Television stars: They’re just like us! Their default costumes are television references! For W’s annual Emmys lead-up, the magazine told 21 actors, including a number of first-time nominees like Melanie Lynskey and Jung Ho-yeon, to pose for photo shoots channeling their favorite TV characters. This year’s results range from last-minute Halloween costume to, well, store-bought Halloween costume. Some photographers took efforts to make the lighting and setting match the show; others went for the Sears photo-booth effect. We ranked W’s annual celebrity self-pranking by how much they inspired us to pull out our contact lenses and call it a day — beginning with …
21. Chrishell Stause as Dexter
“My favorite emotion is to be scared.” That’s an actual Stause quote published below this photo. This is her official American Psycho: The Musical gender-blind-casting headshot.
20. Zazie Beetz as Fleabag
This whole thing was styled and shot by someone who has never seen Fleabag but maybe typed it into DALL-E and this combination of signifiers is what came out. Baffling!
19. Adam Scott as Sam Malone
This one just feels lazy. He didn’t even shave his beard. And Scott is usually so good at photo-accurate TV recreations!
18. Margaret Qualley as Dorothy Zbornak
“Margaret! Quick! It’s opening night of your high-school production of Arsenic and Old Lace and your costume’s at the cleaners! What are we going to do?” said Andie MacDowell, presumably, seconds before throwing that wig on Margaret’s head.
17. Quincy Isaiah as Ted Lasso
Deducting points for choosing the same character to as Mitt Romney did.
16. Jessica Biel as Don Draper
That’s not Jon Hamm; that’s Charles Gross.
15. Minha Kim as Lexie Grey
I’m sorry, but there’s something so funny about doing Grey’s Anatomy and choosing to be Lexie. It’s scrubs and a lab coat no matter what. You can be whomever you want to be! Dream big!
14. Natasha Lyonne as Afton Cooper
“If I Were King of the Forest” is the only skip on the Wizard of Oz soundtrack, wouldn’t you agree?
13. Tom Blyth as Dr. Jack Shephard
On the one hand it’s literally just a suit, but on the other “the ocean” is a very elaborate piece of costuming.
12. Nicole Byer as Michelle Tanner
Byer has huge lovable-scamp energy and was definitely raised on the TGIF programming block, but the execution did her dirty. Give her a scrunchie at least!
11. Melanie Lynskey as Susan Edwards
Don’t know who that is, so I’ll have to take your word on it, luv. Apparently, Landscapers is a current show, but the costume is giving more “cool girl in an early ’90s movie who listens to The Cure and is smart in a way that’s kind of threatening” vibes.
10. Sadie Sink as Elaine Benes
Keep Sweet: Pray and Obey on Rumspringa.
9. Devery Jacobs as Catra
She’s a cat, duh.
8. Coco Jones as Olivia Pope
The luxurious cream jacket. The Kerry Washington blowout. The elements are all there, but this Scandal shoot could have used some popcorn and red wine to seal the deal.
7. Anson Boon as Sonny Crockett
Miami Vice is a very tactical choice for this assignment. Easy to replicate; impossible not to look sexy in.
6. Madelyn Cline as Peggy Olson
There are a few ways you can interpret this assignment: homage, inspiration, pastiche, or re-creation. Cline opted for yassification — turning one of Mad Men’s most iconic shots into a graphic at the Benefit counter.
5. Jung Ho-yeon as Arya Stark
Maybe the classiest picture in this whole thing, but she should’ve posed with a wolf dog.
4. Elle Fanning as Paris Hilton
Fanning stays on trend and keeps “early aughts low-waist culture” bimbo revisionism alive in her Simple Life tribute, and she’s the only person who channels a reality TV character. This demonstrates fashion savvy as well as out-of-the-box thinking. The stuffed chihuahua is an excellent touch.
3. Sienna Miller as Patsy Stone
Sienna Miller’s Ab Fab drag transcended.
2. Mackenzie Davis as Stath
This one picture confirms my belief in Davis’s acting abilities. Girlie transformed into Stath here. The water-bottle toss! The eyebrows! Davis is a woman of taste and has channeled television’s best leading man in a worthy homage.
1. Nicholas Braun as Tim Riggins
Nicholas Braun in his little white football shorts, Dillon Panthers jersey, and visible extensions is butch-queen-schoolboy realness. Photographer Lea Winkler nailed the Friday Night Lights perma–golden hour. This work is a study in contrasts: Riggins is the ultimate troubled bad boy with a heart of gold, and Braun’s Cousin Greg character is the ultimate beta “nice guy” with a heart of trash. Also, he’s a football player taking a knee. Aware king.