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Plays Great Ethnics

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Guess what his real ethnicity is.note 

"I never get the girl. I always get the country."
— Attributed to Anthony Quinn

This refers to casting practice, and in the case of Trope Codifier Peter Stormare it has even achieved the status of Casting Gag. It refers to "international" or "ethnic" - at any rate not American or British - actors who are considered to somehow look or be able to act so vaguely but conspicuously foreign that they can be used for any nationality. It's As Long as It Sounds Foreign and Gratuitous Foreign Language applied to casting. However, But Not Too Foreign is often in effect because you'll want someone who speaks good English (even though intentionally accented) and rather panders to viewers' expectations than give an accurate portrayal of a specific ethnic identity which also means that the character's background might be very vague as long as it's foreign. Note that Plays Great Ethnics can have the same Unfortunate Implications as Mistaken Nationality and/or Mistaken Ethnicity.

In many cases—particularly if the actor is British—these types don't even have to look a certain way. They study the accent and dress in ethnic clothing, and use theatrical makeup. In such cases, the hiring studio will often be criticized for effectively stealing the role from other performers who actually belong to the ethnic group and are offered acting roles less frequently than white actors; others state that this defeats the purpose of acting, where the goal is to portray someone other than yourself. Across the pond, however, this is expressly forbidden in modern American media. SAG-AFTRA now requires that an actor at least partially share the racial background of any character they're playing, to avoid blackface and the like. However, this can be creatively interpreted, such as the half-black Dwayne Johnson playing North African characters.

Often these actors were originally successful abroad before they were discovered by Hollywood. Might result in Classically-Trained Extra. May be played with by having the character himself be of ambiguous heritage or appearance. Sometimes they will make use of Blackface, Yellowface, or Brownface.

Compare Man of a Thousand Faces.


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    In-Universe and Miscellaneous Examples 
  • Pretty common on Saturday Night Live, due to the show's extremely limited pool of talent and relative homogeneity. A few examples:
    • Fred Armisen plays characters of nearly every race on Saturday Night Live, most notably Barack Obama. He's half Venezuelan, one-quarter German, and one-quarter Korean. A Parks and Recreation episode in which he played a Venezuelan delegate is probably the closest he's ever been to playing his real nationality.
    • Molly Shannon (Irish-American) portrayed celebrities as diverse as Anna Nicole Smith (Scots-Irish/"Anglo"-American), Monica Lewinsky (Ashkenazi Jewish), and Michelle Kwan (Chinese-American).
    • Maya Rudolph plays just about any race on Saturday Night Live.
    • As an actress of Mexican descent, Melissa Villaseñor is the natural go-to for Latina impressions, or in the case of 6ix9ine, Latinos. But she's also played Elaine Quijano (Filipino-American), Lady Gaga (Italian-American), and Sue Perkins (Cornish-English).
  • Invoked in The X-Files when one of The Men in Black claims that Saddam Hussein is in fact a character actor with a background in dinner theater who "plays great ethnics".
  • In-universe, Gina Bellman's character in Leverage is this, playing characters from South Africa, India, and Britain, among others, because of her role as a grifter.
  • In Metal Gear Solid 4: Guns of the Patriots, it's stated that Liquid's part-Japanese ethnicity allowed him to pass for Turkish during his spy work.
  • In the play The Thanksgiving Play by Larissa Fasthorse, children's theater director Logan gets a special grant to hire a real LA actress (presumably one that's actually Native American) to consult on how to write a politically correct play. But the one she hires (via Skype), Alicia, is white but adjusts how she looks in photographs so as to get cast as different ethnicities, such as Jasmine in Aladdin. She wore braids for her "Native American" photo.
  • The Heroes of Olympus: Piper's father Tristan is a famous Cherokee actor who never plays Cherokee characters. She mentions he's played (at least) Greek, Latino, Israeli, and Syrian characters.
  • In American Hustle, a Hispanic con artist played by Michael Peña passes himself off as an Arab sheikh.

    Real Life 
  • French-Armenian Simon Abkarian has played Arabs, Greeks, Israelis, Afghans, Iranians, and Romani.
  • F. Murray Abraham is of Syrian and Italian descent and has portrayed Cuban, Mexican, Italian, Turkish, French, Russian, and Ashkenazi Jewish characters, to name a few.
  • Norwegian actress of Nepalese-Ukrainian origin Amrita Acharia, who played the Dothraki handmaiden Irri on Game of Thrones for two seasons, describes herself on her Twitter page as "ambiguously foreign".
  • Korean-American (possibly the Very First Korean-American) actor Philip Ahn only portrayed Korean characters a handful of times in his almost 50-year career. Early in his career he was promoted by studios as "Chinese", by the logic that most Americans wouldn't know what Korea was, and after World War II broke out was typecast as Japanese characters, to the degree that some audiences thought he actually was Japanese and sent him death threats (it didn't help that Korea was a Japanese colony at the time even before the war).
  • Comedian Fred Armisen is American, but his mother is Venezuelan and his father is half-German half-Korean. This has helped him play a number of sketch comedy characters on Saturday Night Live, Portlandia, and Documentary Now!. Armisen's played white guys, black guys, white women, Colombian men (not too far off the mark), Italians, even Barack Obama. (Please note for these purposes that the vast majority of Venezuelans are primarily of mixed White and Black ancestry, with some indigenous South American.)
  • Lesley-Ann Brandt is South African - with her full ethnic background including East Indian, German, Dutch, Spanish, and Khoisan - and frequently plays Ambiguously Brown characters. Notably her Star-Making Role - Naevia in Spartacus: Blood and Sand - avoided giving her character's country of origin.
    "In Thailand, I'm mistaken as Thai, in New Zealand I've been told I look Polynesian, Indians can see my Indian heritage and in America, I've been told I look African American or Latin American. I like it that way."
  • Bart Braverman started out playing the Italian boy Giuseppe in the "Lucy Gets Homesick in Italy" episode of I Love Lucy (credited as Bart Bradley in various TV roles from 1955 to 1962), has portrayed various Hispanic characters, Asian Indians, Bobby "Binzer" Borso on Vega$, Middle Eastern and Arab characters et al., due to his swarthy complexion.
  • Joaquim De Almeida is Portuguese but has also played Mexicans, Frenchmen, Italians, Englishmen and Brazilians. Given that Portugal and Brazil speak the same language, he did a much better accent in Fast Five than Elsa Pataky, a Spaniard of Romanian ancestry.
  • Naveen Andrews is mostly known for playing an Iraqi in Lost and an unspecific-Middle Eastern president in 24. Before, he did mostly his actual Indian ethnicity (such as The English Patient), and also an African in Mighty Joe Young.
  • Tige Andrews was really of Syrian descent, but in his regular roles on cop series, he played an Italian (Lt. Johnny Russo on The Detectives) and Captain Adam Greer on The Mod Squad.
  • Indian-born American actor Erick Avari has made a career out of this: he's played British characters, Arab characters (even an alien Arab in the original Stargate movie and the follow-up TV show), Egyptians, Russians, Spaniards, and so on. He's even occasionally played the odd American here or there. The Other Wiki, in point of fact, says that he's "portrayed representatives of more than 24 different nationalities".
  • Hank Azaria is a Sephardic Jewish New Yorker of Spanish-Greek descent who has played Frenchmen, Spaniards, Egyptians, and Guatemalans, and lent his voice to everyone from Indians to Southern Americans.
  • Justin Baldoni is an Italian Jew who mostly plays Arabs and Latin Lovers (most notably Rafael Solano on Jane the Virgin).
  • Donatas Banionis is an example of the trend in Soviet casting where actors hailing from the Baltic republics (Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania) were a favorite choice for playing Western foreigners of any type. For example, he has played Americans, Englishmen, Swedes, Germans, and Italians, to name just a few.
  • Sacha Baron Cohen is a London-born Jew who has played a Kazakh (twice), a North African, a fake Italian, an Austrian, and three Frenchmen.
  • Actor Coby Bell of Third Watch and Burn Notice is biracial, and was specifically selected for the role of Jesse on Burn Notice so they would have a character who could plausibly pretend to be from a variety of ethnic backgrounds - a handy ability for a spy.
  • The aforementioned Gina Bellman, who is a New Zealander of Russian/Polish Jewish descent, has dark enough coloring that she passes convincingly as the mother of a Latina character in Emerald City (played by an actually Latina actress).
  • German/Austrian actor Moritz Bleibtreu, who played e.g. Abdul from Knockin' on Heaven's Door and Tarek from Das Experiment.
  • Lithuanian-American Charles Bronson was often cast as Native Americans in various Westerns (Apache, Run Of The Arrow) before becoming a star. His Star-Making Role, of course, came playing the Mexican-Irish Bernardo O'Reilly in The Magnificent Seven.
  • Yul Brynner (of Swiss, Russian, and Siberian ancestry) played King Mongkut of Siam, Pharaoh Ramses of Egypt, a Russian, a Cajun, a Native American chief, a Cossack, a Mexican, and many other "ethnic" roles.
  • Keisha Castle-Hughes is a New Zealander with Polynesian roots and her roles are usually American, Australian, European, Hebrew and Dornish.
  • Michael Constantine, of Greek descent, has probably played more than his share of Italian characters. One of his best-known roles was the very Jewish high school principal Seymour Kaufman on Room 222.
  • London-born actor Ritchie Coster (whose ethnic origins are Dutch) is dark-haired, dark-eyed, and has spent his career playing non-English characters of various types. He was The Chechen (a Chechen, naturally) in The Dark Knight, Mister Zoric (a Hungarian) in Let Me In, Simon Matic (a Bulgarian) in Law & Order: Criminal Intent, Joey Sadano (an Italian) in American Gangster, Jorgan Stern (a Pole) in Law & Order, Fazal (a Saudi Arabian) in Traffic (2000), Nicolai Trepov (a Russian) in Hack, and the list goes on and on and on. One can count the number of times he's played English characters on both hands.
  • Pictured above is Cliff Curtis, a Maori from New Zealand. He has played characters who are Latin American from multiple countries, Egyptian, Saudi, Iraqi, Hebrew (as Jesus, no less), Spanish, Indian, African American and Chechen in addition to Maori.
  • Mark Dacascos. His ancestry is very varied - Filipino, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Irish - and apart from all kinds of Asian characters, he's also played a Magical Native American.
  • Rosario Dawson is mixed race and so she can play a variety of races in films. She passed herself off as Middle Eastern in Alexander and Greek in Percy Jackson and the Lightning Thief.
  • Cote de Pablo, Chilean-American best known for playing former Mossad agent Ziva David on NCIS and again cast as an Israeli (or rather, a Jew from what would become Israel nearly two millennia later) in The Dovekeepers.
  • Khigh Dhiegh (born Kenneth Dickerson), an American of North African origin, made a career out of playing East Asian villains (presumably in yellowface), most notably Dr. Yen Lo in the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate and Wo Fat in Hawaii Five-O.
  • Omid Djalili (born in Britain to Iranian parents) is usually roped in on British TV to play anyone vaguely Middle-Eastern, North African, or even south European- he played a Greek cabbie in My Family and Other Animals in 2009. He's sneaked into a number of seriously big Hollywood films as a result of this including The Mummy (1999) and The World Is Not Enough.
  • Israeli Oded Fehr played not only Mossad agents and Arabs of mysterious or outright malicious disposition, but also a Frenchman, a Greek and a Brazilian mercenary.
  • Yugoslaviannote  actress Mira Furlan plays a Frenchwoman on Lost. Her cute accent was a plus in her role as the Minbari ambassador Delenn.
  • The Jewish American-British Andrew Garfield is possibly one of these. He's well-known for playing the Brazilian Jew Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network, but has also played standard-issue Brits and Americans in movies like The Imaginarium of Doctor Parnassus and The Amazing Spider-Man. Also, he is slated to star in a biopic of the Hungarian Jewish/Spanish war photographer Robert Capa.
  • Israeli Brian George played the Pakistani restaurateur Babu Bhatt in Seinfeld and Raj's Indian father in The Big Bang Theory, and to Julian Bashir's father in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine.
  • Italian actor Giancarlo Giannini covers all countries where a Romance language is spoken, preferably Mediterranean. And also the Padishah-Emperor.
  • Israeli actress Gal Gadot usually played as a European, American, and a Greek Amazonian superheroine.
  • Jenette Goldstein is Jewish-American but has been able to pass herself off as numerous different nationalities - her IMDB page even describing her as "a true chameleon". Her most famous role has her playing a Mexican and she played another Hispanic in Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas. She also played Irish in Titanic (1997) and The Presidio, a Caucasian blonde in Near Dark and she finally got be Jewish in Lethal Weapon 2.
  • African-American actress Juanita Hall played Pacific Islander Bloody Mary in the 1958 film of South Pacific and Chinese-American Madame Liang in Flower Drum Song on stage and screen.
  • Sessue Hayakawa, a prominent Japanese-American actor from the early 20th century, was cast to play several different ethnicities.
  • Over his long and illustrious career, the Welsh Anthony Hopkins has portrayed Brits, Spaniards, New Zealanders, Americans, Greeks, Germans, and even a black guy... twice. In The Mask of Zorro he and fellow Welsh person Catherine Zeta-Jones play Californios (Hispanic Californians), a father and daughter.
  • Vanessa Hudgens has a part Native American, part Irish father and a Filipino mother, with also Chinese and Spanish ancestry, and has been cast in mainly Hispanic roles, and as being from a fictional East Asian country much like Thailand in Thunderbirds. In an interview, she said that she had auditioned for the role of Esmerelda in an amateur production of The Hunchback of Notre Dame because "I've got her ethnic looks going on".
  • Olivia Hussey is Argentine-born, with only a hint of a tan, and has played Italian (Romeo and Juliet (1968)), Ancient Hebrew (Jesus of Nazareth), Indian (Mother Theresa of Calcutta), and Spanish (Lost Horizon) in addition to white British roles.
  • Oscar Isaac is Guatemalan-born, and has played various ethnicities — including Polish (in Show Me A Hero), Egyptian (in X-Men: Apocalypse), Roman (in Agora) Jewish (in The Nativity Story, Operation Finale, Scenes from a Marriage (2021), and Moon Knight (2022) — with, for a bonus, at least two different accents in the last), Armenian (in The Promise), English (in Robin Hoodnote ), Iraqi (in Body of Lies), Russian (in W.E.) and French (in At Eternity's Gate). He's snarked about it in the past.
    I'm half Guatemalan and half Cuban, or, as casting directors call that, "ethnically ambiguous". According to them, I can play anything from a pharaoh to Timothée Chalamet's daddy.
  • Ukrainian-Israeli Mark Ivanir is frequently cast as basically every kind of Eastern European nationality in existence, from Russian to Yugoslavian and everything in between. Outside of that, he's been generic Jews and unspecified Funny Foreigner-type characters as well. It helps that he speaks many languages (Russian, Ukrainian, Hebrew...), and has moved around so much in his life that he's good at altering his accent to fit a role.
  • Noble Johnson was an African-American actor who, from The Silent Age of Hollywood through the late '40s, portrayed not only characters of African descent, but also American Indians, Mexicans, Arabs, Polynesians, and at least two Eastern Europeans, often using makeup of his own design.
  • French actor Louis Jourdan has played Spaniards and other Latin lovers. He's also played the Romanian Count Dracula, as well as an exiled Saudi Prince in Octopussy. He's proven that he can do American accents that fool even the most American of Americans on a 1950s episode of What's My Line?.
  • Stana Katic is a Canadian of Serbian descent (her parents in fact hailed from the Dalmatia region of what is now Croatia) and is fluent in five languages, as well as able to speak to varying degrees in a few more. She's played Israeli, French, German, American, voiced a Persian in a video game and in A Call To Spy played Romanian-born British SOE officer Vera Atkins.
  • Sibel Kekilli is a German-born actress of Turkish heritage who, aside from various Turkish and German characters, has also played an Italian, an Ashkenazi Jew, a Chechen, and the Non-Specifically Foreign Shae on Game of Thrones.
  • Actress Q'orianka Kilcher, with a Swiss mother and Peruvian father of indigenous descent, played Pocahontas (native-American but from a totally different tribe and hemisphere), Tiger Lily in Neverland and Princess Kaʻiulani of Hawaii (Polynesian).
  • Ben Kingsley was born in England to an English mother and Indian father. His roles have included several Jews (of various nationalities), Iranians (Prince of Persia and House of Sand and Fog), Middle Eastern characters of other origins, Indians (one of which was his breakout role and won him an Oscar), Americans, Russians, Italians, at least one Frenchman (Georges Méliès), a Māori, and an Egyptian (Potiphar). In Iron Man 3, he plays a Middle Eastern terrorist who's really a British actor who looks foreign enough to pretend to be a vaguely-Asian person, lampshading this trope. In fact, many people have assumed he's Jewish due to the number he played, though Kingsley corrected them that no, so far as he knows that isn't the case (his mother was born out of wedlock and did not talk about her background, so it's possible but unconfirmed).
  • Olek Krupa, born in Poland, typically plays all manner of Eastern European characters.
  • Mila Kunis has a Jewish Ukrainian background. She's played a Mexican and other Non-Specifically Foreign or Ambiguously Brown characters, but has noted that she lost out on one role "because they didn't think I looked Russian or Jewish enough. And keep in mind I am both Russian and Jewish."
  • Nancy Kwan with her Eurasian looks managed to invert this, as she'd be given mild Yellowface to look more convincingly Asian but would also wear blue contacts to play white roles. She sometimes played Tahitian and Polynesian as well.
  • Christopher Lee, though British-born, played all sorts of foreigners (including Arabs and Chinese, with the possible zenith being Jinnah, the founder of Pakistan). His facility with languages and part-Italian ancestry was a large factor, to the point where for much of the 20th century he was seen as too foreign looking to play a Brit.
  • British actor Joseph Long is of Italian descent and has played Italian, Greek, Cypriot, Spanish, Chilean, Russian, Israeli, and Arabic characters.
  • Jewish Austro-Hungarian actor Peter Lorre seldom ever played an actual Austro-Hungarian or Jewish character during the height of his career. He was usually cast as ambiguously foreign. One of his first starring roles was as a Japanese Charlie Chan rip-off named Mr. Moto. He also played Le Chiffre in the 1954 TV movie Casino Royale (1954).
  • Myrna Loy - before becoming a Hollywood star - had exotic looks that allowed her to get several Asian roles (in Yellowface of course). The Mask of Fu Manchu for example.
  • Dolph Lundgren has played more than half a dozen Russian characters, despite actually being Swedish.
  • Melissa Marsala, whose ancestry is Chinese and Italian, is perhaps best known for her recurring role as a Puerto Rican on Six Feet Under. In addition to countless Spicy Latinas, she also played Toby's Greek-American personal assistant on The West Wing, the sister of a Mafia goon on The Sopranos, and a black woman pretending to be white on Angel. (She would rather you not mention her sordid past as a crime-fighting vampire robot.)
  • Canadian actress Tatiana Maslany has Ukrainian, Polish, German, Austrian, and Romanian ancestry, amongst others. Amongst the nationalities she's played include American, English, German, Ukrainian, and Finnish. In a single series. The fact that all of her characters are clones helps explain their similar appearances somewhat, but Maslany could credibly pass for any of these nationalities, which also helps make it more believable.
  • Ian McShane has a rather swarthy olive complexion, meaning he doesn't look out of place as more Mediterranean roles and he can also do a fine Russian accent, such as in The West Wing and as Mr. Bobinsky.
  • Mads Mikkelsen is Danish, but has played characters who are French, German, Russian, Greek, Lithuanian, Albanian, and even East Iranian. This is probably at least partly due to his accent.
  • Alfred Molina (Italian and Spanish heritage) does all those plus Russian, Middle Eastern, Mexican and Peruvian - when not portraying Americans or Brits.
  • Jason Momoa has Native Hawaiian and Caucasian ancestry, plus a touch of Native American, and has played several mixed-race characters. He has played characters that share his half-Native ancestry at least twice (The Red Road and Frontier (2016)), the ambiguously brown Dothraki warlord Khal Drogo, and the Polynesian-inspired King of Atlantis Aquaman (who is blonde and Caucasian in the comics).
    • Aquaman's father in the film is played by Temuera Morrison (NZ Māori), who, alongside Māori characters, has also played a Hispanic boat captain in Speed 2: Cruise Control, and the ambiguous Jango Fett and clone troopers in the Star Wars prequels.
  • The only films in which Ricardo Montalbán played his actual nationality are the dozen he made in his native Mexico while caring for his sick mother after establishing a career playing generic 'Latin' characters on Broadway. Montalban frequently complained that Hollywood would cast him as any nationality other than Mexican. Consider his best-known roles: Khan Noonien Singh in Star Trek and the presumably supernatural Mr. Roarke in Fantasy Island. The most extreme case, however, was in his guest roles on Hawaii Five-O where he portrayed an Italian race car driver and a Japanese businessman in two separate episodes (thankfully not in the same season).
  • J. Carrol Naish (pronounced 'Nash'), an Irish-American (his uncle was Lord Chancellor of Ireland!), was often cast as Italian characters due to his swarthy complexion, like the character Luigi Basco that he played in the early TV sitcom Life With Luigi. He also was often cast as Orientals, and in fact played Charlie Chan in the late '50s series The New Adventures of Charlie Chan, and also was cast a few times as Indians, such as in a Green Acres episode. Not to mention Eastern Europeans, Latin Americans, Middle Easterners, Pacific Islanders, and even African Americans. All this earned him the nickname "Hollywood's One-Man UN".
  • Israeli actor Yigal Naor has played Jews (obviously), Persians, Romanians, and Arabs. He's particularly popular for his ability to speak Iraqi Arabic, which he learned from his Iraqi-born parents and which is distinct from Standard Arabic.
  • If you have watched a crime drama since the mid-noughties, chances are that you have met Sicilian-born Ivo Nandi at some point, playing an Italian, French, Russian, or any kind of Hispanic character. The only thing the roles have in common is that they are foreign-accented and usually thugs.
  • Early in his television career, Leonard Nimoy (Caucasian of Ukrainian Jewish background) was often cast as (in his own words) "Mexicans, Italians, all kinds of ethnic types; this was before ethnic awareness."
  • Warner Oland played a number of East Asian characters by wearing Yellowface including Fu Manchu, Charlie Chan, and Shanghai Express.
  • Swedish-born actress Lena Olin has played a Frenchwoman in Chocolat (where, funnily enough, she's married to Peter Stormare's character) and Casanova, a German in The Reader, an Egyptian in Queen of the Damned, a Czech woman in The Unbearable Lightness of Being, and Russians in Alias and Romeo is Bleeding
  • Israeli-born Nehemiah Persoff, of Jewish descent, probably played more different ethnicities than any other actor mentioned here. To name a few examples, he played mobster Jake Guzik on The Untouchables, an Italian councilman on Dan August, a Greek winery owner on The Streets of San Francisco and even German Nazis on The Twilight Zone (1959) and Law & Order.
  • Lou Diamond Phillips is of Scots-Irish, Filipino, Cherokee, Spanish, Chinese, Japanese, and Hawaiian descent. As you might expect, he plays characters from a variety of races, though most often Latinos.
  • Anthony Quinn played Greeks, Portuguese, Arabs, Ukrainians, Jews, Englishmen, Italians, Latin Americans, Eskimos, and just about everything else you could possibly think of. In reality, he was a Mexican with significant Irish ancestry (hence the name).
  • Zachary Quinto is an American of Irish and Italian ancestry. His characters have been Iranian, Greek, and his most famous role is a half-human alien. That said, the alien is also half-American and possibly of Scottish ancestry,note  and his second-most famous role had him play an American who also may have been of Irish ancestry.note 
  • Born in Casablanca to Spanish parents, Jean Reno is successful in both European cinema and Hollywood, appearing as French, Armenian, Russian, Italian, Polish, German...
  • John Rhys-Davies, a Welshman, has been cast in a variety of different nationalities: Egyptian, Turkish, Russian, German, Arabic... even a Dwarf!
  • Reece Ritchie, an Englishman of partial South African descent, has played Iraqi, Greek, Indian, Iranian, Minoan, Australian, Persian, Israeli, and Egyptian characters.
  • Italian-British-Canadian actor Carlo Rota made a career out of playing Hispanics and Middle Easterners, and even played a Lebanese Muslim in Little Mosque on the Prairie.
  • Anthony Ruivivar is himself a mix of Filipino and Chinese on his father's side and Scottish and German on his mother's side. Several of the characters he's played are Hispanic and in Banshee, he played Alex Longshadow, a Native American.
  • Brazilian actor of Italian/Portuguese descent Rodrigo Santoro has played a number of roles like Xerxes (a Persian Emperor), Jesus (a Middle Eastern Jew), Raúl Castro (a white Cuban) and Hector Escaton (a Mexican artificial program). And those are just the roles Americans are familiar with; he once played D'Artagnan in one of his native country's movies.
  • Vito Scotti, Italian, played characters of just about every ethnicity you could name at some point or other, including Japanese.
  • Jamaican actor Frank Silvera was actually a light-skinned black man, but often got cast as Hispanic characters (such as in his recurring role as Don Sebastian Montoya on The High Chaparral) or native Hawaiians (in the Hawaii Five-O episode "Paniolo", which sadly was one of his last roles before his accidental death).
  • Rade Šerbedžija, the actor who played Boris the Blade (Uzbekistani, although frequently simply called Russian) in Snatch., is Croatian, but he's the go-to guy for characters from anywhere in Eastern Europe, whether they're evil or not. He also played Frenchmen in South Pacific and The Quiet American.
  • Someone at Happy Madison Productions seemingly believes this of Rob Schneider; nearly every film starring Adam Sandler features Schneider, usually in a walk-on cameo but occasionally an outright supporting role, as a heavily-accented non-white foreigner of some sort, ranging in tastefulness from his portrayal of a Hawaiian in 50 First Dates, e.g. not especially tasteful at all but at least a well-rounded and thoughtfully-portrayed character, to his appearance in I Now Pronounce You Chuck & Larry featuring him in half-century-outdated Yellow Face.
  • Tony Shalhoub was born in Green Bay, Wisconsin to Lebanese Catholic parents.note  Hollywood doesn't need too many Lebanese characters (although he did play one in The Siege) so why not branch out to Italian characters when you have the looks? Or Ashkenazi Jewish ones, for that matter? Often, his characters' ethnic backgrounds are intentionally vague - but definitely somewhat foreign (lampshaded in Galaxy Quest). Adrian Monk is of Welsh ancestry, in case you wondered.
  • Omar Sharif was Egyptian, but so well-established as an international actor that nobody questioned his ability to play practically any nationality. His most famous role was in Doctor Zhivago as the titular Russian.
  • Sudanese-English actor Siddig El Tahir El Fadil El Siddig Abderrahman Mohammed Ahmed Abdel Karim El Mahdi (better known as Alexander Siddig) is a preferred choice for characters from anywhere in the Arab world or greater Middle East, especially if you don't want a terrorist. He also played the Carthaginian Hannibal, although that's not actually that much of a stretch (more like having a Spaniard play a Roman than play, say, an Indian), the fictional-but-Spanish-like Prince Doran Martell of Dorne, and Isaac Newton.
  • Back in the days when Yellow Face was still considered apropos, Henry Silva, a man of Spanish and Italian descent whose ethnicity, he jokes, had been "assumed to be everything" made a career playing Yellow Peril characters in movies like the 1962 version of The Manchurian Candidate and whatever other ethnic heavy the studios wanted him to.
  • Sylvester Stallone, a man of Italian, Ukrainian, and French descent, is frequently cast as an ethnic Italian-American (Rocky Balboa), but has also played a Hungarian-American in F.I.S.T., the son of a Swede in Judge Dredd, an Ambiguously Human alien in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2, and a man of mixed German, Indian, Swedish, and Native American ancestry in the ''Rambo'' series.
  • Booboo Stewart is of Japanese/Chinese/Korean and Scottish/Russian/Blackfoot descent, and as a result is ethnically ambiguous. He's played many Continental Native American characters (Twilight, X-Men: Days of Future Past, Westworld) but has also played East Asian (White Frog), Middle Eastern (Descendants), and Native Hawaiian (Hawaii Five-O).
  • Swedish actor Peter Stormare has played a German "nihilist" in The Big Lebowski, a Russian cosmonaut in Armageddon (1998), an Italian mercenary in The Brothers Grimm, an Italian-American mob boss in Prison Break, a drunken and violent Frenchman in Chocolat, a drug lord from a fictional Eastern European nation in Arrow - the list goes on.
  • Woody Strode, African-American football player-turned-actor, was cast as Native Americans or other ethnicities in a curious number of films, perhaps most egregiously playing a Mongol warlord in 7 Women. Admittedly, Strode was part-Cherokee so the former's somewhat justified.
  • Mark Strong has Austrian-Italian heritage, lending him to roles from the Med.
  • In Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Māori actor Antonio Te Maioha plays a North African character, Barca.
  • Hungarian (or Romanian - his birthplace used to be part of Hungary, but is now part of Romania) actor Sandor Tecsy was best known for playing Russian or Albanian characters.
  • Italian-American John Turturro is probably more well known for his various portrayals of Hispanics (The Big Lebowski, Collateral Damage, Mr. Deeds), and Jews (Barton Fink, Quiz Show, Miller's Crossing) than when he actually plays Italians (mostly in Spike Lee movies).
  • Titos Vandis, Greek, who played (among others) three unrelated characters of varying ethnicities on Barney Miller, none of whom were Greek; there was a Puerto Rican, a Romani, and another one.
  • Indira Varma is half-Indian, half-Swiss with Italian ancestry, and usually played characters who are in the Mediterranean area.
  • Arnold Vosloo is a South African actor best known for playing Arabs, an ex-LAPD cop turned criminal fixer, and an Ancient Egyptian priest.
  • Taika Waititi is Māori and Jewish, but has played Indians, Romani, Vietnamese, and Inuit. And a rock alien being. And Hitler.
  • Christopher Walken is of German and Scottish descent, and quite pale-skinned. However, he was born in Queens and sounds like it, so due to the Big Applesauce trope, he is often cast as a character of just about every white ethnicity to be found on America's Eastern Seaboard, including a Russian-American steelworker in The Deer Hunter (for which he won an Academy Award) and various Italian-Americans.
  • Eli Wallach. His film debut was Baby Doll playing a Sicilian gangster; he played a Mexican bandit in not only The Magnificent Seven but The Good, the Bad and the Ugly; an Asian warlord in Lord Jim; another Italian-American crime boss in The Godfather Part III. Wallach seemed to play every ethnicity except his actual Jewish-American background.
  • Orson Welles, an American of Scots-Irish ancestry, played a wide variety of Americans, Brits, Italians, Frenchmen, Slavs, Africans, and Hebrews over his life. This was aided by the fact that he absolutely loved using makeup.
  • Anna May Wong, who was Chinese-American, also played Native American and Polynesian characters in her career.
  • Catherine Zeta-Jones is Welsh and gets cast as Hispanic or Middle Eastern characters.
  • Boris Karloff, in reality an Englishman of somewhat more than 1/4 Indian ancestry, was cast as people from all over Europe, a Native American, a Chinese man (in several different franchises!), and, most famously, an Ancient Egyptian. Oh, and a Grinch.
  • Giancarlo Esposito is of Italian and Black American ancestry. This means he usually gets cast as generic Black guys, but his vaguely Mediterranean features have also led to him being cast as a Hispano-American, including his most famous role as a Chilean drug lord.
  • '' Ismael Cruz Córdova is a an Afro-Puerto Rican actor. He has played multiple characters who are Latin Americans, Italian, Twi'lek and even Elf.