Supporting actors that always surprise me in a good way

by abzurd | created - 12 Mar 2011 | updated - 21 Dec 2012 | Public

These actors rarely get their names in big letters on movie posters, TV shows, but I always enjoy watching them work. I think they bring a lot to the characters they play, even when it's a cameo. (this list is a work-in-progress, I will add more)

Feel free to add suggestions of new actors or material for actors already in the list.

NOTE: While I'm sure several of these actors could be considered famous in their part of the world, I shamelessly keep this list as French Canadian perspective.

1. Donal Logue

Actor | Blade

Donal Logue's versatility and talent makes him one of the most well respected and beloved actors today. Born in Ottawa, Canada, Logue moved all over the United States, from the Boston area as an infant to various towns on the Mexican border. He returned to Boston to attend Harvard University, where...

2. Jon Polito

Actor | Miller's Crossing

A veteran of nearly 100 films, Jon Polito is most recognized for his work with The Coen brothers, as well as his many television appearances as a series regular and guest star. Notable motion picture roles include: Millers Crossing, Barton Fink, The Man Who Wasn't There, The Crow, Blankman, and The...

3. Ted Levine

Actor | The Silence of the Lambs

Born in Bellaire, Ohio, in May, 1957, he was among the last graduating class of the Windsor Mountain School in Lennox, Massachusetts. Attended Marlboro College in Vermont. Performed in summer stock and regional theatres in Vermont, Michigan and West Virginia before settling in Chicago and joining ...

4. Stephen Tobolowsky

Actor | Mississippi Burning

Character actor Stephen Tobolowsky was born on May 30, 1951 in Dallas, Texas. Over the past three decades, Tobolowsky has racked up a lengthy list of roles in movies and television across many different genres.

While Tobolowsky initially attended Southern Methodist University in Dallas, Texas with ...

5. John Carroll Lynch

Actor | The Founder

John Carroll Lynch was born August 1, 1963 in Boulder, Colorado, and was raised in Denver. It was there John found a passion for acting and became a Denver Broncos fan. He graduated in the mid-80s with a B.F.A. in theatre from the The Catholic University of America / Hartke Theatre Acting program. ...

6. Kevin Tighe

Actor | Another 48 Hrs.

This beefy, genial-looking character actor was born Jon Kevin Fishburn in Los Angeles. Performing as a child from age 10, Tighe initially attended Pasadena City College. He later obtained a Master's Degree in Theater, then taught drama at USC. Living Bohemian-style out of a suitcase after he ...

7. Robin Weigert

Actress | Deadwood

Robin Weigert was born on July 7, 1969 in Washington, District of Columbia, USA. She is an actress, known for Deadwood (2004), Synecdoche, New York (2008) and The Sessions (2012).

8. Gary Cole

Actor | Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby

Gary Cole was born on September 20, 1956 in Park Ridge, Illinois, USA as Gary Michael Cole. He is known for his work on Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby (2006), One Hour Photo (2002) and Office Space (1999). He has been married to Teddi Siddall since March 8, 1992. They have one child.

9. Richard Schiff

Actor | Man of Steel

Richard was born in Bethesda, Maryland, the middle of three sons of Edward, a real estate lawyer, and Charlotte, a cable TV and publishing executive. His parents divorced when he was 12. He dropped out of high school but obtained an equivalency diploma. He tried studying at the City College of New ...

10. Allison Janney

Actress | The Help

Allison Janney is an award-winning actress who has earned a solid reputation in stage productions and in many supporting roles on screen, and who more recently has become prominent by portraying one of the major characters in the popular TV series The West Wing (1999).

Entertainment Weekly magazine ...

11. J.K. Simmons

Actor | Whiplash

J.K. Simmons is an American actor.

He was born Jonathan Kimble Simmons in Grosse Pointe, Michigan, to Patricia (Kimble), an administrator, and Donald William Simmons, a music teacher. He attended the Ohio State University, Columbus, OH; University of Montana, Missoula, MT (BA in Music).

He had ...

12. Spalding Gray

Writer | Swimming to Cambodia

Spalding Gray was born on June 5, 1941 in Providence, Rhode Island, USA as Spalding Rockwell Gray. He was an actor and writer, known for Swimming to Cambodia (1987), Kate & Leopold (2001) and The Paper (1994). He was married to Kathleen Russo and Renée Shafransky. He died on January 10, 2004 in...

13. Kathryn Joosten

Actress | Desperate Housewives

Kathryn is best known for her portrayals of "Karen McCluskey" on Desperate Housewives (2004) on ABC and of "Mrs. Landingham", secretary to the President (Martin Sheen), on the critically-acclaimed NBC drama, The West Wing (1999). She has also recurred on Dharma & Greg (1997), and guest-starred ...

14. David O'Hara

Actor | Cowboys & Aliens

David O'Hara was born in Glasgow, Scotland, to Patrick and Martha O'Hara. After leaving school he was accepted for a Youth Opportunities Programme, at a community theatre based at the Glasgow Arts Centre. It toured local schools under the direction of Robin Peoples.

David moved to London at age 17 ...

15. Joanna Lumley

Actress | Absolutely Fabulous

Joanna Lumley was born in Kashmir, India, on 1st May 1946. Her father was a major in the Gurkha Rifles, and she spent most of her early childhood in the Far East where her father was posted.

An aspiring actress, she first came to fame as a model in London's swinging 1960s, where she was photographed...

16. Peter Greene

Actor | Pulp Fiction

Born in Montclair, New Jersey in 1965. He discovered acting in his mid 20s in New York, where he was trained at Lee Strasberg's studio. Then his deep voiced, tall and pale persona showed up on TV and films in 1990. His first leading roles were in Laws of Gravity (1992) and Clean, Shaven (1993), the...

17. Dean Stockwell

Actor | Quantum Leap

Photogenic American child actor of the 1940s, popular due in no small measure to his air of innocence and his beautiful, cherubic face with its dimples and his sparkling eyes, topped with a crown of curls. Still an actor in demand while well into his middle years, he is one of the few juvenile ...

18. Embeth Davidtz

Actress | Bicentennial Man

Embeth Davidtz was born on August 11, 1965 in Lafayette, Indiana. She is known for her role as Miss Honey in the film Matilda (1996).

Her parents, Jean and John Davidtz, were South Africans, with Dutch, English, and French ancestry. The family moved to Trenton, New Jersey, before returning to her ...

19. Olivia Williams

Actress | The Ghost Writer

Olivia Williams was born July 26, 1968 in Camden Town, London. She was educated at South Hampstead High School, an independent school for girls in Hampstead, North London, followed by Newnham College at the University of Cambridge. She graduated with a degree in English literature. She went on to ...

20. David Thewlis

Actor | Naked

David Thewlis was born David Wheeler in 1963 in Blackpool, Lancashire, to Maureen (Thewlis) and Alec Raymond Wheeler, and lived with his parents above their combination wallpaper and toy shop during his childhood. Originally, he came to London with his band Door 66, however he changed his plans and...

21. Michael Lerner

Actor | Barton Fink

Michael Lerner was born on June 22, 1941 in Brooklyn, New York, USA. He is an actor, known for Barton Fink (1991), Godzilla (1998) and Elf (2003).

22. Geraldine Somerville

Actress | Gosford Park

Geraldine Somerville was born in Dublin. She lived in Co. Meath until she was six, when her parents moved to the Isle of Man. Geraldine went to dance classes from the age of 6 and, at the age of 8, she attended the Arts Educational School in Tring, Hertfordshire. There, she was taught ballet, music...

23. Jim Broadbent

Actor | Moulin Rouge!

One of England's most versatile character actors, Jim Broadbent was born on May 24, 1949, in Lincolnshire, the youngest son of furniture maker Roy Laverick Broadbent and sculptress Doreen "Dee" (Findlay) Broadbent. Jim attended a Quaker boarding school in Reading before successfully applying for a ...

24. Adrian Dunbar

Actor | The Crying Game

Adrian Dunbar was born on August 1, 1958 in Enniskillen, Co. Fermanagh, Northern Ireland. He is an actor, known for The Crying Game (1992), Hear My Song (1991) and The Last Confession of Alexander Pearce (2008). He has been married to Anna Nygh since 1986. They have one child.

25. Ray Wise

Actor | Batman: The Killing Joke

Raymond Herbert "Ray" Wise (born August 20, 1947) is an American actor. Some of his best-known roles include Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks (1990), henchman Leon C. Nash in RoboCop (1987), Jack Taggart Sr. in Jeepers Creepers II (2003), the Devil in the CW television series Reaper (2007), Donald ...

26. Colm Feore

Actor | Chicago

Colm Feore was born on August 22, 1958 in Boston, Massachusetts, USA. He is an actor and writer, known for Chicago (2002), The Chronicles of Riddick (2004) and Thor (2011). He has been married to Donna Feore since 1994. They have two children. He was previously married to Sidonie Boll.

27. Damian Young

Actor | Edge of Darkness

Young was raised in Washington DC, and attended Kenyon College in Ohio. In 1984, Young moved to New York where he was a core member of the Cucaracha Theatre Company. Damian Young has performed in numerous on and off-Broadway venues, as well as notable regional theaters including The Vineyard, ...

28. Luis Guzmán

Actor | Traffic

Actor of Puerto Rican descent who made many memorable films in the 1980s due to his villainous persona. Presently resides with his wife and many kids in Vermont.

29. Richard Jenkins

Actor | The Shape of Water

Richard Jenkins was born on May 4, 1947 in DeKalb, Illinois, USA. He is an actor, known for The Shape of Water (2017), The Visitor (2007) and Step Brothers (2008). He has been married to Sharon R. Friedrick since August 23, 1969. They have two children.

30. Christine Willes

Actress | Trick 'r Treat

One of Vancouver's top actors for 30 years, Christine has extensive experience in TV, stage and film. In 2008, she was nominated for a Leo award for her work as "Gladys the DMV Demon" in CW's hit comedy, Reaper (2007). She is internationally known as "Delores Herbig" in the Emmy-nominated TV series,...

31. Jason Flemyng

Actor | The Curious Case of Benjamin Button

Jason Flemyng was born on September 25, 1966 in Putney, London, England as Jason Iain Flemyng. He is an actor, known for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button (2008), Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (1998) and The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen (2003). He has been married to Elly Fairman since...

32. Dylan Baker

Actor | Happiness

Dylan Baker was born on October 7, 1959 in Syracuse, New York, USA. He is an actor and director, known for Happiness (1998), Revolutionary Road (2008) and Trick 'r Treat (2007). He has been married to Becky Ann Baker since 1990. They have one child.

33. Michael Rooker

Actor | Guardians of the Galaxy

Michael Rooker was born on April 6, 1955 in Jasper, Alabama. When he was thirteen, his parents divorced and he went with his mother to live in Chicago. He caught the acting bug while attending college, and began appearing in local stage productions. On first breaking into film, his intensity and "...

34. Adam Arkin

Actor | Halloween H20: 20 Years Later

Adam Arkin was born on August 19, 1956 in Brooklyn, New York City, New York, USA. He is an actor and director, known for Halloween H20: 20 Years Later (1998), Chicago Hope (1994) and Northern Exposure (1990). He has been married to Michelle Dunker since September 2, 2017. He was previously married ...

35. Clancy Brown

Actor | The Shawshank Redemption

A tall, wavy-haired US actor with a deep, resonant voice, Clancy Brown has proved himself a versatile performer with first-class contributions to theater, feature films, television series and even animation.

Clarence J. Brown III was born in 1959 in Urbana, Ohio, to Joyce Helen (Eldridge), a concert...

36. Peter Dinklage

Actor | Game of Thrones

Peter Dinklage is an American actor. Since his breakout role in The Station Agent (2003), he has appeared in numerous films and theatre plays. Since 2011, Dinklage has portrayed Tyrion Lannister in the HBO series Game of Thrones. For this he won an Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama ...

37. Armin Mueller-Stahl

Actor | Eastern Promises

Armin Mueller-Stahl was born on December 17, 1930 in Tilsit, East Prussia, Germany. He is an actor and director, known for Eastern Promises (2007), Shine (1996) and The International (2009). He has been married to Gabriele Scholz since 1973. They have one child. He was previously married to Monika ...

38. Vincent Schiavelli

Actor | Tomorrow Never Dies

Vincent Schiavelli, selected in 1997 by Vanity Fair as one of the best character actors in America, had made over 120 film and television appearances. He studied acting at NYU's Theatre Program. Aside from his acting career, Vincent was the author of three cookbooks, and has written numerous ...

39. Vincent D'Onofrio

Actor | Men in Black

Vincent Phillip D'Onofrio was born on June 30, 1959 in Brooklyn, New York, to Phyllis, a restaurant manager and server, and Gene D'Onofrio, a theater production assistant and interior designer. He is of Italian descent and has two older sisters. He studied at the Actors Studio and the American ...

40. Robbie Coltrane

Actor | Cracker

Robbie Coltrane, one of Britain's most popular comedians who was head of debating society at school and won prizes for his art, is now a film star who played in two James Bond films and in the "Harry Potter" franchise.

Coltrane was born Anthony Robert McMillan on March 30, 1950, in Rutherglen, a ...

41. David Morse

Actor | The Green Mile

David Morse, a 6' 4" tall blue-eyed blond who performed on stage for 10 years before breaking into film, became established as a respected supporting, character actor and second lead.

He was born the first of four children of Charles, a sales manager, and Jacquelyn Morse, a schoolteacher, on October...

42. Susan Lynch

Actress | From Hell

Susan Lynch was born on June 5, 1971 in Corrinshego, Newry, Northern Ireland. She is an actress, known for From Hell (2001), Waking Ned Devine (1998) and Enduring Love (2004). She is married to Craig Parkinson. They have one child.

43. Jared Harris

Actor | Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows

Jared Francis Harris was born in London, England. He is the son of Irish actor Richard Harris and Welsh actress Elizabeth Harris (Elizabeth Rees), and brother of Damian Harris and Jamie Harris. Despite his lineage, Jared showed little interest in becoming an actor, until he was cast in a college ...

44. Ciarán Hinds

Actor | The Woman in Black

Ciaran Hinds was born in Belfast, Northern Ireland on February 9, 1953. He was one of five children and the only son. His father was a doctor who hoped to have Ciaran follow in his footsteps, but that was not to be. It was his mother Moya, an amateur actress, who was the real influence behind his ...

45. Roger Rees

Actor | The Prestige

Like a number of British actors of the same generation (John Hurt and Alan Rickman, to name two), Roger Rees originally trained for the visual arts. He was born on May 5 1944 in Aberystwyth, Wales, and acted in church and Boy Scouts stage productions while growing up in South London, but studied ...

46. Liam Cunningham

Actor | The Guard

Irish actor Liam Cunningham was an electrician in the mid 80's. He saw an ad for an acting school and he decided to give acting a try. His first film role was as a policeman in "Into the West." Since then, he has been involved in many films and theater productions on both sides of the Atlantic.

47. James Le Gros

Actor | Drugstore Cowboy

It isn't hard to make James LeGros bust a gut laughing. Just call him Brad Pitt. Okay, so he doesn't get $6 million a film or have his photo air-kissed by legions of swooning schoolgirls during recess. But if you've caught LeGros' quirky personality, you may wonder why he's still toiling away. But ...

48. Bob Balaban

Actor | Gosford Park

Bob Balaban was born on August 16, 1945 in Chicago, Illinois, USA as Robert Elmer Balaban. He is an actor and director, known for Gosford Park (2001), Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977) and 2010 (1984). He has been married to Lynn Grossman since April 1, 1977. They have two children.

49. Ed Begley Jr.

Actor | Whatever Works

Ed Begley Jr. was born on September 16, 1949 in Los Angeles, California, USA as Edward James Begley Jr. He is an actor and producer, known for Whatever Works (2009), Pineapple Express (2008) and A Mighty Wind (2003). He has been married to Rachelle Carson since August 23, 2000. They have one child....

50. Bill Cobbs

Actor | Demolition Man

Bill Cobbs was born and raised in Cleveland, Ohio, where his parents were hard-working people, who instilled in him a sense of self-reliance and humility. As an amateur actor in the city's Karamu House Theater, he starred in the Ossie Davis play "Purlie Victorious". Cobbs was an Air Force radar ...

51. Patrick Fischler

Actor | Mad Men

Patrick Fischler was born on December 29, 1969 in Los Angeles, California, USA. He is an actor and producer, known for Mad Men (2007), Mulholland Dr. (2001) and Lost (2004). He has been married to Lauren Bowles since May 27, 2005. They have one child.

52. Ewen Bremner

Actor | Trainspotting

Born in Edinburgh, Scotland, Ewen Bremner has worked with many of the most respected directors in world cinema, including Danny Boyle, Mike Leigh, Ridley Scott, Joon-Ho Bong, Werner Herzog and Woody Allen. Ewen has established himself by creating unique characters in critically acclaimed films, as ...

53. Sam Lloyd

Actor | Scrubs

Sam Lloyd was born on November 12, 1963 in Weston, Vermont, USA as Samuel Lloyd. He is an actor, known for Scrubs (2001), Galaxy Quest (1999) and Flubber (1997).

54. Grace Zabriskie

Actress | Inland Empire

"Amazing Grace" Zabriskie was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. She wrote her own original poetry, then performed at coffee shops and various artist hangouts in Atlanta. She was also a wonderful silk-screen printmaker. She moved to Hollywood and made her acting debut in Norma Rae (1979). She went on ...

55. Jeffrey Jones

Actor | Amadeus

Jeffrey Duncan Jones was born in Buffalo, New York. He is a very tall, fair-haired character actor who is recognized all over for his excellent work. He is a veteran stage actor having such plays as "The Elephant Man" and Neil Simon's "London Suite" under his belt. His first film role was in The ...

56. Elias Koteas

Actor | The Thin Red Line

Elias Koteas was born on March 11, 1961, in Montreal, Canada. Both his parents are of Greek descent. Elias attended Vanier College in Montreal before leaving to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City in 1981, of which he is a graduate. He also attended the Actors Studio in ...

57. Jim Carter

Actor | Transformers: The Last Knight

Jim Carter was born on August 19, 1948 in Harrogate, Yorkshire, England as James Edward Carter. He is an actor, known for Transformers: The Last Knight (2017), Downton Abbey (2010) and Shakespeare in Love (1998). He has been married to Imelda Staunton since October 1983. They have one child.

58. Bruce Greenwood

Actor | Star Trek

Bruce Greenwood was born on August 12, 1956 in Noranda, Québec, Canada as Stuart Bruce Greenwood. He is an actor and producer, known for Star Trek (2009), Thirteen Days (2000) and Star Trek: Into Darkness (2013). He has been married to Susan Devlin since 1985. They have one child.

59. Stellan Skarsgård

Actor | Good Will Hunting

Stellan Skarsgård was born in Gothenburg, Västra Götalands län, Sweden, to Gudrun (Larsson) and Jan Skarsgård. He became a star in his teens through the title role in the TV-series Bombi Bitt och jag (1968). Between the years 1972-88 he was employed at The Royal Dramatic Theatre in Stockholm, where...

60. William Fichtner

Actor | Crash

A small-town guy with a big heart, William Fichtner has been captivating the hearts of Western New Yorkers for decades. Bill was born in 1956 on Long Island, New York, to Patricia A. (Steitz) and William E. Fichtner. He is of German, Irish, and English descent.

Fichtner was raised in Cheektowaga, ...