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Adrienne Jones

32 Character Actors You Would Recognize, Even If You Don’t Know Their Names

Ted levine on monk, penny johnson jerald on the orville and toby huss on halt and catch fire.

For every Denzel Washington or Julia Roberts, there are hundreds of actors who help populate our favorite movies and TV shows, and bring to life essential characters for our beloved stars to work for, fight with, date, and more on screen. Many of these actors, while not so famous that they have name recognition to the general public, could be said to be “face famous.” Here’s a list of 32 character actors you’d recognize, even if you don’t know their names.

(Image credit: USA)

Ted Levine

If you’ve seen The Silence of the Lambs you’ve likely been creeped out by Ted Levine. He portrayed Jame “Buffalo Bill” Gumb in that 1991 classic, and has since been in a number of movies, like The Fast and the Furious, Ali, American Gangster, Shutter Island, and Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. Meanwhile, on TV he’s known for work in innumerable shows such as Ray Donovan, The Alienist and Monk, where he played Captain Leland Stottlemeyer for all 124 episodes and the 2023 Peacock movie.

(Image credit: Freeform)

Roma Maffia

Roma Maffia is probably best known for playing Dr. Liz Cruz throughout the six-season run of Nip/Tuck, or for her work as Lieutenant Linda Tanner on Pretty Little Liars, but she’s been all over the TV dial and movie screens since 1983. She’s appeared in movies like Disclosure, and The Paper, while working on series such as Billions, Boston Legal, Bull, Grey’s Anatomy, NCIS and Dexter.

(Image credit: Paramount+)

Kurt Fuller

With 209 credits to his name, you’ve almost definitely seen Kurt Fuller somewhere. He’s been in a number of shows, like Evil (he’s Dr. Kurt Boggs), Psych (Coroner Woody Strode), Supernatural (Zachariah), The Good Fight, The Good Wife and Parenthood. Plus, he’s appeared in films such as Anger Management, Ghostbusters II and The Running Man.

(Image credit: HBO)

Kevin Dunn

Yet another recognizable face is that of Kevin Dunn, who many will know as Ben Cafferty on the hit political comedy, Veep. He’s also been in shows like Suits, Mom, City on a Hill, True Detective, Prison Break and Boston Legal, and also played Ron Witwicky in the first three Transformers movies.

(Image credit: Touchstone Pictures)

Keith David

With a resume 369 credits strong, and film and TV appearances beginning over 40 years ago, you can’t miss Keith David or his unmistakable voice. You saw him as Childs in The Thing in 1982, King in Platoon, and other movies like Armageddon, Pitch Black, Requiem for a Dream and Barbershop. His TV appearances include one of the leads on Greenleaf, Community, and ER, and he’s done voice work for a number of animated titles, including voicing Dr. Facilier in The Princess and the Frog.

(Image credit: Amazon Studios)

Caroline Aaron

Caroline Aaron has probably been in many of your favorite movies: Edward Scissorhands, 21 Jump Street and its sequel, and Sleepless in Seattle. She’s also been in an incredible amount of shows like Ghosts, Episodes, Madam Secretary, Transparent, 2 Broke Girls, Desperate Housewives, and recently played Shirley Maisel on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

(Image credit: AMC)

Toby Huss

Toby Huss is among the actors whose voice may be as recognizable as his face, seeing as how he voiced Kahn Sr., Cotton Hill and various others on King of the Hill for 164 episodes. However, you’ve definitely seen him in shows/movies like Halt and Catch Fire, Dickinson, Reno 911!, GLOW, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, Weird: The Al Yankovic Story, Blonde, 42, and Rescue Dawn.

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Bill Cobbs

You could have seen Bill Cobbs in films like Trading Places, New Jack City, Air Bud, Enough, The Bodyguard, Demolition Man, Hope Floats or Night at the Museum, or you may have seen some of his many television appearances on shows like Designing Women, The Wayans Bros., JAG, NYPD Blue, The Sopranos, One Tree Hill, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. or countless others.

(Image credit: Sony Pictures Releasing)

Lupe Ontiveros

Before her death in 2012, Lupe Ontiveros was known for films like Real Women Have Curves, Selena, and As Good as it Gets (where Jack Nicholson told her Nora to “sell crazy someplace else”), but the actress had over 100 other TV and film credits, including Desperate Housewives, Party Down, Weeds, Reba, Universal Soldier, This Christmas, and Beverly Hills Chihuahua 2.

(Image credit: HBO)

Stephen Root

Stephen Root will probably always be known as Milton in 1999’s Office Space, and for voicing characters like Buck Strickland and Bill Dauterive on King of the Hill, but he’s also been in shows like Barry (as Monroe Fuches), The Man in the High Castle, Succession, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, True Blood, The Book of Boba Fett and The Big Bang Theory, and movies like Get Out, Selma, To Leslie, and Bombshell.

(Image credit: The CW)

Loretta Devine

Likely best known for her roles as Cynthia Carmichael on The Carmichael Show, Adele Weber on Grey’s Anatomy and Marla Hendricks on Boston Public, Loretta Devine also had a starring role in the film Waiting to Exhale, and has appeared in other movies like I Am Sam, What Women Want, Urban Legends, and Crash, and shows like Supernatural,  P-Valley, black-ish and Being Mary Jane.

(Image credit: ABC)

Vernée Watson

If you love The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air, then you know Vernée Watson as Will’s mom, Vy, but she’s more recently been on General Hospital (as Stella Henry) and Bob Hearts Abishola (Gloria Tyler). You may have also seen her on shows such as The Big Bang Theory, Two and a Half Men, Young Sheldon, Superstore, House, Teen Wolf, The Resident, The Bernie Mac Show, The X-Files and ER.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Mary Kay Place

Mary Kay Place has been a strong presence in movies and television since her Emmy- winning role on the series Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in the late ‘70s. Over the years she’s been in series like 9-1-1: Lone Star, Shameless, Imposters, Big Love, Bored to Death, Grey’s Anatomy, Grace and Frankie and The West Wing. The actress has also appeared in movies such as The Prom, Sweet Home Alabama, Girl, Interrupted and Being John Malkovich.

(Image credit: HBO)

Isiah Whitlock, Jr.

While known and beloved for his NSFW catchphrase as Clay Davis in The Wire cast, Isiah Whitlock, Jr. has been in well over 100 movies and TV shows. He can be seen in series like Your Honor, Atlanta, Veep, Survivor’s Remorse, Law & Order: SVU, FBI, The Blacklist and Gotham. His film credits include Goodfellas, Gremlins 2: The New Batch, Enchanted, BlacKkKlansman and Da 5 Bloods.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Anna Deavere Smith

Known for her roles as Gloria Akalitus on Nurse Jackie and Nancy McNally on The West Wing, and Maud on Inventing Anna, Anna Deavere Smith has likely been in lots of things you loved. This includes movies like Ghosted, Can You Ever Forgive Me?, Rachel Getting Married, Rent, Philadelphia, The American President and Dave, as well as television series such as black-ish, Legends of Tomorrow, Law & Order: SVU, Madam Secretary and The Practice.

(Image credit: A24)

James Hong

If you think you haven’t seen James Hong... you’re probably just wrong. Since 1954 he’s racked up 459 credits across movies and TV, having appeared in films like Flower Drum Song, Chinatown, Big Trouble in Little China, The Golden Child, The Last Sharknado: It’s About Time, and, most recently as Gong Gong in Everything Everywhere All At Once. His television appearances are vast, and include series like American Born Chinese, The Thundermans, Hawaii Five-0 (original and reboot), The Blacklist, Elementary, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Key and Peele, The Big Bang Theory, Chuck, King of Queens and dozens more.

(Image credit: NBC)

David Koechner

Best known for his role as Champ Kind in the Anchorman movies, David Koechner has made quite a name for himself away from that beloved film series. He’s been in others like Scouts Guide to the Zombie Apocalypse, Krampus and Behind the Candelabra, and appeared on TV shows like The Office (as Todd Packer), The Goldbergs (Bill Lewis), Justified: City Primeval, Bless This Mess, Drunk History, Stan Against Evil, Another Period, the 2017's Twin Peaks, Bones, and was a cast member on SNL in Season 21.

(Image credit: 20th Century Fox)

Beth Grant

Beth Grant has been in almost everything: films like Donnie Darko, Little Miss Sunshine, To Wong Fu, Thanks For Everything! Julie Newmar, Doctor Dolittle, Pearl Harbor, and was the only bus passenger, Helen, in Speed who was blown up. Grant has also been all over TV, having played Beverly for 79 episodes of The Mindy Project and worked on shows like Modern Family, Mayfair Witches, A Series of Unfortunate Events, American Gods, Dexter, and also played Dwight’s babysitter on The Office.

(Image credit: Roadside Attractions)

Dale Dickey

Dale Dickey is sure to be known to many sitcom fans as Patty from her time on My Name Is Earl, but she’s been in so many more shows, like Breaking Bad, True Blood, Claws, A League of Their Own, Vice Principals, Lawmen: Bass Reeves, Station 19, Why Women Kill, I Am the Night, The Middle, Sons of Anarchy, Justified, Raising Hope and Grey’s Anatomy. She’s also in films like Winter’s Bone, Iron Man 3, Super 8, Hell or High Water and Palm Springs.

(Image credit: The CW)

Tzi Ma

While he was recently seen as Jin Shen on The CW’s Kung Fu series, that’s far from the only thing you may have seen Tzi Ma in over the decades. He also has shows like 24, Veep, Bosch, Wu Assassins, Hell on Wheels, The Man in the High Castle, Once Upon a Time, Silicon Valley, Deadwood, Star Trek: The Next Generation and L.A. Law peppering his resume. In addition, he’s been in films like the live action Mulan, The Farewell, Arrival, The Campaign, Rush Hour and Rush Hour 3, and RoboCop 2 since 1979.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Rob Morgan

Rob Morgan has been on our screens since 2004, but it’s possible that he didn’t really become recognizable until he made the latter of one of his 15 appearances as Turk Barrett in Marvel’s Netflix shows, including Daredevil, Jessica Jones, The Defenders, Luke Cage, The Punisher and Iron Fist. The actor also plays Earvin Johnson Sr. on Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty, Officer Powell on Stranger Things, and has been in other shows like This Is Us, CSI: Vegas and Person of Interest. On the big screen, you may have seen him in Mudbound, Just Mercy, Greyhound, The United States vs. Billie Holiday, Don’t Look Up and Smile.

(Image credit: Peacock)

Ron Canada

If you’ve seen the popular 1987 film Adventures in Babysitting, then you’ve watched Ron Canada work. For that matter, the same can be said if you’ve seen a number of other films like Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, The American President, Lone Star, National Treasure, Wedding Crashers, Ted 2 and Cinderella Man. And, it’s also true if you’ve watched shows such as Boston Legal, The West Wing, The Strain, East New York, The Shield, The Best Man: The Final Chapters, The Orville, House of Cards, Jack Ryan and Ugly Betty.

(Image credit: FOX)

Mel Rodriguez

Known for portraying Todd Rodriguez on Fox’s The Last Man On Earth and Hugo Ramirez in CSI: Vegas, Mel Rodriguez has probably been in tons of other series you’ve watched since 1999, including The Afterparty, Made for Love, Better Call Saul, Getting On, Community, Big Love, George Lopez, Gilmore Girls and Malcolm in the Middle. His film credits include Little Miss Sunshine and 2018’s Overboard.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Robert Curtis Brown

If you’re a High School Musical fan, you might know Robert Curtis Brown for his part as Sharpay’s dad, Vance, in the two sequels and Sharpay’s Fabulous Adventure, but he’s also done plenty away from Disney. His other films include It’s Complicated, 2009’s Halloween II, Spider-Man 3, Dreamgirls, Bruce Almighty, Catch Me If You Can and Trading Places, while he’s been on TV shows such as Station 19, CSI: Vegas, Dear White People, The Handmaid’s Tale, Beverly Hills 90210, Switched at Birth, Barry, Lucifer and Castle.

(Image credit: Hulu)

Penny Johnson Jerald

Though she was already known for playing Beverly on The Larry Sanders Show and Kasidy Yates on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Penny Johnson Jerald really caught people’s attention during her 45-episode run as the president’s wife, Sherry Palmer, on 24. She’s also Captain Gates on Castle, Dr. Claire Finn on The Orville and can be seen now as the principal on the Ted series. Her films include Absolute Power, What’s Love Got to Do with It, Swing Shift and The Hills Have Eyes II.

(Image credit: Netflix)

Tamlyn Tomita

After playing Kumiko in The Karate Kid Part II, Tamlyn Tomita went on to films like The Joy Luck Club, and The Day After Tomorrow. Meanwhile, she portrayed Allegra on ABC’s The Good Doctor, along with recurring characters on shows like Teen Wolf, Berlin Station, Monarch: Legacy of Monsters, Star Trek: Picard, The Man in the High Castle, Chasing Life, Glee, True Blood, Eureka, and brought Kumiko back for Cobra Kai.

(Image credit: Pop)

Rizwan Manji

If Rizwan Manji looks familiar, it may be from his time as Tick Pickwick on The Magicians, or Ray Butani on Schitt’s Creek, but the actor has also been in shows like Atypical, Peacemaker, Mr. Robot, 24, Better Off Ted, Glee, How I Met Your Mother, Bella and the Bulldogs, Roar, and NCIS: Los Angeles. His film credits include Transformers, Don Jon, Paterson, The Dictator and Morning Glory.

(Image credit: Hulu)

Jackie Hoffman

Only Murders in the Building fans will know that Jackie Hoffman plays Uma Heller on the hit comedy/mystery, but she’s also appeared in series like the Night Court revival, Grease: Rise of the Pink Ladies, The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel, The Politician, Season 1 of Ryan Murphy’s anthology, Feud, Difficult People, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, 30 Rock, The Good Wife and Inside Amy Schumer. Her films include You Are So Not Invited to My Bat Mitzvah, A Good Person, Glass Onion, Shiva Baby and Birdman.

(Image credit: Disney Channel)

Patricia Belcher

TV lovers might recognize Patricia Belcher as Caroline Julian on Bones, but if not, maybe you remember seeing her on Good Luck Charlie, The Villains of Valley View, A.P. Bio, Lucifer, The Rookie, 9-1-1, Mom, Santa Clarita Diet, How to Get Away with Murder, Mike and Molly, Community and It’s Always Sunny In Philadelphia. Belcher’s movies include Ant-Man and The Wasp: Quantumania, Father Stu, Clear and Present Danger, 500 Days of Summer, and Species.

(Image credit: ABC)

Tony Plana

Surely you remember Tony Plana as Ignacio Suarez, father to the title character on ABC’s Ugly Betty? No? Well, he’s also been in over 200 other series and movies, such as Madam Secretary, The Good Fight, White House Plumbers, Superstore, David Makes Man, The Punisher, Mayans M.C., the Lethal Weapon TV show, The Fosters, Desperate Housewives, Bombshell, Roman J. Israel, Esq., Pain & Gain and JFK.

(Image credit: HBO)

Paul Ben-Victor

From shows like The Wire and In Plain Sight, to films like Don Jon, Tombstone, True Romance and 2003’s Daredevil, it’s likely you’ve seen Paul Ben-Victor before. He’s also appeared in TV shows such as The Invisible Man,  Pam & Tommy, The Neighborhood, Preacher, Everybody Hates Chris and Entourage, and movies like The Irishman, Plane, Emancipation and Get Hard.

(Image credit: FX)

Margo Martindale

Anyone who watched Justified or The Americans should remember Margo Martindale’s Emmy-winning roles as Mags Bennett and Claudia, respectively, but there are so many other shows and movies to watch her in. These include TV series like Sneaky Pete, Mrs. Davis, Your Honor, the 2021 season of American Crime Story, Mrs. America, The Good Wife and The Millers, while Martindale has been in films such as The Firm, Dead Man Walking, The Hours, Million Dollar Baby, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story and Hannah Montana: The Movie.

Now you'll be able to put the faces of several character actors to their names!

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