Forget Kat Dennings and Zooey Deschanel: Here Are Some Truly Quirky Actresses

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The 2011-2012 TV season's most defining characteristic was arguably the rise of "quirky" women on gal-centric comedies. Actresses like Kat Dennings and Zooey Deschanel were heralded as unique additions to the TV landscape; called quirky and adorkable when compared to the hyper-beautiful and "normal" leading ladies that dominate most network programming.

But for real women who consider themselves quirky, offbeat, or outsiders, Dennings' and Deschanel's TV personas aren't the real deal. While the two actresses may do a serviceable job playing offbeat characters, the sad fact of the matter is that the major networks only cast beautiful women to play quirky characters. It seems, in recent years, that the duty of portraying real quirky women has fallen to cable and premium channels.

For all the attention that the media has given to quirky female characters on TV this year, Dennings and Deschanel are pretty normal compared to the really unique and quirky ladies that aren't on network TV. Beyond "Two Broke Girls" and "New Girl," here are some leading ladies of quirkdom that you might have overlooked.

Kristen Schaal, "Flight of the Conchords" and "The Daily Show"

Granted, Schaal may have a regular voiceover role on "Bob's Burgers," but you never get to see her face. Her big break was playing creepy yet adorable stalker Mel on "Flight of the Conchords." These days, she does recurring work on "The Daily Show," where she usually approaches women's issues with her trademark awkwardness and manic energy. She's not a household name, but she deserves to be.


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Lena Dunham, "Girls"

Even if you aren't an HBO subscriber, you've probably heard some talk around the watercooler about "Girls," Lena Dunham's offering that's a bit like "Sex and the City" for modern 20-somethings. Her quirky sense of humor and unflinching look at the minds of today's young women made her a major name in entertainment news. She's an over-sharer, a master of self-deprecating humor, and bucks conventional ideas about womanhood. 

Ashley Rickards, "Awkward."

If you're not an MTV fanatic, this quirky high school drama probably flew under your radar. And what a shame: Ashley Rickards perfectly captured the awkwardness and kooky nature of a teenage girl who's been ostracized after an accident that made it look like she tried to kill herself.

The period in the title is an intentional reference to the quirky "awkward period" that the main character is fighting through. Rickards spends much of the show stuck in a neck brace and full arm cast, adding to her quirkiness. In real life, she graduated from school at 15 and is a member of MENSA.


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Gwendoline Christie, "Game of Thrones"

Physicality isn't the sole cause of quirkiness in women, but it certainly plays a part. When it comes to what makes a character quirky on TV, awkwardness (especially physical awkwardness) is often the underlying cause of quirk. So it's fair to say that being 6' 3" has shaped Gwendoline Christie's outlook on life and prepared her for a very quirky role. Her breakout role on TV this year was on "Game of Thrones," where she plays Brienne of Tarth. Her unique physicality and personality combine to make her nearly as iconic a character as Tyrion Lannister, who's on the opposite end of the spectrum in many ways.

Shirley Henderson, "Doctor Who" and "Treasure Island"

You don't know her name, but you know her uniquely croaky voice. Barely five feet tall, this diminutive Scottish actress has carved her own niche with her instantly recognizable voice. She did a guest spot on "Doctor Who" several years back, and a turn as Meg Hawkins on SyFy's recent made-for-TV version of "Treasure Island."

But for many moviegoers, she's best known as Harry Potter's ghostly classmate Moaning Myrtle or Bridget Jones' friend Jude. She's a great example of a quirky actress that really deserves the title.

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