An illustration of some characters with range

10 Actors and Actresses With Incredible Range

The people on this list can play whatever role, whenever.
May 4, 2020
9 mins read

A couple weeks ago I was scrolling on my Twitter feed and I came across some tweets talking about actors with the best range of characters. Then I got to thinking. There are many things to consider when it comes to evaluating the role of a character. Especially in films.

I know an actor’s executed a role when I can’t think of anyone else who could’ve done better. I take my movies seriously and I’m even more serious when it comes to the actors in the cast. I have a list (in no particular order) of actors that I feel like have the best range compared to others in Hollywood. The better the range the greater the actor. By range, I mean variety, adaptability, versatility. Things of that nature. When an actor has range then a role can’t be compared to a previous role. I want to believe in a character.

1. Viola Davis

When I think of actors with the best range my mind instantly thinks of Viola Davis. Ms. Annalise Keating. Davis is top tier when it comes to range. She executes every role perfectly and don’t even get me started on her crying scenes. She brings the whole nine yards. I’m talking red eyes, snot, drool and everything in between. She played the role of Rose Maxson in “Fences” so well she made me feel like I cheated on her.

I obviously can’t leave out her ruthless role of Annalise Keating in the show “How to Get Away With Murder.” That show is an article in itself. Davis is next level when it comes to acting. She is the competition because you can’t fake her type of snot and tears. In every role she’s played I can’t even imagine someone replacing her and doing a better job.

2. Johnny Depp

Next on the list is Johnny Depp. Depp has real range. He’s played a pirate, lizard, drug lord, etc. There isn’t a role he can’t do. Jack Sparrow had to be written around him because he fit that role like a glove. Moreover, there is no one who could’ve possibly outplayed him in Edward Scissorhands. There’s just no way.

3. Sarah Paulson

I can’t talk about range and not include Sarah Paulson. Paulson has starred in the series “American Horror Story” since 2011 and out of those eight seasons she was a different character each time. In one season she had two heads, which were polar opposites. In an interview with GQ she said she struggles separating a character from reality and in my opinion, it works in her favor. For me, what really put her on the map was playing little Miss Marcia Clark in “The People vs. O.J. Simpson.” In the same interview she said she preferred playing the roles of real people because it provides a “foundational blueprint.”

4. Tom Hanks

Need I mention Tom Hanks? From Forrest Gump to Captain John Miller and Paul Edgecomb, Hanks gave these characters life. These three are drastically different yet it wasn’t a problem for Hanks. There isn’t a role he can’t do.

5. Denzel Washington

I can’t leave out household names like Denzel Washington and Samuel L. Jackson. Most of the movies that sparked my interest in film involved one of these actors.

For example, one of my favorite movies is “Remember the Titans” in which Washington plays Coach Boone. During a trying time of segregation Boone’s hard yet caring personality helps “enemies” find their love for football. I also can’t forget about his Oscar-nominated role playing Captain Whip Whitaker in the movie “Flight.” Out of the movies I’ve seen where Washington is the lead, none of his characters were the same. Not one of them. There isn’t a role he can’t play. If you ever see a movie where Washington is the lead actor you will definitely get your money’s worth.

6. Samuel L. Jackson

Speaking of Samuel L. Jackson, let’s talk about Neville Flynn, Elijah Price, Stephen and Jules Winnfield. You can’t talk about Jackson without talking about his Oscar-nominated role in “Pulp Fiction.” A lot of people know him from playing Nick Fury in the “Avengers,” but I first came across Jackson while watching “A Time to Kill.” My all-time favorite character just so happens to be in a sports film and that’s easily “Coach Carter.” He goes from a cop who swears in nearly every sentence to a Jedi. If that’s not range I don’t know what is.

7. Will Smith

Let’s not forget about Will Smith. Smith still has me in tears from that one scene on “Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” I don’t even have to go into specifics because we all know what I’m talking about. Smith doesn’t normally get on screen, but when he does, he never disappoints. He goes from fighting robots and aliens, busting drug dealers, to being a giant blue genie. I, however, feel like Smith prospers when it comes to biographical roles. Is everyone done crying from “Pursuit of Happyness,” because I’m not. Didn’t think so.

8. Leonardo DiCaprio

There’s also Leonardo DiCaprio who won best actor in 2016. When people hear his name they automatically think Jack from “Titanic” and say what you want, but they both could’ve fit. Jack should not have drowned, but that’s not why we’re here. DiCaprio left me crying in his heart-breaking performance playing Arnie Grape. Granted these roles were played to the “T,” but the one that left me speechless was Mr. Calvin Candie in “Django.” This film wasn’t even about him, but his performance isn’t something you can simply gloss over.

9. Taraji P. Henson

Are we going to talk about Ms. Taraji P. Henson? Yes we are. When some people hear her name it almost immediately gravitates to her role as Cookie from “Empire,” but not for me. Recently, there’s been an increase of black female actors and that is something I can get behind. From a young age I’ve seen Henson on the screen. From her iconic role in “Hidden Figures” to the mind-boggling character of Melinda Gayle from “Acrimony,” she never disappoints. She brings the attitude, sass and comedy to films when needed. Even though we still don’t know how she got on the boat, I’ll let it slide if she continues to bring characters life like she did in “Karate Kid,” “Baby Boy” and “Hustle and Flow.”

10. Robin Williams

I want to end this list with the man, the myth and the legend, Robin Williams. The only genie to ever bless my childhood. Williams is range. Him playing “Mrs. Doubtfire” showcases every reason why people loved Williams. Must I mention his execution in “Good Will Hunting”?

So, what’s on your checklist when it comes to an actress playing a role?

Kayla Johnson, Bradley University

Writer Profile

Kayla Johnson

Bradley University

I am currently a junior majoring in journalism with a minor in sociology. I want to be a published author and a sports photographer one day.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

Don't Miss