They're Not Who They Play on Television

Kiefer Sutherland, America Ferrera: stars who are not like their TV personas.

Jan. 28, 2010— -- They're not called actors for nothing.

Yet, we can't help but be surprised when we learn just how different some of our favorite actors are from their television counterparts.

Sure, it's pretty safe to assume that Michael C. Hall, star of "Dexter," is not a serial killer in real life or that Toni Collette, star of "United States of Tara," does not have multiple personalities.

On the other hand, there are those actors whose real lives start to resemble the ones they play on TV. Take, for instance, David Duchovny, who plays a sex addict in "Californication," and Charlie Sheen, who plays a hedonistic bachelor on "Two and a Half Men."

But when the news came out that "24" star Kiefer Sutherland allegedly got taken for nearly a million dollars in a bum steer deal, many folks said, "Say what?"

How could Sutherland, who plays a hotshot government agent who saves the U.S. from major terrorist attacks, get roped into a cattle investment scheme? Seems Sutherland is no Jack Bauer, though the two may have a similar temperament.

Last year Sutherland was charged with assault for head-butting a clothing designer, leading some to question whether he was extending his Bauer act into real life. The charges were later dropped.

Now, Sutherland is cooperating with California prosecutors who have accused cattle man Michael Wayne Carr of bilking investors, including Sutherland, out of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Deputy District Attorney Stephen Maier told that Carr was running a ponzi scheme in which he promised investors that he could purchase cows in Mexico and resell them in the U.S. for a huge profit.

Sutherland, who never met Carr, learned about the investment opportunity while he was working on a film in which he played a cattle-roping cowboy.

The actor made an initial investment of nearly half a million dollars in 2006 on which he received a "huge profit," Maier said.

The prosecutor said the money most likely came from the illegal sale of a Colorado man's cattle that had been entrusted to Carr.

When Sutherland in 2007 made a second investment of $869,000, the money "disappeared," Maier said. "There was no money and no cattle."

Sutherland contacted authorities who launched an investigation. Now Carr is facing 12 felony charges and 18 years in prison.

As for Sutherland, perhaps he should stick to acting -- or become a lot more like Bauer.

Here are some other actors who are not at all like the people they play on television:

Neil Patrick Harris

He may play a sleazy womanizer on CBS' "How I Met Your Mother," but in real life Harris prefers men -- and one man, in particular, his partner of five years, actor David Burtka.

In 2006, Harris, who shot to fame as teen-prodigy doctor in "Doogie Howser, M.D." admitted to People magazine that he was gay. "I am a very content gay man living my life to the fullest and feel most fortunate to be working with wonderful people in the business I love," he said.

Judging by his growing popularity since then, it would appear Harris has passed the ultimate Hollywood test of whether audiences would buy an openly gay actor playing a straight man.

New York magazine dubbed him Hollywood's first (openly) gay breakthrough star for hosting last year's Emmy Awards, playing womanizer Barney on "Mother," appearing on the red carpet with his boyfriend and being cast as a straight dad in the soon to be released movie, "The Best and the Brightest."

Harris has managed to make us like him in all of his roles: on screen and off.

America Ferrera

The "Ugly Betty" star may play ugly, but in real life she's anything but.

Although she long ago blossomed into a beautiful young actress, Ferrera still gets pseudo-praise from fans who see her on the street and can't believe she plays the girl with the braces and glasses.

"They think they're giving you a compliment; 'Oh, my God, you are so much uglier on the show. You're like, half the size of what I thought you were,'" she told Peter Travers, host of ABC News Now's "Popcorn," while promoting her new film, "The Dry Land," at the Sundance Film Festival.

Recently, Ferrera has taken heat for looking too skinny. Late last year, the actress revealed that she had lost about 20 pounds because of her hectic shooting schedule.

"I feel like I'm a regular person. I'm a size 10 or 12, which is totally normal," she told a reporter. "But I do feel that since I wanted to get in better shape, there has been a bit of a backlash."

With the announcement Wednesday that this will be the final season of "Betty," Ferrera's character may turn into a beauty like the actress who plays her after all.

Katherine Heigl

As someone who plays a doctor on television, Heigl does something no doctor would ever recommend.

Turns out the "Grey's Anatomy" star, whose character Izzie battled brain cancer last season, is a smoker.

In 2008, the actress confessed her habit to the Washington Post.

"It's so stupid," she said, grabbing a lighter. "I started when I was like 22 or 23, and I had my first cigarette at a bar one night, and I was like mmm. ... I'll try this. I can have just one. I am not going to get addicted. Then you start bumming. I'm bumming. I don't buy my own packs. I'm not addicted."

But Heigl went from bumming 10 cigarettes a day to buying her own packs.

"And now it's all about how you're going to quit," she told the Post. "I've tried everything."

Last year, she told InStyle magazine, she felt "ashamed" for continuing to smoke, adding that "it's so stupid."

Sarah Jessica Parker

Parker may be best known for her role as Carrie Bradshaw, the sexually savvy columnist in the "Sex and the City" television series and movie.

But in real life, this mother of three is quite chaste. In a 2008 interview with New York Magazine, she objected to "vulgar" things, used phrases like "a bee in my bonnet" and was described as being "modest," not prim, by her "Sex and the City" co-star Cynthia Nixon.

Some of Parker's personality was evident in Carrie. Ever notice how you've never seen Parker topless in "Sex and the City?" More often than not, even her midriff was covered during sex scenes. That didn't seem to diminish Carrie's status as a New York hipster, though.

Parker may prefer Victorian morality tales, an interest she shares with her husband Matthew Broderick, but she's made a fortune playing a thoroughly modern-day woman. Carrie makes her return to the big screen in the "Sex and the City" sequel this spring.