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The Master of Disguise is a character who can slip in and out of costume at the drop of a hat, who is such an accomplished actor and makeup artist that no one can identify them until they reveal themselves.

This trope is just about the "accomplished actor" part.

When they want to, they can change their mannerisms, their voice, and every other non-physical aspect to seem like a completely different person. Usually done by evil characters, in a Bitch in Sheep's Clothing sort of way. This is the kind of character that causes fans to cry "wait, is that even the same character?"

A Required Secondary Power for most Shapeshifters. Otherwise, how could they pass as - for example - the President of the United States? Of course, much humor can be had if they don't fall under this trope.

A sub-trope of Master of Disguise. An In-Universe version of He Really Can Act. Can overlap with The Power of Acting. Contrast Hugh Mann, for when a shapeshifter doesn't get this as a secondary power.

Examples of Master Actor include:


Anime

  • Kaede in Kämpfer is secretly the Big Bad and behind nearly everything in the series--including, quite possibly, the main character's stupidity. Very few people saw this coming, and those that did assumed it would be a case of Split Personality.
  • Captain Aizen in Bleach to the point it's no longer a spoiler. Also, to a lesser degree his subordinate Gin ...wait, did I say lesser? What mean is he was doing this to Aizen the whole time for the entire series' run (and over a century in-universe). Just so he could kill him to recover the bits of his Morality Pet's soul he stole.
  • Airi in the anime Those Who Hunt Elves is a supreme actress; in addition to being a master of disguise, she can manipulate just about anyone with the right act.

Comic Books

  • Batman is often shown to be swapping personalities as easily as the average joe swaps hats.

Film

  • Prince Hans in Frozen. Adorkable Nice Guy who cares greatly for even the kingdom that isn't even his own right? Try Complete Monster. He's one of Disney's most hated villains. Not even the audience suspected anything.
  • The Marvel Cinematic Universe:
    • Black Widow. As a defected international spy, she has to be this.
    • Loki. He's the God of Mischief with a penchant for shapeshifting into other forms and was able to pass himself off as Odin for three years. Deconstructed slightly as this also meant making sure that Sif and Thor stayed off Asgard so they wouldn't pick up on the subtle hints that he was a fake, and Surtur himself figured out that while someone was on Asgard's throne, the lax policies meant that it sure as hell wasn't Odin. By the time of Thor: Ragnarok, Loki's complacency allows Thor to figure it out in about forty seconds.
    • Zemo in Captain America: Civil War. It was likely part of his Black Ops training.
  • Superman. Christopher Reeve was such an accomplished actor that he could make it plausible that people who knew both Superman and Clark Kent wouldn't realize they were the same person.
  • Gary Johnston is recruited for Team America: World Police specifically because the team needs a brilliant actor. When he leaves the team, they're destroyed in their next fight: "Without an actor, they were like pigs to the slaughter." At the end, he saves the day with his acting.

  "He'll have to act fast!"

Literature

  • Kellhus in The Second Apocalypse is a man of near-god level intellect and virtually zero emotion. However, he has complete control over his entire body, including facial features and voice, so he can fake emotions very well. When someone figures it out and confronts him, it's mentioned that every muscle in his face just goes dead, like a switch was flipped.
  • Robert Heinlein's Double Star. Lorenzo Smythe is shown in the novel to have this ability, to the point that someone who actually knows him doesn't recognize him because of his acting ability.
  • The character Varys is a master of disguise in George R. R. Martin's A Song of Ice and Fire, and uses this skill in the course of his duties as the king's spymaster.
  • Silk of The Belgariad is shown to do this multiple times in the series through a combination of acting talent and contorting his face to change its apparent shape.
  • Professor Quirrel from Harry Potter.
    • Also Barty Crouch Jr. He may have used Polyjuice potion but keeping the act up for most of a year would require considerable skill and focus[1]. Even more so in the film continuity where the potion doesn't alter the user's voice.
    • Severus Snape. No one suspected, even for a moment, where his true loyalties lay.
  • Sherlock Holmes. One story even has Watson noting that Sherlock could have made a killing in the theater.
  • Ghost in the Tokaido Inn, one of Thomas and Dorothy Hoobler's Judge Ooka mysteries, has Tominio, a Kabuki actor whose ability to impersonate women is eerie, and also a Chekhov'sGun.
  • In The Shakespeare Stealer, it is revealed that Simon Bass, the Big Bad, is a former member of Shakespeare's troupe, and a gifted actor, leading to the revelation that Falconer is Simon Bass in disguise.
  • Players of Gor. Tarl falls in with a Commedia Dell'Arte troupe, one of which is a classicly trained actor who never appears on stage. Then in the book's climax he saves Tarl's life by acting the part of an Imperious General, much to Tarl's surprise, who says "You can act!."
  • Jack from the Dragonback books. When he does a radio response pretending to be a nasty mercenary called Chiggers, his method acting was so perfect that to Draycos, he looked like he had flipped a switch and somehow become the guy.
  • Tomjon from the Discworld book Wyrd Sisters, as the somewhat accidental result of the gifts given to him by the Witches.
  • Megan Drake in Dark Jenny. Up until the climax she's mentioned but apparently never seen, until it's revealed that she's a master of disguise who's shown up as at least four different characters. With no makeup or other external aids, though it's unclear whether magic is involved.
  • Fisk, from the Knight and Rogue Series. This is a result of much practice, since he's a professional con man.

Live Action TV

  • Rosa Diaz in Brooklyn Nine-Nine. As she says in Season 6, no one knows anything about her personal life. She's always acting.
  • Burn Notice: Michael Westen, Fiona, and a few other characters.
  • All incarnations of the Doctor qualify but the standout has to be the Second Doctor who delighted in throwing on a wacky persona, being able to convince whoever he needed, despite his ruffled and raggedy appearance. Helps that Patrick Troughton was a Master Actor himself and had a truly impressive range.
  • Several characters in Mission Impossible, particularly Rollin (Martin Landau), Cinnamon (Barbara Bain), and Paris (Leonard Nimoy).
  • The Pretender was based on this. Jarod was taken from his family at an early age because he showed potential for being able to slip into the identities of others unnoticed. After escaping from The Centre, he used his talents to help people in need.
  • Saturday Night Live: Jon Lovitz's "Master Thespian," if only in his own mind.
  • Like his literary counterpart, Sherlock. And as the Evil Counterpart, Moriarty can give him a serious run for his money.
  • Befitting her status as The Ace, Tori Vega in Victorious.
    • Every other character will tell Tori that Beck and Jade are this but there's very little evidence of this in the show. The former is so stoic that any emotional displays are obvious fakes and the latter is constantly passed over for lead roles with what few performances she does do being so over the top that it's a wonder she was cast at all.
  • Lola Martinez in Zoey 101. Even her closest friends and the teachers that she sees every day can fall for her tricks. Like Tori above, she's played by Victoria Justice.

Video Games

  • The World Ends With You: Joshua is a supreme example, considering he was acting as a normal human during his week with Neku, when he was actually a God.
  • Going on WMG, Battler Ushiromiya of Umineko no Naku Koro ni might be this. Throughout the sixth arc, he acts like an incompetent mess, getting himself trapped in a Logic Error for years until Kanon saves him. But a WMG theorizes that he planned the whole thing in order to revive Beatrice, which if true means that he managed to not only fool Erika and Bernkastel, he managed to fool the readers, most of whom thought he was just being an idiot.

Webcomics

  • Zola "Heterodyne" of Girl Genius takes this to truly impressive levels, along with Obfuscating Stupidity, fooling everyone (especially the audience) into severely underestimating her. Repeatedly. Even after being warned not to. Even after warning each other not to. Even against the Big Bad.
    • This is also an Informed Ability of the Lucrezia Mongfish, though the acting we see her do is rather unimpressive (granted, she knew nothing about the person she had to imitate).

Western Animation

  • Roger in American Dad has hundreds of different personas, all wildly different, and he pulls them off flawlessly. In Stan-Dan Deliver, Steve is won over by the sincerity of Roger's act even though he knows that Roger must have some ulterior motive for teaching the at-risk kids. He lulled them into a false sense of security then sold them off to the Chinese Army. For World of Warcraft gold. And one of these days, he's gonna get into that game.
    • Amusingly in Twinanigans, Roger suddenly becomes a terrible actor whose only talent is eating. Steve is regarded by Hollywood as the actual Master Actor.
    • It's implied that Hayley is also this but is too lazy to do anything with it. Stan's status as this, given that he often goes undercover, is very much Depending on the Writer.
  • Zarana from G.I. Joe. Her brother Zartan (who actually came first) as well; he is such a master of disguise and language that he is able to perfectly copy someone's voice after hearing them speak once.
  • Samurai Jack: Aku, being a shapeshifter, is good at this as a Required Secondary Power. He once traveled with Jack for a good period of time without getting found out, while in the form of a humanoid woman.
  • SpongeBob SquarePants: Mr. Krabs towards the end of "Salsa Imbecelicus" as part an acting class when Plankton (who became a dumb, delinquent bully) was about to demand him the Krabby Patty formula. Plankton found out the hard way when both Sandy and Krabs played him like a fiddle.

Notes

  1. Constant vigilance, even.
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