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Popular Actors Whose Real Voice Might Surprise You

By definition, acting implies performance. It's an opportunity for an actor to disappear into a part and to try and convince the audience that the role they are portraying on screen, or on stage, is believable and real. Some performers undergo physical transformations through the use of wigs, makeup, and facial prosthetics, while others also modify their accents and vocal deliveries for the roles when deemed necessary. However, there are actors who go full tilt for the voices of their characters, often becoming borderline unrecognizable to their friends and family.

There's an unintended consequence to this as well because the audience doesn't realize what these popular actors sound like outside of these productions. In some cases, fans even become disappointed when they meet a performer in real life and notice their voice doesn't match the character they portray. Then again, isn't this the mark of a fantastic actor since they have made others believe they are someone else?

From Jaleel White not sounding anything like the annoying Steve Urkel (but definitely like Stefan Urquelle) to Rowan Atkinson being far more articulate than the living embodiment of chaos known as Mr. Bean, let's take a look at the actors whose real voice is a surprise to the audience.

Melissa Rauch

In "The Big Bang Theory," Bernadette Rostenkowski steals the show not only through her dual displays of brilliance and hilarity but also her astonishing voice. Her energetic, high-pitched squeaks have made her one of television's most instantly recognizable and beloved characters. However, fans were left shocked when actor Melissa Rauch joined the "Night Court" revival as Abby Stone and her voice sounded completely different from the sitcom. For many viewers, they simply struggled to reconcile Bernadette with Abby here.

Rauch utilizes her real speaking voice for the role of Abby, and it's something that still surprises "The Big Bang Theory" fans when she meets them in person, as she explained to "The Rubin Report." The actor said many fans refuse to believe she played Bernadette on the show because she sounds so different in real life. Rauch also revealed that she found the inspiration for Bernadette's voice much closer to home than most would imagine. "Bernadette's voice is very similar to my mother's except without the Jersey accent," she said. "My mother, it's not quite that high, but it's in that tone and that range."

Stephanie Beatriz

"Brooklyn Nine-Nine" features an abundance of outrageous and memorable characters that will live on long in the memory. However, one of the big fan favorites is Detective Rosa Diaz, played by Stephanie Beatriz. What makes Rosa so memorable and cherished is her deadpan delivery and ice-cool demeanor. While she does lose her temper every so often, there's a low frequency to her voice that gives her the air of a no-nonsense, straight-shooter who doesn't believe in using flowery language or excitement when speaking to others.

In real life, though, Beatriz sounds like the polar opposite of Officer Rosa — seriously, she's almost like a different person. She has a high-pitched, energetic voice that could quickly bring a bubbly sitcom character to life. Humorously, Beatriz utilized her actual speaking voice on the show, but most fans didn't realize it until she started appearing in interviews later on. When Rosa is mocking or changing her tone to fool someone on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine," that's actually Beatriz's real voice shining through the veneer of Rosa's impersonation.

Melanie Lynskey

Melanie Lynskey catapulted to fame as the bizarre and adored Rose on "Two and a Half Men." Initially introduced as Charlie Harper's stalker, she becomes his wife and holds him captive until the series finale. Fans, though, mostly remember Rose for always finding her way into the Malibu beach house and for the kooky, squeaky delivery of her lines. In essence, the voice matched the character's personality to the T.

In "Yellowjackets," Lynskey portrays the adult version of Shauna Shipman. There's still a tinge of the high-pitched frequency recognizable from Lynskey's days as Rose, but the actor tones it down due to the nature of the show being much more severe. In many ways, Shauna feels like a grown-up version of Rose who has matured and left behind her obsession for Charlie.

When Lynskey appeared on "Late Night with Seth Meyers," many fans were left shocked when she opened her mouth and spoke in her natural speaking voice. Since she's from New Zealand, the actor has an accent from down under and there's hardly any sign of the squeakiness found in Rose or Shauna. Judging by her most famous roles, it appears as if she applies a higher register to her characters when she switches to an American accent.

Pat Morita

For the late Pat Morita, his real voice nearly cost him the part of a lifetime. Morita had established himself as a comedian and actor in sitcoms such as "Happy Days" and "Sanford and Son." While Morita had Japanese heritage, he was born in Northern California, as per SFGate. Expectedly, Morita grew up with a regular Californian accent and cadence. Also, thanks to his years as a stand-up comic, he was able to alter the pitch of his voice to imitate characters on stage and to land the punchlines of jokes.

When it came down to the casting of Mr. Miyagi for "The Karate Kid," producer Jerry Weintraub didn't believe the actor could pull off the part since he saw him purely as a sitcom star, as Morita revealed in a Television Academy Foundation interview. The actor explained how it was director John G. Avildsen who pushed for his audition, even though the greater powers that be still forced him to audition five times to get the part. Morita joked that the reason Miyagi sounded the way he does in the film is that he was tired from all the auditioning he had to do.

In the end, most audiences remember Morita for his performance as Daniel LaRusso's kind mentor and friend, Mr. Miyagi, even though the actor sounded absolutely nothing like the character he brought to life.

Hana Mae Lee

Kay Cannon's "Pitch Perfect" is all about the music, but don't sleep on the superb and outrageous comedy showcased in the film. One of the funniest characters by far is Lilly Onakuramara. She is soft-spoken, speaking in a hushed tone, as most of the characters wonder what her deal is at first. Despite her volume being turned down to the lowest possible level and whispers sounding like explosions next to her, Lilly says the strangest things, such as how she ate her twin in the womb and beatboxes like a boss.

In a ClevverTV interview with two of the cast members from "Pitch Perfect," actor Hana Mae Lee revealed her real voice to the interviewer, even poking a little fun at the character she plays. Lee is loud, bouncing ball of energy, laughing and showing extreme confidence as she speaks — a complete departure from her character in the film. That being said, she explained how she loved playing Lilly and felt like she was an extraordinary and exciting role to portray on screen.

Megan Mullally

The sitcom may have been called "Will & Grace," but everyone knows Jack McFarland and Karen Walker were the true standout stars of the show. The terrible twosome are a hoot as their interactions and schemes cause the kind of rapturous laughs that turn into bellyaches. Undoubtedly self-centered and extremely catty, Karen has some of the best one-liners on the show, but it isn't only what she says, but how she says it. Scattered in between all the "honeys" and passive-aggressive insults is a shrillish voice that adds way more sass and panache to the already fabulous character.

Speaking to Entertainment Weekly, actor Megan Mullally revealed that she originally auditioned to play Grace on the show before being invited to read for Karen. Initially, she wasn't keen on the part and thought about declining the offer, but she eventually threw herself into the role and started to improvise as well. She explained how Karen's voice simply came to her as she became comfortable with the character and played around.

"The pace of the show is quite theatrical," she said, "and my natural speaking voice is very laconic, so I thought, 'Well, I need to bring some energy to this character.' And I thought that was a good way to do it."

Rowan Atkinson

It's equally hilarious and ironic that Mr. Bean's first film was titled "Bean: The Ultimate Disaster Movie." The unassuming Bean is pure and unrivaled chaos, as he goes about his everyday life and cannot avoid creating anarchy wherever he ventures — whether it be unintentionally headbutting the Queen of England or hiding his steak tartare in a lady's handbag and everywhere else in a restaurant. Bean isn't much of a talker, though, as he employs an unusual and distinct mumble when he does open his mouth to speak. In fact, the character is more vocal in his film appearances than he is on his eponymous television show.

In real life, Rowan Atkinson is about as far removed from the character of Mr. Bean as humanly possible. The British actor not only comes across as more of a calming influence, but his voice is also different from Bean's drawl. Atkinson speaks softly with a subtle Geordie accent and provides considered answers to any questions he may be asked. In addition, Atkinson has a stammer. The actor revealed to Time (via The Stuttering Foundation) that he finds his stammer all but disappears when he portrays a character.

Anna Paquin

Anna Paquin has built up a reputation for playing the southern belle. In the "X-Men" series, she played Rogue, the young mutant who is unable to touch others because she drains their life force and absorbs their power. Then, she portrayed the telepathic Sookie Stackhouse on the "True Blood" television series across seven seasons. Despite being recognized for these southern-influenced characters, Paquin sounds extremely different from them in real life, showing no traces of their nuances and dialects in her regular speech.

Per The Globe and Mail, the actor was born in Canada before moving to New Zealand for her childhood. Paquin moved back to the U.S. when she was a teenager, and lived in New York and Los Angeles. While she doesn't have an instantly noticeable accent or obvious cadence to her speech, it's remarkable how she has managed to convince many viewers she's a southerner through and through.

Jaleel White

When it comes to annoying neighbors, there are none quite as aggravating as Steve Urkel from "Family Matters." The poor Winslows couldn't escape their nerdy, nasally nuisance from next door, as he always found a way to sneak into their home, uttering, "Did I do that?" after he did something wrong. Nonetheless, Urkel became a pop culture icon, as the Urkelites couldn't get enough of the geek god on screen. All of a sudden, "Family Matters" became "The Steve Urkel Show," and there was nothing anyone could do about the invasion.

For actor Jaleel White, he explained on "The Talk" (via CinemaBlend) that his community associated him with Urkel for so long, believing him to be exactly like the character and it even hampered his love life as the ladies thought he was like the television character. It was only after Urkel's charismatic and sophisticated alter ego, Stefan Urquelle, debuted on "Family Matters" that fans started to see who White really was underneath those thick glasses and suspenders. Suddenly, everyone saw that he didn't look like Urkel nor did he sound like him at all. While Urkel was whiny and shrieky, White is anything but as he has a smooth and alluring voice that puts everyone at ease.

Paul Reubens

While Paul Reubens has tried to reinvent himself as an actor several times through more mature roles, his destiny seems to be tied to the iconic children's character he created, Pee-wee Herman. For decades, Reubens has given himself to his creation, as he dresses and speaks in the same boyish and skittish tone as Pee-wee. The actor even revealed to Westword that the late Phil Hartman, who was a good friend and worked together with him on "Pee-wee's Big Adventure," couldn't understand Reubens' total dedication to the part.

"I liked the idea of becoming Pee-wee, and letting the public think Pee-wee was a real person," he said. "Phil was very frustrated by that. He thought I was ... uh ... squandering my talent."

When Reubens takes off the Pee-wee makeup and attire, though, the actor drops the childlike voice entirely. Reubens has a regular grown-up voice of a person his age, and if he placed an order in a Starbucks, no one would bat an eyelid or connect the dots that this is Pee-wee Herman standing in front of them.

Maggie Wheeler

While "Friends" is a series centered around the "Big Six" of Rachel, Ross, Phoebe, Monica, Chandler, and Joey, the sitcom wouldn't have been as memorable if not for the hilarious supporting cast. One of the quintessential characters on the show is Janice: Chandler's on-off-again girlfriend.

Portrayed by Maggie Wheeler, Janice is a bubbly and vivacious character that's fondly remembered for her annoying, nasally voice, her catchphrase of "Oh. My. God!" and the cackling laugh that could peel paint off walls. Originally, Janice was only meant to appear in one episode, but the fan reception towards the character was so popular that the showrunners kept bringing her back throughout the series. It became something of a punchline as viewers would often hear Janice's voice before she appeared on the screen. In fact, one could sense her "Bing-a-ling" wincing and cringing from a distance.

Wheeler, though, sounds absolutely nothing like Janice in real life. Appearing on Access Hollywood, the actor explained how she formulated her character's voice. "I saw the audition, and I'm like, 'I know that girl, I think I have met her a million times,'" she said, with a chuckle. "So that's what I did."

Austin Butler

Actors lose themselves in their roles. There are some who live and die by the sword of method acting, as they become the very actors they play on screen. While there are others who do the research and calm down before they take things too far and start sending their co-stars vermin and other weird gifts. To prepare for his role as Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis," Austin Butler had to find a happy middle ground. The King of Rock and Roll possessed a distinct and warm baritone voice with a particular enunciation of his words. As a result, Butler had to study and mimic the specific drawl for a faithful portrayal.

Judging by his Best Actor Oscar nomination, it's safe to say Butler succeeded in what he set out to do. Yet, there has been an unintended side effect to it: The actor has earned plenty of headlines for how he now sounds like Presley all the time. Butler revealed he never heard it until people started pointing it out. "I often liken it to when somebody lives in another country for a long time," he told People. "I had three years where that was my only focus, so I'm sure there's pieces of him in my DNA and I will always be linked to him." 

That being said, Butler didn't always sound like Presley. He has possessed a deep voice for most of his adult life, but his enunciation is rounder now and features a more careful diction — much like Presley did. And now he's hoping to return to it, per Entertainment Weekly.