Characters / Hairspray

Main Characters

Tracy Turnblad

"I'm all for integration! It's the new frontier!"

A chubby girl who's a fan of big hairstyles and The Corny Collins Show. She also loves to dance. Played by Rikki 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.
  • 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

"Link, your pork is ready!"

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.
  • 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

"Honey, it took me five years to figure out you were flirting!"

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.
  • Oblivious to Love: When Velma tries to pretend to fall in love with him, he has no idea of her plan. 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

"Plastic little spastic."

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

  • Deadpan Snarker
    Motormouth Maybelle:you two better brace yourselves for a whole lotta ugly comin' at you from a neverending parade of stupid.
    Penny: So, you've 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

"I think knowing you is the start of a pretty big adventure."

Amber's boyfriend 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 Effron 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.

Amber Von Tussle

"Right now, as we speak, your daughter has entered a hotbed of moral... turpentine."

An arrogant, snobbish dancer. She is also the daughter of Velma 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

"They're kids, Corny; That's why we have to steer them in the white direction."

The racist manager of the WYZT station. The mother of Amber Von Tusle. 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.

Supporting Cast

Corny Collins

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

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 Velma's bigotry.
  • 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, asterik 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

"You see? You see! If I let you leave the house right now, you'd be in prison, fighting whores for cigarettes."

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

  • 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.
  • 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 Allyson Janney.
  • 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.
  • Took a Level in Kindness: In the stage musical, but not in either of the film versions.

Motormouth Maybelle

"If we get any more white people in here, this is gonna be a suburb."

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.

Seaweed J. Stubbs

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

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, and Elijah Kelley in 2007.

  • 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!"

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

  • 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.