Celebs Who Are Nothing Like They Seem

When it comes to the world of celebrities, it's not always "what you see is what you get." In fact, it's usually quite the opposite. Celebs are people too, and when they're not on-set or in front of the camera, they're usually, y'know, actual people.

Find out what happens when fans forget that the real Lena Headey is not as ruthless as her character on "Game of Thrones," and we hate to break it to you, but Bob Saget, Tim Allen, and Florence Henderson aren't nearly as G-rated as the parents the famous parents they played on TV. Are late night hosts Jimmy Fallon and Stephen Colbert funny and sarcastic all the time? And what about your favorite athletes, musicians, and power couples? Do they walk the walk when they're not walking the red carpet? 

The truth may surprise you. Let's take a closer look at celebs who are nothing like they seem.

Jimmy Fallon

When NBC dumped Conan O'Brien as the host of "The Tonight Show" in favor of bringing back Jay Leno, it seemed the network was trying to play it safe and appeal to the biggest crowd. Leno's second successor, Jimmy Fallon, seems to have been the right move in keeping "The Tonight Show" as safe as possible. But when he's not hosting the late-night TV dynasty, Fallon seems to be not-so-safe after all. 

In autumn 2015, the New York Post reported that Fallon is a pretty heavy drinker, and that fact is starting to become an open secret among those who know and work with him. He suffered alcohol-induced injuries three times in a four-month span — injuries that included needing to get his hand stitched up after falling on a broken bottle of Jägermeister.

In 2022, Fallon was one of many celebrity named in a class-action lawsuit for his involvement with promoting Bored Ape Yacht Club NFTs (via CNN Business). Taking things a step further, Fallon's own character was called into question in September 2023 when Rolling Stone published a story chronicling the horrible work environment at his late night talk show. Among the claims? That Fallon would have "good Jimmy days" and "bad Jimmy days," the latter of which saw employees interacting with a "dismissive and irritable" star. CNN reported that following the publication of the store, Fallon spoke to staff via Zoom and shared he didn't mean to "create that type of atmosphere for the show." He allegedly added, "It's embarrassing and I feel so bad."

​Florence Henderson

On "The Brady Bunch," mom Carol Brady was as squeaky clean as they come. According to ABC News, the show even went so far as to make sure she was known as a remarried widower and not (gasp!) a divorcee. But off camera, it seems actress Florence Henderson occasionally walked on the wild side.

In 2001, she revealed in her memoir, "Life Is Not a Stage," that she engaged in a disastrous one-night stand with John Lindsay, the then-mayor of New York City, in the 1960s while she was married. "I was lonely," Henderson said of her Beverly Hills Hotel tryst (via Reuters). "I knew it wasn't the right thing to do. So, what did I do? I did it." Henderson said she caught crabs from the mayor, who promptly sent her flowers and a note of apology.

Even her own children wished she was as nice as the mom she played on television. "When I'd go home, my own children would say, 'Hey, mom, why aren't you that nice at home?' and I'd remind them that my TV children were nice, too, and always obeyed," she said in a 1989 interview with the The Tampa Tribune (via MeTV).

Michael Jordan

In the '80s and '90s, millions of kids wanted to be, as they said, "Like Mike." Why wouldn't they? He led the Chicago Bulls to six NBA titles and was one of the most famous, well-liked, and well-paid athletes on Earth. (He even helped Bugs Bunny beat a bunch of evil aliens in "Space Jam.") Jordan's playing days are long over, but clues to what might be his true nature have since leaked out ... and he might be a jerk. 

When he was inducted into basketball's Naismith Hall of Fame in 2009, Jordan devoted a lot of his speech to calling out old rivals and detractors. He even told his high school basketball coach who picked another student, Leroy Smith, over him for the team his sophomore year that he "made a mistake, dude." (Smith was present at the ceremony.) When he was a player, Jordan once punched teammate Steve Kerr during a scrimmage, and during a game, he called Muggsy Bogues – the shortest player in NBA history — a "f***ing [offensive word for little person that begins with an "m"].

​Carroll O'Connor

Television's most famous bigot has got to be Archie Bunker of "All in the Family." Perhaps no single character has more convincingly sold the role of ignorant old windbag better than Carroll O'Connor, which never ceased to amaze those who knew him because the actor was considered a very kind and intelligent man.

In his memoir (via The Hollywood Reporter), showrunner Norman Lear writes about O'Connor's eternal struggle to play the abrasive role of Bunker. Lear recalls every script as a battle, with O'Connor threatening to quit repeatedly because he was so repulsed. "It was understandable to a degree," Lear writes. "He was, after all, at the beginning of a process where he was to shed the gentle Irish intellectual Carroll O'Connor to become the poorly educated, full-of-himself blowhard Archie Bunker, spewing a kind of rancid, lights-out conservatism for a television audience that grew quickly to more than 50 million people."

John Lennon

The Beatle who penned "All You Need is Love" and "Give Peace a Chance" didn't always practice what he preached. Behind the scenes, Lennon was reportedly abusive toward women, unfaithful to his first wife, and an absentee father to his first born. Later in life, after spending several years as a "househusband" with second wife, Yoko Ono, Lennon addressed his ugly ways and talked about personal growth. 

"It is the most violent people who go for love and peace. Everything's the opposite," he told Playboy in September 1980. "But I sincerely believe in love and peace. I am a violent man who has learned not to be violent and regrets his violence." Three months later on December 8, 1980, Lennon was murdered outside his New York City apartment.

In 2020, Lennon's son with Yoko Ono, Sean Ono Lennon, sat down with Rolling Stone to discuss the song his father wrote specifically about him - "Beautiful Boy (Darling Boy)." Sweet, right? Not so much. "Honestly, it was my least favorite experience. It's just kind of awkward," Sean said. "That song makes me feel like I'm infantilized or something. People always play that song and look at me with a smile like, 'Isn't that sweet?' I'm like, 'Oh God, I'm an old man.'"

​Danny Bonaduce

The wholesome and happy public image of "The Partridge Family's" Danny Bonaduce masked a very sad and troubled private life. At age 15, Bonaduce says he began to use drugs and alcohol, mostly as a way to cope with a tumultuous family life at home. By the time the hit show ended after four seasons, he claims he was broke, strung out, and living out of his car in Hollywood.

"I'd wake up, kind of wipe my eyes, and I'd go right through the little arch and I'd be in front of Grauman's Chinese Theater, where everybody's footprints are," Bonaduce revealed on an episode of Oprah's "Where Are They Now?" (via The Huffington Post) in 2013. "I was still famous and people had no idea I lived behind the dumpster. I'd be taking pictures with people and signing autographs ... It was totally embarrassing to be famous and homeless."

Bonaduce's battle with drugs and alcohol continued for much of his life, most famously when he was arrested for robbing and beating a transvestite prostitute in 1991. According to his interview on "Where Are They Now?," Bonaduce is finally sober.

Robert Reed

For six years, Robert Reed played the level-headed patriarch of the Brady family on "The Brady Bunch," but behind the scenes, he was a miserable man throughout filming for the hit series. According to many reports, Reed battled his own ego and personal secrets that at times made life for the cast and crew of the sitcom exceedingly difficult. 

For starters, the Shakespearian-trained actor supposedly hated the fact that he had to act on television. "Television, in general was beneath him," Brady Bunch creator Sherwood Schwartz told ABC News. "And situation comedy was beneath television, in his opinion ... He wound up on a show that he didn't want to do in the first place, and it became more and more difficult for him."

At the same time, Reed had reportedly been boxed in by network executives who refused to let him reveal publicly that he was gay. "Here he was, the perfect father of this wonderful little family, a perfect husband," his former co-star and TV wife, Florence Henderson, told ABC News. "He was an unhappy person ... I think had Bob not been forced to live this double life, I think it would have dissipated a lot of that anger and frustration." 

Reed kept his sexual identity hidden from the public until his death in 1992 from colon cancer. After the fact, his death certificate revealed that he was HIV-positive.

Michael Strahan

Michael Strahan was one of the most popular figures on daytime television for years, thanks to his seemingly effortless chemistry with Kelly Ripa during their stint co-hosting "Live! with Kelly and Michael." But in April 2016, his reputation and motives were called into question when he suddenly announced he was leaving "Live!" to join "Good Morning America." The abrupt decision — which allegedly blindsided Ripa — exposed an ugly side to the Emmy-winning daytime talk show.

Reports quickly surfaced claiming Strahan and Ripa didn't get along, and it didn't do Strahan's image any favors when word leaked that Ripa was informed of his departure just before the press release went out. Strahan wound up exiting the show abruptly on May 13, 2016, leaving behind a tarnished image after an otherwise solid four-year run. The controversy also directed a renewed focus on his often tumultuous love life, which has included everything from messy divorces to allegations of infidelity. 

​Meredith Baxter

In the 1980s, millions of Americans fell in love with Meredith Baxter-Birney, thanks to her starring role as hippie-turned-matriarch Elyse Keaton on the sitcom "Family Ties." While her world on the small screen was all peace signs and laughter, in real life, Baxter-Birney says she was caught in the midst of a physical and emotionally abusive relationship with her now ex-husband and former Bridget Loves Birney co-star, David Birney.

"Nobody knew. It was a secret life," she told Oprah Winfrey in 2013 (via ABC News). "Nobody knew on the show at all because it was important for me to maintain some separation." Things eventually got so bad that the actress turned to alcohol to numb the pain. "I was so caught up on my own hurt ... I was so angry."

Meredith and David divorced in 1989. She revealed decades later that she is a lesbian and married her longtime girlfriend, Nancy Locke, in 2013.

​Bob Saget

For a period of time from the late-'80s to mid-'90s, Bob Saget's character on "Full House" was #dadgoals. Along with Uncle Jesse and Uncle Joey, the San Fran fam seemed like an awesome crew. Of course, then we all reached puberty and realized "Full House" was one of the smarmiest, saccharine-sweet shows on TV, and dad Danny Tanner's parenting had all the fire of a jar of mayonnaise, or so it seemed.

Since the end of "Full House" and his stint on "America's Funniest Home Videos," Saget has returned to the world of stand-up comedy — and it's worlds away from the life of Mr. Tanner. Saget is still good-natured and friendly, but his comedy is vile, filthy, and meant to shock and surprise audiences. No subject is too taboo for Saget, who will say anything to make you laugh, or at the very least, make you terribly uncomfortable. We can't reprint many of his jokes here without an NSFW tag, so we'll just tell you that Saget's version of "The Aristocrats" is one of the raunchiest jokes you'll hear in your life. You've been warned.

Flavor Flav

Flavor Flav (aka "Flavor Flaaaaaav!") didn't come off as the brightest guy on all those VH1 dating and reality shows he appeared on in the 2000s, such as "The Surreal Life," "Flavor of Love," and "Strange Love." He's also endured a host of addiction issues and legal problems. Becoming a reality TV staple and having personal troubles certainly doesn't mean a man is stupid or untalented. Let's not forget he was a member of Public Enemy, one of the most important hip-hop groups of all time, and while it seemed like Chuck D did most of the heavy lifting on classics like "911 is a Joke" and "Fight the Power," did you know that Flav is actually some kind of musical genius?

As a child, he learned how to play an incredible 15 instruments, including guitar, piano, and drums, for which he retains an almost supernatural ability. Even more amazing: Flav is self taught. "... the way that I was able to accomplish that was by cutting my classes, hanging out in the band room all day, and going from one instrument to the next to the next, until I learned how to play everything by ear," Flav told the Daily Beast.

Rock Hudson

To be fair, Rock Hudson (real name Roy Scherer) really didn't have much of a choice but to keep his private life extremely private. As a huge movie star and sex symbol living in the incredibly repressed United States in the middle of the 20th century, Hudson's career would have summarily ended if the general public ever found out that he was gay. 

Instead, the matinee idol starred in serious movies such as "A Farewell to Arms" and "Giant" (for which he received an Oscar nomination) and appeared in a string of enjoyable romantic comedies with America's sweetheart, Doris Day, such as "Pillow Talk," "Lover Come Back," and "Send Me No Flowers." While Hudson's sexual preference was something of an open secret in Hollywood among co-stars and friends, it wasn't public knowledge until 1985. Tragically, his sexual orientation became part of the announcement that he was dying from complications of AIDS. Hudson passed away later that year.

Lena Headey

On HBO's massively successful fantasy saga "Game of Thrones," Lena Headey portrayed the ruthless, conniving, and incestuous Cersei Lannister, Queen Regent of the Seven Kingdoms. One of the most power-driven, self-serving characters in TV history, Cersei will do anything and kill anyone in her quest to sit on the Iron Throne and rule unchallenged over Westeros. Headey is so convincing in her portrayal of a corrupt, wicked, brother-loving elite, that "Game of Thrones" fans have been known to recoil from her, according to "Conan."

Headey says that when she's out of character and out of costume in public, strangers will take out their hatred for Cersei on here. According to Vulture, "Game of Thrones" viewers have approached Headey on the street and yelled at her, "You're a f***ing b****." "I take that as a compliment," the actor said. In real life, Headey is certainly nicer than Cersei, or at least more compassionate. According to Reader's Digest, she's been friends with co-star Peter Dinklage since well before they starred on "Game of Thrones" together, and she's worked with PETA to raise awareness of mistreatment of circus animals.

Steve Buscemi

As one of Hollywood and the indie film world's most prolific and versatile actors, Steve Buscemi has played many different characters, but he tends to gravitate toward weirdos, loners, lawbreakers, malcontents, creeps, and guys who are down on their luck. Among the roles for which he's best known: a kidnapper in "Fargo," a mobster on "Boardwalk Empire," a sniper in "Billy Madison," and a robber in "Reservoir Dogs." 

Off-screen, he's a stand-up, take-charge, working class guy from Brooklyn. Before his acting career took off in the 1990s, Buscemi was an active firefighter from 1980 to 1984, working with Engine 55, helping alleviate emergencies in New York's Little Italy neighborhood, according to Salon. "I was in the engine company, which means we were responsible for getting in there with the hose and putting out the fire," he said.

When terrorist-hijacked airplanes crashed into the World Trade Center in New York on Sept. 11, 2001, Buscemi returned to his old firehouse and volunteered his services, according to Deadline. He worked 12-hour shifts for five straight days, clearing rubble and searching for survivors.

Andrew Lincoln

For 120 episodes, and over the course of a decade of television, Andrew Lincoln headlined "The Walking Dead," AMC's sprawling drama about life in the Southern United States after a virus leads to an extinction level event, the rise of zombies, and clans of survivors in direct conflict with one another. Lincoln played Sheriff's Deputy Rick Grimes, who put his professional skills and abilities to work as the leader of an especially plucky survivor's group. 

Lincoln's character was physically tough, but emotionally complex and tormented, and he always knew just what to do, barking out directions in a gravelly, honeyed Southern drawl, evidence of his Georgia upbringing. His drawn-out pronunciation of his character's son's name, Carl, inspired a slew of memes.

Lincoln was so locked into the role of Rick Grimes that it's downright shocking when he submits to an interview — Sheriff Grimes is Southern, but the actor isn't. The performer was born in the English region of Yorkshire, and he was raised in the U.K. city of Bath. As such, Lincoln speaks with a pronounced English accent. And his real name isn't even Lincoln — it's Clutterbuck.

Dean Martin

As a member of the hard-partying boys club and Frank Sinatra-orbiting social circle known as "The Rat Pack," Dean Martin exuded a certain kind of midcentury cool. Once half of the enormously popular on-screen comedy duo Martin and Lewis (with Jerry Lewis), per the New York Times, Martin was also a quintessential pop crooner, making classics out of jaunty love songs like "That's Amore" and "Everybody Loves Somebody." 

Throughout most of his career, he landed on a crowd-pleasing persona, that of the fun and flirtatious drunk. Martin always presented as just a little bit tipsy — enough to be visibly intoxicated, but not so inebriated that he couldn't not entertain the masses — whenever he'd take the stage in Las Vegas, or hit a TV studio to film an episode of "The Dean Martin Show."

The drunk act, however, was just that — an act. According to Martin's son, Ricci Martin, in his memoir "That's Amore: A Son Remembers Dean Martin," the legendary entertainer wasn't an all-out teetotaler, but he wasn't a drunkard — more of a sipper than a guzzler. "Dad usually had a J&B scotch and soda he nursed through the performance," the younger Martin wrote. "It was almost always a weak scotch and soda. Other times it was just apple juice."

Stephen Colbert

In the interview segments on CBS's "The Late Show," Stephen Colbert seems like a friendly and curious guy, but in his monologues, he's tough and savage should the need arise to speak truth to power or skewer public figures. With a background that includes "The Daily Show" (where he played a mock-serious correspondent also named "Stephen Colbert") and "The Colbert Report" (where he sometimes confusingly played a grandiose, proudly ignorant fool also named "Stephen Colbert," he's the most politically minded of the network late-night hosts but also the one with a history of deep, identity-obscuring character work. 

He certainly doesn't present as warm and fuzzy as Jimmy Fallon or James Corden might. That's why it's kind of hard to reconcile Colbert's quick and cutting onscreen wit with his off-screen gig as a Sunday school teacher.

According to the New York Post, from 2003 to 2005, while he was still on "The Daily Show," the devoutly Catholic Colbert volunteered to teach religious education courses at his parish, St. Cassian Church in Upper Montclair, New Jersey. He was reportedly a "fun" teacher — the kind who'd host religious-themed games of "Jeopardy!" and play songs on an acoustic guitar.

Nolan Gould

It would seem that it takes a lot of brains to play dumb. Over 11 seasons of "Modern Family," Nolan Gould played Luke Dunphy, the youngest and dimmest by far of Phil and Claire's three odd children. He spoke slowly, couldn't grasp easy concepts, rarely understood what his family and friends were talking about, and seemed to always have a confused look on his face before he made a silly and foolish outburst.

His character on "Modern Family" is a few fries short of a Happy Meal, but in real life, Gould is a literal and actual genius. In 2012, Gould appeared on "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" and revealed (via The Daily Mail) that he'd just graduated high school — at the precociously young age of 13. That's some next-level smart person stuff, and with a well above-average IQ of 150, Gould was also able to secure a membership in Mensa (according to HuffPost), a society for people with demonstrably high intelligence. 

Gould observed that people are often surprised that he's not as witless as Luke Dunphy. "They always think that I'm dumb in real life," Gould told Dear Doctor. "They're like, 'I can't believe you're not dumb, I always thought you were. So you don't run into screen doors, you don't run into walls?' And I'm like, no, that's just the character!"

Will Smith

The star who made his mark on "The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air" is one of the most charming and bankable stars of all time, headlining blockbusters like "Aladdin," "Independence Day," "Hancock," and multiple "Men in Black" and "Bad Boys" installments. But not everyone is forever smitten with Will Smith. Over the course of his breakout sitcom, Aunt Viv magically changed from one actress to another. Actress Janet Hubert, the original Aunt Viv for three seasons, claims Smith was disrespectful and egomaniacal on the set while she was trying to be professional. She even blames him for her termination. 

In 2011, she told TMZ, "There will never be a ['Fresh Prince'] reunion ... as I will never do anything with an a***hole like Will Smith." Hubert's assessment of Smith was a notable outlier for the extremely likable actor, until 2020 (via Deadline), when she appeared on a "Fresh Prince" reunion special and reconciled with her former costar.

At the 2022 Academy Awards, Smith proved he was human after all, and in an uncharacteristic display of rage, defensiveness, and violence, he responded to a joke about his wife, Jada Pinkett Smith, made by presenter Chris Rock, by walking up on the stage and punching the comedian in the face. Moments later, Smith won his first Oscar (for "King Richard") and a few days later, the Academy banned Smith from attending their ceremonies for 10 years, according to Deadline.

Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner has been famous for nearly 50 years, first winning Americans' favor by winning the decathlon at the 1976 Summer Olympics, and with it the title of "World's Greatest Athletes." Some TV hosting and acting gigs followed, and after Jenner married Kris Jenner, the celebrity became one of the stars of the long-running, star-making reality TV juggernaut "Keeping Up with the Kardashians," where producers framed Jenner as a befuddled, goofy, caring step-parent to Kim, Khloe, and Kourtney Kardashian, and parent to Kylie and Kendall Jenner.

In 2015, Jenner came out as a transgender woman, according to NBC News. One of the first transgender people and still arguably the most famous, one might assume that a person who advocates for acceptance and LGBT issues would be politically liberal, or progressive. That's not true of Jenner. The reality TV star has repeatedly endorsed a conservative ideology. She once said she wanted to be Republican senator Ted Cruz's "trans ambassador" should he be elected president in 2016, and later supported one of Donald Trump's presidential campaigns. In 2021, Jenner advocated the recall of democratic California governor Gavin Newsom, and ran as a Republican to replace him. Spoiler: she didn't win.

Stephanie Beatriz

While later emerging as a musical talent, portraying Mirabel Madrigal in "Encanto" (singing on the #1 hit "We Don't Talk About Bruno"), and Carla in the film adaptation of Broadway's "In the Heights," Stephanie Beatriz is best known for playing the tough, terse, NYPD detective of few words, Rosa Diaz, on "Brooklyn Nine-Nine" for eight seasons. Rosa spoke rarely, almost always in short, rushed sentences, with a gruff demeanor and in an extremely deep tone. 

That no-nonsense, off-putting demeanor and the ultra-low voice are both affectations Beatriz developed specifically for Rosa — that's not her real personality, nor her regular speaking voice. According to Variety, her natural tone is much higher-pitched and speedy, reflecting a personality more chatty and gregarious than that of Rosa. "Most of the time I think I'm pretty easygoing and nice and chill," Beatriz told Backstage. "I try to be nice! I don't think Rosa tries very often."

Additionally, Beatriz works with an extreme vision impairment. "I was having a lot of trouble hitting my marks," the actor said. "I couldn't see em. They are huge marks – and hot pink," she explained on Twitter. Contact lenses irritate her eyes to a degree where she can't wear them, and glasses aren't usually part of her character.


Also known as "The Purple One" and, for a while, as an unpronounceable glyph combining the "male" and "female" symbols, Prince was a prickly and prolific musician, recording 39 studio albums. A lot of those songs, and much of his persona, was built around sexuality, and the expression thereof. If the public were judging by his music, Prince was seemingly always ready to hit the bedroom, or just emerged from the bedroom. 

To list just a few of Prince's many provocative, lascivious, and hot and bothered songs: "Sexy MF," "Cream," "Sex Shooter," "Electric Intercourse," "Little Red Corvette," and "Darling Nikki." Apparently living out what he laid out in his art, Prince was often romantically linked to beautiful and glamorous women, according to Fashion Quarterly, among them Kim Basinger, Carmen Electra, and Mayte Garcia (whom he'd marry in the mid-'90s).

Perhaps in contrast with that explosive sexuality, according to Billboard, Prince was a devout adherent of the Jehovah's Witness faith, joining the religion around 2001. Practicing Jehovah's Witnesses, who believe in the purity and sanctity of the human body (which could be seen as in conflict with free and open sexuality) often go door to door to discuss and spread their faith, and Prince was game, approaching homes in Los Angeles and his hometown of Minneapolis to distribute pamphlets. "Sometimes people act surprised, but mostly they're really cool," he said.

Martha Plimpton

After a couple of roles on TV shows and in small movies, Martha Plimpton landed her big break, portraying Stef in "The Goonies," a film produced and co-written by blockbuster artisan Steven Spielberg. The tween adventure film became the seventh-highest-grossing film of 1985, and Plimpton went on to appear in nearly 90 projects over the next four decades, specializing in playing ne'er-do-wells and people who live on the fringe of society. 

In 1989, Plimpton portrayed Julie, a headstrong teen who insists on pursuing a relationship and pregnancy with an immature boyfriend while still in high school. Plimpton received an Emmy nomination in 2011 for playing Virginia Chance on "Raising Hope," a 39-year-old grandmother barely living above the poverty line, and a small-time criminal boss on the 2022 series "Sprung."

Plimpton isn't a fringe-dweller or a sleazy villain in real life, however — she's just good at playing those people. She's very at home in the most vaunted theatrical communities of New York City, and is a second-generation performer. Plimpton's parents are actors Keith Carradine and Shelly Plimpton, who met while starring in one of the first Broadway productions of "Hair," according to the Wall Street Journal. And she prefers to act on stage, rather than on screen. "I had just lost my third Tony in a row, and I had been doing theater — nothing but, almost — for about 10 years, except for the occasional guest spot," Plimpton said about joining "Raising Hope," according to "Couch Surfing" (via EW).

Gilbert Gottfried

An omnipresent pop cultural figure in the 1980s and beyond, Gilbert Gottfried was all over movies, television, commercials, and the stand-up comedy circuit for decades. He stood out from all the other comics, comedy actors, and voice actors because of his unique voice — a screamed, guttural, deeply grating tone — with a squinting, sneering facial expression to match. 

Gottfried took his polarizing vocal schtick all the way to the bank, starring in the "Problem Child" movies, as Iago in Disney's mega-hit "Aladdin" movie, and voicing the AFLAC duck in numerous insurance ads, according to Rolling Stone. Gottfried was also a relentless touring comic with edgy jokes, exemplified by his turn on a televised roast in September 2001 in which he told arguably the first 9/11 joke (via The Laugh Button), and a series of joke tweets after the 2011 Japanese tsunami that lost him his AFLAC job (via THR).

The 2017 documentary "Gilbert" paints a much different picture, of the real Gottfried, whose friends consider him a low-key, kind, shy, and exceedingly thrifty family man. And his most famous trait, his voice, is all invention. "In real life I sound like Bing Crosby!" he told TimeOut. "I never actually sat down and said, 'I'm gonna talk this way.'"

James Corden

To keep the studio audience engaged, and to ensure that those watching on TV are also delighted and can stay awake, it's practically a job requirement that a late-night host be fun, a little loud, kind, and inviting. Networks need viewers to keep coming back every night, and they give the late-night hosting jobs to the most charming and easy-going performers, and as the star of CBS's "The Late, Late Show," jovial, jokey, "Carpool Karaoke"-crooning James Corden is that kind of guy.

Corden is also an actor — he started out on British comedy shows and has appeared in "Into the Woods," "Ocean's Eight," and "Cats" — but "Talk Show Host James Corden" may be the most elaborate role of his career to date. For years, he's earned the ire of other celebrities, including Patrick Stewart, who tore into Corden's stage demeanor during 2010's Glamour Women of the Year Awards, and Ricky Gervais, who criticized "Cats." "The world got to see James Corden as a fat p****. He was also in the movie 'Cats,'" he said at the 2020 Golden Globes. "When James Corden opens his fat f****** mouth to do karaoke in a car," comedian Artie Lange said on his podcast (via The Daily Mail), "I'm allowed to say he sucks."

Corden's name was further sullied by charges that he was allegedly "abusive" to the staff of New York restaurant Balthazar (via Us Weekly), and tried to convince a labor union to let him pay his show's writers less.

Ellen DeGeneres

Ellen DeGeneres was among many successful stand-up comics of the '80s and '90s who translated their act into a sitcom, in the form of "Ellen," a hit for ABC that ran into some controversy in the late '90s when its star, and lead character, came out as a gay woman. After some flop projects, DeGeneres returned to TV in 2003 with "The Ellen DeGeneres Show," a daytime talk show featuring sunny chats with celebrity guests, alternately comical and earnest monologues from the host, stories about real-life do-gooders, and massive giveaways (via People), all of it playing into DeGeneres' mission statement (via EW) of "be kind." DeGeneres certainly lived up to her nickname, the "Queen of Nice."

In March 2020, comedian Kevin T. Porter got a Twitter thread rolling to call out what was apparently an open secret in the TV industry — that DeGeneres was supposedly "one of the meanest people alive." Numerous former associates and employees weighed in, citing how DeGeneres had a habit of picking on one new person a day, or fired people for arbitrary reasons, or demanded underlings not make eye contact. BuzzFeed launched an investigation, in which several ex-"Ellen" staffers spoke of a toxic work environment categorized by fear, intimidation, and bullying exemplified by the boss. DeGeneres acknowledged the concerns and apologized, and ultimately ended "The Ellen DeGeneres Show" in 2022.

Alice Cooper

In the 1970s, Alice Cooper thrilled and upset the masses in equal measure with his dark, heavy songs about rebellion, disillusionment, death, and terror. Among the hits that scaled the charts for Alice Cooper: "Only Women Bleed," "School's Out," "No More Mr. Nice Guy," and "Welcome to My Nightmare." The band's frontman, who also used the name Alice Cooper, took the stage in tight, skin-revealing leather outfits and menacingly runny eye makeup, completing the presentation of something way different than the soft rock and disco that dominated American pop music at the time. But it was the highly theatrical, elaborate stage show that really made Alice Cooper legendary, a bit of bloody performance art that involved live snakes, skeletons, and an operational guillotine.

The ringleader of it all, Alice Cooper the man, was born Vincent Furnier. Off-stage, and in the years since his 1970s hard rock heyday, he's become a pretty ordinary guy. According to AZ Central, he lives in Arizona, in the vicinity of many golf courses, and he plays — a lot. Per Reuters, Furnier credits his obsession with golf for helping him beat an addiction to alcohol. According to Golf Magazine, he's hit the links six days a week, every week, for the past three decades.

Christopher Guest

Christopher Guest is an architect of comedy, a chief developer (according to The Globe and Mail) of the "mockumentary." In 1984, he starred in "This is Spinal Tap," a behind-the-scenes look at Spinal Tap, a fictional, humorous metal band he formed with Michael McKean and Harry Shearer; Guest played Nigel Tufnel, a very stupid, foolish British bass player. Guest would later write and direct "Waiting for Guffman" and "Best in Show," among others, always saving for himself a role of one of the most broadly comic, silly, and oafish characters, such as delusional small-town theater company director Corky St. Clair (in "Guffman"), and goofy Southern hound dog enthusiast Harlan Pepper (in "Best in Show").

A comic force on screen, Guest apparently saves the humor for his work. "He's an intellectual," his wife, Jamie Lee Curtis, told Good Housekeeping. He's also a history buff. "For our 30th anniversary we both read a book called 'Undaunted Courage,' the story of Lewis and Clark. Then we took eight friends and retraced a section of the Missouri River in canoes that followed the path of their expedition. We're a little nerdy." And unlike most other actors in Hollywood, Guest is a literal aristocrat. According to The Guardian, his father held the very old title of Lord Haden-Guest, which entitles its bearer to a seat in the United Kingdom Parliament's House of Lords. When Guest's father died, he inherited the title, and he attended many House of Lords sessions.

Ariel Winter

For 11 seasons, Ariel Winter played brainy, self-confident, and highly-driven middle child Alex Dunphy on ABC's mega-hit "Modern Family." Most of the nerdy character's jokes came at the expense of her sister, Haley, and her tendency to wear provocative clothing. In reality, Winter's family situation is very different than the traditional, stable, nuclear unit depicted on "Modern Family," while her frequently racy and skin-baring Instagram pics suggest she's more of a Haley than an Alex, as far as fashion and self presentation are concerned.

According to Us Weekly, in 2012, child and family services officials acting on allegations of emotional and physical abuse, removed the then-14-year-old actor from the home of her mother, Chrystal Workman. Winter moved in with her sister, who, at age 16, named her older sister, Shanelle Gray, her permanent legal guardian. Shortly after her 17th birthday, Winter freed herself of her complicated familial situation entirely, successfully filing for full emancipation.

Michael Landon

Through two iconic, long-running, back-to-back television roles in the 1970s and 1980s, Michael Landon established himself as one of the all-time most beloved small-screen dads and all around good guys, his name and involvement a virtual guarantee that a show would be wholesome, sweet, family-friendly, and packed with virtues and moral lessons. From 1974 to 1984, Landon portrayed Charles "Pa" Ingalls on the 19th century drama "Little House on the Prairie," and then from 1984 to 1989, played angel-in-training and supernatural helper Jonathan Smith on "Highway to Heaven." Off-screen, he proved the picture perfect doting parent, father to nine children, some of whom were adopted (via People).

When he wasn't acting or doing press, Landon was evidently a much different man. "Mike's open discussion of his revived libido distressed me," Karen Grassle, Ma Ingalls on "Little House on the Prairie," recalled in her memoir "Bright Lights, Prairie Dust." He'd been taking bee pollen supplements, which reportedly fueled his extramarital affair with Cindy Clerico, an 18-year-old stand-in who worked on "Little House." Co-star Scottie MacGregor (Harriet Oleson) was so upset by the trysts that she refused to return for the series' finale movie. Grassle also alleged that Landon underpaid her, made off-color jokes of a sexual nature, and criticized her body, claims that co-star Alison Arngrim (Nellie Oleson) supported in an interview with The Daily Mail. "He was more mad, bad, and dangerous to know. He drank, smoked, and did tell terrible jokes," she said.

Leighton Meester's upbringing was far from the Upper East Side

Leighton Meester rose to fame in 2007 when she landed the breakout role of her career — Blair Waldorf on "Gossip Girl." The CW series saw her playing the ultra-wealthy socialite Waldorf, born into privilege and wealth, but offscreen Meester's upbringing couldn't have been more different. In fact, Meester's life began in a federal prison. Her mother, Constance Meester, was serving 10 years in prison for drug trafficking when she gave birth in April 1986, and following her delivery Meester lived in a halfway house for the first three months of her life before moving in with her grandparents, per Marie Claire. She told the outlet, "My family has a crazy history. Probably the craziest I've heard of." Her father also served time for drug-related crimes. Despite the unusual start to life, the star maintained a positive outlook on her upbringing, telling Cosmopolitan in 2009, "My mom lived through a lot before I was born, and I can't judge her on that. She and my dad are good people ... Look, I could've turned out a lot worse."

Once her mother was released from prison, the struggles didn't end. Meester told People in 2023, "Growing up, we dealt with food insecurity. We relied on food stamps and welfare and it definitely wasn't always easy come dinner time or at the grocery checkout line." It also gave her a more optimistic look on life, noting to US Weekly in 2009, "It makes me very nonjudgmental and open-minded. And I think it just makes me appreciate the things that I have now" (via Fox News). 

Paris Hilton's reailty act isn't all that real

When rising to fame on reality television in the early '00s, Paris Hilton artfully crafted a "dumb blonde" image while starring on the smash hit Fox series "The Simple Life" with best friend Nicole Richie. But despite asking "What is Walmart?" on camera and acting relatively clueless about most things in life, the wealthy socialite is actually pretty bright. Hilton confessed as much herself during a 2020 appearance on the Australian morning show "Sunrise,"  "The real me is actually someone who is brilliant. I'm not a dumb blonde, I'm just really good at pretending to be one." 

Though the beauty made a name for herself with this ditzy image, as an adult she decided to come clean about her real persona — even going so far as to ditch the high-pitched voice she admitted was fake. "I felt like it was time for the world to finally know who I was... I don't want to be remembered as some airhead. I want to be respected for the businesswoman I am," she told Sunrise. That year she also released her documentary, "The Real Story of Paris Hilton," which shed more light on the true Hilton, including her endeavors as an entrepreneur and DJ. 

Joshua Dobbs is not your usual NFL quarterback

The Minnesota Vikings latest quarterback Joshua Dobbs may be fresh on the scene, but he's a whole lot more than an NFL athlete. Fresh to the team in 2023, Dobbs had previously played on the Titans and Cardinals before finding his way to Minnesota, where he has quickly made a name for himself. And one of the most fun facts about the rising star is his incredibly impressive background — he was an aerospace engineering major at the University of Tennessee who maintained an impressive 4.0 GPA, per Sports Illustrated

Dobbs isn't putting his rocket scientist dreams to rest despite finding fame in the NFL. He's taken part in an NFL Players Association externship program that works alongside NASA in his spare time, of which he told the NFLPA, "I've been deliberate. I'm maximizing my time on the field and in the weight room. Then off the field, I'm maximizing my time to enjoy those other interests while also setting up opportunities to build myself as more than an athlete" (via BBC). That externship actually led him to oversee a launch of a NASA/SpaceX rocket that sent astronauts to space in 2020. And if that wasn't impressive and surprising enough, he also established a grant making foundation in 2022 and is working on a clothing line that he hopes can inspire people. 

Eric Stonestreet doesn't share much in common with Cam

Fans grew to love Eric Stonestreet in his role as Cameron Tucker on "Modern Family," the beloved ABC sitcom that ran for 11 seasons beginning in 2009. Tucker was famously married to Jesse Tyler Ferguson's character Mitchell Pritchett on the series, the hilariously lighthearted gay couple who would end up adopting two children. But off screen, Stonestreet's real life couldn't have been more different, starting with his personality. While Tucker has endless jokes to offer on the series, despite appearing on a sitcom Stonestreet denied being a comedian. While appearing on a 2017 episode of "Larry King Now," Stonestreet revealed his personality is a lot darker than Tucker's. "I have a dirty dark sense of humor... I'm not a comedian, I'm a comedic actor." 

Another big difference between Stonestreet and his onscreen character? He's actually heterosexual, though he has opened up about being proud to represent half of a gay married couple. He told Talk Radio 1210 WPHT in Philadelphia in 2016, "When the guys created the show, they knew they couldn't do a show called 'Modern Family' and not include a gay couple ... All we want to do is make people laugh and if that, along doing that, opens people's hearts and minds with the idea that people are people no matter their race, creed, gender, sexual orientation, then we're successful in another area. That's a positive" (via CBS News).