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Ability over Appearance
aka: Gender Blind Casting
"If you have a chance to have a great actor in the part, everything else is irrelevant. "
Kenneth Branagh responding to fan outrage over casting black actor Idris Elba to play Caucasian Heimdall in Thor.

Casting agents usually have a very specific appearance in mind when casting actors to play their characters. When holding auditions there will usually be descriptions noting what the character should look like, for example blonde hair, frail frame, not too tall etc. This is also the case when casting actors in adaptations of books and video games.

But sometimes, an actor who is completely different from the physical description shows up for the audition and nails the role. The casting directors throw the description out the window and hire this actor because of their performance.

This may lead to tropes such as Race Lift, Adaptational Attractiveness, Hollywood Homely, and Hollywood Pudgy. In rare cases, can even trump a character's original gender. Used to be used frequently as a justification for Blackface.

Compare Colorblind Casting for when appearance isn't a factor in casting at all.

Note that it isn't an example of the trope if the actor works hard to resemble the physical description of the character.


Examples:

    open/close all folders 

Real Life Examples:

    Film 
  • In Alien, all of the characters are known by their last names and were writen as unisex. Ultimately Ripley and Lambert were cast with female actors. Hardly any lines were rewritten, and it's since been repeatedly hailed as a masterpiece of female character writing.
  • When casting Red for The Shawshank Redemption the description was for a middle-aged Irish man with greying red hair and actors such as Clint Eastwood, Harrison Ford and Robert Redford were considered. Morgan Freeman wound up getting the part because the director "couldn't see anyone else as Red" after his audition. Which had the added effect of making the line - "Why do they call you 'Red'?" [beat] "Maybe it's cause I'm Irish." - hilarious.
  • Invoked by the filmmakers of The Last Airbender for the main cast members of the Water Nation. In the original cartoon, the nation has tan skin, dark hair and blue eyes, serving as a Fantasy Counterpart Culture for Inuits. The film cast Caucasian actors for the lead roles and Asians or Inuits as the silent extras-in-distress. The film's very poor reception did not bear out the filmmaker's excuse for the Race Lift.
  • The producers of The Lord of the Rings intended to cast only British actors as the Hobbits as Tolkien had imagined the Shire as a form of England but American Elijah Wood sent in a strong audition tape and was cast as Frodo. A marginal case, seeing as Wood speaks The Queen's Latin with very few slips. Sean Astin's North Country take on Sam Gamgee has also received generally good notices.
  • Ben in Night of the Living Dead was not written to be black. In 1968 it was quite unusual for a black man to get a lead film role. George Romero has always maintained that he only cast Duane Jones because he gave the best audition, not to make a point or be controversial.
  • The Harry Potter films frequently cast actors this way. Horace Slughorn, Dolores Umbridge and Gilderoy Lockhart are all played by actors who don't quite match the physical description of their book counterparts (for instance, Slughorn is meant to be short and stout with a walrus mustache, but Jim Broadbent is clean-shaven and over six feet), but who captured their attitudes perfectly.
    • Umbridge is an even more noticeable case, as her appearance is constantly described as toadlike in the books, and the illustrations bear it out. Imelda Staunton doesn't look anything like this, and they did nothing to make her even remotely unpleasant looking. However, this actually works in the films' favor, due to the heightened contrast between her sweet, grandmotherly appearance and her brutal, secret-police style rule over the school (and infuriating behavior).
    • Severus Snape could also be an example. In the books, he looks much different (shown in the Grandpre' book illustrations). However, Alan Rickman does such a fantastic job that no one noticed the difference, and Jo Rowling herself claims he was perfect.
  • In The Mighty Thor comics, Heimdall is pretty covered up, but still visibly Caucasian. For the film, Kenneth Branagh chose to cast Idris Elba. Fan controversy over his choice led to the page quote.
    • His performance was then raved about. As Movie Bob put it: "To everyone who pitched a fit about Idris Elba playing Heimdall; Every scene he's in may as well be subtitled THAT'S WHY."
  • Likewise, in his screen adaptation of Much Ado About Nothing, Branagh cast the African-American Denzel Washington to play the Spanish Don Pedro of Aragon.
  • Daniel Craig got a bit of controversy when he was cast as James Bond in Casino Royale because he looked very different from the past Bonds, being derisively referred to as "James Blond." This of course all went away once the film came out and he got rave reviews. He may have invoked the trope since he refused to dye his hair black for the role.
    • Sean Connery got this in Dr. No as well, especially from Ian Fleming who insisted that Bond was English. After he saw Sean Connery, he instantly added some Scottish roots into the books as well.
  • Casting Quoyle of The Shipping News based on appearance would require a lot of excessive prosthetics so instead Kevin Spacey sells the role on the strength of his performance.
  • To many, Rosie O'Donnell wasn't exactly what came to mind as an ideal choice to play the cute, slender "Betty Rubble" in the 1994 live-action film adaptation of The Flintstones, but among other things she nailed Betty's chuckle down pat. Next thing you know she's in the blue dress with the short-black hairdo.
  • Philip Pullman had something of a reaction like this when Nicole Kidman was cast as Mrs. Coulter in The Golden Compass. The character has black hair in the books (Kidman being blonde) and Pullman said, "I was wrong, she has to be blonde", Kidman having been his personal choice for the role.
  • Sissy Spacek was widely thought to be too pretty to play Carrie White in Carrie, the character in the book being described as chunky, mousy-haired and covered in pimples with Spacek being a tall thin redhead with clear skin. But Spacek's Oscar nomination speaks for itself. The character was then rewritten slightly saying that she would be pretty if she made an effort to tidy herself up a bit.
    • Likewise Alpha Bitch Chris Hargensen is described as dark haired and olive skinned but has been portrayed by blonde actresses Nancy Allen and Emilie De Ravin who absolutely nail the bitchy attitude. Finally averted with the 2013 remake which cast the brunette Portia Doubleday.
  • The 80s BBC Production of The Chronicles of Narnia cast four children who were nothing like the descriptions - Peter looked too young, Lucy was much older and chubbier, Susan was blonde and Edmund looked older than Peter - but they all gelled well together in their auditions.
    • Same thing with the Walden Films versions. Lucy has auburn hair, rather than blonde, but Georgie Henley was unanimously praised in the role (and Word of God says in interview that the change was allowed to go through because Henley's audition was just that good). Edmund doesn't have an official hair color, but black-haired Skandar Keynes is a fan favorite as Edmund. Peter is supposed to be dark-haired, but played by blond William Moseley. Susan is the only character whose actress fits the description, being played by brunette Anna Popplewell. All four actors worked very well together.
  • Julie Taymor altered William Shakespeare's The Tempest to have Helen Mirren play the lead.
  • Anne Rice openly protested against Tom Cruise being cast as Lestat in Interview with the Vampire. Her choice was Rutger Hauer. After she saw the film, she issued an apology and praised his performance. Though she did insist that Lestat's hair remain blond in the film.
  • In the Daredevil movie, the Kingpin was played by Michael Clarke Duncan. There were men who looked the part better, but few of them were actually actors. He was the best actor with the size that they could find, and even then, he had to gain some weight for the role. Ironically, the Kingpin was originally supposed to be black in the comics, but an editor thought it would be racist to have a black villain.
    • Incidently, the mid-90s Spider-Man cartoon could be a subversion of this. Kingpin was drawn as a white man, and voiced by Roscoe Lee Brown.
  • The Mean Girls producers thought Lizzy Caplan was too pretty for "art freak" Janis, but eventually cast her for considering her the best actress that auditioned.
  • Hailee Steinfeld did an amazing job as Mattie in the 2010 film of True Grit, which didn't drop a single line of dialogue about how ugly she was. Similarly, all dialogue about Rooster being fat and out of shape was kept, even though Jeff Bridges barely had a visible belly.
  • Winona Ryder in Little Women is much too petite to play Jo, who in the book is described as being "like a colt" with "long limbs and big shoulders and hands". That being said it's hard to imagine another actress who can capture Jo's spirit, clumsiness and generally loud attitude as well as she can.
  • Robert Downey, Jr. is almost the exact opposite of Sherlock Holmes in appearance, being a handsome man of middling height and muscular build. Holmes is described as tall, slender, hawk-nosed and not particularly good looking. His performance in the Sherlock Holmes film, however, was generally well received.
  • Michael Keaton in the original Batman movie. Tim Burton even defended his casting decision by claiming that he didn't need a beefy action star to play Batman; he needed someone who could actually act their way out of paper bag. The infamous molded abs were added to the Batsuit precisely to make Keaton look physically intimidating.
  • Peter Ustinov played Agatha Christie's Belgian detective Hercule Poirot in six films, despite being completely different in appearance. According to the other wiki, Christie's daughter allegedly said "That's not Poirot! He isn't at all like that!," to which Ustinov replied, "He is now."
  • In the X-Men comics, Wolverine is supposed to be about 5'3". Hugh Jackman is fully a foot taller. In the 90s, they even considered Glenn Danzig for the role.
    • Also, average-sized (5'6") Halle Berry as Storm, who in the comics is a Statuesque Stunner.
    • In the comic books, Bolivar Trask is a taller fellow while Peter Dinklage who portrays him in X-Men: Days of Future Past has dwarfism. He's an Emmy-winning actor whose performances are frequently met with critical acclaim, and appearance has no bearing on the character so nobody has made anything of it.
      • Peter Dinklage often falls into this; he seems to be one of the few dwarfs in show business who can net a role that didn't call for one. SF Debris noted in its review of Threshold that nobody ever mentions his character's condition.
  • Done retroactively in Iron Man 2: Sam Rockwell had auditioned to play Tony Stark in the original film but lost the part to Robert Downey, Jr.. However, Jon Favreau was still impressed so in the sequel he called Rockwell to give him the part of Justin Hammer... despite Hammer being an elderly British guy in the original comics.
    • And of course, the comics Tony Stark is 6' 1" (185 cm)). Robert Downey, Jr.. is 5' 7" (1m70), forcing high heels in certain scenes - specially in The Avengers, as both Chris Hemsworth, and Chris Evans, and even Gwyneth Paltrow are really tall.
    • Pepper Potts as played by Gwyneth Paltrow differs quite a way from her comic book counterpart, who starts out in her early-to-mid twenties and is correspondingly immature at times; the original plan for the movie more or less followed this, with Pepper implied to drop out as a potential love interest after the first movie due to her inability to cope with Tony's new lifestyle. Gwyneth Paltrow's Pepper is at least ten years older than her comic book counterpart and is shown to be mature, capable and loyal due to her greater experience and longer stint as Tony's PA; and it's probably no coincidence that she's become one of the most popular love interests in the Marvel Cinematic Universe.
  • The eponymous role of Salt was for Tom Cruise, but when he dropped out Angelina Jolie talked her way into an audition. The rest is history.
  • Recently, the reboot of The Fantastic Four had director Josh Trank offering the black Michael B. Jordan the role of the white Human Torch based on his work in the director's Chronicle. Comic book fans were not pleased and immediately started crying "political correctness" instead of thinking that he may be the best man for the part. The criticism of Kate Mara (who is white) playing Susan Storm (Johnny's sister) was also pointed out to be silly, given that it could easily be a matter of one of them being adopted.
  • During the beginning stages of making the movie The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, Douglas Adams made only one request regarding the casting; that Arthur Dent be played by a British actor. Other parts could be cast as the producers saw fit. In the final product, Martin Freeman was cast as Arthur, with American actors Zooey Deschanel and Sam Rockwell as Trillian and Zaphod respectively, and American rapper Mos Def as Ford Prefect.
  • John Travolta's performance in The General's Daughter so impressed the author of the original book, despite being almost the complete opposite of the book's description of Warrant Officer Paul Bremmer.
  • Ferris Bueller's Day Off: Cameron Frye was originally envisioned as being chunky and "homely in a lovable way". John Candy auditioned for the role, despite not looking like anything resembling a high-school student. Emilio Estevez, who also somewhat matched the description, was offered the role, but turned it down. John Hughes then remembered the tall, thin, very attractive (29-year-old!) Alan Ruck from the Breakfast Club auditions (he didn't make the cut that time), and cast him based on that performance. What followed was what is considered to be one of the most soulful, enduring portrayals in Hughes' oeuvre.
  • Benedict Cumberbatch as John Harrison, aka Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek Into Darkness is often criticized as a case of Hollywood whitewashing, as the character Khan is Sikh whereas actor Benedict Cumberbatch is a very white Englishmannote . What few criticize, however, is Cumberbatch's acting skills and performance as Harrison/Khan; in fact, it's one of the few areas of the film that the vast majority, including Trekkies who grew up on Star Trek II: The Wrath of Khan, agree on as spectacular.
    • To say nothing of the fact that even Montalban wasn't the same race as the character.
  • Believe it or not, Christopher Reeve as Superman. Richard Donner commented that during auditions and screen testing (which was revealed when the Donner cut of Superman II came out) Reeve was skinny and his hair was kind of blonde, but took interest because of his talent. Some shoe polish to darken his hair and a few months training with David Prowse (Darth Vader) to bulk up and he dominated the screen.
  • A really impressive example in PJ Hogan's Peter Pan. Tinkerbell was originally going to be entirely CGI. But actress Ludivine Sagnier lobbied for the role and impressed Hogan enough to cast her.
    • In a similar example, Gollum from The Lord of the Rings was meant to be an animatronic, but Andy Serkis's performance impressed the filmmakers so much that they decided to use CGI and motion capture (trope-naming Serkis Folk), plus having him physically acting on the set. That also allowed them to have the flashback scene at the start of Return of the King where a live-action hobbit-Sméagol played by Serkis transforms into Gollum.
  • Cillian Murphy's casting as Jonathan Crane/Scarecrow in The Dark Knight Saga gained some ire from Batman fans due to his youthful good looks, but his performance has generally been well praised.
  • Tom Hanks bears very little physical resemblance to Michael O'Sullivan, the protagonist of Max Allan Collins' graphic novel Road to Perdition, but he was still praised for his performance in Sam Mendes' film adaptation. Notably, the casting choice represents a rare inversion of Adaptational Attractiveness, as Hanks is a far cry from the graphic novel's classically handsome "Angel of Death".
  • For My Week With Marilyn we can safely assume that this is what they were going for when casting Michelle Williams, who doesn't look all that much like Marilyn Monroe.
  • Jamie Foxx as Electro/Max Dillon, who is white in the comics, in The Amazing Spider-Man 2.
  • Jack Reacher in the novels is 6'3" and muscular. Tom Cruise is 5'7" and slender, but utterly nailed the role in Jack Reacher, to the approval of author Lee Child.
  • In Sky One's adaptation of Going Postal, Lord Vetnari is played by Charles Dance. In the books, Vetinari is tall, lathe-thin, Dark haired and with a beak of nose. His costume is described (and drawn by official artist Paul Kidby) to closely resemble the look of the Black Princes of Venice. Charles Dance is certainly tall, but he is also sandy-blonde, broadly strapping, has a straight nose and his costume is far more late Victorian-early than Renaissance. He also arguably seems on the oldish side for Vetinari. However, you will not find a fan with a bad word to say about the casting; his Vetinari seems to be definitive.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The character of Lisa in Saved by the Bell was written as a Jewish princess with the auditions calling for white females only. Lark Voorhees (African-American) got the part based on the strength of her audition.
    • Another example is that Mr. Belding was originally conceived as being black and over 50yrs old. Dennis Haskins won the part despite being neither.
  • Producers were reluctant to cast Amber Benson as Tara in Buffy the Vampire Slayer because they wanted someone with the same slender build as Alyson Hannigan. Specifically, they needed someone to take Willow's place as The Woobie, since Willow was becoming too powerful to convincingly put in any real danger. However, Benson quickly won them over with her ability to play awkward and vulnerable.
    • Alyson Hannigan also bagged the role of Willow precisely because she was the only actress that didn't portray the character as a stereotypical Hollywood Nerd.
  • When casting Julia in Party of Five producers wanted a relatively young actress (the character was 15 at the time) but ended up casting the 19-year-old Neve Campbell due to her strong attitude during the audition.
  • Shelly of Northern Exposure was written to be Native-American but Caucasian Cynthia Geary ended up getting the part.
  • Given the time-period and the fact that Guinevere means "white" or "fair one", there were some raised eyebrows over mixed-race Angel Coulby getting the part of the future queen on Merlin. The producers said that they had looked at hundreds of potential Guineveres, but Angel Coulby was the only one that could nail the quirky, clumsy servant girl, but also "bring the queen" when the occasion called for it.
  • Series author Elizabeth George was openly displeased about the casting choice for Barbara Havers of The Inspector Lynley Mysteries - The BBC cast the lovely Sharon Small in the role, whereas Barbara is distinctly unattractive. Then George saw Small's performance in the pilot, in which Sharon absolutely nailed Barbara Havers in all her awkward, bitter, broken glory, and changed her mind. To this day Small's performance is lauded as one of the best aspects of the series.
  • Happened twice in Criminal Minds. Garcia was originally written as a middle-aged Mexican man, but when the white, blonde and very female Kirsten Vangsness was introduced to the producers they had to have her and changed the part. (Her last name was later explained as coming from a stepfather.) Aaron Hotchner was supposed to be a blonde Mormon from Utah, but the part eventually went to the dark-haired Virginian Thomas Gibson.
  • Steven Moffat was adamant that he'd had enough of young Doctors in Doctor Who, and was going to cast an actor who was at least middle-aged. And then the 26-years-old-but-still-looks-like-he-should-be-in-school Matt Smith auditioned, and that was that.
  • The creators of Elementary have said the part of Joan Watson was race-neutral, and it went to Lucy Liu because she was the best woman for the part. Which makes the claims about the decision stemming from a desire to pander to minorities even more ridiculous.
  • Grey's Anatomy has always been known for Colorblind Casting (leading to one of the most diverse casts on television,) but that doesn't mean that they didn't have a general idea of who to cast. Miranda Bailey (nIcknamed "The Nazi"!) was intended to be a blond, white woman until Chandra Wilson got a hold of the part.
  • Kaylee from Firefly was originally intended to be Asian, but Jewel Staite's audition impressed Joss Whedon enough that he decided to give her the part anyway. This did have the awkward side effect of leaving no major characters of Asian descent in a universe heavily influenced by Chinese culture, however.
  • In The Suite Life of Zack and Cody, originally the parts of Maddie and London were inverted, with the blond Ashley Tisdale playing the obvious Paris Hilton expy London Tipton, and Brenda Song playing Maddie. However, when it was revealed that Brenda Song has a natural affinity for playing The Ditz, the roles were reversed.
    • They had fun with this in one episode during an alternate universe where Maddie and London's roles were reversed.
  • House
    • Chase was originally intended to be British, but Jesse Spencer gave such a brilliant audition that he was made Australian instead.
    • Director Bryan Singer put a ban on non-American actors for the title role after hearing so many badly-done Fake American accents in auditions. So how did Hugh Laurie get the role? His flawless Boston accent convinced Singer that he must be American.
  • When Pauline McLynn first auditioned for Mrs. Doyle on Father Ted, she was rejected for being too young and pretty (McLynn was in her early thirties; Mrs. Doyle was a middle-aged widow). She supposedly showed up for another audition with a bad cold - and got the part.
  • Nickelodeon had a show planned in the mid-1990s to be titled "The Mystery Files of Shelby Wink" about a teenage white girl who solves crimes, but Asian American Irene Ng impressed them so much with her audition that they re-named the show "...Shelby Woo" and altered the premise accordingly.
  • Fonzie of Happy Days was originally envisioned as a tall Italian man, based on a friend of the show's creator. While he is of Italian descent at 5'8 Henry Winkler is notably much shorter than series lead Ron Howard, but he performed the role so flawlessly they knew they had to have him.
  • LOST took this trope to its logical extent, by not only amending characters to get the best actors on the show, but flat-out creating new ones for the same reason. Sun-Hwa Kwon, for instance, was written for Yunjin Kim after her impressive audition as Kate.
  • Tasha Yar on Star Trek: The Next Generation was originally conceived as a Latina character, with Marina Sirtis cast in the role. When Denise Crosby was cast, the character's name was changed to fit the actress' appearance.
  • Enid Nightshade of The Worst Witch is a Huge Schoolgirl with dark blonde hair. The TV series cast Jessica Fox who is petite and brunette, but captures Enid's mischievous nature and spunk perfectly.
  • The creators of Red Dwarf originally imagined Lister as 41 years old and white: in their words, like an "English version of Christopher Lloyd as Reverend Jim on Taxi." When they sent the script to Craig Charles (23 years old at the time and mixed-race), asking if he thought the part of the Cat was racist, he said it wasn't and also asked to audition for Lister. He got the part.
  • Tess from Beauty and the Beast was initially written as a firey Irish-American cop, but Nina Lisandrello's performance impressed the producers enough that she was changed to a Latina instead.
  • Joss Whedon initially conceived Melinda May from Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. as a white woman named "Althea Rice", but the role was changed after going to Chinese-American actress Ming-Na Wen.
  • The casting directors for The Brady Bunch wanted three brown-haired boys to play Mike Brady's sons, but chose the red-haired Mike Lookinland to play Bobby after being impressed by his audition. For the first few years of the series, Mike had his hair dyed dark brown to compensate.
  • Slade Wilson is American in the original DC comics. However, for Arrow, Manu Bennet so impressed the creators that the character was changed to be an Awesome Aussie.
  • The TV adaptation of The Dresden Files had a Hispanic actress playing the part of Lt. Murphy, who's blonde in the books, and a blonde actress playing the part of Susan Rodriguez. The Powers That Be said that they were originally brought in for the roles they more resembled but were much better at each other's roles and so the two characters get a Race Lift. Karrin Murphy becomes Connie Murphy, presumably short for Consuela. Susan... just doesn't look much like a Rodriguez.
  • The casters for Hustle had intended for Michael Stone to be white, like the rest of the main cast, but Adrian Lester's preformance impressed them.
  • On The X-Files, network executives wanted someone "taller, leggier, blonder and breastier" to play the role of Scully, but series creator Chris Carter lobbied for the then-unknown Gillian Anderson due to her acting ability.
  • In Sharpe, the title character is played by 5'9" blond Yorkshireman Sean Bean whereas in the novels he's described as over six feet tall, dark haired and a Londoner. However Bean owned the role so thouroughly the book author retconned the character as having spent a large part of his teenage years in Yorkshire to explain his accent.
  • When the highly successful Radio Drama Dragnet was first being brought to television in 1951, Jack Webb argued that his face was not suitable for the screen and suggested Lloyd Nolan be cast as Joe Friday in his place. Fortunately, neither NBC nor Liggett & Myers (owners of Fatima, and sponsors of the show) would accept any substitute.

    Professional Wrestling 
  • While the prototype of a modern pro wrestler is still that of a huge guy with bulky muscles, quite a few who fail the "eye test" have been wildly successful thanks to their tremendous abilities in the ring and on the mic.
    • CM Punk is relatively short, not particularly bulky, and covered in tattoos yet still set the record for the longest WWE title reign of the past 25 years.
    • Shawn Michaels had a Hall of Fame career despite being a full head shorter than most of his opponents thanks to his tremendous ability in all aspects of being a great wrestler.
    • The 5'4, 175lb Rey Mysterio has held multiple titles in his career and is probably the most famous luchador-style wrestler in America.
    • Chris Jericho isn't particularly muscular or tall but he's WWE first Undisptued champion and has held the most intercontinental champion reigns.
    • Daniel Bryan is the latest example — short by wrestling standards, with a slender (but still athletic) build, but talented beyond all measure and so ridiculously popular that the fans basically forced WWE to insert him into the main event for WrestleMania XXX.
    • One important thing to remember is that this “eye test” is really only enforced by a select few people at the top of the chain: namely Vince McMahon, who seems to have a definite fascination with big, muscular guys. Vince is believed to be the reason “body guys” such as Ultimate Warrior are pushed far beyond their skill set, and why Hulk Hogan wasn't allowed to do any of the moves that made him a success in Japan and was forced to wrestle a more generic “big man” wrestling style. With the exception of Shawn Michaels, most of the wrestlers who have achieved any kind of lasting success in WWE did so after achieving success elsewhere and generating enough Popularity Power that it would be downright impossible for Vince to ignore them, such as WCW (Chris Jericho, Rey Mysterio) or on the independent circuit (CM Punk, Daniel Bryan.) Notice that guys that Vince is trying to make stars himself are still overwhelmingly big guys (John Cena, Sheamus, Ryback.)
    • Despite fears that Triple H (who is married to Vince's daughter and, by all appearances, heir to the WWE empire,) would be just as bad about the “big guys and eye-candy Divas” problem, seeming to share Vince's bodybuilding fascination (to the point where Stephanie got him framed photos of all Mr. Olympia winners for Christmas,) he definitely seems to be adhering to this trope even more. Two of his first major acquisitions were Sin Cara (a luchador, who are traditionally more slender guys) and Brawn Hilda Kia Stevens (also known as Amazing/Awesome Kong.)

    Theater 
  • Patrick Stewart, Michael Gambon and Anthony Hopkins have all played Othello, the Moor of Venice. Gambon and Hopkins played the role in blackface. Hopkins played Othello in 1965, when blacking-up was still acceptable; Gambon played Othello in 1990, and his blacking-up was a deliberate artistic choice. In Stewart's case, the entire play was cross-cast (Othello's white, everyone else's black), making an interesting social experiment.
  • Although Hamlet is a young college student, his constant change of emotion makes him one of the most challenging roles an actor can play. Because of this, he is almost always played by a much older, more experienced actor.
  • Jafar of Aladdin is, in animation, a Lean and Mean villain. He is voiced by Jonathan Freeman, who is slightly chubby but got so much into the spirit of the character that his expressions and gestures were worked into the animated role. When the work came to live theater, they just cast Freeman in the part of Jafar as is.
  • Similar to the Hamlet example, a lot of Opera roles are usually subject to this, most notably Madame Butterfly (supposedly 15-17 but with a voice most singers don't perfect until at least 30). Salome is another such role.
  • There is a film version of Wagner's Die Walkure where a black woman and white man are cast as twin siblings. Their voices work for the roles, though, so no one cares.
  • Similarly, Wagner's tenor roles are mostly supposed to be teenage boys (or at least early twenties), but most men can't sing these demanding roles until they're in their forties.
  • The 2008 concert performance of the musical Chess had Mexican-American David Bedella performing the role of a Russian, Molokov.
  • Community and school theaters as a rule tend to do this, since good actors (or actors, period) are often quite limited.

    Western Animation 
  • When doing the casting for the role of Hades, the villain of Hercules, Disney wanted someone who was similar to Jafar, who was a villain with a deep voice and spoke with a sophisticated tone. When James Woods auditioned, the character was changed completely solely because James Woods was so good at the role. He even played the role in the video game series Kingdom Hearts, and is on record as saying it's a role he will always play when given the chance.

In-Universe Examples:

    Film 
  • When holding cheerleader auditions in Bring It On the cheerleading squad wants a girl who fits the typical cheerleader image. When tomboy Missy gives the best tryout they are reluctant to let her on the squad but she gets on anyway.
    • Which, technically, she does; thin, atheletic, hot. It was only her attitude and non-girly that turned them off.
  • Played depressingly straight in both the film and comic of 300 involving the deformed Spartan that is rejected by Leonidas: while the Spartan king admires his fierce loyalty despite being cast aside as an infant, and admits he's got a strong arm, his inability to fit properly into a Phalanx line makes him a liability to the necessary tactics. If only he was facially malformed but could stand up straight...
    • Of course Leonidas' reason for rejecting him — the fact that he can't properly hold a shield to protect the man to his left — doesn't really ring true since the Spartan theory of war seems to be to break formation immediately after initial contact with the enemy and have everybody fight man-to-man. Or they could have simply put him on the far left of the front line where his inability to properly lift a shield wouldn't have been a problem.

    Literature 
  • The picture book Amazing Grace by Marry Hoffman is about a black girl auditioning for the role of Peter Pan. It plays out exactly how you'd expect it to.

    Live-Action TV 
  • A strange case with Bridget in 8 Simple Rules when she ends up getting the part of Anne Frank in the school play despite looking nothing like her. She reads the book and ends up giving a fantastic performance.

    Web Originals 
  • John Scalzi's Agent to the Stars has the titular agent represent a young starlet, Michelle Beck, who wants the lead in a Holocaust drama. Despite his serious reluctance to help get her the role, and with a little help from a space alien, Michelle ends up giving an Oscar-worthy performance that silences even her harshest critics:
    I set down my own fork and massaged the bridge of my nose. "Michelle," I said. "if you had brown hair, you still wouldn't look a 40-year-old Eastern European Jew. You'd look like a 25-year-old Californian Aryan with hair dyed brown. Look at yourself, Michelle. You're blonde. Naturally. You have Newman Blue eyes. And you have a body shape that wasn't even invented until the 1980s."


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alternative title(s): Race Blind Casting; Gender Blind Casting
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