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There's an actor who is well-known for playing brave and courageous characters who are as good as it gets, or an actress whose characters are sweet and easy-going. But off-camera, it turns out that these people are not as nice as they appear to be when they start yelling at the rest of the cast, snapping at the director (in the sort of language that their characters would never dare use), and proclaiming that they alone have the talent. When meeting with fans, they'll usually take on their nice character persona, but when alone they'll complain loudly about how much they hate their annoying fans. Curiously, they may be just as genuinely nice as they play, or even more, but they'll make a very poorly-timed quip about something (see Caught on Tape for more) after which they may Never Live It Down.

This trope is often used to give a message of not worshiping idols and raising false hopes. It is used to show the weaknesses and frivolities of show business and, funnily enough, considering the source, that just makes the message more interesting. People like to consider it knowledge from people who know what happens behind the curtain and take it as a knowing wink from the other side. Even if they're not really talking about their section of the industry.

Related to Hates the Job, Loves the Limelight and the Depraved Kids' Show Host; subtrope of Bitch in Sheep's Clothing and The Prima Donna. The opposite of Mean Character, Nice Actor. Compare Funny Character Boring Actor. Also compare Small Name, Big Ego and Broken Pedestal.

In-Universe Examples Only, Please! There are scrillions of gossip magazines and websites that delve into this exact thing, and celebrities are held to higher standards of "nice" than normal people; having a short temper on a stressful day of work can be spun into making one sound like the most colossal bitch/douchebag on the planet.

Examples of Nice Character, Mean Actor include:


  • The infamous Juicy Fruit commercial set in the recording of a children's program has an actress trying to lip-sync the singalong song, only to lose it when her mascot-esque friend swipes the gum from her overalls!

Anime and Manga

  • Bubblegum Crisis: Vision may apear to be a calm, soft hearted Idol Singer, but offstage, she is a ruthless mecha driving terrorist on a Roaring Rampage of Revenge!
  • Sho of Skip Beat is kind and sweet to his fans . . . and a ruthless, cruel jerk the rest of the time.
  • Akira Kogami in Lucky Star, but only in the anime.
  • Arguably, Tobi/Madara in Naruto Shippuuden are this in-universe.
    • Yukie Fujikaze from the first movie is a straighter example, actually being a movie star. She gives a powerful and moving performance while on film, but is cold and bitchy everywhere else. She got better.
  • Some victims of in Detective Conan are this trope.
  • Megumi, Magical Angel Creamy Mami's rival. Though she too gets better by the end of the series.
  • Kiriri, the middle school voice actor from The World of Narue plays the bubbly and heroic Magical Girl Number 4, but outside of that, is a shallow jerk who tries to break Kazuto and Narue up.
  • As a riff on female celebrities who put on a Kawaiiko persona, a Sayonara Zetsubou Sensei chapter/episode has Maria attacking people identified as a boke and when she goes to bop a seemingly ditzy female star identified as a "natural boke", said star flashes a Game Face at Maria and throws her to the ground- and then reverts to her cutesy persona in front of the camera.


  • British girls' comic Mandy ran a strip in which a TV actress famous for playing a loving mother in a soap opera is in fact horrible to her stepdaughter behind closed doors.

Films — Live-Action

  • Death to Smoochy focused on the sordid private lives of children's TV performers. Most of the drama comes from most of the characters trying to prove that Smoochy is just as bad as the rest.
  • America's Sweethearts was built around this trope. Gwen and Eddie always played sweethearts in the movies (see the film's title). In real life, Gwen left Eddie for another man, treated her sister/assistant like garbage, and was a general bitch to most people she met. She also thought Kiki was like this.
  • My Name Is Bruce, where Bruce Campbell plays himself as this type of actor, mostly being compared to Ash.
  • Averted in Harold & Kumar go to White Castle, Neil Patrick Harris (then still best-known for Doogie Howser, M.D.) wanted to be credited "as Neil Patrick Harris" rather than "as himself" so people wouldn't think he was a crazy, coke-snorting womanizer in real life.
  • Played brilliantly for comic effect in Pee Wees Big Adventure when child actor Kevin Morton (played by actual nice guy child actor Jason Hervey) acts like an arrogant prick toward the cast and crew in between takes on a film where he plays an orphan that all of the nuns and fellow orphans love dearly.

  "Doesn't it look like I'm ready? I am ALWAYS ready! I have BEEN ready since first call! I AM READY! Roll!"

    • One of the actresses playing one of the nuns so resents Morton's attitude that she threatens to quit.
  • Lina Lamont in Singin in The Rain. She plays all sorts of glamorous princesses and whatnot (in silent films), but when she actually opens her mouth, you find out she sounds awful and has the personality to match.
  • Andy Griffith carries this off beautifully in 1957's A Face in the Crowd where his Lonesome comes off as a folksy home-spun philosopher who somehow becomes a media success. Of course his downfall comes when his disillusioned girlfriend deliberately broadcasts what he really thinks of his audience during closing credits of his TV program.
  • Neville Sinclair in The Rocketeer, an Errol-Flynn-style '30s action hero actor who turns out to be a jerkass primadonna who "accidentally" stabs one of his costars for upstaging him. Even worse, he turns out to be a Nazi spy, kills multiple people (enemy and ally alike) in his quest to steal the jetpack for his Nazi superiors so they can take over the world.
  • In What Ever Happened to Baby Jane, Jane was a cutesy Shirley Temple-esque child star who became a horrible spoiled brat offstage. Her career was ended when her fans witnessed her throwing a tantrum outside the theatre.
  • The Purple Rose of Cairo.
  • Peter Sellers plays the primary Villain Protagonist of Your Past is Showing and is a variant on The Krusty/Depraved Kids' Show Host. The public knows him as a kind Fun Personified variety show host, but in reality, he's cold and cynical and has made money by investing in/being the landlord of slum housing.
  • In Sharpay's Fabulous Adventure, Amber Lee Adams at first seems like she's quite a nice person. However, as the movie goes on, it turns out that Amber is planning to have the 'best friend' written out of the show. In doing so, she hires Sharpay as (unknown to Sharpay) her maid by making her do Amber's dirty work, so that she'll 'help' Sharpay's dog, Boi, get the role as the 'best friend' in the show. Of course, Amber's karma catches up with her when she is exposed as a Jerkass onstage at dress rehearsal, and right in front of her own fanclub, too!
  • Floop from Spy Kids, though it's played with. His heart ultimately isn't in evil, and his softness allows his Dragon, Minion, to usurp him and become the Big Bad instead.


  • One of the Just William stories featured William sneaking into a hotel so he could meet the actress playing "Princess Goldilocks" in the pantomime currently running at the local theatre. He discovers that she's grumpy, rude and much older than she looks on stage.
  • In High Society by Ben Elton, a drug-addled rock star who became famous via an American Idol-style reality show confesses to an affair with a fellow contestant, who had projected a cutesy family-friendly image on the show but was really a coke-snorting nymphomaniac off screen.
  • A Sweet Valley Twins book, The Curse of the Ruby Necklace, where the twins are cast as extras in a movie. They meet the lead actress, who is a complete bitch but also an amazing actress who can turn on the sweetness i nothing flat.
  • In the Thursday Next universe, there's something really wrong with David Copperfield: he actually killed his first wife.
  • Animorphs had Jeremy Jason McCole in "The Reaction". The girls were fangirling all over the place for him and then they found out he was a jerk for real.
  • In the Wildlife trilogy by Todd Strasser, Oscar Roginoff gets worse and worse with each new book. As the keyboardist (who also composed all of their music) for the Coming Attractions, he has an amazing knack for connecting with the crowd. But the audience never sees his behind-the-scenes prima-donna antics — at least until the titular book, when the band appears on an MTV segment following the last show of their final tour. Then it all goes downhill — at least for him.

Live-Action TV

  • On The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, Will ends up in a fist fight with a Barney-esque mascot when the actor inside assaults him, and is subsequently called out on it since no one knows the actor was a jerk and attacked Will first.
  • Wayne Brady's infamous sketch on Chappelle's Show had him making fun of himself and his likable, good-natured reputation as a complete mask for his true self, a violent, murderous pimp.
  • Pancake Buffalo, from Hannah Montana, his puppeteer may have him act sweet and kind on TV, but she is skitzlefrantic to the bone. An Expy of Batman's Ventriloquist!
  • One episode of The Goodies had a game show host who was all charm and warmth on screen, but the moment the cameras were turned off he became a total bastard.
  • Pierre Chang of Lost seems to act like this, as he's quick to anger whenever something interrupts one of his recording sessions for another DHARMA initiation video.
    • By the end of season 5, it's clear that Pierre isn't a bad guy at all, really.
  • An episode of Family Matters has Carl forced to arrest an actor who plays a genial sitcom dad for assaulting him.
  • Done in ICarly with Wade Collins. Turns out that he made up that whole 'my mother needs surgery' thing to gain sympathy from the audience. He's really an insensitive, nasty hobknocker!
    • Carly Shay: quite a nice girl. Miranda Cosgrove in iBloop: hardass boss (though in real life, it might be necessary).
    • Don't forget Amanda Tate, from iCarly saves TV!
  • Slings and Arrows plays this straight and subverts it. Neither of which are surprising, as it's a show about actors.
  • Debbie in Psychoville may count towards this: a pantomime actress playing Snow White who, offstage, is a self-confessed porn addict and mean enough to trick a fellow cast member into posing nude in front of the rest of the cast by pretending she wanted to act out a sexual fantasy with him.
  • Aaron Echolls in Veronica Mars is an actor playing action heroes, and family men. In reality he's an abusive parent, philandering husband, and he murdered Lilly Kane.
  • The Boy Meets World Show Within the Show "Kid Gets Acquainted with the Universe." Its lead actor is shown to be abusive to a fellow actor who plays the antagonist.
  • There was an episode of Special Unit 2 where they were investigating a Barney Expy and his TV Show. The Barney expy was great with kids and very nice, but turned out to be a brainwashing demon that fed on fear. It ended similarly to the Fresh Prince example above.
  • An episode of Gimme A Break, Joey is a fan of a kids show host played by Paul Williams. Nell discovers that the guy is a total racist!
  • An episode of Drake and Josh had Josh act as a caretaker for a child star. While on screen she's a sweet little girl, she's really a demanding brat in real life.
  • One episode of Growing Pains had Ben meeting a nice, clean-cut rock star he idolized. Said rock star later turned out to be a total two-faced jerk who was cheating on his wife.
  • Mio Kuroki in Pretty Guardian Sailor Moon appears to be a sweet, bubbly idol. However, she's really a total witch (and a shadow of a psychotic sorceress). Usagi, ever naive, thinks Mio is her friend.
  • Father Ted had a parody of Irish singer Daniel O'Donnell. Like O'Donnell, Eoin McLove is a "Housewives' Favourite" who performs quietly pleasant acoustic songs. Unlike O'Donnell, he's actually a Psychopathic Manchild.
  • In one episode of Cybill, Cybill's car gets towed away when she parked on Betty White's parking place. Reason: "In real life, Betty White actually isn't such a nice person."
    • The show used this trope quite a bit. Especially towards child actors. And Cybill herself doesn't get off to well.
  • Pulaski: The TV Detective: Character Pulaski is an upright private detective. His actor Larry Summers is a womanizing alcoholic.
  • Sue Ann Nivens on The Mary Tyler Moore Show was the charming, sweet, homebody host of The Happy Homemaker. Almost immediately after the cameras stopped rolling, she showed herself as a nymphomaniac and something of a bitch. It's ultimately a subversion, though: she loved the role and never ever treated it like a joke.
  • Extras revolved around this trope, with virtually every well-known actor being portrayed, behind the scenes, as either racist, deluded, self-obsessed, drug addicted or sex-crazed.
  • The premise of Lifes Too Short, where Warwick Davis plays a fictionalised version of himself who pretends to be nice but is really an arrogant, manipulative jerk.
  • In Power Rangers Dino Thunder Kira interned for "The Funky Fisherman", a kids' TV show host, who, off-camera, was demanding, pushy, and arrogant.
  • The 1985 Twilight Zone episode "Take My Life... Please!" "America's Hottest Comic" Billy Diamond finds himself in the afterlife auditioning for an audience that's nothing like his legion of adoring fans "all over the world." They have no reaction to his normal material (and even boo sick jokes); but whenever he tells about some shitty thing he's done in life, they start laughing. The more rotten it is, the longer and louder the laughs. By the time the audition ends, he realizes he is in a literally Ironic Hell. For two aeons!


  • The owner of the ice cream factory in Grand Theft Auto Vice City is a gruff, mean, child-hating, poisonous hag. Although the ice cream factory is just a front for her drug-dealing business, so... No, hang on. She could have run bicycle couriers, or a taxi firm, or any other business that involved people going places at all hours of the day and night. So she picked the ice-cream business purely to mess with the minds of children. Yep; she's a witch.
  • Of course, one can never forget Matt Engarde from Phoenix Wright: Ace Attorney. This is more a case of Nice Character Completely Sociopathic Actor. Particularly ironic, since Will Powers, his mentor/predecessor, was the epitome of Badass Character, Nice Actor.
    • Juan Corrida wasn't a saint either, having both rejected Celeste and faked her suicide note due to a petty rivalry with Matt.
    • The Pink Princess, aka Wendy Oldbag from Investigations.
    • In the manga, Raymond Spume plays one of the "good guys" on the Sparklestar show, but it turns out that he killed the person who was going to replace him as Sparklestar and tried to pin it on Julie Henson because he thought her habit of biting her nails (which sends him into a tirade against her when he sees her doing it) was indicative of her lacking the attitude of a professional, and would ruin the show.
  • Gerry Romero in Mega Man Star Force 2 is a total jerk most of the time, but when the cameras are rolling he's just the nicest guy ever...until he has the footage, at which point he disappears as quickly as possible.

Fan Fiction


  • Sebastian Beauregard Constantine III in YU+ME: dream, who played Jake, Fiona's best friend in the first half of the comic is rather stuck-up and, in Fiona's words, "such a douche."
  • Averted in Xkcd here.

Web Originals

  • In an alternate universe version of Survival of the Fittest, with the premise that it really was just a TV show, the actor portraying Adam Dodd, arguably The Hero (Anti-Hero, at least) is depicted out of character as arrogant, selfish, womanising jackass - starkly contrasting with the character himself.

Western Animation

  • Darla Dimple, the villain of Cats Don't Dance
  • Baby Herman of Who Framed Roger Rabbit. When the cameras stop rolling, he turns from a cute baby to a foul-mouthed, cigar-smoking, womanizing Jerkass. We later learn he is actually a Jerk with a Heart of Gold when he offers to hire Eddie Valiant to clear Roger's name, explaining that he and Roger are actually close friends. In all fairness, he is stricken with a "fifty-year-old lust and a three-year-old dinky."
  • In Kangaroo Jack: G'Day U.S.A.!, the star of a children's zoology show is actually a smuggler of exotic animals.
  • One episode of Rugrats featured a children's show hostess who absolutely hated her target audience. Angelica overheard her swearing, which led to Angelica repeating it on the show.
  • Similar to the above example, an episode of Family Guy involved Stewie's desire to move to Great Britain so he could live with Mother Maggie, the host of his favorite children's show. He gets to meet her and learns that the fantasy world of Mother Maggie is nothing but a stage, and Mother Maggie herself absolutely hates children.
  • Gabbo from The Simpsons says that his audience are "all SOBs." Strangely, he's a puppet.
    • Krusty himself is sometimes this kind of gruff kids show host archetype.
    • And lest we forget, Sideshow Bob.
    • The Gabbo incident was based on a rumor wherein a host of a children's show allegedly said "That ought to hold the little bastards for another week" without realizing that the camera was still rolling.
  • One episode of Sushi Pack featured Sugar Jimmy, the host of a Romper Room-like kids' show. On screen he was a sugary sweet nine-year-old, but off he threw tantrums about everything, hated the chocolate bar he was hocking, and happened to be 22.
  • On DuckTales Huey, Dewey, and Louie idol worship Captain Courage, hero of the TV show "Courage of the Cosmos." Uncle Scrooge owns the show and has Gyro redo it to make it more realistic. The boys go on the show and are blind to the fact that their hero is just a vain, egotistical actor. They also don't realize that Gyro made their set an actual spaceship and it launches into outer space. When they realize where they are and real aliens have captured them, Courage panics, and the boys see what a coward he really is ("real heroes just do their jobs!").
  • On an episode of Cyberchase, Digit gets to be on his favorite show the Fearless Chef, a cross between Iron Chef and The Amazing Race. The host of the show, the fearless chef, is kidnapped by Hacker. When Jackie and Inez go to rescue him they realize that the so-called Fearless Chef is really a complete coward.
  • Stinky Pete the Prospector from Toy Story 2. He is actually based on the loyal friend to Sheriff Woody in an old children's show called Woody's Roundup, but the toy version of him is very evil (and second only to Lotso). He hates other toys because he is constantly sealed within a cardboard box, and as a result he wants to remain in the box forever, and therefore he also wants other toys to be contained within their boxes as well. He ultimately gets his comeuppance by being stuffed inside a backpack full of painted Barbie dolls, and is later revealed to have liked being painted like said dolls.
  • In Kappa Mikey's Show Within a Show, Lilymu!, female lead Lily is to act as a warm, caring, Implied Love Interest to our titular Mikey. When the cameras stop rolling, she goes back to being her Jerkass Attention Whore who hates the main character for stealing her thunder as Japan's most famous anime star. By the same token, Mikey Simon plays the heroic and totally competent Kappa Mikey, but is in fact a total well-meaning but inept Cloudcuckoolander who's inability to effectively meld into Japanese society drives most of the show's plot.
  • Subverted in the Hey Arnold episode "Eugene Goes Bad." Eugene is obsessed with TV superhero The Abdicator, but things go sour when he visits the set and sees the actor acting like a spoiled diva ("Where is mah ahpreecot joose?"). After calling the guy out, Eugene decides there's no reason to be good anymore and starts to misbehave. Meanwhile, Maurice, the actor, has his own personal crisis as he can't stop feeling guilty about the incident and letting his fans down. Eventually he helps snap Eugene out of his rebellious phase.
  • Baby Doll teeter-totters between this and Mean Character, Nice Actor in Batman the Animated Series. Unlike most actors, whose excuses were drugs and scandals, she was a very sympathetic character; all she wanted to do was play a serious role but due to her disorder she couldn't, and last of all she wanted her old show back. However some things she does tend to cause sympathy levels to teeter totter. Although one of her co-stars that she kidnapped mentioned she was difficult to work with on the set, always making extreme demands and throwing tantrums if she didn't get her way.
  • Tiny Toon Adventures How I Spent My Vacation had a Johnny Depp parody (Johnny Pew the skunk) who turned out to be much less friendly than his screen presence would suggest.
  • Mom from Futurama has the public image of a sweet, kindly old grandmother, but offstage is a malevolent Corrupt Corporate Executive who routinely beats her three sons into submission.