Character actors are the ones that make you go, “Oh, it’s her/him!” when they pop up in a show or movie, but you can’t quite come up with their name. Some amazing character actors have been so widely loved that they have become more well-known, such as Judy Greer, J.K. Simmons, Wallace Shawn, Betty White, Bill Hader, and John C. Reilly. And some of you might not even know those people. I dug deep to find top-notch character actors whose faces we all know, but their names are mostly unknown, so we can all appreciate them a little more!
1. Melanie Lynskey
Interestingly, Melanie Lynskey and Jimmi Simpson were once married! She’s another one of my favorites because she’s immensely convincing in her various roles. Her most well-known role is likely Rose on Two and a Half Men, but she pops up everywhere.
2. Michael Ealy
Michael Ealy is a severely handsome man with striking blue eyes that are hard to forget. He’s been in movies like Think Like a Man, The Intruder, Barbershop, Takers, and 2 Fast 2 Furious. He’s a compelling actor but hasn’t quite become a household name.
3. Margo Martindale
Margo Martindale is number one because she inspired this list. If you watch BoJack Horseman, you for sure know her, but everyone else might not. She’s been in many films, including Orphan, Practical Magic, Hannah Montana: The Movie, The Firm, Million Dollar Baby, Secretariat, Cocaine Bear, and many more.
4. Kate Micucci
Kate Micucci has one of those unique faces that you’ll recognize immediately. She’s a hilarious character actress who doesn’t get enough credit for the light she brings to the screen. She’s been in shows and movies like Raising Hope, The Little Hours, and When in Rome.
5. Néstor Carbonell
Lovingly referred to as the “eyeliner guy,” Néstor Carbonell is best known for his parts in Lost, The Morning Show, and Bates Motel, but he’s been in many more movies and shows. His dark eyes make it look like he’s always wearing eyeliner, and he has a mysterious but charismatic demeanor.
6. Jimmi Simpson
Jimmi Simpson is one of my all-time favorite character actors and seems to be able to take on any role. He’s brilliant in Westworld, Always Sunny in Philidelphia, Rose Red, Date Night, and more. He can be funny, scary, creepy, lovable, and anything else in between.
7. John Turturro
John Turturro is one of those actors that I feel like I’ve been seeing since I was a little kid. Recently, he’s been in Severance, but he’s also in The Big Lebowski, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, The Batman, Do the Right Thing, and You Don’t Mess with the Zohan.
8. Beth Grant
You’ll also recognize Beth Grant, as it feels like she’s been in everything under the sun. She’s known for her roles in Donnie Darko, No Country for Old Men, Speed, Little Miss Sunshine, and Amsterdam, but she also shows up in drama series and sitcoms, like Grace and Frankie and The Mindy Project.
9. Keith David
Not only is Keith David’s face recognizable, but you also probably know his voice. He’s been in They Live, The Princess and the Frog, Community, The Thing, Rick and Morty, Coraline, Nope, Adventure Time, and many more impressive projects.
10. John Carroll Lynch
John Carroll Lynch is best known for his parts in Fargo, The Founder, Paul, Gothika White House Plumbers, and American Horror Stories. Lynch has a unique look and way about him that makes it easy to notice him, but not many know his name.
11. Stephen Tobolowsky
Another man you’ll know immediately is Stephen Tobolowsky. His most popular projects include Groundhog Day, Community, Fractured, Freaky Friday, and Memento. To me, he’ll always be the teacher who yelled at Lindsay Lohan for not knowing MacBeth well enough.
12. Jim Rash
Jim Rash has a special place in my heart and deserves way more attention. I know him from Community, but he’s also been in The Way Way Back, Downhill, Sky High, That ‘70s Show, Girlboss, and The Descendants. He’s funny but also incredibly clever and talented.
13. Titus Welliver
Titus Welliver has a similar intensity to Néstor Carbonell, with dark and mysterious eyes and an almost sinister charisma to him. He’s gotten some bigger roles as of late, such as Bosch, but he’s also shown up in The Town, Suits, Sons of Anarchy, Lost, The X-Files, The Good Wife, Gone Baby Gone, and more.
14. Lance Reddick
Also a musician, Lance Reddick is a striking character actor. He’s been in John Wick, The Wire, Resident Evil, Lost, White Men Can’t Jump, Fringe, and countless more projects. His angular face and tall, thin build make him a noticeable and memorable actor in many shows and movies.
15. J.P. Manoux
J.P. Manoux, not to be confused with Jim Rash, feels like a prominent actor from some of my childhood favorites. He was in Phil of the Future, The Emperor’s New School, Minutemen, Eurotrip, How I Met Your Mother, and Bolt, among many other shows and films.
16. Annabeth Gish
I’m familiar with Annabeth Gish because I’m an X-Files obsessor, but not everyone knows her name. However, her roles in The X-Files, The Haunting of Hill House, Double Jeopardy, Mystic Pizza, Steel, Midnight Mass, and The Fall of the House of Usher probably mean you know her face.
17. Jason Isaacs
Jason Isaacs is best known for his role as Lucious Malfoy in the Harry Potter franchise, but he’s done much more. Isaacs was also in The Patriot, The Death of Stalin, Mass, The Great, and Mrs. Harris Goes to Paris. Without the long blond Malfoy hair, not everyone can place him.
18. Ann Dowd
Ann Dowd is one of the most underrated character actresses and rivals Margo Martindale, in my opinion. She’s been in The Handmaid’s Tale, Mass, Compliance, The Exorcist: Believer, Hereditary, The Leftovers, Shiloh, and more. Her character in The Handmaid’s Tale terrifies me.
19. Clark Gregg
Clark Gregg is definitely one of the most recognizable character actors, but not a household name. His works include Painkiller, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Florida Man, Trust Me, (500) Days of Summer, The Avengers, and When a Stranger Calls.
20. Sam McMurray
Whenever I see Sam McMurray, I just think, “Oh, look; it’s Chandler’s boss.” He was in Friends as well as Raising Arizona, Drop Dead Gorgeous, L.A. Story, Addams Family Values, The Young and the Restless, Klaus, Elementary, United We Fall, and so much more.
21. Michael Kelly
Many people know Michael Kelly from House of Cards, but he’s performed sensationally in many other roles. His appearances in Dawn of the Dead, The Adjustment Bureau, Chronicle, Invincible, Now You See Me, Did You Hear About the Morgans?, and Viral make him a well-known face.
22. Jaime Pressly
I adore Jaime Pressly, as she’s so funny and stunning in everything she shows up in. Her most well-known roles are in My Name Is Earl, Not Another Teen Movie, Joe Dirt, Mom, I Love You, Man, and A Haunted House. To me, she’s one of the most underrated comedic actresses.
23. David Koechner
Office fans will know David Koechner as Todd Packer, but he’s also been in Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy, The Comebacks, Final Destination 5, Frampus, Waiting…, and Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby. He typically plays a funny idiot.
24. Clea DuVall
Clea DuVall has been around for a while and seems to show up in everything. Her most notable projects are But I’m a Cheerleader, the Faculty, Girl, Interrupted, Argo, She’s All That, Zodiac, Veep, The Handmaid’s Tale, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and Broad City.
25. Roger Bart
Roger Bart’s face and voice are both very well-known. He appears in Hercules, Hostel, The Stepford Wives, Harold & Kumar: Escape from Guantanamo Bay, American Gangster, Desperate Housewives, 30 Rock, and more. Bart can chameleon into every role he takes on.
26. Lauren Lapkus
Lauren Lapkus is ridiculously funny and has a memorable face. She’s been in movies and shows like The Wrong Missy, The Curse of Bridge Hollow, The Big Bang Theory, Good Girls, Jurassic World, Orange Is the New Black, The Unicorn, and much more.
27. Jim O’Heir
Parks and Recreation fans know him as Jerry, or Gary, or Larry. But Jim O’Heir seems to pop up everywhere. He has small roles in many movies and shows, including Life After Beth, Bad Times at the El Royale, Logan Lucky, Rizzoli & Isles, Accepted, Just Shoot Me!, and The Suite Life of Zack & Cody, just to name a few.
Veronica is a food, fashion, and entertainment writer from Boston, MA, with a passion for all things lifestyle and culture. She graduated from Boston University in 2019 with a bachelor's in English literature. From Anna Wintour to Angelina Jolie to Alton Brown, she has her finger on the pulse of all things Hollywood and celebrity.
If she's not in the kitchen crafting new recipes, then she's binging the latest HBO series and catching up on the hottest trends in Vogue.
She has written for and been syndicated by publications like The Weather Channel, The Daily Meal, The Borgen Project, The Good Men Project, The Express, MSN, Wealth of Geeks, and Not Deer Magazine. Her writing experience ranges from global news articles to celebrity gossip pieces to movie reviews to homemade recipes and more.