Characters / Hairspray

Main Characters

Tracy Turnblad

"Finally, Now all of Baltimore knows... I'm big, blonde, and beautiful!" -1988 version
"I'm all for integration! It's the new frontier!" -2007 version

A chubby girl who's a fan of big hairstyles and The Corny Collins Show. She also loves to dance. Played by Ricki Lake in the 1988 movie, Marissa Jaret Winokur in the 2002 Broadway musical, Nikki Blonsky in the 2007 movie, and Maddie Baillio in the 2016 telecast.

  • Acrofatic: She knows every step, she knows every song. She even mentions in the 1988 movie to Seaweed that she's "Just practicing, oh and watching Negro Day on Corny Collins!", which adds to the trope on how well she dances.
  • Alliterative Name
  • Beehive Hairdo: Actually, a flip hairdo with a big bump, which pre-dates Ann Marie.
  • Beware the Nice Ones: In the march, she doesn't take kindly to one of the police officer's rudeness towards her and assaults him with her sign.
    • In the original movie she does have a streak of this in some scenes, like when a woman hurt Link during the riot.
  • Big Beautiful Woman: This is her appeal to the other characters and some fans.
  • Book Dumb: Somewhat. Sleeps in class and doesn't really pay attention.
  • Brilliant, but Lazy: Book Dumb she may be, but if she were to put more effort in her studies as much as she did in dancing, then it may say otherwise.
  • Pint-Sized Powerhouse: "Pint-sized" isn't quite the right word, but take a look at Beware the Nice Ones and remember that she's usually played by shorter actresses (Ricki Lake is 5'4", Marissa Jaret Winokur is 4'11", and Nikki Blonsky is 4'10".)
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Is much nicer in the musical and 2007 movie. In the original, she's a very deliberate nonconformist to the point of viciousness.

Edna Turnblad

"Our little Tracy's too busy ratting her hair and doing the Ubangi Stomp." -1988 version
"Link, your pork is ready!" -2007 version

Tracy's overweight mother, who can be a bit emotional at times. Played by Divine in 1988, Harvey Fierstein in 2002, John Travolta in the 2007 movie, and Fierstein again in the 2016 telecast.

  • Acrofatic: It has been stated that they wanted Edna to be very light on her feet, which is one reason why John Travolta was cast in the latest movie.
  • Clingy Jealous Girl: While not clingy, she does get very emotional when she saw Wilbur being seduced by Velma. This was justified though, as she thought that Wilbur was having an affair.
  • Crosscast Role: It is a tradition that Edna is always played by a man.
  • Hidden Depths: When Tracy gets her first endorsement gig from Mr. Pinky's Hefty Hideaway, she asks Edna to be her agent. In the 2007 film, Edna not only agrees, but shows a surprising amount of business savvy—she alters the contract for Tracy's benefit, speaking knowingly about legal proceeds ("I want a non-exclusive contract! Extensions by mutual option."), and even manages to get herself a free bustier.
    • In the original movie, she also has an eye for a good bargain, and she herself do act as her manager as well on her own terms. Like in the '07 movie, she manages to, as Mr. Pinky said, "(You) drive a hard bargain, and rightfully so!"
  • The Makeover: Gets two in "Welcome to the 60's" and "You Can't Stop the Beat".
  • Revenge: In the 2007 film, when Velma Von Tussle tries to trick her into believing she was seducing her husband, she ends up exposing her on TV, getting her fired.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: Even moreso that Tracy, it's startling to see what a Jerkass Edna can be in the original movie when she's such a sweetheart in the musical.

Wilbur Turnblad

"There's no bugs on our baby!" -1988 version
"Honey, it took me five years to figure out you were flirting!" -2007 version

Tracy's father. A prank shop owner. Played by Jerry Stiller in 1988, Dick Latessa in 2002, Christopher Walken in 2007, and Martin Short in 2016.

  • Good Parents: He encourages Tracy's dreams and has full faith in her ability to succeed.
  • Nosebleed: Has one when his wife, Edna, shakes her butt while dancing at the end in the 2007 movie.
  • Oblivious to Love: When Velma tries to pretend to fall in love with him, he has no idea of her plan in the 2007 movie. Also, see quote above.
  • Wide-Eyed Idealist: Even more so then his daughter. He sees the best in people, doesn't suspect Velma's motives and believes people will give Tracy a chance.
    • Although he has a slightly more cynical side to him in the Broadway musical.
    Little Inez: (about the Von Tussles) Are all white people like that?
    Wilbur: No. Just most of 'em!

Penny Pingleton

"Yes, I'm a checkerboard chick... I guess." -1988 version
"Plastic little spastic." -2007 version

Tracy's best friend. Played by Leslie Ann Powers in 1988, Kerry Butler in 2002, Amanda Bynes in 2007, and Ariana Grande in 2016.

  • The Cutie: In the 1988 movie, complete with how she talks. Even with her hair straightened up, she still looks adorable as ever.
  • Deadpan Snarker
    Motormouth Maybelle: So you two better brace yourselves for a whole lotta ugly comin' at you from a neverending parade of stupid.
    Penny: So you met my mom?
  • Dumb Blonde: Subverted in the end. She may be a Cloud Cuckoolander, but she's no dummy.
  • Fat and Skinny: The skinny to Tracy's fat.

Link Larkin

"Tracy, our souls are black, though our skin is white." -1988 version
"I think knowing you is the start of a pretty big adventure." -2007 version

Amber's boyfriend (And later Tracy's) and the lead male dancer on The Corny Collins Show, Tracy's love interest. Played by Michael St. Gerard in 1988, Matthew Morrison in 2002, Zac Efron in 2007, and Garrett Clayton in 2016.

  • Henpecked Boyfriend: In his relationship with Amber, who has him as an accessory rather than a true boyfriend.
  • Love at First Sight: In the 1988 version, after Tracy got hit hard with a dodgeball, he checks on her if she's alright and asks her if she wants to go steady with him.
  • Nice Guy: Especially when compared to his original girlfriend, Amber, and the rest of the Corny Collins Show council. In the 1988 movie, he even joins Tracy, Penny, Seaweed and Lil' Inez in their protest on live TV.
  • Savvy Guy, Energetic Girl: The Savvy Guy to Tracy's Energetic Girl.
  • Token Good Teammate: The only nice, non-prejudiced person on the Corny Collins Show council prior to their Heel–Face Turn at the end.

Amber Von Tussle

"Oh, come on. This show's not filmed in CinemaScope." -1988 version
"Right now, as we speak, your daughter has entered a hotbed of moral... turpentine." -2007 version

An arrogant, snobbish dancer. She is also the daughter of Velma Von Tussle (And in the original, also to Franklin Von Tussle) and the lead female dancer on The Corny Collins Show. Played by Colleen Fitzpatrick in 1988, Laura Bell Bundy in 2002, Brittany Snow in 2007, and Dove Cameron in 2016.

  • Alpha Bitch: Spoiled, obnoxious, self-centered, she's got this trope covered.
  • Bitch in Sheep's Clothing: While she's openly antagonistic in previous versions, the 2007 film has her acting nice and treating Tracy like a friend, "defending" her from nasty rumors that she pretty blatantly came up with in the first place.
  • Butt Monkey: Has several unfortunate things happen to her either by coincidence or by the intent of several people she offends. Within her first appearance/song she is pushed aside by Shelley and Brad, dropped by Link, and smacked in the face by Corny.
  • Defeat Means Friendship: In the stage musical, and potentially in the 2007 film.
  • Dumb Blonde: Not completely stupid, but pretty vapid.
  • Graceful Loser: After some prodding in the musical, instantly in the 2007 film.
  • Heel–Face Turn: In the musical and 2007 film (made more explicit in a deleted scene showing Velma's arrest.)
  • Hidden Depths: "I lost, Mom. Let's just deal with it!" Considering how awful and self-centered Amber was before, this was surprisingly mature of her.
  • Humiliation Conga: Goes through this at the end of all versions.
  • It's All About Me: She literally pushes away anyone who attempts to steal the limelight.
  • Jerkass: Consistently, at least early on.
  • Jerkass Façade: Implied in the musical, confirmed by the end of the 2007 film.
  • Ms. Fanservice: Many fans find her attractive, in-show and out of it.

Velma Von Tussle

"At least try to act white on television." -1988 version
"They're kids, Corny; That's why we have to steer them in the white direction." -2007 version

The racist manager of the WYZT station in the 2007 version. The mother of Amber Von Tussle and wife of Franklin Von Tussle in the 1988 version. Her goal is the keep the Corny Collins show segregated. Played by Debbie Harry in 1988, Linda Hart in 2002, Michelle Pfeiffer in 2007, and Kristen Chenoweth in 2016.

  • Big Bad: She's the antagonist who causes every problem in the story, and the few she doesn't she fights to exacerbate. In the 1988 movie, she shares this with her husband Franklin and the station's boss Arvin Hodgepile.

Supporting Cast

Corny Collins

"Tell me, Velma, how exactly do you fire Corny Collins from the Corny Collins show?" -2007 version

The host of the Corny Collins Show. Played by Shawn Thompson in 1988, Clarke Thorell in 2002, James Marsden in 2007, and Derek Hough in 2016.

  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: He's a snarky, egotistical person, but he's actually a Nice Guy underneath it all.
    • His Nice Guy side is played up in the 2007 film where he's shown to be politically progressive, openly proposing integrating the Corny Collins Show and being frustrated with both Velma's bigotry in the 2007 version and with his boss Arvin Hodgepile in the 1988 version.
  • Rules Lawyer: Is one when Velma tries to argue that Inez's victory is invalid in the 2007 movie.
    Corny: "Well, anyone who dances for it is eligible, rule 30, paragraph 5, asterisk down at the bottom."
  • Small Name, Big Ego: Subverted. He's the show's host, so he has a big name to back up his big ego.

Prudy Pingleton

"Don't you try to cast one of your voodoo spells on me you, native woman!" -1988 version
"You see? You see! If I let you leave the house right now, you'd be in prison, fighting whores for cigarettes." -2007 version

Penny's overbearing, strict, and racist mother, who is also highly religious. Played by Joanne Havrilla in 1988, Jackie Hoffman in 2002, Allyson Janney in 2007, and Andrea Martin in 2016.

  • Freak Out: Towards the end of the 2007 film, she loses it when Penny kisses Seaweed. It may have also been a response to her daughter somehow getting out of her room.
    • In the 1988 film, she gets a big, funny one when she ends up on Baltimore's black community, and when Seaweed saves Penny from her house.
  • The Fundamentalist: A rather extreme example, at least by the films' standpoints. She tries raising her daughter in a "Christian" lifestyle, but her methods are forced and she seems more controlling and abusive (as noted before) and less loving and understanding.
  • Large Ham: Especially since she's played by Allison Janney. The 1988 movie is no slouch in the ham either as Joanne Havrilla's acting (See Freak Out above) takes it up a notch.
  • My Beloved Smother: She actually ties her daughter to her bed with jump rope (on knots that rival the navy's) and sprinkles her with holy water. The original one even takes it Up to Eleven regarding towards blacks.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: In the stage musical, but not in either of the film versions.

Motormouth Maybelle

"No matter what you've heard, we are gonna teach the white children how to do The Bird!" -1988 version
"If we get any more white people in here, this is gonna be a suburb." -2007 version

A Baltimore rhythm and blues radio DJ who hosts "Negro Day" on The Corny Collins Show. Played by Ruth Brown in 1988, Mary Bond Davis in 2002, Queen Latifah in 2007, and Jennifer Hudson in 2016.

  • Sassy Black Woman: Duh, it's Queen Latifah. Ruth Brown's take on the character has traces of it too.

Seaweed J. Stubbs

"But these knots might, was your mom in the navy?!" -2007 version

Motormouth Maybelle's son and Penny's love interest. A skilled dancer on Negro Day. Played by Clayton Prince in 1988, Corey Reynolds in 2002, Elijah Kelley in 2007, and Ephraim Sykes in 2016.

  • Nice Guy: Far more inclusive then the rest of the detention crew, and helps Tracy get into the show.
  • Tall, Dark and Handsome: In the original movie, he's basketball-player tall and very attractive.

Inez Stubbs

"Oh I know you! You're Tracy Turnblad! Good for you girl, you got on the show!" -2007 version

Seaweed's little sister who is a skilled dancer for her age. Played by Cyrkle Milbourne in 1988, Danielle Eugenia Wilson in 2002, Taylor Parks in 2007, and Wright Joseph in 2016.

  • Little Miss Snarker: She knows what she's worth and she won't apologize for it. Take this exchange from the Broadway musical.
    Inez: Hand over the crown, honey.
    Amber: You'll have to pry it from my cold, dead hands!
    Inez: That'll do.