My top 10 Character Actresses

If it’s hard being a Hollywood actor if you’re not conventionally attractive, it’s even harder for actresses who aren’t traditional beauties to make their mark, however some of my favourite performances come from character actresses. So following up from last week’s top 1o character actors, these are my most loved character actresses.

Catherine+Keener+_9OnZI7Xy3jmCatherine Keener
Niche role: Mom trying to have a life of her own
Most memorable role: Nelle Harper Lee in Capote (2005)
Show stealing ability: 4/10
“Well, for one thing, I like being a supporting actress. I like to come and go in the film. The interesting characters are very few if you want to be the lead, and they depend on you being beautiful. Since I’m not interested in those parts, the pressure’s off, in a way. I’m not cast for my physicality. I find that playing so many characters in so many films is a way to be in the moment.”

Catherine+O+Hara+2mBiygrcPAHmCatherine O’Hara
Niche role: Completely over the top nouveau riche show-off
Most memorable role: Delia Deetz in Beetlejuice (1988)
Show stealing ability: 6/10
“I never went to the prom or anything. I got asked by a couple of weird guys, but no one I wanted to show up at a formal with. Mostly I thought about being an actress. I wasn’t conscious of wanting to be a comic actress. I wasn’t really funny or anything, and I didn’t think about it. It wasn’t supposed to be ladylike for a girl to joke. To this day, I’ve found that it doesn’t matter what a guy looks like if he’s really funny. His sense of humor makes him attractive. On the other hand, you don’t hear men saying, “No she’s not pretty, but is she ever funny!””

EmilyWatson_2142111bEmily Watson
Niche role: Tough and emotionally repressed
Most memorable role: Rosa Huberman in The Book Thief (2013)
Scene stealing ability: 5/10
“I’m lucky I don’t do the kind of work where the main thing is that you’re the girl and you look gorgeous. I don’t look like that. I’m a funny-looking bugger. I don’t feel that I can compete, and I wouldn’t want to. Life’s too short to spend seven hours a day in the gym and starving yourself.”

frances mcdormandFrances McDormand
Niche role: Tough and underestimated despite her wisdom
Most memorable role: Marge Gunderson in Fargo (1996)
Scene stealing ability: 10/10
On playing ‘mothers’: “Those roles weren’t just mothers in a story about a male protagonist. First they were specific, three-dimensional people.”

kathy bates 660 APKathy Bates
Niche role: Sweet on the top, psychotic underneath
Most memorable role: Annie Wilkes in Misery (1990)
Scene stealing ability: 5/10
“I was never an ingénue. I’ve always just been a character actor. When I was younger, it was a real problem, because I was never pretty enough. It was hard, not just for the lack of work, but because you have to face up to how people are looking at you.”

olivia colmanOlivia Colman
Niche role: Worryingly overeager
Most memorable role: Hannah in Tyrannosaur (2011)
Scene stealing ability: 3/10
“I feel fortunate that I’m not a beauty. I’m not a classic beauty. I feel it is harder for girls who are like that. There are fewer parts.”

21st Annual Elton John AIDS Foundation Academy Awards Viewing Party - Red CarpetJane Lynch
Niche role: Hardcore B with a heart underneath
Most memorable role: Sue Sylvester in Glee (2009 – )
Scene stealing ability: 7/10
“When I was younger, I actually wanted to be in the spotlight. To have people want me, want to have a piece of me.”

The 40th Annual People's Choice Awards - ArrivalsAllison Janney
Niche role: Oversexed mom who might like a drink just a little too much
Most memorable role: Betty in The Way Way Back (2013)
Scene stealing ability: 9/10
“Someone said I wasn’t attractive enough. People say those things, but they make you stronger. Then you can win an Emmy and think, ha, ha, ha.”

vd-Miriam-408x264Miriam Margolyes
Niche role: Absolutely batty
Most memorable role: The Nurse in Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Scene stealing ability: 8/10
“I’m an actress and I am a scholar of English literature. And I never know which part of that is more important to me. I think it obviously must be the acting part because otherwise I would have become an academic, which I didn’t do. But I’ve always had a love of English literature and particularly of Charles Dickens.”

Viola-Davis-comes-full-circle-Viola Davis
Niche role: Wise best friend
Most memorable role: Aibileen Clark in The Help (2011)
Scene stealing ability: 5/10
“The thing about the African-American community compared with the white community is, we are more concerned with image and message than execution. I don’t play roles that are necessarily attractive or portray a positive image. They are well-rounded characters. When you squelch excellence to put out a message it’s like passing the baton and seeing it drop.”


  1. Great list once again lady!

    1. Abbi


  2. theipc

    I love Allison Janney : )

    1. Abbi

      She’s amazing.

  3. I could happily sit for hours watching Kathy Bates and Frances McDormand just reading from a phonebook. Why have they never been co-stars?

    1. Abbi

      Now that’s a film I’d be glad to watch!

  4. Great list! I love most of these ladies. And I think Catherine Keener and Emily Watson are very pretty! Frances McDormand is my favorite in here, but I LOVE Viola Davis. She’s so amazing. Totally stole Doubt.

    1. Abbi

      Thanks! Viola Davis is totally underrated.

      1. Seriously. She deserved the Oscar for her few minutes in Doubt. And that’s coming from someone who adores Penélope Cruz.

  5. Great list! Love all these women!

  6. I hate Glee but I could live on a continuous loop of Jane Lynch in Role Models. Allison Janey stole the Way,Way Back from everyone. Great list.

    1. Abbi

      Thanks! I have mixed feelings about Glee. I like the bitching but hate the singing so I’ve always fast forwarded it. I absolutely agree that Jane Lynch was awesome in Role Models though.

  7. I do not exactly find any of these ladies attractive but I am also one of the people who do not believe looks should be everything in Hollywood. I find the whole fascination with everyone looking like models quite silly and unbelievable.

    1. Abbi

      I agree. It gives the impression that interesting stories only happen to beautiful people, which is ludicrous.

  8. whatbliss

    Do you know Jennifer Jason Leigh? I think she’s an amazing underrated character actress! She did a great Dorothy Parker and was excellent in a remake of the Heiress called Washington Square.

    1. Abbi

      Jennifer Jason Leigh is great. Excellent choice.

  9. Love Allison Janney in everything she does. What a great list!!

    1. Abbi

      She is totally amazing. I can imagine she’d be such fun to hang out with.

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