Sugar Wiki / He Really Can Act

"Stallone does pretty well for himself, playing a partially deaf small town sheriff, holding his own against Harvey Keitel and Robert De Niro of all people. The fact that he matches two of the best actors working today punch for punch without getting blown off the screen is pretty remarkable."

A Fan Speak phrase: this is what you say to yourself when a comedic performer 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 after all.

May result in Tom Hanks Syndrome. The in-universe version is Master Actor.


    open/close all folders 

    Anime & Manga 

    Audio Drama 
  • Big Finish Doctor Who:
    • Many critics — and even the writers who worked on them — have pointed out that one of the best things about the Tom Baker audio dramas is that, between getting more emotional scenes to do and several decades of personality maturation, he makes a specific point of acting in them, rather than just relying on his own Large Ham natural personality and Voice of Dramatic to carry everything like he frequently did in the bad old days. The character comes off more subtle and kind as a result.
    • Colin Baker, aka the Sixth Doctor, was widely considered the worst from his short TV tenure on Doctor Who. When Baker reprised the role for the Big Finish audio dramas, he was later voted the best.
    • Bonnie Langford as Mel had everything against her on television. She was an attempt at Stunt Casting during the series's most awful Dork Age, and was widely disliked as a public figure to begin with; internal production team politics led to her being intentionally written as The Scrappy and directed to act as a Screaming Woman in a stagey, Panto style in order to sabotage her. The audios give her much, much better material, altering her character from a one-note Damsel Scrappy into a Defiant Captive Deadpan Snarker. This gives Langford full opportunity to show off what she's actually capable of as an actress, and she comes across like she's really enjoying the role.
    • The Big Finish audios also gave pretty epic upgrades to some other scrappier companions, such as Peri.
  • The Focus on the Family Radio Theatre series by Focus on the Family have surprisingly good voice acting. Look to their renditions of Ben-Hur, the story of Squanto and A Christmas Carol for proof of that. Their Adventures in Odyssey series also had great voice acting in its golden era (specifically from its early days to up until Whit's second voice actor Paul Herlinger sadly passed away), whether it be for comedy like the BTV episodes or for drama like the Novacom saga.

  • 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 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 phenomenally scummy, even intimidating. The brutal on-tape fights and suggestive chloroform scene are played quite convincingly for the characters, adding a dark new layer to the Gorillaz story development.
  • Kanye West in We Were Once a Fairytale. Twice. Also him on The Cleveland Show.
  • Megan Fox in Eminem's "Love The Way You Lie" music video.
    • Speaking of Eminem: while it's not acting, per se, his rapping as the title character in "Stan" is practically a performance in and of itself. His tone gets more frenzied as the song reaches its climax, and eventually the listener just loses themselves in the character. The song wouldn't be half as good if Em wasn't such a good actor as well (which 8 Mile would go on to prove).
  • The Vice Quadrant album was a chance for David Michael Bennett and Isabella Bennett to show off their acting skills as the Astronaut and Commander Cosmo (David), and the Necrostar (Isabella). Compare The Spine to the Astronaut, or Rabbit to the Necrostar. Special mention should also go to the heartbreaking scene of the end of "Oh No", where the Astronaut is separated from Cosmica, who lets him regain his sanity just long enough for him to see everything he did, before he dies..

  • People in general (and theatre critics in particular) were sceptical when Lenny Henry (mostly known for his comedy performances and characters) announced he was taking on the lead role in a production of William Shakespeare's 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.
  • Although people already knew he was a great actor at this point, nobody was really prepared for how Neil Patrick Harris killed it as the title role of Hedwig and the Angry Inch. He set a new high standard for the character, molding himself physically and vocally into Hedwig and absolutely owning the stage, earning a well-deserved Tony Award in the process.
    • From the same production: Lena Hall's performance as Yitzhak. Up to that point, she mostly was known for being in lighter shows (Kinky Boots, Cats, Tarzan), but she delivered a crushing performance, playing resentment, devotion, and resignation perfectly while barely saying a word. Especially worthy of note: the look of pure joy she has when Hedwig gives her the dress at the end and she runs up the aisle before emerging again near the end of "Midnight Radio." She, too, won a well-deserved Tony, and a shit-ton of respect from the Broadway community.
  • Sutton Foster in Violet. She had already earned respect for her formidable singing and dancing in shows like Anything Goes, The Drowsy Chaperone, and Thoroughly Modern Millie. With Violet, she showed that she could deliver a raw, emotional, and heart-wrenching performance without necessarily tapping her brains out. Her tragic naivete and eventual breakdown when she finds out the TV preacher she idolized couldn't help fix her facial deformity were killer.
  • Nobody said the man couldn't act, but Lin-Manuel Miranda's performance during the largely tragic middle of the second act of Hamilton comes way out of left field. Hamilton's bravado comes crashing down when his son dies, and his panic at the beginning of "Stay Alive (Reprise)" and resignation during "It's Quiet Uptown" show that Miranda can bring real gravitas to the character.
  • Though his Cool as Ice performance was panned, Vanilla Ice earned appraisal for his performance in the Captain Hook in the Chatham, Kent Central Theatre pantomime production of Peter Pan.
  • Broadway actress Lesli Margherita is mostly famous for her wacky backstage vlogs and for originating Mrs. Wormwood in the Broadway cast of Matilda. Got that image in your head? Here she is singing "God Help the Outcasts" as Esmeralda. There's a reason she has an (unrelated) Olivier.
    • A subtler example is in one of the vlogs, where she has a conversation with Wormwood. She (herself) calls Wormwood a bad parent, to which Wormwood replies, "I'm not a bad parent, I have a bad daughter." A line that shows she clearly knows Wormwood inside and out.
  • 8, the play based on the Prop 8 trial, had two odd examples in that both actors were best known for the same work: Glee.
    • Matthew Morrison certainly hasn't been bad on Glee, but his turn as co-plaintiff Paul Katami was fantastic. He conveys his character's hurt over being considered a threat to children perfectly.
    • Chris Colfer's acting on Glee has always been praised (he received a Golden Globe), but his short but memorable scene in 8 left no doubt how talented he is. Can be seen here.
  • Ben Platt was known for years as Benji, the nerdy roommate from Pitch Perfect. Then he gave an absolutely heartwrenching performance as the title character in Dear Evan Hansen, which won him universal acclaim from critics and audiences alike, along with the Tony Award for Best Actor.

    Web Animation 
  • RWBY:
    • Jessica Nigri, more well-known as a cosplay model, was very highly praised for her voice-acting role as Cinder Fall, cementing Cinder as a terrifying and badass villain with only a few lines. She continues to deliver as Cinder takes a more active role in in Volume 3, culminating with her epic villain speech addressed to the crowd in the Vytal stadium to discredit Ozpin, Ironwood, the Huntsmen and the kingdoms.
    • In a similar vein, Michael Jones of Rage Quit fame definitely proved his chops for his portrayal of Sun Wukong. As a result, he managed to land another role with a similar character: Sting Eucliffe of Fairy Tail.
    • Barbara Dunkelman did a fairly good job voicing Yang Xiao Long all through the first series run, but she was especially praised by the viewership for her convincing delivery of a highly emotionally-charged scene between Yang and Blake in Episode 6, Volume 2. In Volume 3, she does an even better job as the events of Volume 3 very quickly turn Yang into a Broken Bird.
    • Fans were quick to respond positively to Neath Oum's portayal of Lie Ren for Volume 3.
    • Though Garrett Hunter's role of Adam wasn't always very well-received, fans absolutely loved his extended scene in "Heroes and Monsters", where plays a terrifyingly Ax-Crazy abusive ex-boyfriend to Blake.

    Web Original 
  • The Nostalgia Critic:
    • It might not have been intentional, but the 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.
    • While most of the Critic's proper woobie moments are just Doug putting his natural-born Puppy-Dog Eyes to good use, his breakdown before the Crowning Moment of Awesome in the "Commercials Special" wasn't just shouting, screaming or OTT crying, it was... genuinely sad.
    • And he does it yet again in Suburban Knights. From Ma-Ti's 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.
    • To Boldly Flee once again brings his acting chops to the fore as he breaks down and begs the other reviewers to help him 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 So Proud of You from his dad and the cast commentary even stopped talking so they could enjoy it again.
    • His scenes in the latter and cerebus syndromed half of Demo Reel can be exhausting on one's emotions. One commenter even said they could have desperately used some Bambi birds after Donnie numbly and sarcastically apologizes to the family for giving a bad performance 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 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 Demo Reel too, as Karl was completely unlike his usual ham; funny, but also a tortured Shell-Shocked Veteran with a increasing affection for his Replacement Goldfish 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 Sonic movie, playing a silent stoic soldier who was ready to Face Death with Dignity.
    • While Ask That Guy with the Glasses is usually hammy and somewhat terrifying, Doug's reenactment of the final speech from Of Mice and Men is legitimately well-acted.
  • Todd in the Shadows' breakdown during the "Hoedown Throwdown" in the Hannah Montana: The Movie review. While it's mostly played for somewhat goofy reasons (it's just a song), Todd does sound genuinely panicked and upset, and some of the things he says ("I'm sad all the time...I can't sleep at night") are pretty Adult Fear-inducing. It's certainly a lot more dramatic than his usual freak-outs.
    • Similarly, his discussing a traumatic high school experience in his "Fifteen" review. He later revealed he wasn't really acting as much as he thought, but as a turning point for Todd's character in-universe, it's handled masterfully.
  • Atop the Fourth Wall:
    • Lewis Lovhaug had a "holy shit, he can act!" moment, too, when he's nearly Driven to Suicide in the last Silent Hill: Dead Or Alive review. Unlike most times on the site when it was Suicide as Comedy, the 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 possessed/replaced by the Entity is easily the high point.
    • Lewis really shows his acting chops in the Batman: Noel review, when Harvey Finevoice 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 Suburban Knights. Known more for his wacky dancing and willingness to lose his clothes, his range of emotions was a big change.
  • Nella in The Nostalgia Chick'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.
  • The cast of Red vs. Blue 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 or the rare moments when he acknowledges his creator's influence as an Ai, for Joel Heyman it's when 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, Elijah Wood deserves a mention. He'd been praised for an okay performance in Lord of the Rings, but they'd not been overtly positive. Then he played Kevin in Sin City and scared the shit out of everyone. When he got into Red vs. Blue as Sigma, and he steals every scene he's in, making you simultaneously detest and love him at the same time.
    • Miles Luna was hardly bad as Felix in the opening arc of Red vs. Blue: The Chorus Trilogy, but the fact that Luna was head writer got him flack at the time, with others considering him a little generic. Come Season 12 and The Reveal that Felix is the biggest Knight of Cerebus in the entire show, a terrifying sociopath and Manipulative Bastard has won him a lot of praise.
    • Gray Haddock was previously known as just the voice of Roman Torchwick from RWBY, a role he did alright in but didn't really push himself with. Then he got the role of Locus and got a lot of praise, particularly for the character's Not So Stoic moments.
  • Ashly Burch of Hey Ash, Whatcha Playin'? also has another, less-frequently updated series called Baked Goods. The episode "Automatonic Asphyxiation" lets her show genuine fear and rage.
  • Matthew Mercer was generally well-received as a voice actor in video games and anime, but he was known for two things: generic Badass Baritone voices (Alvin, Leon Kennedy, Levi and the like) and replacing the more widely-known actor Troy Baker. That changed completely with Critical Role, where he acts as Dungeon Master for a group of voice actors and reveals himself to be an insanely talented Man of a Thousand Voices. He plays everything from Adorkable geeks to Camp Gay wizards to gravelly-voiced vampires and dragons to a crazy-prospector-esque black powder merchant, along with a variety of female characters who each sound distinct and convincing. Even the other players — all of them professional voice actors — are in awe of his range.

Alternative Title(s): She Really Can Act