Gingers! So what’s the big deal? Why are so many of us apparently fascinated by folks with red hair, light skin, and occasionally freckles? Especially when such individuals become media personalities? “Red” is the rarest natural hair color on the planet: Only 1-2% of the world’s population have it. Red hair has been associated with personality traits such as fiery temperament, combativeness or aggressiveness, and an overactive–if not downright freaky libido. Religious and mythological figures from King David to Judas Iscariot to the Egyptian God Set have all been thought to be, or depicted as being Gingers. Oh, and with apologies to Marvel Comics and Chris Hemsworth: According to Norse mythology, Thor was a redhead–not a blonde.
As for why redheads are called Gingers in the first place, there seems to be no real consensus: It’s primarily a British term, and still considered mildly derogatory to many in the UK. One popular theory is that it has nothing to do with color, but instead refers to the hot-blooded demeanor redheads supposedly possess. Most likely, it started in the middle ages, when “Gynger” referred to the coloration of a red rooster. Regardless of the hows and whys, redheads stick out, and more than a few have made indelible marks on popular culture. Here then is ten of the most well-known and influential Gingers, who have risen to iconic status….despite the unfortunate handicap of having no souls.
10. Gillian Anderson
From 1993 to 2002, Gillian Anderson was the distaff half of the sexiest paranormal investigation duo on television. As Dr. Dana Scully of The X-Files, Ms. Anderson played the logical, rational counterbalance to David Duchovny’s emotional–and occasionally over-credulous Fox Mulder. Since then, she has kept busy with television and cinematic projects like The Last King Of Scotland, TV miniseries adaptations of Moby Dick and Great Expectations, and two X-Files films. This year she is rumored to be appearing in Re-Entry: Grey Zone, a sci-fi flick by Sri Lankan visual effects artist and director: Ray Jay.
9. Karen Gillan
The Scottish-born Gillan is best known for her role as Amy Pond–one of the Doctor’s most famous (and lusted after) companions in the 40-something year history of BBC’s Doctor Who. Amy and husband Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill) accompanied Matt Smith’s Eleventh Doctor on his various adventures through time and space from 2008 to 2012. Last year, a Doctor Who spinoff miniseries called Pond Life began: It’s a prequel to season seven, and focuses mainly on the homelife of Amy and Rory.
8. Rupert Grint
Rupert Alexander Lloyd Grint, while rapidly becoming a well-known actor in his own right, will likely be primarily known for his role as Harry’s best mate: Ronald Weasley–in the film adaptations of the best-selling Harry Potter novels–for all eternity (not that there’s anything wrong with being known as a co-star in 8 ridiculously successful feature films). He DOES seem poised to begin a very prolific post-HP film career….and women in particular (especially those of the Nerdy persuasion) seem to love him–far more than HP co-stars Daniel Radcliffe and Tom Felton, from what we’ve observed. Expect to see him this year in The Necessary Death Of Charlie Countryman, and portraying punk legend Cheetah Chrome of The Dead Boys in CBGB.
7. Emma Stone
Ms. Stone is closer to the auburn end of the Ginger spectrum, but is still every bit as worthy of accolades as any other redhead honored here. After a few years of minor TV roles, she got her big break on screen in Superbad–which was followed soon after by a fantastic role in Zombieland and an acclaimed performance in The Help. She’s now one of the most sought-after actresses in the business, and is set to reprise her role as Gwen Stacy in the sequel to last year’s Spidey reboot: The Amazing Spider-Man.
6. Christina Hendricks
One of our favorite people in the world, geeky types were the first to take notice of Ms. Hendricks’ talents when she appeared in the much adored, yet short-lived science fiction western Firefly. Her role in only two episodes as a brilliant, gorgeous con artist named Saffron (or Bridget, or Yolanda–depending on who she’s pretending to be married to). Thankfully, she survived the tragic loss of Firefly, and landed a magnificent part on one of the best shows currently airing: Mad Men. She plays the street-smart office manager Joan Halloway: A sort of de facto “den mother” to the embattled and harassed female staff of a 1960′s Madison Avenue ad agency.
5. Conan O’Brien
Probably the “Gingerest” of today’s acclaimed Gingers (and easily the tallest): Conan O’Brien got into comedy at Harvard, where he got a BA in History and Literature and was president of the famous humor magazine: The Harvard Lampoon. After graduating, he became one of television’s most successful comedy writers, penning scripts for shows like Not Necessarily The News, The Simpsons, and Saturday Night Live (which he also appeared as a bit-player on). From 1993 to 2009, Conan took over for the departing David Letterman on the appropriately named late night talk show “Late Night”. This was followed by a much-maligned stint as host of The Tonight Show, temporarily replacing Jay Leno. In 2010, after the Leno-O’Brien feud’s dust finally settled, Conan got a new late night show….imaginatively titled Conan, while Leno returned to The Tonight Show.
4. Simon Pegg
Mr. Pegg–probably the lightest Ginger on the list–first became prominent as a writer and star on the cult Britcom Spaced, along with real-life best friend Nick Frost and director Edgar Wright–both of whom he’d later break into Hollywood with upon the release of the wildly popular “Rom-Zom-Com” Shaun Of The Dead, and the underappreciated cop drama satire Hot Fuzz. He later starred in comedies like Run, Fatboy, Run and Paul–and was chosen for the role of Chief Engineer Montgomery Scott in JJ Abrams’ Star Trek reboot. He was also offered the role of Rorschach in a failed attempt at a film adaptation of Watchmen–but turned it down because he feared his own fame would diminish the character.
3. Ron Howard
Ron Howard began his career as a Ginger on TV back when there were only two hair colors on television: Light and dark. After playing Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show, he got a role in his teens as all-American adolescent Richie Cunningham on the ’50s nostalgia sitcom Happy Days–a character that was more or less a carbon copy of his big screen debut as Steve in George Lucas’ American Graffitti. Once his TV child star days were past, he became one of Hollywood’s most famous and acclaimed Directors. Highlights from his long career include Night Shift, Cocoon, Willow, Parenthood, Apollo 13, A Beautiful Mind, The Da Vinci Code, and Frost/Nixon
2. Felicia Day
Kathryn Felicia Day, unlike some other so-named “Nerd Girls” is completely above any suspicion of her “Nerd Cred”. An enthusiastic geek and gamer in her own right, Ms. Day became known for her work on the web-based shows The Legend of Neil and The Guild–the latter of which she created. Her first recurring role on TV was as Vi on Geek Deity Joss Whedon’s Buffy The Vampire Slayer. She would go on to work with Whedon on Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog and Dollhouse. Later she appeared as Holly Marten on one of the last truly good SyFy shows: The recently cancelled Eureka, and has what looks like it could be a recurring role on Supernatural, as an immensely tongue-in-cheek character named Charlie Bradbury. Ms. Day co-owns a production company with Kim Evey called Knights of Good Productions–after the main characters of The Guild, and has Bachelor’s degrees from the University of Texas at Austin in Mathematics and Violin Performance.
1. Joss Whedon
His Whedonness’ Ginger status is only really clear when he’s bearded: Like Emma Sone, his hair is at the dark end of the Ginger spectrum….But who really cares? He’s mother-effing JOSS! This is the man that gave the world Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Angel, Firefly, Dollhouse, and Dr. Horrible’s Sing-A-Long Blog. He also wrote Toy Story, Alien: Resurrection, Titan A.E., and The Cabin In The Woods (plus, surprisingly, 4 episodes of Roseanne….no, look it up–we’re serious!)….Last year he basically became Pope of all Nerddom when he scored the biggest success of his career: Directing the insanely popular comic book flick, The Avengers. He’s poised to continue his success with this property by not only penning and directing a sequel due out in 2015, but by creating a spin-off TV series called S.H.I.E.L.D.–which should air later this year.
Honorable Mention: Before we go, we’d like to offer a tip of the hat to David Caruso of NYPD Blue and CSI: Miami fame. Thanks to Mr. Caruso’s work, douchebags the world over think it’s ironically funny to put on a pair of sunglasses and make some poor attempt at a glib, sardonic witticism.