22 Actresses Who Played Originally Male Characters

We all know about the gender pay-gap scandal in Hollywood and lately we’ve been hearing more and more horrifying stories about the way that females are being treated in the film industry behind the scenes. While at times the sexism and misogyny of mainstream media can feel overwhelming, every once in while things seem to be looking up. It’s not to say that these tiny moments of equality could possibly outweigh the loooooong list of BS that Hollywood has put women through over the years, but it means that we’re moving forward — which is a good thing.

It should come as no surprise here that certain characters have always been considered to be male roles — basically every superhero besides Wonder Woman and Cat Woman, Harry Potter, Dr. Who, etc.. While men are still generally the action heroes that save the day, more and more women are swapping into parts that have been traditionally played by a man and breaking gender stereotypes that have kept women from achieving these parts in the first place. Though actresses may still have a long battle to fight in Hollywood, these sixteen actresses are proving that anything an actor can do, an actress can do better.

16. Jodie Whittaker in Dr. Who

Over the years, Doctor Who has become a pop culture phenomenon thanks in part to the fact that the main character periodically regenerates from actor to actor. While the past 12 incarnations of the Doctor have all been brought to life by male actors, it has been revealed that in this 13th portrayal of the iconic timelord we will finally see Doctor Who as a woman.
Set to be played by British actress Jodie Whittaker, this newest adaptation of the character will put gender swapping right at the front of today’s pop culture and hopefully prove to all nay-sayers that women are just as capable of defeating Daleks and directing the Tardis as any man.

15. Sandra Bullock in Our Brand Is Crisis

Who in Hollywood wouldn’t want Sandra Bullock as their leading lady? Well, the creators of her 2016 film almost didn’t. Originally, the main role of the intensely-driven political PR titan was intended to go to Bullock’s friend George Clooney. Though, after reading the script, Bullock immediately knew that she wanted the lead role and pitched the idea of gender swapping the role. The idea stuck and Bullock ended up snagging the part.

14. Judi Dench in James Bond

While there have been many James Bond stories told, the latest, set with Daniel Craig at the helm, took a new twist on the identity of his boss. Entering a long list of male actors who have previously encompassed the role of M is Judi Dench as the character M. The head of the Secret Intelligence Service, Dench’s character holds immense power in the James Bond world and, despite Bond doing the fighting, is the one with the most control.
Though her character met her fate in 2012’s Skyfall, M continued to have a lasting impact on the series of films and even had a cameo appearance in 2015’s Spectre. While we may still have to wait a while before we see a woman take on the 007 mantle, it is at least nice to see that the franchise isn’t averse to a little gender bending. All hope for a female Bond may not be lost just yet.

13. Sandra Bullock, Anne Hathaway, Cate Blanchett and Rihanna in Ocean’s Eight

The Ocean’s franchise has found itself getting a gender makeover. While the original trilogy of Ocean’s Eleven, Ocean’s Twelve, and Ocean’s Thirteen were fronted by a male-dominated cast including George Clooney, Brad Pitt, Matt Damon and many others, the series has found a slew of leading ladies to bring a new take on the scamming antics we’ve come to love. With a star-studded female cast, this new film set to be released in 2018 looks to be one coolest ones yet. (Am I the only one who loves Rihanna’s break into the acting world? The girl can seriously do it all!)

12. Sigourney Weaver in Alien

Few could probably forget Sigourney Weaver’s portrayal of Ripley in Ridley Scott‘s iconic 1979 film Alien. While her turn fighting off viscous alien creatures helped make her one of the most iconic faces in Hollywood, the role almost didn’t go to her. Originally, the film was written to be male-dominated, with the roles of the scientists intended to be played by guys. While reworking the story, the character was eventually changed to be a female and Sigourney took the part. Who else can fend off aliens like a woman can?

11. Angelina Jolie in Salt

Though male actors have seemingly cornered the market on being action stars, Angie proves time and time again that women are more than capable of kicking some serious ass. Her various roles have proven her physical prowess on the big screen. While many think of her iconic roles in Mr. and Mrs. Smith or Tomb Raider as one of her bigger action roles, it was her turn as Evelyn Salt in 2010’s spy film Salt that takes the cake as being one of her most daunting roles to date. Why? Because all of her stunts were initially intended for Tom Cruise.
The role, which was written to be for a male and fronted by the Top Gun actor, eventually went to Jolie. Beyond the fighting, Jolie was able to bring an intensity to the film like no other and really create a haunting film in the process. Not gonna lie, Tommy just wouldn’t have created such a nuanced character.

10. Helen Mirren in The Tempest

Another leading lady who’s not afraid to take on a role intended for a man would be that of Helen Mirren, even if it meant changing the work of one of the most influential writers in history. That’s right, in 2010’s remake of William Shakespeare‘s play The Tempest, Mirren did the good ol’ gender swap. Instead of having the character of Prospero be the male sorcerer it William wrote it, the film brought a whole new take on the part by having Mirren take over the role. Encompassing the strength and sometimes dangerous nature of the character, Mirren carried the remake on her back and really helped bring an old story a new life. We think, considering Shakespeare’s love for genderbending in his plays, the playwright would’ve been proud.

9. Jane Lynch in 40 Year Old Virgin

Jane Lynch is no stranger to the concept of gender swapping. While most recognize her as Coach Sue Sylvester on Glee, it was originally her first few gender swapping roles that made her a stand out as a versatile actress. More specifically, her small role in Judd Apatow‘s comedy that really helped make her a recognizable face in Hollywood.
Though the part was initially written as a male one, the helpful advice of lead actor Steve Carrell‘s wife, Nancy Walls suggested that they needed more female characters in the film and Judd changed the gender of the role. The part was then snatched up by Lynch who went above and beyond to prove that females can have just as dry and raunchy humor and wit as any male comedian.

8. Ellen DeGeneres in Finding Nemo

Though its hard to imagine anyone else being our favorite forgettable fish, things could have almost gone a completely different way. Thankfully, while writing the script for this Disney animated classic, Andrew Stanton initially had the Dory’s character as a male fish! Andrew happened to hear the talk show host’s voice and was inspired to change the originally male character into a part for a female. Going on to be voiced by DeGeneres, Dory brings a comedic and sympathetic side to the film and proves to be the biggest standout from the film. TBH, I can’t even imagine this character as a dude! Who else could make people want to keep swimming?

7. Emily VanCamp on Revenge

Hell hath no furry like a woman scorned. It’s hard to imagine anyone but Emily Vancamp enacting her revenge on the Grayson family as Amanda Clarke on ABC’s Revenge. Yet, this was almost the case. The character was initially intended to be a male protagonist seeking his revenge. Luckily for the show, the concept was gender-swapped to be a female lead. The part was then given to VanCamp, who proved that the switch was the right decision for the show.

6. Lucy Liu on Elementary

Known for her work as one of Charlie’s Angels, Lucy made her mark by gender swapping one of the most iconic roles, that of Sherlock Holmes’ trusty sidekick, Watson. In CBS’s adaptation of Sherlock Holmes. The character of Watson was transformed into Joan Watson. Played by Liu, this portrayal showed that a woman could be just as suitable of a companion for the infamous genius as any man. As both his friend, helper and sometimes moral compass, this version of Watson is just as clever as all that have come before.

5. Natalie Dormer on Elementary

The CBS show is clearly a fan of subversive gender switches! They played it very judiciously and gender swapped one of the good guys and one of the bad guys. One of the most iconic villain Sherlock Holmes has ever faced, Moriarty’s gender identity changed for Elementary. While all book, film, and television adaptations of the character have previously been male, this portrayal included Natalie Dormer as Jamie Moriarty. While she is first introduced as Sherlock’s love interest, Irene Adler, it is later revealed that she has been his nemesis all along… now that’s a good plot twist!

4. Gwendoline Christie in Star Wars

While many have come to know her as the warrior Brienne of Tarth on Game of Thrones, Gwendoline Christie is also portraying a strong female warrior in a galaxy far, far away. Taking on the role of Captain Phasma, a high ranking official in the First Order, Christie strikes fear into the hearts of all who oppose her in this role. Though initially meant to be a male part, Christie proved to be the right choice. Bringing with her a warrior spirit that has made her such a standout in GOT, she translates that power to the big screen. Trading in a sword for a light saber, the continuation of the Star Wars trilogy promises big things for Captain Phasma.

3. Kristen Wiig, Melissa McCarthy, Kate McKinnon and Leslie Jones in Ghostbusters

It was the 2016 remake of Ghostbusters that really brought the topic of gender swapping to the forefront. Why? Because instead of having a team of all male Ghostbusters, it was swapped to have a female fronted cast, and many people seemed to have a problem with that. Even before the film came out, the stars faced an uphill battle of backlash that came from casting women in the lead characters. Their parts were played by Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Harold Ramis and Ernie Hudson.
Despite receiving a 73% rating on Rotten Tomatoes, the film was still intensely critiqued by hordes of audiences on social media that disagreed with its choice of progressive casting. So while this film may not have gotten the most positive reaction for its choice to gender swap, and it wasn’t the first film to make that decision, it most certainly brought the matter to the forefront.

2. Viola Davis in Ender’s Game

Through a countless number of intense and inspiring roles, Viola Davis has earned her place amongst Hollywood’s elite. During her time changing Hollywood one role at a time, Davis also found herself in the position to gender swap a role. In 2013’s adaptation of Ender’s Game, the movie chose to take the once-male character of Battle School’s second-in-command Major Anderson and transform him into a female leader. The part, reworked to be Major Gwen Anderson, went to Davis whose compelling acting abilities inspired the swap and allowed her to bring her own fierce abilities to the role.

  1. Katee Sackhoff on Battlestar Galactica

The 2004 reboot of Battlestar Gallactica saw itself ahead of the gender-swapping curve. While the OG series included a male character called Lieutenant Starbuck, the reboot saw the character swapped to become Kara “Starbuck” Thrace. The role went to Katee, who helped bring a new edge to the character and keep the reboot from becoming just another remake of the original series.

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