughed. She bagged an Oscar for it. Cher in ''Film/{{Mask}}''. People felt she should have bagged an Oscar for it. Cher had already established her dramatic credentials with supporting roles in ''Silkwood'' and ''Come Back To The Five And Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean''
* Tom Wansey, in ''AceLightning''. For most of the first series, people weren't convinced he knew what he was doing; then came an episode with the series first character "[[DisneyDeath death]]". He hasn't been seen since, of course, excluding a brief stint in a hospital drama; make of that what you will...
* Mike O'Malley is known for [[YesDear subpar comedies that somehow made it past 5 seasons]], Nickelodeon game shows, and being a Boston sports fan. However it wasn't until his turn on ''{{Glee}}'' as Kurt's father that people realized that he can actually act! He's also playing a recurring role on ''Series/{{Parenthood}}''. Also revealing unexpected depth on ''Series/{{Parenthood}}'' -- Dax Shepard, who got his start goofing off with Ashton Kutcher on ''Series/{{Punkd}}''. Back on the subject of Mike O'Malley, this goes back earlier than ''{{Glee}}'' and ''Series/{{Parenthood}}''. Case in point: the NBC series ''MyOwnWorstEnemy'' where he switches back and forth between a falsely created personality as a loving husband and his true self as a BadAss killing machine spy.
* During the Rifftrax of the movie ''Film/{{Daredevil}}'', Mike is briefly impressed by a moment of good acting from Creator/BenAffleck as he plays blind lawyer Matt Murdock.
-->'''Matt:''' What is your problem with our clients, we have good, respectable clients. What's your definition of better? Define better.\\
'''Mike:''' Huh. Ben Affleck takes a stab at acting. And that's the last time we'll ever see him do that.
** ''Film/ChasingAmy'', particularly the car scene.
** ''Hollywoodland'' also got plenty of mileage in this department.
** He manages to be a legit [[OneSceneWonder scene stealer]] in ''Film/BoilerRoom'' as well. To the point that he almost steals the entire movie.
** No mention of the [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CSQYRq8kf4g parking lot scene]] in {{Dogma}}, of all things?
*** ''Film/TheTown'', is also an example of this. Also, Creator/BlakeLively reveals that she can do more than ''GossipGirl'', and Jeremy Renner, while not being considered anywhere near a bad actor, reveals that he has much more than ''TheHurtLocker'' in him, he was nominated for a Best Supporting Actor Oscar, his second nomination after his first for Best Actor in ''The Hurt Locker''.
** Um..ShakespeareInLove, anyone?
* Of Affleck Brothers, Casey Affleck. After bit parts in comedies such as ''TheLastKiss'' and the ''Oceans'' Films, no one expected much. Then in ''Film/TheAssassinationOfJesseJames'', he delivers an absolutely stunning and brilliantly understated performance as Bob Ford, the much reviled murderer of Jesse James, who wants nothing more than to be famous and beloved like his icon. His role in ''Film/GoneBabyGone'' shows that he's only going to get better!
** He isn't alone either. While no one was really in doubt after ''Film/{{Babel}}'' and ''Film/FightClub'', Brad Pitt really proved his talent as the violent, psychotic, but self-loathing, and deeply remorseful Jesse, who has the live with the guilt of the bloodshed he has caused.
* How about Ludacris in ''Series/LawAndOrderSpecialVictimsUnit'' as Darius, Fin's evil stepson. He was pretty impressive as a villain, and honestly stole the show as a legitimately intimidating perp.
** SVU is apparently good for this sort of thing. Witness [[Series/TheCarolBurnettShow Carol Burnett]] (yes, ''that'' Carol Burnett) as Birdie Sulloway in season 10's "Ballerina" and Kathy Griffin, (yes, ''that'' Kathy Griffin) as Babs Duffy in season 11's "P.C."
** Another odd case is Cynthia Nixon. While she is a good actress, and no one's arguing that, she's best known at this point for ''SexAndTheCity'', a show with a reputation for being a little vapid and superficial. When she goes on ''SVU'', she plays a woman with multiple personalities, and jumped from one personality to another easily (and horrifying people who only knew her as Miranda).
*** Cynthia Nixon had some powerful moments as Miranda as well. The episode where Miranda's mom dies, and Miranda's holding it together until an innocuous comment from a store clerk makes the reality hit and she breaks down sobbing uncontrollably, was absolutely gut wrenching.
** Even before Ludacris, there's Ice-T himself. While he'd been seriously acting for a few years, most of his roles were drug dealers and gangbangers, which people probably didn't see as a stretch for someone known primarily as a gangta rapper. There were a lot of raised eyebrows when he appeared on screen to play Fin Tutuola, with jokes about the rapper who brought you "Copkiller" playing a cop. And then he proceeded to own the role.
** There was also Schuyler Fisk, best known as Sissy Spacek's daughter and the girlfriend in ''Orange County'' playing a college student who has a child with her estranged father. Talent clearly runs in that family.
*** Acting aside, though, Schuyler is a really good folk-pop singer as well.
** Let's not forget Robert Patrick, best known as the T-1000. His role as a sex offender is creepier than anything involving liquid metal or guns.
*** Of course, fans of ''Series/TheXFiles'' knew Patrick could act. His turn as Agent John Doggett is one of the only highlights of the 8th and 9th seasons.
*** And don't forget his turn in Series/TheSopranos as a compulsive gambler in way over his head. When he finally breaks down in anguish, it is absolutely heartbreaking.
*** Hell, anyone who saw ''{{Terminator}} 2'' knew that. There's a reason the T-1000 has made so many "best villain" lists, and at least half of that is due to Patrick's utterly [[UncannyValley terrifying]] performance.
** While he was always good, Chris Meloni really proved himself in his monologue in the season two episode "Victims."
** And he showed impressive comic talents in ''WetHotAmericanSummer'', a guest spot on ''Series/{{Scrubs}}'', and ''GymTeacherTheMovie''. Also his guest spots on ''Series/{{Scrubs}}'' and his spoof on ''Series/TheDailyShow'', with "[[ComicallySerious Chris Melogna]] as [[http://www.nytimes.com/2011/10/19/nyregion/commander-who-pepper-sprayed-wall-street-protesters-faces-disciplinary-charges.html?_r=0 Tony Bologna]]".
** Danny Pino was no slouch on ''ColdCase'', but it's ''really'' impressive how well he's taken over the spot vacated by Chris Meloni on SVU. Love him or hate him, Stabler was central to the show, and the fact that Pino came in and blew right past the ReplacementScrappy box is truly a feat.
* While ChrisPine was hardly ''bad'' in ''Film/StarTrek'', he didn't exactly get a chance to show off his acting chops, and his prior work consisted mainly of romantic comedies. Then came a little play called ''Farragut North''...
** But then, anyone who saw ''Bottle Shock'' knew that he could act already...
** Anybody saw "Carriers", was spot on being a jerk, but with other implications... heartbreaking actually...
** Then ''Film/StarTrekIntoDarkness'' came out and those who saw [[spoiler:Kirk's death scene]] were moved to tears.
*** Likewise to ZacharyQuinto's work during that scene.
* Ellen [=DeGeneres=]'s [[LivingEmotionalCrutch "I look at you, and I'm home"]] speech in ''WesternAnimation/FindingNemo''.
** The DVD commentary said that the take they used was her second one- by the end of recording the first one, she was crying so much because she thought she had ruined the line, and she had to take a break. By the second try, she was still distraught over the first take. An example of accidental method acting.
* MileyCyrus in ''Disney/{{Bolt}}''.
** Don't forget ''Film/TheLastSong'', several critics, most notably Creator/RogerEbert praised her acting in that film. But, she got a Razzie nomination for it.
** Most people that gave ''HannahMontana'' a chance instead of [[ComplainingAboutShowsYouDontWatch automatically panning it just because it was a Disney show]] already knew that Cyrus had real charisma and a flair for comedy. Even in the first season where she clearly showed her inexperience, she had some moments of brilliance (watch the episode where she also plays her [[UncannyFamilyResemblance evil identical cousin]]).
** She also got critical acclaim for her guest appearance in ''Series/TwoAndAHalfMen''.
* It might not have been intentional, but the [[WebVideo/TheNostalgiaCritic Critic's]] "nasty-wasties" speech in {{Kickassia}} proved to a lot of people that Doug Walker can act legitimately terrifying whenever he wants to be.
** These people must have missed the end of the bit where he acts out the Joker's monologue from ''Film/TheDarkKnight''.
** While most of the Critic's proper woobie moments are just Doug putting his natural-born PuppyDogEyes to good use, his breakdown before the CrowningMomentOfAwesome in the "Commercials Special" wasn't just shouting, screaming or OTT crying, it was... genuinely sad.
** And he does it yet again in ''SuburbanKnights''. From Ma-Ti's [[spoiler: death]] to Linkara giving him an idea for another quest, the Critic looks and acts like his whole world has been destroyed. And not just common review suffering, he's 100% broken. Doug should be proud of himself.
** ''ToBoldlyFlee'' once again brings his acting chops to the fore as he breaks down and begs the other reviewers to help him [[spoiler: save Ma-ti]]. It's not over the top, it's not wimpy or heartbroken, it's just him owning up to his mistakes and genuinely asking for help for the first time.
*** His performance in the Creator/Critic scene was so good that he got a SoProudOfYou from his dad and the cast commentary even stopped talking so they could enjoy it again.
** His scenes in the latter and {{cerebus syndrome}}d half of WebVideo/DemoReel can be exhausting on one's emotions. One commenter even said they could have desperately used some ''Disney/{{Bambi}}'' birds after Donnie numbly and sarcastically apologizes to the family for giving a bad performance [[spoiler: after hearing that his mother '''killed herself''']], and they think he's kidding.
** Even people who couldn't stand the writing or the plot of "The Review Must Go On" freely admit he did a great job playing a terrified Donnie, a dominating Critic who is just loving calling the shots for once, himself having a breakdown, and [[ItMakesSenseInContext the last ten minutes when Donnie is still mostly Donnie, but Critic's traits are and eventually do win out completely]].
** Rob got to show off in WebVideo/DemoReel too, as Karl was completely unlike his usual ham; funny, but also a tortured ShellShockedVeteran with a increasing affection for his ReplacementGoldfish family and with plenty of sad moments of his own. And Rob pulled it off wonderfully.
** Doug was one of the best things about the not-exactly-liked WebVideo/{{Sonic}} movie, playing a ''[[PlayingAgainstType silent]]'' stoic soldier who was ready to FaceDeathWithDignity.
* [[WebVideo/AtopTheFourthWall Lewis Lovhaug]] had a "holy shit, he can act!" moment, too, when he's nearly DrivenToSuicide in the last Silent Hill: Dead Or Alive review. Unlike most times on the site when it was SuicideAsComedy, the [[http://i52.photobucket.com/albums/g8/NotABadKissa/5.gif crushed look on his face]] is terrifying.
** Lewis is amazing at portraying fear and sadness, portraying these in Cry For Justice 5-7 and Care Bears 13.
** 90's Kid [[spoiler: possessed/replaced by the Entity]] is easily the high point.
** Lewis really shows his acting chops in the ''Batman: Noel'' review, when Harvey Finevoice [[spoiler: has to confront his son's death]]. Never has so much anguish been portrayed on the show.
* "8-Bit" Mickey Paradis surprised a lot of people with his acting chops in ''SuburbanKnights''. Known more for his wacky dancing and willingness to lose his clothes, his range of emotions was a big change.
* Nella in WebVideo/TheNostalgiaChick's "Dark Nella Saga". Scary but funny, hammy but menacing and in the last two reviews she could go between fangirl and evil quickly and awesomely.
* Not a comedic example, but after playing Meredith Grey as a perpetually vague, droll, half-asleep character for what seemed hundreds of episodes, all of a sudden Ellen Pompeo confronts her lucid mother about how she just can't deal with yet another upheaval in her life. It's not one of Izzie Stevens's hysterical meltdowns; it's quiet, understated, and completely rips your heart out.
* Georgia van Cuylenberg spent most of ''VideoGame/FinalFantasyXIII'' making Vanille into one of the most irritating {{Genki Girl}}s ever. Then came a little scene on a stormy rooftop in Nautilus. ''Damn'' but she can act an [[HeroicBSOD epic breakdown]].
* Josh Peck, famous for kid-oriented shows like ''DrakeAndJosh'', ''TheAmandaShow'', and various movies got his HRCA moment in 2008's ''The Wackness''.
* {{Joseph Gordon-Levitt}} in just about everything he's done since ''ThirdRockFromTheSun''.
** Basically every review for ''MysteriousSkin'' has a sentence that is essentially: "HOLY. COW. Didn't see that coming."
** But nobody really noticed until he returned to acting after taking off a few years to go to college. And not only his acting chops, but how fully committed he can be to any role or bit performed. His stint as host of ''SaturdayNightLive'' had him perform the "Make Em' Laugh" number from ''Film/SinginInTheRain'' to ''near perfection on live television''. To give some perspective, even stage performances of the number nowadays don't require the actor to perform all of the stunts because of the sheer amount of athleticism required pull it off.
*** [[http://v.youku.com/v_show/id_XMTQyOTI3Mzky.html The performance can be seen here.]] And yes, he does do the backflip off the wall. Twice.
** His performance in ''{{Brick}}'', which came out very soon after ''Mysterious Skin'' and starred Gordon-Levitt as a teenage ''hardboiled detective'', had a similar effect. But for the grand majority of movie audiences, it was almost certainly ''Film/{{Inception}}''.
** Actually, for the majority of people his breakout role was more likely ''Film/FiveHundredDaysOfSummer''.
* Similarly, his co-star JohnLithgow is best-known to modern audiences as a comedic actor, generally taking some LargeHam roles similar to his ThirdRockFromTheSun character. Then he played a man with mid-late Alzheimer's in ''Film/RiseOfThePlanetOfTheApes'', and he earned praise from ''everyone'' for doing such a nuanced take on a character that could quite easily be overacted.
** This is only a surprise for people not old enough to remember his Oscar nominated turns in ''Terms of Endearment'' and ''The World According to Garp''.
*** Also, his blood-chilling portrayal of the Trinity Killer on ''Dexter''. The performance won him an Emmy and a Golden Globe.
* RobertPattinson. ''Film/RememberMe''. Not that he was ever bad, per se, but ''holy cow''. But he earned a Razzie nomination for it.
** ''Literature/WaterForElephants''.
** This could pretty much be said for the majority of the ''Literature/{{Twilight}}'' cast up to and including the examples of KristenStewart and Jackson Rathbone above.
*** Nikki Reed previously had good performances in ''Thirteen'' and ''Lords of Dogtown'' but she's mostly known for her role as Rosalie Hale. For the first two films the character is about as flat as a pancake. Then in the third we get to see Rosalie explain her past. And she delivers a shockingly powerful performance in the fourth with her line to Alice about Bella's unborn daughter.
---> "Say the word, Alice. Say it! Baby! It's just a little baby!"
* [[Film/JamesBond Roger]] [[Series/TheSaint Moore]] is best known for playing suave, charming international playboy types. Seeing him in ''[[http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Man_Who_Haunted_Himself The Man Who Haunted Himself]]'', in which he plays an uptight exec who thinks he's being stalked by his own double and ultimately has a nervous breakdown, is a jaw-dropping experience. Partly because his performance is so good, and partly because seeing Roger Moore going realistically insane is genuinely disturbing.
** Right in the middle of his stint as James Bond, he starred in ''Film/TheWildGeese'' as basically Daniel Craig's version of Bond, ie a hard, cold badass. His first scene where he forces a drug dealer to overdose on his own product is quite unnerving to people used to his foppish, denonair Bond.
*** Not forgetting ''Film/ForYourEyesOnly'', are we? You know, the one with him acting as ruthless as Connery, Craig and Dalton at their coldest.
* ''TheInventionOfLying'', despite being a comedy, features one very effective scene of Ricky Gervais' character improvising a description of Heaven to comfort his dying mother, which shows Gervais could easily start a career as a dramatic actor if he ever wanted to.
** This should come as no surprise to anyone who has seen the Extras christmas special and Andy's speech to camera at the end.
** Wait. This is a surprise? Anyone who was watching Series 2 of TheOffice in the U.K already knew this.
** ''Film/GhostTown'' is another dramedy like the film mentioned above where he demonstrates his ability to play a completely serious, ''humorless'' character.
* Creator/AnthonyAnderson spent quite a few years being thought of as just a funny fat guy, verging on UncleTomfoolery in some roles. Then came his terrifying run as LargeHam Antwon Mitchell on ''TheShield'', leading to more highbrow films like ''TheDeparted'' and a starring role on ''Series/LawAndOrder''...shortly before it was cancelled.
** He was also good as a more laid-back Louisiana cop on the ScrewedByTheNetwork show ''K-Ville''.
** Also in ''The Shield'', Walter Emmanuel Jones, who played [[MightyMorphinPowerRangers the first Black Ranger]], as a coked out gangbanger.
* Cameron Diaz in ''BeingJohnMalkovich''. She's unrecognizable and really good.
** ''AnyGivenSunday'', in which she holds her own against AlPacino.
* Creator/MarkHamill impressed ''everyone'' after ''Franchise/StarWars'' by taking very serious roles in the Broadway versions of ''Theatre/{{Amadeus}}'', and ''Theatre/TheElephantMan''. Then he started [[WesternAnimation/BatmanTheAnimatedSeries voice acting]]...
** Also see ''[[VideoGame/WingCommander Wing Commander IV]]'', particularly when sharing the screen with Malcolm [=McDowell=]. ([[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qpbOkVdl7b0 YouTube link]].)
* While he was arguably already giving the best performance in the ''Literature/{{Twilight}}'' films, TaylorLautner's performance as the host of SNL really sold him as an actor to Hollywood.
* You know Creator/CharlieChaplin? The guy with the funny mustache who did slapstick in old silent comedies? [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QcvjoWOwnn4 Behold]]. Holy ''moley''.
* [[ProfessionalWrestling The Rock]], while [[{{Kayfabe}} technically an actor]], was hardly what most people would have thought of as one. DwayneJohnson, on the other hand, is quite successful.
** Interestingly, when the idea for the movie ''Film/TheOne'' was first put forward, the role of the good and evil protagonists (ItMakesSenseInContext) was written for Dwayne Johnson. However, he opted to do ''TheScorpionKing'' instead, and the script was re-written for JetLi. While YMMV on the how good ''The One'' is, there's no denying the awesomeness of seeing Jet Li kick his own ass. Seeing the Rock do that would probably not be as cool. Besides, Jet Li and Creator/JasonStatham make a great team. The role of a Conan-like barbarian suits the Rock better.
*** Another wrestling example. Even some huge WWE fans didn't expect {{Wrestling/Edge}} to make it as an actor, especially those who saw Bending the Rules. Then he joined the cast of {{Series/Haven}}...
** ''YouthInRevolt'', that's all.
* AlysonHannigan. She did okay in films, and looked decent in ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'', but the episode "Dopplegangland" was where she showed she could really, really act. Evil Vampire!Willow was darn impressive, but then Good!Willow tries to imitate Vampire!Willow, and Vampire!Willow tries to imitate Good!Willow. It was a tour de force performance.
** For her dramatic chops, watch the episodes "Confessions" where she is crying in the bathroom and "Wild at Heart" where [[spoiler: Oz leaves her]]. She really was one of the best criers on the show.
** I also thought her crying, and acting in general, were fantastic and above her average standard in the ''Series/HowIMetYourMother'' Season 1 episode "Milk".
* Brenda Song does as well in ''TheSuiteLifeOfZackAndCody'' and the sequel series ''TheSuiteLifeOnDeck'' as anyone can be expected to do in a Disney Channel series. She'd basically played the same character in everything she'd done: dumb, spoiled rich girl with a penchant for snobbery. These series turned that UpToEleven and she's gone with it. Everyone who has seen her act before is therefore in for a very pleasant surprise should they see ''TheSocialNetwork''; Christy's a slutty, jealous, and sometimes downright scary bitch, and you ''will'' respect her for it.
* When Nina Dobrev was cast in the roles of Elena and Katherine for ''TheVampireDiaries'' most people thought she would never be able to carry the series, let alone play two completely different characters, judging by her performances on ''Series/{{Degrassi}}''. Fast forward to mid season one, and people started to realize just how talented she actually is. Fast forward to season two, and she had viewers and critics floored by how easily she slips between Elena and Katherine while keeping both of them completely in character.
** The main issue with Dobrev may have been that her character [[TheScrappy wasn't well-liked]] by fans for [[CreatorsPet various reasons]]
** If there were any critics left, They've almost certainly been silenced by Dobrev's performance in season 4 when she shows uncanny skill in portraying Elena's slow descent into vampirism and her desperate struggle to hold onto her humanity and in season five when she does terrific work as Elena, gives a heartbreaking performance as Katherine realizes that she is dying and cannot save herself, summoning sympathy for an otherwise deeply unlikeable character and her episodes as Amara, when she is both functional and after she has undergone a complete mental breakdown from years of torture. Even fans who don't like Elena have commented on how impressive her acting is.
* Tom Welling is able to play several completely different in personality characters in ''{{Smallville}}''. There's Clark Kent, Kal (Clark while infected by Red Kryptonite, a hedonistic and insensitive JerkAss), Kal-El (Clark Kent's StrawVulcan Kryptonian self), a teenage Jor-El during flashbacks, Bizarro (who gets CharacterDevelopment into a WoobieDestroyerOfWorlds), and Clark Luthor/Ultraman (who's screwing his own sister). And when Clark gets possessed, he perfectly copies the person's speech patterns.
** He also did a great impression of John Glover/Lionel Luthor in the BodySwap episode.
** Welling also has good comedic timing, as can be seen in "Hex" where he's cursed into forgetting he has superpowers. See [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dciw9alV1S0 here for some of the highlights]].
** You can even see how Tom Welling improves as an actor by the different personalities he portrays on the show. Kal and Kal-El seem a little over-done and forced when he portrays them, but his Clark Luthor is so different from the normal Clark through subtle acting differences and a more reserved portrayal. Clark Luthor is probably one of the most disturbing things on the show; he looks like Clark, but Welling portrays him completely differently whilst simultaneously avoiding the viewer thinking "this is just the guy who plays Clark doing him another character" - we are absorbed into the role.
** The same can also be said for his co-star Michael Rosenbaum as Lex Luthor. While he was never bad in the series (quite the opposite, in fact), it was the season three arc when Lex is desperately trying to win his father's affection by doing increasingly terrible things that really showed how much he had grown. When he crosses the line into full-on villainy, its both terrifying and heartbreaking. He shows how horrible a person Lex can be while reminding us of the boy he used to be. By the end, it is practically impossible to imagine anyone else playing the role.
* In case you didn't catch RyanReynolds in ''Film/DefinitelyMaybe'', you might want to check him out in ''{{Buried}}'', which is basically just him in a box acting his butt off. Also in ''Film/SmokinAces'' he manages to pull of some great emotion especially in the final scenes.
** He pulls off absolutely terrifying extremely well in ''TheAmityvilleHorror 2005'' remake.
* JustinTimberlake in ''Film/AlphaDog''. This probably got him the cred he needed to get a key role in ''TheSocialNetwork''.
** Timberlake also really earned his bones as a comedy performer with the famous ''SaturdayNightLive'' skit "Dick in a Box" and his series of commercials for Sony.
*** Timberlake's performance in ''Film/TheSocialNetwork'' is also one of these, as both a comedic & dramatic actor.
*** Even his vocal performance as Boo-Boo in the ''WesternAnimation/YogiBear'' movie has gotten some praise for how well he did the voice.
*** His understated performance in ''Film/BlackSnakeMoan'' is quite impressive.
** Watch the video for EltonJohn's 'This Train Don't Stop There Anymore', especially the part where Elton's against the wall and sinking. Then notice where this entry is on the list, and that Sir Elton doesn't look like that these days ... and look at how accurate it was.
* HughJackman the triple role of Tomas/Tommy/Tom in ''Film/TheFountain.'' It was amazing.
** Another example is him [[ActingForTwo portraying the double of a man]] [[TalkingToHimself who is also played by him]] in ''Film/ThePrestige''. Up until the double starts "acting" as him, they actually look, sound and move ''like different people'' and the transformation is genuinely astonishing.
** The skill in portraying such a morally ambiguous yet still somewhat sympathetic character in The Prestige that makes the viewer forget that they're even watching Wolverine's actor also shows his skill.
** Anyone who saw Hugh performing in Australian Theatre before he went to Hollywood will tell you, "That guy's going to be a star".
* George Eads of Series/{{CSI}} was a passable but unremarkable actor, but then came the season five episodes "Grave Danger: Volume 1" and "Grave Danger: Volume 2." Wow.
** Especially considering that he spends about 90% of "Grave Danger" [[spoiler:in a box the size of a coffin.]]
* Marlon Wayans in ''RequiemForADream''
** And again ''Film/GIJoeTheRiseOfCobra.'' Ripcord, [[EthnicScrappy unlike his past comedic roles]] was actually a lot more subdued, making it all the more better of a role. Yet, he ended up earning a Razzie nomination for it.
* Chris Tucker in ''Film/DeadPresidents''
** And Chris Rock in ''New Jack City''.
* MeganFox in {{Eminem}}'s [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uelHwf8o7_U&feature=related "Love The Way You Lie" music video.]]
** Eminem himself, in ''Film/EightMile''.
* Jessica Biel in ''Film/TheIllusionist''.
** ''EasyVirtue'' showed she was a great actress. As well as a surprisingly good singer!
* From the serious to the comic: DavidBowie's mysterious, cool, sensual aura has bled into so many of his film/[=TV=] roles over the years that one can forget his genuine acting talent...so as a quick refresher, [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DXvAaNcXNzI enjoy]] the short film/music video hybrid ''Jazzin' for Blue Jean'', in which ActingForTwo results in AdamWesting of the coolness and an {{Adorkable}} protagonist.
* JetLi, best known as a pint-sized badass martial artist, in ''Ocean Heaven''. The romantic drama, proudly touted as his "first non martial-arts film", has Li play a terminally-ill father of a 22-year-old autistic child.
** Or ''DannyTheDog''. The martial arts are used in service of the story (i.e., the fights express emotion just as clearly as the dialogue), and his mannerisms when playing a man raised as a dog are ''uncanny''.
** As to his martial arts movies, it is worth pointing out that Li delivered terrific performance in ''Film/{{Hero}}'' and ''Film/{{Fearless}}''. He managed to carry an all-around mediocre ''The One'' with his acting as well. You gotta give the man some credit - even when he knows that the audience just wants to see asses kicked and kung fu done, he still makes an effort to act well.
*** Don't forget his role as Wong Fei Hung in the ''Film/OnceUponATimeInChina'' series, arguably his most famous role and the one that is synonymous with the image of Wong Fei Hung. Also his role in The Warlords as the conflicted AntiHero Panq Qinqyun, the role was critically praised, earning Jet his second Hong Kong Film Award for Best actor nomination and his first win (the first nomination on which he did not win was for the aforementioned Fearless).
*** Interesting fact about ''Film/TheOne'': After DwayneJohnson passed on the role in favor of ''TheScorpionKing'', the character was rewritten for Jet Li... with a lot less lines. Jet Li doesn't ''need'' to speak to show a lot of emotion. The scene during the final fight where he [[spoiler:sees his empty ring finger and finds his center, allowing him to beat the bad guy,]] is done without any words at all, but they're not necessary there. Add to that the fact that he's ActingForTwo (the crazy and power-mad Yulaw and the good-hearted and desperate Gabe), and you can see why he got the role.
* Natalie Portman in ''Film/BlackSwan''. Through most of the movie, it looked like she was on the verge of crying. And considering [[BreakTheCutie what her character put up with]], you couldn't blame her.
** Natalie Portman has been doing critically acclaimed movies for some time now. For reference, check out ''Film/TheProfessional'', one of, if not her very first film role, back when she was ''13'' years old. And she's already holding her own alongside Jean Reno and Gary Oldman.
*** MilaKunis, [[Series/That70sShow usually]] [[WesternAnimation/FamilyGuy known]] [[ForgettingSarahMarshall for]] comedies, showed her skills opposite Portman on ''Film/BlackSwan'' as well.
* LisaKudrow, better known for her role as Phoebe in ''Series/{{Friends}}'', in the 1998 film ''Film/TheOppositeOfSex''.
** See also her work in ''Series/TheComeback'' and ''Series/WebTherapy''.
** And her role in ''Paper Man'', where you can actually see her channeling "Angrish Phoebe" in a productive way that works. It's on Netflix, look it up.
* Jesse Eisenberg, although giving good performances in films like ''Film/{{Zombieland}}'' and ''Film/{{Adventureland}}'', really proved himself as a actor in ''TheSocialNetwork'', especially [[TearJerker during the end]].
* Wrestling/MickieJames, in that episode of ''[[Wrestling/{{WWERaw}} WWE Raw]]'' where she tricks Trish Stratus into believing Trish's boyfriend Jack had just tried to rape her.
* That doofy guy from ''Series/BosomBuddies'', and ''Series/BachelorParty'', and ''Series/{{Volunteers}}'', and ''Series/MazesAndMonsters'', ... and then Creator/TomHanks did ''Film/{{Philadelphia}}'', and ''{{Big}}'', and ''ALeagueOfTheirOwn'', and ''Film/ForrestGump'', and ''Film/{{Apollo 13}}'', and ''SavingPrivateRyan'', etc., etc.
** It's called TomHanksSyndrome for a reason.
* People only familiar with Creator/AngelinaJolie from the ''Film/LaraCroftTombRaider'' movie would do well to watch such films as ''Life or Something Like It'', where she gives a powerful performance as a TV reporter who discovers she is doomed to die in a week.
** Her role in ''GirlInterrupted'' cemented her status as a great actress, and that was before ''Tomb Raider''.
* For a while, it seemed like James Franco was going to be remembered as whiny and irritating Harry Osborn in ''Spider-Man''. Then along came ''Film/PineappleExpress'', and now ''[[OneHundredAndTwentySevenHours 127 Hours]]'', boosting his esteem considerably.
** This had arguably happened earlier when he fully embodied the role of JamesDean and when he held his own in ''Film/{{Milk}}''. Earlier still in ''Series/FreaksAndGeeks'' as Daniel, the cool rebel deconstruction, who desperately wants to break out of the loser perception everyone has of him. His speech about being one of the "Dumb Kids" is heartbreaking, even if you know before hand that it is setting up a final joke...
** He actually improved alot over the course of the ''Spider-Man'' movies, going from wooden in one movie, to "whiny and irritating" in the next, to ''very convincing'' in the third, as he plays Harry as evil and vengeful, with amnesia, in a moral dilemma, and ''dying'' all in the same film.
* Music/{{Gorillaz}} bassist Murdoc is voiced by Phil Cornwell, who's a comedian by trade. Since the tone in the interviews and animated shorts is usually [[NonSequitur weird and light-hearted,]] this works out pretty well. But in the iTunes session interviews, there are some surprisingly frightful parts, and Cornwell proves himself as an actor by bringing Murdoc across as [[{{Jerkass}} phenomenally scummy,]] even intimidating. The brutal on-tape fights and [[spoiler: [[HoYay suggestive]] chloroform scene]] are played quite convincingly for the characters, adding a dark new layer to the {{Gorillaz}} story development.
* Creator/RichardPryor. Anyone who has only seen a small portion of his standup and his movies with Gene Wilder can be forgiven for assuming that he is not a particularly great actor. Funny yes, but not a great actor. And then in some of his performances, he'll pull out the Mudbone character, or some other similar characters (junkies and such) that are both ''amazingly'' well performed '''and''' a serious bit of MoodWhiplash compared to his usual energetic comedic style.
** He also gives an excellent straight dramatic performance in ''BlueCollar''.
** The fear in his voice in [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qLpzj84u_xY this scene]] in The Mack.
* KanyeWest in [[TearJerker We Were Once a Fairytale]]. ''[[UpToEleven Twice]].''
** Also him on ''TheClevelandShow''.
* [=Joel McHale=] in ''Series/{{Community}}''. Jeff seems like the same "character" plays on ''TheSoup''. Then you see something like "Intermediate Documentary Filmmaking", and [[http://img340.imageshack.us/i/communitygoon.jpg/ the look on Jeff's face during the following line]]. For context, [[spoiler:Pierce promised Jeff would get to meet his estranged dad, whom he has issues with. Jeff said that if it turns out to be a MindScrew by Pierce, that he will beat Pierce. Jeff is currently looking at a limo, and has answered from a phone call from a man claiming to be his father and in the limo. It's obviously Pierce, and Jeff has just realized that and is right in the middle of switching between "hopeful" and "murderous rage".]]
-->'''Jeff:''' ...Go on.
** Pretty much everyone on ''Series/{{Community}}'' is amazing. It may just be the writing but Chevy Chase is incredibly funny on it. Chevy Chase. The guy who took pratfalls for one season on SaturdayNightLive, did two good vacation movies and has basically been a punchline ever since, because everything he tried either simply failed or was a complete disaster. Rebooting this guy's career is pretty much just one of this show's 6 billion [[CrowningMomentofAwesome CMOAs]] and counting.
** On a related note, John Oliver's character on Community is basically a completely drunk version of his Daily Show self - humorously bufoonish. Then comes along "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas", where [[spoiler: he is so unflinchingly cruel and cynical, in one protracted voice-acting sequence, that he ''breaks Abed with just his words''.]] He steals the show from a whole cadre of established actors, in one of the most raw, emotional episodes of the series, by being the rawest.
* Shane Kippel in ''Series/{{Degrassi}}''. He was criticized ''a lot'' during his tenure on the show (primarily earlier seasons) for not really being able to act when it came to dramatic sequences (which, being ''Degrassi'', did happen sometimes). Then he played a supporting character in the film ''Dog Pound'', which caused just about ''everybody'' to go back and do a DoubleTake... even IMDB gave him praise for his performance in it.
* Jack Huston, grandson of [[Creator/JohnHuston that famous director]] and nephew of [[Creator/AnjelicaHuston that other badass lady]], was perfectly serviceable in things like "Series/{{Eastwick}}," the very silly and enjoyable ''Film/{{Outlander}}'' and even ''[[Literature/{{Twilight}} Eclipse]]'', but it wasn't until his subtle, [[ColdSniper scary]], [[TheWoobie heartbreaking]], [[DoingItForTheArt Method-influenced]] ''BoardwalkEmpire'' performance as [[GoodScarsEvilScars deformed]] UsefulNotes/{{WWI}} [[ShellShockedVeteran veteran]] [[EnsembleDarkhorse Richard Harrow]] that we saw how talented and committed he really is.
** ''BoardwalkEmpire'' has this effect with a few of its stars. Steve Buscemi plays very well against type as the ruthless but humane Nucky; but it is Michael Stuhlbarg, a former bit player whose only major role was as the timed Woody Allen type lead in ''Film/ASeriousMan'', as the brilliant but deeply twisted Arnold Rothstein and Michael Shannon as the psychopathic KnightTemplar Agent Van Alden that really leave a mark.
** To say Paz de la Huerta is [[TheScrappy disliked by the majority]] [[HateDom of the fandom]] is putting it mildly. However, watching her performance in the season two episode "A Dangerous Maid" surprised a lot of her detractors as you watch Lucy Danzinger come to terms with her pregnancy, her baby's father, and her future. It's some very deft work from Ms. de la Huerta.
* JackieChan is known for more comedic roles, so his dramatic performance in ''TheKarateKid'' remake surprised many viewers.
** Not those who'd seen ShinjukuIncident. Chan plays a less glamorous version of Film/TheGodfather...and kills it.
* Though ''{{Series/Damages}}'' wiped out any possible doubts about Ted Danson, no one expected [[{{Cheers}} Sam Malone]] to knock it out of the park as Gulliver in the '90s TV version of ''Literature/GulliversTravels''.
* After twenty years, Sam Rockwell became everyone's favourite quirky independent actor. He gave excellent serious performances in ''Film/TheAssassinationOfJesseJames'' and ''Frost/Nixon'' but it was his complex, emotionally demanding role in ''Film/{{Moon}}'' (which he carries all by himself) that proved how good he can be.
* After small roles in ''Series/TheAdventuresOfPeteAndPete'' and other shows, Heather Matarazzo turned a searing and remarkably mature performance in ''Film/WelcomeToTheDollhouse'' proving immense skill for any actor but especially for a twelve year old.
* Creator/AnneHathaway in ''RachelGettingMarried'' proved that she is a force to be reckoned with.
** And in ''Film/TheDarkKnightRises'' and (especially) ''Film/LesMiserables2012'', which won her an Oscar.
** But Anne has always been praised for her acting, even in hammy roles.
* Something of a retro example: Creator/ChristopherWalken has never been regarded as a bad actor, but his persona is so famous that it can often overshadow his talent. He was brilliant in ''KingOfNewYork'' as the drug kingpin who knows that his dreams of redemption are futile and he cannot escape the burden of guilt and in ''TheFuneral'' as a man who is fully aware that his bloodlust will only cause more destruction for everyone and who believes that he will go to Hell when he dies. And if you can get through ''Film/CatchMeIfYouCan'' without shedding a tear, there's a fiver here with your name on it.
** And if you need further convincing, check out [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rj5mE4LiUX0 this behind-the-scenes clip]] of Walken from ''Catch Me If You Can'' (at about the 2:20 mark). This guy's the real deal.
* Creator/HarveyKeitel was always a good supporting actor, proving he could hold his own alongside [=DeNiro=] but never getting the big parts. Then in ''Film/BadLieutenant'' he gives a brilliant performance as a man we should detest but we pity due to his intense self-hatred and despair. It blows [=DeNiro=] and Pacino completely out of the water.
* Creator/SimonPegg in ''Film/ShaunOfTheDead'''s dramatic scenes. A comedy actor shouldn't be that good at crying.
** He also makes a surprisingly good villain of the CorruptCorporateExecutive type, if you happen to be a fan of ''Series/DoctorWho''.
** While the entire Cornetto Trilogy is stealthily full of this, Gary and Andy's final confrontation in the titular pub of ''Film/TheWorldsEnd'' is reaffirmation for Simon's dramatic talents, and puts Nick Frost squarely and firmly in this category as well. (Heck, the entire movie is arguably one long He Can Really Act for Frost.)
* Many people who only knew HaydenPanettiere as [[Series/{{Heroes}} Claire the cheerleader]] (as opposed to [[GuidingLight Lizzie Spaulding]], [[OneLifeToLive Sarah Roberts]] or [[RememberTheTitans Sheryl Yoast]]) got a very pleasant surprise on seeing her performance in ''Film/{{Scream 4}}''.
** ''{{Series/Nashville}}'' also puts the burden of proof firmly on Hayden's haters, as well as on those of [[WhoseLineIsItAnyway Chip... er, sorry,]] ''[[WhoseLineIsItAnyway Charles]]'' [[WhoseLineIsItAnyway Esten]]. Especially in the season one finale.
* Going back to ''Film/{{Scream 4}}'', Creator/EmmaRoberts turns in a downright frightening performance as [[spoiler:a psychotic teen killer]]. Think about how girls her age can be and you'll see her performance is one of the most underrated of the past 5 years.
* You wouldn't think that DiedrichBader would be any good at serious deadpan roles after ''TheDrewCareyShow'' and ''OfficeSpace''. But his performance as Batman on WesternAnimation/BatmanTheBraveAndTheBold showed us all!
* After being known as a Leading man and Hollywood Actor, Tom Cruise proved his talent in ''BornOnTheFourthOfJuly'' as the all-American ex-Marine turned anti-war activist Ron Kovic. He had similar parts in ''AFewGoodMen'' and ''{{Magnolia}}'' showing what he can do. He arguably proved it earlier than that in ''Film/TheColorOfMoney'', merely by not being blown off the screen by Paul Newman.
** Cruise made his name with muff, fluff and stuff like ''Film/RiskyBusiness'', ''Film/{{Cocktail}}'' and that paen to HoYay and the U.S. Navy, ''Film/TopGun''. His "serious" co-star turn with DustinHoffman in ''Rainman'' got the critics to sit up and take notice and persuaded Creator/OliverStone to use him for OscarBait in ''BornOnTheFourthOfJuly''.
** [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=q662gCwpKfI According to Anne Rice]] he nailed Lestat. [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IKbLquqxBAQ&feature=related Pun intended]].
** He's completely unrecognizable as a fat, bald, ClusterFBomb-spewing media mogul in ''Film/TropicThunder''.
** He's a beautifully broken man in ''Film/VanillaSky''.
** And a ruthlessly efficient, sociopathic hitman in ''Film/{{Collateral}}''
** He glorious played against type as a cowardly PR man forced into combat in ''Film/EdgeOfTomorrow''.
* Bradley Cooper has been known as primarily as a comedic actor but wowed in ''Film/SilverLiningsPlaybook'' where he was nominated for an Oscar.
** Long before he was ever famous, Cooper more than held his own on ''Series/{{Alias}}''. Will's early quest to uncover the truth about Danny's murder was acclaimed at the time, whereas episodes like "Almost Thirty Years" (especially the torture scenes) and "There's Only One Sydney Bristow" really emphasised how good of an actor Bradley Cooper is.
* While best known for taking his shirt off constantly and talking like a drunk, MatthewMcConaughey proved he was no slouch in ''ATimeToKill'', in which he brings remarkable depth to what could have been a shallow role and effortlessly holding his own alongside veterans and critically acclaimed actors such as: Creator/SamuelLJackson, Creator/DonaldSutherland, KevinSpacey, Chris Cooper, Brenda Fricker and Charles Dutton. He now seems to be returning to that with his role in 2011's ''Film/TheLincolnLawyer''.
** His critically acclaimed performances in 2012's ''Killer Joe'' and ''Magic Mike'' have been earning him serious praise, to the point that there has even been Awards buzz.
** And now, many critics has lavished praises on his performance in ''Film/DallasBuyersClub'', with some even calling it a career-best and giving another Awards buzz for him - and a Golden Globe and an Oscar.
** Topped off with his role in the {{HBO}} anthrology drama ''Series/TrueDetective'', which has received rave reviews, and he more then holds his own with Woody Harrelson.
** The reason Creator/ChristopherNolan sought him to play the hero in his movie ''{{Film/Interstellar}}'' is his performance as the titular character in ''{{Film/Mud}}''.
* Creator/ColinMorgan and Creator/AngelCoulby easily dominated the early episodes of ''Series/{{Merlin}}'', especially with their character's reactions to their [[GirlOfTheWeek girlfriend]] and father's deaths respectively, but Creator/BradleyJames gets to prove himself with Arthur's rage against Uther and subsequent meltdown when he discovers the truth about his mother. Angel and Bradley also deserve credit for ''completely and utterly selling'' the Arthur/Guinevere romance, a relationship that even the ''shippers'' admit was initially a bad case of StrangledByTheRedString.
** KatieMcGrath was often considered the weak link amongst the younger cast considering she was the only one who had no professional training, but she manages a heart-rending delivery of the line: "I'm scared, Merlin," and nails a later scene in which Merlin is forced to poison her, in which she goes from confusion, to gradual realization, to horror and panic without a single word of dialogue.
** It's pretty common for fans to be blown away when seeing Colin Morgan in a serious role for the first time - he's never ''bad'' as Merlin, but in ''Island'' and ''Parked'', his two subsequent film roles, he's phenomenal to the point that after having gone to see either film specifically for him, it's easy to be so drawn in to his performance that you forget tha that it's him.
** Overshadowed by the others, but definitely worth a mention is Santiago Caberra's preformance in ''Lancelot du Lac''. He had only appeared in five episodes prior, and while he does play a very good Lancelot (his is probably the only PuritySue you will love), he completely and utterly nails a SoullessShell of Lancelot in this episode. No PsychoticSmirk, no ObviouslyEvil behavior, but he just subtly and slowly creeps you out until the end of the episode when seeing him throws off the UncannyValley. The last scene [[spoiler: where he is revived for a few seconds on the funeral boat]] shows just how different the two characters were.
*** While we're at it, ''everyone'' in Lancelot du Lac was great. The scene where [[spoiler: Arthur confronts Gwen over her infidelity]] is so painful to watch that the [[Recap/MerlinS04E09LancelotDuLac recap of the episode]] doesn't even write it down, just links you to the scene.
* Season 10 of Series/{{Smallville}} is showing that Lucas Gabreel doesn't need ''HighSchoolMusical'' to show that he can really act, especially since he plays [[EvilRedhead Alexander]] [[TeensAreMonsters Luthor]] and [[ComicBook/{{Superboy}} Conner Kent]].
* In a rare voice acting example, Andrea Libman has always been known for playing kiddie roles that doesn't exactly require too much acting. For ''WesternAnimation/MyLittlePonyFriendshipIsMagic'', her performance as Pinkie Pie and Fluttershy was great. The final two episodes "Party Of One" and "The Best Night Ever" had the characters she voiced crack under pressure and it was outright ''unnerving''.
** This also applies for some of the other voice actresses on the show. As CR put it, their performances in the previous ''MyLittlePony'' shows were probably only lackluster because they weren't given anything interesting to say.
* VinDiesel is the kind of "actor" who basically plays the same type of character, regardless of what character he's supposed to be playing. And then he did ''FindMeGuilty'', and suddenly people were quoting the trope name. Of course, those few people who were paying attention (mostly Creator/RogerEbert and a few other film critics) were talking about his performances in ''Film/BoilerRoom'' and ''TheIronGiant'' years before.
** Also, he's pretty good in his self-directed, short film debut "MultiFacial".
** Most people would be surprised to know that he started as a stage actor. A part of that is hinted in ''ThePacifier'' where he helps a kid put on a play.
* Creator/BurtReynolds in ''Film/{{Deliverance}}''. Little more than beefcake at the time, he proved his chops in John Boorman's infamous adaptation of the weekend trip whose ecological anvil somehow got drowned out by SquealLittlePiggy. See also BoogieNights.
* TopherGrace's character in ''Film/{{Predators}}'' at first seems like his usual role, an awkward wimp... until TheReveal that [[spoiler: he's an '''extremely''' depraved serial killer who's been stringing the others along.]]
* Misha Collins' Castiel in the ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'' episodes "The French Mistake," where Misha seamlessly transitions from Castiel to his tweet-happy self, "The Man Who Would Be King," where Castiel is ''begging'' for a sign from God, and "The Man Who Knew Too Much", where we learn that Misha can be ''really'' scary when needed, are all evidence of this.
** The episode "The Rapture" aired two seasons before the above episodes, and is widely praised as one of the best examples of Misha's acting ability. In this episode, he transitioned from the relatively emotionless Castiel to his very human vessel Jimmy, and [[TearJerker brought many viewers to tears]] in the process. Notable since this episode is during his first season on ''Series/{{Supernatural}}'', before which he was largely unknown.
* Nicole Richie as an enemy agent in ''Series/{{Chuck}}''.
* While Tobey Maguire may be best known for being [[Film/{{Spiderman}} Peter Parker]], he has considerable acting chops. A notable example comes from ''Film/{{Brothers}}'', with [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j3L5Fz7HDno one of the most terrifying performances]] you'll ever see. Before that, there was ''Film/WonderBoys''.
** See also ''Film/TheCiderHouseRules'' and ''Film/{{Pleasantville}}''.
* The acting in ''Series/GameOfThrones'' is superb across the board, but special congratulations has to go to Jack Gleeson, as [[TheCaligula Joffrey.]]
** Alfie Allen's masterful CallingTheOldManOut in the third episode of season two proves he's not just Lily's ButtMonkey brother anymore. After that, he gets a terrifying yet [[TragicVillain tragic]] FaceHeelTurn, complete with excellently delivered dialogue and facial expressions showing his [[MyGodWhatHaveIDone conflicted]] [[ConflictingLoyalties feelings]] to his horrible actions.
** MaisieWilliams starts out as Arya Stark and has been winning near-universal praise. It's her ''first'' acting role.
*** She had to spend much of Season Two holding her own against near the 40-year, highly respected acting veteran Creator/CharlesDance, and succeeded marvelously.
** Gwendoline Christie shows way more range in four episodes of Season 3 than in the whole of Season 2, proving that any perceived "woodness" back then wasn't a fault on the actress' acting, but part of how Brienne really was supposed to be as a character.
** After getting notoriously little to do for almost three full seasons, Art Parkinson finally gets to show his stuff in "The Rains of Castamere," fully proving he's able to handle more dramatic material.
* Remember Judith Light from ''WhosTheBoss''? Well, before she was Tony Danza's co-star, she was on ''OneLifeToLive''. As Karen Wolek, who had to admit to being a prostitute on the witness stand at her friend's murder trial. The scene is [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YSLLTBaR9gQ&feature=related here]]. She won the 1980 Daytime Emmy for Best Actress for that scene, BTW.
* Lacey Turner was fairly well-known in Britain for portraying Stacey Slater in popular soap opera ''EastEnders''. When she was cast in the third season of ''BeingHuman'', many fans groaned at the prospect of having to sit through the performance of an actress largely known for shouting loudly at everyone else in the room. The fanbase was very pleasantly surprised when she turned in a surprisingly nuanced performance as vengeful murder victim Lia.
** She also underwent quite a transformation within ''[=EastEnders=]''. She was perfectly good as a shouter, but her last few months on the show and her character's struggle with being bipolar showed what a phenomenal actress Lacey Turner actually is.
* [[TheYoungOnes Adrian]] [[{{Bottom}} Edmondson]] on ''HolbyCity''. His character, Abra, starts out as borderline [[PluckyComicRelief comic relief]], as one would expect from him, but it eventually becomes clear that the man can [[TearJerker reduce his audience to a sobbing mess]] just as easily.
* Carrie Anne Moss proved some depth in ''Film/{{Memento}}'', but you'd have to pause halfway through one movie, looking closer, to realize she was even in it, the character was so far away from [[Film/TheMatrix Trinity]]. Moss acted her ass off in, of all things, ''{{Fido}}''.
** Her stint as a voice actress for ''VideoGame/MassEffect2'' and ''VideoGame/MassEffect3'' is also noteworthy, managing to convincingly play a very vicious crime boss.
* In his first two major roles, ''{{Moonlight}}'' and ''Three Rivers'', Alex O'Loughlin didn't impress many people (except with his hotness). But then he guest-starred on an episode of ''Series/CriminalMinds'' as a tormented serial killer with a crippling case of OCD. His performance was incredible, and he's almost unrecognizable to someone who knows him from his other work.
** When you compare the withdrawn, quiet and fairly meek serial killer to his highly-physical, snarking, and aggressive Steve [=McGarrett=] in the new ''Series/HawaiiFive0'', the difference is astounding. Even someone who's seen both roles would be hard-pressed to recognize him as the same actor, even though the only difference in appearance [[ClarkKenting is a pair of glasses]].
* DemiLovato won critical praise for her guest role in 2010 on ''Series/GreysAnatomy'' as a suicidal patient.
* LadyGaga at the 2011 [=VMAs=] proved that she could be a great stage actor.
* Bizarrely, some have had this reaction to ''Film/TransformersDarkOfTheMoon'', namely Patrick Dempsey as Dylan Gould, a human villain even more despicable than most of the Decepticons.
** In a more "he really can direct" way, this movie clearly proved that if Creator/MichaelBay wants to make a serious, mature and dark movie, he makes a serious, mature and dark movie ''right''.
* Kiernan Shipka as Sally Draper on ''MadMen'', especially when she pulls the DeliberatelyCuteChild act in "The Beautiful Girls". There's a reason why her little brother has been [[TheOtherDarrin replaced four times]] while she's still on the show, even getting [[PromotionToOpeningTitles into the opening credits in Season 4]].
* Jack Black is known for being goofy, silly, immature, etc. Then comes along his despicable character in the Film/KingKong remake...
** However, it's Creator/DustinHoffman's tutoring for ''WesternAnimation/KungFuPanda'' that really allowed Black to create a truly soulful character as Po.
** And then there's ''Film/{{Bernie}}''. Basically take every trait you'd associate with a "typical" Jack Black character and create a character who's the complete opposite. Black nailed it.
** Speaking of Black, there's his VA performance in ''VideoGame/BrutalLegend'' where he combines his silly and goofy character with badassness and a touch of deepness. Then again, there were a lot of instances in that game, especially from the guest stars. [[JudasPriest Rob Halford]] plays both an effeminate BigBad with tendencies for hitting extremely high notes and a GutturalGrowler, [[Music/TheRunaways Lita Ford]] plays a [[TheStoic stoic]] ProudWarriorRaceGuy, [[Music/{{Motorhead}} Lemmy Kilmister]] plays himself to great extent, as does [[Music/OzzyOsbourne Ozzy Osbourne]], alongside the fact that [[ArsonMurderAndJaywalking and you actually hear the latter.]]
* John Ritter and Dwight Yoakam in ''SlingBlade''.
* Iwan Rheon in ''Series/{{Misfits}}'' was certainly never considered a bad actor, and was arguably the best of the main cast. However his role as [[spoiler: Future!Simon]] shows his clear talent: through subtly changing his behavior, [[spoiler: Rheon in a few scenes clearly showed the character development Simon has undergone, and exhibits simultaneously a vastly different personality, yet with a few glimpses of the Simon we know and love peeking through]]. Not an easy job to handle.
* Nathan Lane's sinister turn as Preed from ''TitanAE'' may come as a surprise to people who know him as Timon from ''Disney/TheLionKing''.
* Creator/WoodyAllen in ''TheFront''. Up until this point in his career, he had been known for playing silly, nebbishy nerds. Although there are traces of that here, it's a deeper and more dramatic performance than even his fans are used to.
* BritneySpears is rather respected for her comedic-timing in her bit parts on ''Series/HowIMetYourMother'' and ''WillAndGrace''.
* Film critics savaged {{Madonna}}'s performances for years until her turn as Eva Perón in ''{{Evita}}''; she eventually won a Golden Globe for her performance.
* If there's anyone out there that doubts Creator/SarahMichelleGellar has skill as an actress, they should be made to watch the ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' episode "The Body" and the episode following it. They could ''not'' have worked nearly as well without Gellar's painstricken performance. (And she won an Emmy ''before'' she started playing Miss Summers, remember.)
** Then there's ''{{Ringer}}'' where she excelled playing two extremely different types of women... one kind of cuddly loving messed up MamaBear and another ice queen/manipulative bastard defined.
** Even long before "The Body," actually. Take one good look at her [[TearJerker tearjerking]] performance during her "I don't want to die," speech from the first season finale. That was the scene for many fans that convinced them that Ms. Gellar really did have excellent acting chops.
* Christopher Reeve was an unknown in 1978, although an unknown who'd gone to Julliard (where he was RobinWilliams' classmate and friend). Rejected three times before he finally got the part, he came to define Franchise/{{Superman}} for at least one generation, and on the strength of his acting, made us believe not only that a man could fly but that ClarkKenting was entirely possible.
** And lest you think his talents are limited to filling out blue spandex or wearing glasses convincingly, go watch ''Deathtrap'', where he plays an earnest young writer [[spoiler:and murderous sociopath]], or ''Film/SomewhereInTime'', but [[TearJerker be prepared to cry. A lot.]]
* Fred Durst, commonly known as the [[NiceHat backwards red cap]]-wearing mook from Music/LimpBizkit, surprised critics with his acting in the movie ''Population 436''. Then with his directing of the drama '' The Education of Charlie Banks''.
* Though his ''Film/CoolAsIce'' performance was panned, Music/VanillaIce earned appraisal for his performance in the Captain Hook in the Chatham, Kent Central Theatre pantomime production of ''PeterPan''.
* After her disastrous debut performance in the ''Film/ANightmareOnElmStreet2010'', many people wrote of RooneyMara as the worst new star of the year. Near the end of the year, she had a OneSceneWonder in Creator/DavidFincher's ''TheSocialNetwork'', and suddenly people began to see some potential in her. That potential was reached with ''TheGirlWithTheDragonTattoo'' where she managed to match Creator/NoomiRapace's performance and (in some people's eyes) exceed it. Mara later revealed that she had a miserable time working on ''Film/ANightmareOnElmStreet2010'', and almost quit acting. Thank God she didn't.
* Creator/SamWorthington in ''TheDebt'' came as a surprise to some critics, especially those who thought he couldn't escape his [[OohMeAccentsSlipping Australian accent]].
* MatthewLillard is usually known as a the LargeHam actor who played Shaggy in ScoobyDoo. In ''Film/TheDescendants'', he displays surprising restraint and emotion that some were not aware he was capable of.
** Watch ''SLCPunk'', and bring the tissues.
* Emmy Rossum was mainly known for giving bland, [[WideEyedIdealist wide-eyed]], [[TheIngenue ingenue]] performances. The came the US remake of ''{{Shameless}}'' where she not only proved she could act her ass off but somehow managed to come off as a better actor than ''William H. Macy''.
* Thomas Haden Church was best known as the goofy mechanic Lowell on the comedy series ''Series/{{Wings}}''. Then he appeared in ''{{Sideways}}'' in a role as far from Lowell as humanly possible and blew everyone away with his performance.
** And as Sadman in Spider-Man 3. He even did the motion capture for his scene after first gaining his powers.
* Creator/StephenColbert on ''Series/LawAndOrderCriminalIntent'' as a [[spoiler:forger and murderer]]. It's not until the credits roll that you realize you've been watching ''that'' [[Series/TheColbertReport Stephen Colbert]] in a dramatic role.
* Bryan Cranston on ''Series/BreakingBad'' is defining example of this trope in action. Almost no one thought the bumbling dad from ''Series/MalcolmInTheMiddle'' could take on such a heavy role. Four seasons later, he has won three Emmys, turned the show into a critical favourite and is considered one of the best actors on television.
** Not so surprising to anybody who is familiar with his acting resume which covers an astonish variety of roles across film and television.
** He did play TheDevil in ''Fallen''.
** And PresidentEvil Vilos Cohaagen in the ''[[Film/TotalRecall2012 Total Recall]]'' remake.
* Aaron Paul was a bit actor for years with some minor film work and guess spots. Then he was cast as Jesse Pinkman on ''Series/BreakingBad'' and turned what could have been a thin character into a remarkably deep, fragile human being with an abundance of regret, self-loathing, a compulsive habit of destroying himself and probably the only real moral compass of anyone on the show. So far, he has won two Emmys for Best Supporting Actor, making him one of only five actors to win the respective award more than once.
* Inverted with Jon Hamm. He received tons of praise for his remarkably tense, understated performance on ''MadMen'' and is praised as basically the reason the show is so successful. Many viewers have been surprised by his work in stuff like ''30 Rock'' and ''{{Bridesmaids}}'', which qualify more as "He really can be funny".
* EmilyBrowning going from the childlike and innocent Violet in ASeriesOfUnfortunateEvents to ''Film/SuckerPunch'' is mind blowing to some people. The difference in characters in immense...
* VanessaHudgens proves she could go the distance in the acting department with her subtle but emotional performance in ''Film/SuckerPunch'' where she plays the complete opposite of who she played in HighSchoolMusical.
* An Inversion. David Caruso is best known to audiences for putting on sunglasses and cheesy one-liners. Therefore seeing him in ''KingOfNewYork'' as the violent but well-intentioned police officer who is disgusted that a wealthy man can get off for murder is quite a shock. He not only plays the role extremely well, he easily holds his own alongside Christopher Walken.
* J.K. Simmons is likely best known to the public for his scene-stealing role as J. Jonah Jameson in ''Film/{{Spider-man}}'', getting all the best lines. But anyone who saw him in ''Series/{{Oz}}'' knew him as the depraved Nazi Vern Schillinger, a man who is in turns absolutely loathsome and at the same time filled with self-hatred and regret. Its a complex role and Simmons absolutely nails it, giving arguably the best performance in the whole series.
** And then he showed his phenomenally wide range when he played a completely likeable, sympathetic character in ''{{Juno}}''.
* Tom Hulce made his first big acting mark as goofy Delta frat member Pinto in ''Film/AnimalHouse''. Then along came a movie called ''Film/{{Amadeus}}''. And then, a movie called ''Disney/TheHunchbackOfNotreDame'', where it turns out he really can ''sing'' as well.
* In voice-acting, JohnnyYongBosch is a bit typecast; he used to work on PowerRangers and typically plays confident, outgoing heroes. Then comes... Well, this entry has been changed ''three times'', which tells you how good he is:
** ...''FiveCentimetersPerSecond'', in which his character is a wistful young man who is no longer with his childhood love, who he still yearns for.
** ...''TalesOfSymphoniaDawnOfTheNewWorld'', where he plays a wimpy, timid NonActionGuy with a bloodthirsty, vengeful SuperpoweredEvilSide, and carries both roles with ease.
** ...and does anyone remember the other one? Add it back in! Give Johnny his due!
** The third one might be as Lelouch Lamperouge in ''CodeGeass''. I have never seen anyone pull off such insanely dramatic laughs, as well as absolutely heartbreaking and magnificently awesome lines in my entire life. Quite a few people may prefer him over Jun Fukuyama.
** His voice work in ''VideoGame/BinaryDomain'' surprised a lot of people when he showed up as Sergeant Kurosawa, a ByTheBookCop ReasonableAuthorityFigure. Instead of his usual HotBlooded LargeHam characters, we got a relatively understated (but unsurprisingly awesome) character who actually had a Japanese accent as opposed to [[NotEvenBotheringWithTheAccent a lot of of his other work.]]
* Another voce acting example: JasonGriffith. Compare his acting in ''SonicX'' to his performance in the last ''Sonic'' game he worked on. Or his performance in ''{{Kurokami}}''. You will see a marked difference.
* Creator/ShaileneWoodley is best known for her role on ''Series/TheSecretLifeOfTheAmericanTeenager'', turning in a performance that ranges all the way from bitchy to pouty with heaps of DullSurprise in between. Imagine the shock critics had upon seeing ''Film/TheDescendants'' where she is not only very good but nearly steals the film from Creator/GeorgeClooney. Maybe there's hope for the rest of the cast too.
* Hayden Christnensen got this reaction after ''Film/ShatteredGlass'', suggesting that his wooden performance in the ''Franchise/StarWars'' prequels were at least partly a result of the director's lack of attention.
* Creator/MartinFreeman. "[[Series/{{Sherlock}} The Reichenbach Fall]]". He deserved that BAFTA for series 1 and there's no doubt about it, and we've always known he could act, but "Reichenbach" is a whole different ballgame. Whatever remaining critics of his are out there, they've been silenced. ''And how.''
* Matthew Morrison certainly hasn't been bad on ''{{Glee}}'', but his turn as co-plaintiff Paul Katami in the reenacment of the Prop 8 trial was fantastic. He conveys his character's hurt over being considered a threat to children perfectly.
** ChrisColfer's acting on ''{{Glee}}'' has always been praised (he recieved a Golden Globe), but his [[OneSceneWonder short but memorable scene]] in 8 left no doubt how talented he is. Can be scene [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5kwBzbd9bHQ here]].
* Gary Busey - After seeing him in ''RookieOfTheYear'', I didn't believe it when I heard he was crazy. Then I saw a video of Gary Busey being Gary Busey... Well, at least He Really Can Act.
** Well, he didn't garner an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor (for ''{{The Buddy Holly Story}}'') for nothing. (I mean, the guy practically ''was'' {{Buddy Holly}}, similar to how Creator/JoaquinPhoenix became [[JohnnyCash The Man in Black]].)
* Karl Urban gets this treatment after ''Film/StarTrek''. Just watch ''Film/{{Doom}}'' or ''Film/TheChroniclesOfRiddick'', where he wears the same exact expression for the entire film. Then watch him as "Bones" [=McCoy=] and be amazed (Creator/LeonardNimoy certainly was). However, if you happen to recognize him as Éomer from ''Film/TheLordOfTheRings'' films, then it won't be much of a surprise to you.
** He has also shown off some real chops, not to mention versatility, by selling the title character of ''Film/{{Dredd}}'' solely by voice and body language--throughout the entire film the only bits of him visible are his mouth and chin.
* Stephen Merchant's performance as Wheatley in ''VideoGame/{{Portal 2}}'' showed off his impressive voice acting skills [[spoiler:and his ability to turn in a [[FaceHeelTurn genuinely menacing and threatening performance]]]].
* Richard Horvitz has always played [[InvaderZim comedic]] [[AngryBeavers roles]]. In ''VideoGame/{{Psychonauts}}'', while not being as [[LargeHam large of a ham]] as he is notorious for, his character Raz is still pretty lighthearted. And then you see scenes [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=W-Q1tNxWGG4 like]] [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WumAlZ2T-uM#t=265s this]] and it hits you that maybe it's just the littlest bit serious. [[CrowningMomentOfFunny The littlest bit.]] And he can still pull that off.
** He also played against type in the Static Shock episode "Jimmy", and it's one of the few times he's shown to have been subtle in a voice role.
* A good deal of the musical guests on ''SaturdayNightLive'' have appeared in skits, proving themselves to be not only talented musicians, but pretty good comedic actors as well.
* There's no question that JenniferHale has talent, but some of her roles arguably did not make the best use of them. Then she was called in to play Commander Shepard in ''Franchise/MassEffect'' that defined who she played as the galaxy's ultimate badass and one of the greatest characters in the medium, earning such accolades as being called the MerylStreep of the gaming industry and currently being regarded as one of the best [=VAs=] in the medium.
** Likewise, her male counterpart for the voice of Commander Shepard, Creator/MarkMeer, was criticized by many for being flat and monotone in the first two games, and has been highly praised for his performance of Shepard in VideoGame/MassEffect3.
** From the same series and game, Creator/SethGreen as Joker. Normally known for portraying comedic characters, he does the same here, until he explains why he acts like a comedian all the time: to keep Shepard sane after all the horrible things s/he goes through. It's a powerful, dramatic moment taking place right after arguably the darkest mission in an already incredibly dark game, and he brought his A-game.
*** Not to mention ''WesternAnimation/BatmanBeyond'' where he played [[JerkJock jerk jock]] Nelson Nash. BruceTimm even laughs in the commentary about the fact that a 5'4" scrawny guy is voicing a 6' brawny teen with all the bravado and cowardice.
* Creator/ChrisEvans in ''Film/CaptainAmericaTheFirstAvenger''. Evans was mostly known for goofy/sarcastic characters. When it was announced he'd play Steven Rogers/Captain America many fans assumed this would be the JumpTheShark moment for Marvel films. When the movie came out, Evans drew rave reviews from both critics & comics fans.
* Creator/CatherineTate was best known for her sketch comedy show ''Series/TheCatherineTateShow'', and the hilariously abrasive characters she played therein. What she was ''not'' known for was her acting talent. Cue Creator/DavidTennant, ''Series/DoctorWho'', a character called Donna Noble, a little episode known as [[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E2TheFiresOfPompeii "The Fires of Pompeii"]] and jaws around the world collectively hitting the floor as this trope occurred. Respect for Tate's acting chops soared, as did her popularity. She later played Beatrice opposite -- who else? -- David Tennant as Benedick in the RoyalShakespeareCompany's (incredibly well-reviewed) 2011 production of ''Theatre/MuchAdoAboutNothing'' (which was hers and Tennant's idea to begin with). Yeah. She can act. Creator/RussellTDavies called Tate's performance in the circle of mirrors in [[Recap/DoctorWhoS30E11TurnLeft "Turn Left"]] one of the finest performances he's ever been associated with.
* Before Tate, Creator/BilliePiper's performance as Rose in ''Series/DoctorWho'' pleasantly surprised a lot of fans who assumed that she was just a has-been pop starlet trying to "act".
* Leila Arcieri in ''Kevin Hill''. Before then she was thought of as more beauty than anything else. But her role in Kevin Hill proved she's very capable of doing dramatic roles, and is more than just a pretty face.
* TylerPerry has always been very LoveItOrHateIt because of his [[ComedicSociopathy Madea]] films, but his movie Good Deeds proved to be very surprising. With nary a Madea in sight, it was very low-key, sweet and disarming, with him turning a lot of his own film cliches over on their head. He proved that by playing a subdued, withdrawn sort of character that yes, He Really Can Act.
* Tori Spelling has been Hollywood's favorite punching bag for years, usually seen as a product of nepotism and a talentless little rich girl. In an effort to defy this, she put together a little LifeEmbellished sitcom in 2006 called ''So [=NoTORIous=].'' The critics who normally got their kicks trashing her, almost unanimously (and frequently, begrudgingly) praised the show, saying it was better than they assumed, and that Spelling is actually funny and pretty good at comedy, enjoying that, rather than a vanity project, she was willing to [[SelfDeprecation make fun of herself]] as much as anyone else.
* Steve Carell in "Film/LittleMissSunshine". The guy mainly known from ''Series/TheDailyShow'' at that time put on a great performance as the formerly suicidal uncle.
* ''Killer Joe'' has multiple examples. The most obvious is Matthew [=McConaughey=] who completely destroys his goofy Rom-com image, buries it in a coffin ten feet deep and pours concrete on it. He absolutely owns every single scene he is in and manages to be both completely compelling and seductive and completely terrifying and unpredictable, able to switch from oily charm to explosive violence in an instant. The second is Juno Temple who creates a very unique character that combines childlike wonder and mature sexuality mixed with deep mental instability. The third is Gina Gershon who is so good as Charlene You pretty much forget she was ever in ''Showgirls''.
* TomKenny has generally played a lot of comedic roles, such as Spongebob, The Mayor of Townsville, Dog, etc. It comes off as a shock when he plays [[WesternAnimation/{{Ultimate Spider-Man}} Doctor Octopus]], who is a legitimately creepy and threatening character, as well as [[spoiler:managing to make you feel a bit of pity for him in a hall of mirrors when he laments "I was handsome once." in "Me Time", as well as the fact that he's about to be fired if he doesn't get Spider-Man]].
** He also does a great job as [[GreenLanternTheAnimatedSeries the Anti-Monitor]].
** Don't forget his role as the [[WesternAnimation/AdventureTime Ice King]], initially a comedic and relatively harmless villain... [[spoiler: until we're shown his backstory]] and you're hit by just how emotional he can get...
** In fact, one of his first roles, ''ShakesTheClown'' saw him in a legitimately intimidating turn as [[MonsterClown Binky]].
* Chris Addison's acting roles consisted entirely of comedy until his role in ''Skins'' as the headmaster of the college that the series is set in, later revealed to be the father of a main character. This role started off as another comedic one, his character being a strict teacher and very resentful of his daughter's boyfriend, but it took a dramatic turn when [[spoiler: the character of his daughter was killed off]] and the emotional scene where [[spoiler: he breaks the news to her boyfriend]] left viewers surprised that not only was he suddenly doing serious acting but was also very good at it!
* Creator/OliviaMunn has mostly been known for her MsFanservice roles on ''Series/AttackOfTheShow'' and ''Series/TheDailyShow'' and the intense arguments about how geeky she really is. Then she was cast in ''Series/TheNewsroom'', Creator/AaronSorkin's new TV project. Most critics were well and truly silenced by episode six, where her character got the limelight and she promptly went toe-to-toe with [[Series/LawAndOrder Sam Waterston]].
* Jeff Daniels. Here he is [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NwcVJMvVWDA in]] ''Film/DumbAndDumber''. And here he is [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-kdOKJXfTU4&feature=related in]] ''Film/{{Gettysburg}}''. Anyone who still has doubts definitely needs to watch ''Series/TheNewsroom''.
* Another VA example. Creator/SteveBlum has always been a good actor, but his PlayingAgainstType in ''Anime/DigimonTamers'' sees him playing the loveable, chidlike and squeaky Guilmon, as well as the dorky Kenta, both of whom are not his normal vocal type. He's also ''terrifying'' as [[BigBad Amon]] in ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'' as well as very charismatic, commanding the screen in every scene he was in, [[spoiler:and both he and Creator/DeeBradleyBaker had one of the most heartbreaking moments of the entire season at the end]].
** Speaking of ''WesternAnimation/TheLegendOfKorra'', there's Seychelle Gabriel as Asami. Originally she played Princess Yue in the [[Film/TheLastAirbender panned adaptation]] of the [[WesternAnimation/AvatarTheLastAirbender original series]]. Then she got cast in the series and started off as TheScrappy before [[RescuedFromTheScrappyHeap proceeding to win fans over to her]] through a combination of the writing and her often heartbreaking performance, making her one of the more sympathetic characters in the series. Her final confrontation with [[spoiler:her father]] in particular, stands out.
* The film ''Film/{{Juno}}'' was known (rightfully) as the arrival of EllenPage, but it was also audiences' first exposure to Creator/OliviaThirlby. Five years later came ''Film/{{Dredd}} 3D'', in which her character is TheHeart, the NewMeat who has to [[TookALevelInBadass Take a Level in Badass]], the FairCop ''and'' TheChick with PsychicPowers. The movie may be named after Judge Dredd, but it's Thirlby whose performance carries the film.
* A lot of people would dismiss ReeseWitherspoon, who starred in light-hearted fares such as ''Film/{{Legally Blonde}}'' and ''Film/{{Just Like Heaven}}'', as only a vapid, romcom actress who is more known for looks than talent, even to the point when there was an outrage when it was announced that she was to play June Carter Cash in the JohnnyCash biopic, ''WalkTheLine''. But when they saw the movie and her heartbreaking performance in it, [[TearJerker particularly in the climatic proposal scene]], she shut the doubters up and proved everyone that she's a '''brilliant''' actress (and singer, too) and even winning a plethora of awards for the performance, including a more-than-deserved Academy Award.
** See also ''The Man in the Moon'', ''Freeway'', ''Election'', ''Vanity Fair'', and ''Rendition''.
** Her performance in ''Mud'' has won her great praise.
* ''Manga/VampireKnight'', ''LightNovel/{{Durarara}}'' and ''VideoGame/TalesOfGraces'' convinced several anime and JRPG fans that Creator/BrycePapenbrook had a significant amount of promise, despite his less-than-stellar performances in earlier shows. ''Manga/BlueExorcist'' only solidified it- his performance as Rin has won unanimous praise from the show's fans.
* Creator/NeilPatrickHarris who plays Barney Stinson in ''Series/HowIMetYourMother'' is usually a comedic actor. However, he has demostrated several times over the show's run that he can do serious acting. Especially in season 4 when Barney develops romantic feelings for Robin, and in season 6 when his father comes back into his life.
** Cobie Smulders is known as a talented actress but didn't get that much to show it off on HIMYM...then came "Symphony Of Illumination" where Robin discovers [[spoiler: she can't have children]] and breaks down crying in Ted's arms at the end.
** Josh Radnor deserves mention for his acting in key moments, like his 45 Days speech to the mother
* Nobody could doubt Ted Danson's comedic chops after watching ''{{Series/Cheers}}'' but anybody who watches ''{{Series/Damages}}'' is blown away by his strong dramatic performance and how well he holds his own in a cast led by ''Glenn Close''.
* Many people dismissed Creator/NicolasCage as a bad actor who always goes crazy. He's very good in ''Film/TheRock'', ''Film/LordOfWar'', ''Film/LeavingLasVegas'', ''Film/BadLieutenantPortOfCallNewOrleans'', ''Film/CityOfAngels'', ''Film/{{Windtalkers}}'', and ''Film/WildAtHeart''.
* The cast of ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'' have proved that, for a group that initially just consisted of a few guys screwing around on a web production, they can really act. For Burnie Burns, that's whenever Church is breaking down, for Joel Heyman it's when [[spoiler:Caboose is sobbing because he's lost his best friend]], and for Gus Sorola and Geoff Ramsey it's when it looks like Grif might die.
** On that note, ElijahWood deserves a mention. He'd been praised for an okay performance in LordOfTheRings, but they'd not been overtly positive. Then he played Kevin in SinCity and scared the shit out of everyone. When he got into ''Machinima/RedVsBlue'' as [[AIIsACrapshoot Sigma]], and he steals pretty much every scene he's in, making you simultaneously detest and love him at the same time.
* Jeremy Shada, the voice of Finn from ''WesternAnimation/AdventureTime'' has already proven himself to be quite the capable actor, considering his age. But his performance in "Finn the Human" is even better. [[spoiler:When Finn was under control of the Ice King's crown]], his performance was '''DISTURBING'''.
* SteveDownes as Master Chief in ''VideoGame/{{Halo 4}}''. He'd always been good as a VA, but a criticism was that Chief was too flat a character (owing to his being a HeroicMime and so on). The increased dialogue was put to good use by Steve, who manages to steal the show and simultaneously humanise him. It gets even better when [[spoiler:he's saying goodbye to Cortana]] and his voice is cracking, clearly trying to fight back tears. If that isn't a Tear Jerker for the game, what isn't?
* NicoleKidman has an Oscar for Best Actress sitting on her shelf at home, as well as a room full of other awards, so it's hard to imagine this ever applying to her. But for the first half of the Nineties, she was best known for being Mrs. TomCruise. Then came ToDieFor, which won her a Golden Globe award, and which is still considered by many to be among her best work.
** Pre-Tom Cruise, there was ''Bangkok Hilton'', in which she plays a young woman framed by her boyfriend for heroin smuggling. The scene where she starts to go into an asthma attack when the heroin is discovered will impress anyone.
* Elizabeth Shue, primarily known for being the cute girl in things like ''Karate Kid'', ''Back to the Future Part II'' and ''III'', ''Adventures in Babysitting'' and ''Cocktail'', shocked people with her Oscar nominated performance in Leaving Las Vegas.
** A lesser known case in the Lifetime movie ''Amy & Isabelle'' in which she plays a repressed spinster and borderline abusive mother. Her performance was highly praised. It also helped that she went down the BeautyInversion route.
* Bill Farmer as {{Goofy}}. He's usually a clumsy, happy-go-lucky guy, but come ''AGoofyMovie'' and its sequel, Goofy shows a wide range of emotions, adding authenticity to the heartbreaking moment when Goofy finds out [[spoiler: Max changed the map]].
* JimCummings as [[Franchise/WinnieThePooh Tigger]] in ''TheTiggerMovie''. Tigger is usually a bouncy, dim-witted nut, but when he's sad, ''damn...''
* MaryKayBergman has had a long history of roles up until her death, comedic and serious. Many of her ''WesternAnimation/SouthPark'' voices were funny, but her role as Sheila in ''WesternAnimation/SouthParkBiggerLongerAndUncut''...never had such a silly-sounding character sounded threatening.
* Kate Hudson is known for light-hearted romantic comedies but she has really showed her dramatic chops in films such as ''Almost Famous'' and ''Raising Helen''. She's also very good in ''Film/TheSkeletonKey''.
* Rachel [=McAdams=] and her acting talent were never in doubt but her first two notable roles were ''Film/MeanGirls'' and ''Film/WeddingCrashers''. She she showed off her dramatic talents in ''Film/RedEye''
* Michelle Trachtenberg's acting talent on ''Series/BuffyTheVampireSlayer'' is often overshadowed by how [[TheScrappy annoying her]] [[BrattyHalfPint character is]]. However she delivered fantastic performances in "Tough Love" where she wonders if everything is her fault, "The Gift" when she has to come to terms with her fate, "Help" where she must deal with the death of a friend and "Conversations With Dead People" where she stands up to the friggin First Evil.
* Creator/CharlesMartinet as Mario in ''[[VideoGame/{{SuperSmashBrosBrawl}} Super Smash Bros Brawl]]'': Mario is usually a happy-go-lucky [[TheEveryman Everyman]], but the surprisingly deep storylines in ''Brawl'' show him as as a true battle-hardened hero. When Mario is about to unleash his [[LimitBreak Final Smash]], he delivers his line with utter, barely-contained '''JOY'''.
** One of Charles Martinet's roles outside the Mario universe was the [[VideoGame/TheElderScrollsVSkyrim dragon Paarthurnax]]. Contrary to the high-pitched voices of many Mario characters, Paarthurnax has an incredibly deep voice, and is well-acted.
* Sasha Baron Cohen in Hugo gives a surprisingly good performance as the station inspector. You can feel the characters pathos when need be, it's awesome.
* KirstenDunst was showered with nominations and awards for her lead role in ''Film/{{Melancholia}}'', and with good reason. Her portrayal of a woman with depression is partially based on her own experiences with the affliction, and it shows, particularly during the wedding scene.
* Troian Bellisario generally got this reaction for her depiction of Spencer Hastings' brief SanitySlippage on ''Series/PrettyLittleLiars''.
* Sally Field. Light, fluffy, comedic sitcom actress, right? She was ''Gidget'', she was ''TheFlyingNun'', she was ''The Girl With Something Extra'' -- and then she was ''Sybil'', and pretty much everybody sat down and shut up. Anyone left over was completely won by ''Norma Rae'', or -- for the last holdouts -- ''Places in the Heart''.
* SamWitwer in ''WesternAnimation/StarWarsTheCloneWars'' as [[spoiler:Darth Maul]], hands down one of the creepiest performances you will ever hear on the show.
* We always knew NolanNorth was a good actor, but he was always pigeonholed in the same roles. Then he played The Penguin in ''VideoGame/BatmanArkhamCity'', where he terrified the audience and made him quite possibly one of the most memorable versions of the character... ever.
** This is to say nothing of his performance in ''SpecOpsTheLine'', [[spoiler:where his character starts going batshit insane in an epic PlayingAgainstType work, and he gradually becomes so much worse than the person he think's he is hunting. His performance in that game is truly nightmarish... even better, the developers said that they hadn't chosen him as a case of PlayingAgainstType, just that he'd auditioned successfully. When the developers realise you have the potential to be that creepy and then use it to full effect... damn]].
** And then he put any doubts to rest with his performance as David in [[TheLastOfUs]], where he pretty much steals the game from the lead actors.
* Creator/DanAykroyd in TradingPlaces. Say what you want about Aykroyd's acting, but he played his character pretty well. [[spoiler: His character was going through depression, because his life has been destroyed by a bet. And he played it very convincing.]]
** And then he was vindicated by Oscar nomination via his stellar performance in ''{{Driving Miss Daisy}}'', managing to hold his own in the company of screen legend {{Jessica Tandy}}.
* Speaking of, Dan's fellow Blues Brother {{John Belushi}} played completely against type in the sweet romantic comedy ''{{Continental Divide}}'', which made a lot of people wonder {{what could have been}} if he had managed to beat his drug demons before they took his life.
** [[Creator/JamesBelushi His brother]] is no slouch, either. Check out his role as Fang in ''WesternAnimation/{{Gargoyles}}'' and The Woodsman in ''WesternAnimation/{{Hoodwinked}}''.
* Going back 15 years now, but it needs to be mentioned. In the iconic series ''XenaWarriorPrincess'', Hudson Leick, a young actress who had previously played bit roles in soaps, played Callisto, one of the most complex and heart-rending villains to grace the stage of TV. The range and depth of her acting, the way she developed the character, and the transition to Callisto's ultimate redemption was all absolutely brilliant. She also played the title character Xena ''very'' well for a few episodes, and other small parts were played with the same ingenuity. That her undeniable talent wasn't picked up for much larger roles after ''Xena'' is a true example of Hollywood overlooking a wonderful actor who deserved much more.
* Daryl Hannah had always been associated with lightweight roles but proved surprisingly convincing as a psychotic killer in the ''Film/KillBill'' movies.
* All of the actresses on ''Series/{{Charmed}}'' at one point:
** Shannen Doherty was mostly known as Brenda on ''BeverlyHills90210'' and her character Prue was horribly written in the show's first season. Then came the season 2 premiere where Prue suffers a breakdown over [[spoiler: Andy's death]] and the pressure of supposedly being the strongest sister. She also delivers a brilliant performance in season 3's "Death Takes A Halliwell", as well as "Primrose Empath" and her final episode "All Hell Breaks Loose".
** Holly Marie Combs was the unknown one of the leading actresses, though anyone who watched her in ''Picket Fences'' would know how talented an actress she is. Her SRCA moment came in the show's second episode where she worries that she and her sisters could be evil. She ended up delivering the most consistent performances of all the leading actresses across eight seasons. Her acting range was taken to a new level with season 4's "Hell Hath No Fury" where she loses it in front of [[spoiler: Prue's grave]].
** Alyssa Milano was always considered the weakest of the sisters, having been known either as the child star on ''WhosTheBoss'' or a sexpot. Her first SRCA moment came in season 2's "Morality Bites" where she assumes the role of her future self and comes to terms with what she's become. And again in season 4's "Long Live The Queen" after [[spoiler: Cole has been vanquished]].
** RoseMcGowan had a lot of ReplacementScrappy heat to shake off, which she did within her first few episodes. Season 4's "A Paige From The Past" helped her fall in line with the show's standards.
** Even Kayley Cuoco got this, despite her character not being well received. "Mr and Mrs Witch" has Billie desperately trying to get her parents to remember her and the season finale has her trying to come to terms with who her sister really is. Both are good performances from her. Though she previously showed hints of dramatic flair in the infamous ''Series/EightSimpleRules'' episodes following Paul's abrupt death.
** Brian Krause's crying scene over [[spoiler: Piper's body]] in the season 3 finale? Absolutely atrocious and nearly ruined the scene. His crying in the season 6 finale [[spoiler: when Chris dies]] and subsequent RoaringRampageOfRevenge? He Really Can Act.
* Matt Lucas is known on both sides of the Atlantic for his role on comedy series ''Little Britain'' and ''Bridesmaids''. But he proved his dramatic talent in ''Small Apartments'' as a middle aged ManChild lacking in almost any survival skills and completely lost without the brother who once helped him get by. The scene where he finds out [[spoiler: his brother has died of a brain tumor that he never told him about]] is utterly heartbreaking. The film also has ''Jackass'' star Johnny Knoxville, best known for exploring new boundaries of pain endurance, do great work as a convenience store clerk desperate to convince himself that he isn't wasting his life. He is especially good in a scene where he tells a young stripper the bitter reality of life as a topless dancer in Las Vegas and how people will view her.
* Despite being often cast in suitably comical roles, GeneWilder does have some impressive acting chops, ''especially'' the infamous [[http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aDEdKzAZgko "YOU GET NOTHING!"]] scene from ''WillyWonkaAndTheChocolateFactory''.
* What, no mention of Creator/AnnaPaquin in ''ThePiano''? She might have been only 11 at the time it was released, but she ended up displaying a complexity with her emotions in her performance that many actresses twice her age couldn't muster. She also earned the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her performance in the film.
* Michael Fassbender wasn't all that well known before X-Men: First Class, but he had been good. Then he promptly stole the critically raved about film through a chilling performance as Magneto. Which is quite something since he was essentially playing a younger version of one of Sir Ian [=McKellen=]'s best performances.
** Also, this random Australian was cast as Wolverine, one of Marvel's most iconic characters. His name was HughJackman. He didn't just steal the film, he stole the series.
* While few who saw him on ''The OC'' was in doubt that he could act, Ben [=McKenzie=] has spent much of his post teen-idol career showing his considerable talent in roles such as ''Junebug'' where he plays an ignorant character seething with resentment that his brother has been so successful and all too aware that he is viewed as the family screw-up, ''Batman: Year One'' where he played the title character and proved equally capable of making a convincing shallow playboy and tortured man unable to move on and in a one-man version of ''Johnny Got His Gun'' where he earned rave reviews for a role previously played by the heavyweight likes of James Cagney and Jeff Daniels. He has continued to earn praise for his part on ''Southland'' which has solidified his ascent as a serious actor.
* Critics who saw Creator/ChrisHemsworth as a {{Hunk}} who can only be MrFanservice in films and nothing else were proven wrong in Ron Howard's ''[[Film/{{Rush2013}} Rush]]'', where he manages to be both that and a charismatic and flawed human being.
** His OneSceneWonder in ''Film/StarTrek'' as George Kirk pulling a YouShallNotPass on a vastly superior enemy has him in a TearJerker conversation with his wife who has just given birth. And that's before he became well-known for [[Film/{{Thor}} swinging a hammer]].
* Still no mention of Jennifer Garner? She can do drama (''Series/{{Alias}}''), she can do comedy (13 Going on 30), she can do family stuff (The Odd Life of Timothy Green), yet is generally seen as a fluffy rom-com B-actress.
* While Creator/BenedictCumberbatch is well-known to British audiences just for ''Series/{{Sherlock}}'' alone, his performance as John Harrison ([[spoiler:AKA Khan Noonien Singh]]) in ''Film/StarTrekIntoDarkness'' is downright chilling, going from a calm and composed officer to snarling psychopath. While his role as Literature/SherlockHolmes is definitely of the sociopathic variety, it's still a stark contrast to him [[spoiler:being an outright villain]]. He has previously played an OCD-suffering genius mathematician in ''Series/TheLastEnemy''. Glimpses of his performance in ''Film/TheFifthEstate'' biopic as Julian Assange further show his acting ability. It's possible he's just that good at playing flawed geniuses.
** Speaking of flawed geniuses, there's also his work in ''[[Theater/{{Frankenstein2011}} Frankenstein]]''. Not only did he play Dr. Victor Frankenstein, he and co-star Creator/JonnyLeeMiller would swap roles so they would play both Dr. Frankenstein and the Creature. It should come as no surprise that both Cumberbatch and Miller won the Olivier Award for their work.
* Creator/HenryCavill as Franchise/{{Superman}} in ''Film/ManOfSteel''. Although the movie got mixed reviews, his performance as Superman is universally considered one of the good things in the movie. All the more awesome since he gets to act alongside well-known actors such as Creator/KevinCostner, Creator/MichaelShannon and Creator/RussellCrowe.
* MunroChambers, whose known as playing the hilariously funny Wilder on ''TheLatestBuzz'', became more popular when he took on a dramatic role on ''{{Degrassi}}'' as Eli Goldsworthy.
* Not a whole lot of people remember that {{Charlize Theron}} was at first dismissed as yet another vacuous pretty face who was to be regarded as nothing more than a flash-in-the-pan screen ingenue who would fade away when she turned 30. Then she transformed herself into serial killer Aileen Wuornos in ''Film/{{Monster}}'' and jaws dropped across the land. Then she [[CrowningMomentOfAwesome won an Academy Award]] and people ''knew'' to take her seriously.
* Creator/DavidTennant is known as a very good actor, but also as one hell of a LargeHam owing to his time on Series/DoctorWho and the film adaptation of Literature/HarryPotterAndTheGobletOfFire. So people who saw ''Series/TheEscapeArtist'' (the 2013 BBC drama series) were blown away by his depiction of a court barrister whose life starts taking a turn for the worse, [[spoiler:culminating in him showing himself as a MagnificentBastard by murdering his wife's killer and passing it off as a simple accident which he had nothing to do with]]. ''Damn''. Even better? Throughout the whole thing, there's barely a ''hint'' of hammy-ness.
** Tennant's also shown his acting abilities on ''Series/DoctorWho'' as well. One such example would be his work in "Midnight", particularly when [[spoiler:the Doctor is being {{Mind Rape}}d]]. To quote the [[spoiler:CanOnlyMoveTheEyes page]], "his reaction is shown with the barest minimum to the point where one cannot really point out any distinct facial move or change, yet he still manages to pull off enough fear and anguish to firmly cement the PsychologicalHorror aspect of the episode." And '''''damn''''', is it effective.
* SethMacFarlane definitely deserves this (with the rest of the fair amount of praise he's gotten) for his effort as Johann Krauss in Hellboy 2: The Golden Army, considering how well he holds his own alongside big names like Ron Perlman and Selma Blair. He is undeniably a good VA, but this is a gamble that definitely paid off.
** The films themselves had an internal example, when David Hyde Pierce said that Doug Jones could play both the voice and body of Abe Sapien, not just the body. Pierce even refused a credit for the character. The second film just uses straight Jones.
* People in general (and theatre critics in particular) were sceptical when LennyHenry (mostly known for his comedy performances and characters) announced he was taking on the lead role in a production of Creator/WilliamShakespeare's ''Theatre/{{Othello}}''. Against expectations he got pretty good reviews for the most part with most critics either praising his performance or at least conceding he did a decent if not outstanding job.
* HeathLedger used to be mainly known as [[Film/BrokebackMountain "the gay cowboy."]] When he was cast as SelfDemonstrating/TheJoker in ''Film/TheDarkKnight'', the general reaction was either [[CollectiveGroan groans of dread]] or simply, [[FlatWhat "What?"]] He won an Academy Award and critical acclaim for his performance, and is often considered to be the best Joker ''ever''.
* Farrah Fawcett, who to this day is best remembered as one of [[Series/CharliesAngels Charlie's original Angels]], proved to many that she was more than a pretty face in ''The Burning Bed'' on TV (as a woman striking back against an abusive husband) and in both the stage and movie versions of ''Extremities'' (where she turns the tables on a would-be rapist who attacks her in her own home).
* William Shatner, inspiration of many a trope, showed his genuine acting prowess throughout ''Film/StarTrekIITheWrathOfKhan''. Just ''try'' to keep your ManlyTears down during [[spoiler:Spock's death scene and funeral]]. Go ahead, ''try.'' And there's also many moments where Shatner moderates his acting, showing how it's ''Kirk's'' intentional hamminess, not Shatner's, [[IShallTauntYou to bait Khan]] [[BerserkButton over and over]] in order to win the day.
* Hey, remember cute, cuddly, Davy Jones-lookalike [[StarTrekTheOriginalSeries Pavel Chekov]]? About thirty years later, he did a turn as ''Series/BabylonFive'''s [[DevilInPlainSight Alfred Bester]], and many viewers were shocked to discover that Walter Koenig not only had versatility and range, he could be downright terrifying.
* Uwe Boll, known chiefly for crappy film adaptations of video games, proved his directing chops with ''Film/{{Rampage}}'', considered by many to be his best effort yet.
* Prime Focus has done some notoriously crappy 3D conversions in the past (''Film/ClashOfTheTitans'' and ''[[Film/StarWarsEpisodeIThePhantomMenace Star Wars I: The Phantom Menace]]'' come to mind), but with their 3D conversion job on ''Film/TheWizardOfOz'', they showed a lot of promise and even won the Best 2D to 3D Conversion Award from the International 3D & Advanced Imaging Society for their 3D conversion job on ''Film/{{Gravity}}''.
* [[TheLonelyIsland Andy Samberg]], probably best known for the song "Dick in a Box", wins a Golden Globe for his work on the sitcom BrooklynNineNine and proves he can pull serious scenes, as anyone who saw the indie movie [[Film/CelesteAndJesseForever Celeste and Jesse Forever]] could attest.
* Gareth David-Lloyd on ''Series/{{Torchwood}}''. "[[Recap/TorchwoodS1E4Cyberwoman Cyberwoman]]" is a very good example of this, as is "[[Recap/TorchwoodS3E4DayFour Children of Earth: Day Four]]". Another notable example worth mentioning is "[[Recap/TorchwoodS2E5Adam Adam]]".
* KeanuReeves is well-known nowadays for his deadpan delivery, monotone voice, and lack of emotional expression. But in ''TheMatrix'', he proves that not only can he emote, he can emote well.
** Many always like to cite him as at least very enjoyable in the ''Bill and Ted'' movies as well, and others would also cite ''MyOwnPrivateIdaho''.
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