Stepping into the roles of a great character, such as Hamlet or MacBeth is hard enough. However, it’s even harder when that same character was recently played by a beloved and still living actor. In celebration of the actors we love, below is a list of the top 7 characters to transcend the actors who played them. This proves the point that any object (or role) can be greater than the sum of its parts.
1. Dr. Who
The infamous time-lord from across the pond has had quite the history, stretching back to black & white television sets. 16 people have played The Doctor across film and television, including canon, non-canon, and revisionist roles. And now, it’s recently been rumored that The Doctor will be replaced again, transferring Peter Capaldi’s role to a number of people, ranging from Academy Award Winner, Tilda Swinton, to Love Actually star, Kris Marshall.
2. Spider Man
Not only do we have to thank Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and Tom Holland for their portrayal of our friendly neighborhood Spider Man, but we also have to thank the number of artists and writers who have helped breathe life to this character since 1962. From Stan Lee to Lee Garbett, Spider Man is one of the most beloved characters in comic books, because of how those who portrayed him treated the character. Spider Man has also taught us about leadership, about responsibility, and even about true justice. There’s a part of Spider Man in all of us, a scrappy young kid who wants to change the world for the better, and that’s something we can all aspire to.
3. The Green Lantern
Green Lantern is the name of a number of superheroes appearing in American comic books published by DC Comics. They fight evil with the aid of rings that grant them a variety of extraordinary powers. The first Green Lantern character, Alan Scott, was created in 1940 during the initial popularity of superheroes. Alan Scott usually fought common criminals in New York City with the aid of his magic ring. The publication of this character ceased in 1949 during a general decline in the popularity of superhero comics, but the character saw a limited revival in later decades. In 1959, to capitalize on the booming popularity of science fiction, the Green Lantern character was reinvented as Hal Jordan, an officer for an interstellar law enforcement agency known as the Green Lantern Corps. Additional members of this agency, all of whom call themselves Green Lanterns, were introduced over time. Prominent Green Lanterns who also have had starring roles in the books include Guy Gardner, John Stewart, Kyle Rayner, Simon Baz and Jessica Cruz.
4. Dax from Deep Space 9
Dax is a character in the fictional Star Trek universe. It is a Trill symbiont —a life form that lives inside humanoid hosts. The first appearance of a Trill was in the episode “The Host” from the fourth season of Star Trek: The Next Generation; in that early version, the personality of the being was entirely that of Odan, the symbiont within the host, whereas the personalities of the Trills in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine are a blending of the symbiont Dax and its sequential Trill hosts. Two of Dax’s hosts, Jadzia Dax and Ezri Dax, appear as major characters in Star Trek: Deep Space Nine. Others are only seen in flashbacks and when taking over others’ bodies in the DS9 season 3 episode “Facets”. Dax’s hosts also appear in spin-offs such as Star Trek: The Human Frontier and The Lives of Dax. Throughout the franchise’s timeline, Dax has been joined with four men and five women, living for more than three hundred years in total. Dax has been present for many important events in Star Trek history, such as the negotiation and signing of the Khitomer Accords (while joined with Curzon), the discovery of the Bajoran wormhole (while joined with Jadzia), and the end of the Dominion War (while joined with Ezri).
5. Mighty Morphin Power Rangers
Mighty Morphin Power Rangers is an American live-action superhero children’s television series that premiered on August 28, 1993, on the Fox Kids weekday afternoon block (later weekend morning block). It is the first entry of the Power Rangers franchise, and became a 1990s pop culture phenomenon alongside a large line of action figures and other merchandise. The show adapted stock footage from the Japanese TV series Kyōryū Sentai Zyuranger, which was the 16th installment of Toei’s Super Sentai franchise. The second and third seasons of the show drew elements and stock footage from Gosei Sentai Dairanger and Ninja Sentai Kakuranger, respectively, though the Zyuranger costumes were still used for the lead cast. Only the mecha and the Kiba Ranger costume (worn by the White Ranger) were retained from Dairanger for the second season, while only the mecha from Kakuranger were featured in the third season, though the Kakuranger costumes were used for the miniseries Mighty Morphin Alien Rangers. The series was produced by MMPR Productions and distributed by Saban Entertainment (later Saban Brands). The show’s merchandise was produced and distributed by Bandai Entertainment. In 2010, a re-version of Mighty Morphin Power Rangers, with a new logo, comic book-referenced graphics, and extra alternative special effects, was broadcast on ABC Kids, and Bandai produced brand new toys to coincide with the series. The first 32 of season one’s 60 episodes were remade with the revision graphics. The series also spawned the feature film Mighty Morphin Power Rangers: The Movie, released by 20th Century Fox on June 30, 1995. A new film distributed by Lionsgate, simply titled Power Rangers, was released at Regency Village Theater in Los Angeles on March 22, 2017 and was released throughout the United States on March 24, 2017.
Xena: Warrior Princess starred Lucy Lawless as Xena and Renee O’Connor as Gabrielle. The first choice for Xena was the British actress Vanessa Angel, but an illness prevented her from travelling, and the role was offered to four other actresses before the relatively unknown Lawless. Sunny Doench was cast as Gabrielle, but she did not want to leave her boyfriend in the United States, so O’Connor, who had appeared in Hercules in another role, was chosen. The show features a wide assortment of recurring characters, many of them portrayed by New Zealand actors. Ted Raimi became a core member of the cast from the second season as Joxer. Actor Kevin Tod Smith played popular character Ares, God of War, and Alexandra Tydings played his counterpart Aphrodite, Goddess of Love. Other notables included Karl Urban in a variety of roles such as Cupid and Caesar, Hudson Leick as Xena’s nemesis Callisto (Leick also played a body-switched Xena in the episode Intimate Stranger), Claire Stansfield as the evil shamaness Alti; and a number of trusted friends – Jennifer Sky as feisty sidekick Amarice, Danielle Cormack as Amazon regent Ephiny, Bruce Campbell as Autolycus King of Thieves, Robert Trebor as dodgy entrepreneur Salmoneus, William Gregory Lee as the warrior-poet Virgil and Tim Omundson as the spiritual healer Eli.
7. Sherlock Holmes
Guinness World Records has listed Holmes as the “most portrayed movie character”, with more than 70 actors playing the part in over 200 films. His first screen appearance was in the 1900 Mutoscope film, Sherlock Holmes Baffled. The detective has appeared in many foreign-language versions, including a Russian miniseries broadcast in November 2013. William Gillette’s 1899 play Sherlock Holmes, or The Strange Case of Miss Faulkner was a synthesis of four Conan Doyle stories: “A Scandal in Bohemia”, “The Final Problem”, “The Adventure of the Copper Beeches”, and A Study in Scarlet. In addition to its popularity, the play is significant because it, rather than the original stories, introduced the key visual qualities commonly associated with Holmes today: his deerstalker hat and calabash pipe. It also formed the basis for the Gillette’s 1916 film, Sherlock Holmes. In his lifetime, Gillette performed as Holmes some 1,300 times. In the early 1900s, H.A. Saintsbury took over the role from Gillette for a tour of the play. Between this play and Conan Doyle’s own stage adaptation of “The Adventure of the Speckled Band”, Saintsbury portrayed Holmes over 1,000 times. Basil Rathbone played Holmes and Nigel Bruce played Watson in fourteen U.S. films (two for 20th Century Fox and a dozen for Universal Pictures) from 1939 to 1946, and in The New Adventures of Sherlock Holmes on the Mutual radio network from 1939 to 1946 (before the role of Holmes passed to Tom Conway). While the Fox films were period pieces, the Universal films were distinctive for abandoning Victorian Britain and moving to a then-contemporary setting in which Holmes occasionally battled Nazis. The 1984–1985 Japanese anime series Sherlock Hound adapted the Holmes stories for children, with its characters being anthropomorphic dogs. The series was co-directed by Hayao Miyazaki. Between 1979 and 1986, Soviet television produced a series of five television films, The Adventures of Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson. The series were split into eleven episodes and starred Vasily Livanov as Holmes and Vitaly Solomin as Watson. Livanov was appointed an Honorary Member of the Order of the British Empire for a performance ambassador Anthony Brenton described as “one of the best I’ve ever seen”. Jeremy Brett is considered the definitive Holmes by critic Julian Wolfreys. Brett played the detective in four series of Sherlock Holmes for Britain’s Granada Television from 1984 to 1994 and appeared as Holmes on stage. Watson was played by David Burke and Edward Hardwicke in the series. Bert Coules penned The Further Adventures of Sherlock Holmes starring Clive Merrison as Holmes and Michael Williams/Andrew Sachs as Watson, based on throwaway references in Doyle’s short stories and novels. He also produced original scripts for this series, which was also issued on CD. Coules had previously dramatised the entire Holmes canon for Radio Four. The 2009 film Sherlock Holmes, which earned Robert Downey Jr. a Golden Globe Award for his portrayal of Holmes and which co-starred Jude Law as Watson, focuses on Holmes’s antisocial personality. Downey and Law returned for a 2011 sequel, Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. As of May 2016, a script for a third film is ready and the aim is to begin shooting before the end of the year; further sequels are acknowledged as possible. Benedict Cumberbatch plays a modern version of the detective (with Martin Freeman as John Watson) in the BBC One TV series Sherlock, which premiered on 25 July 2010. In the series, created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, the stories’ original Victorian setting is replaced by present-day London. Cumberbatch’s Holmes uses modern technology (including texting and blogging) to help solve crimes. Similarly, on 27 September, 2012, Elementary premiered on CBS. Set in contemporary New York, the series features Jonny Lee Miller as Sherlock Holmes and Lucy Liu as a female Dr. Joan Watson. The 2015 film Mr. Holmes starred Ian McKellen as a retired Sherlock Holmes living in Sussex, in 1947, who grapples with an unsolved case involving a beautiful woman. The film is based on Mitch Cullin’s 2005 novel A Slight Trick of the Mind. Holmes has also appeared in video games, including the Adventures of Sherlock Holmes series of seven titles. The detective is based on Jeremy Brett’s portrayal, with the series’s plot independent of the Conan Doyle stories.
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