Character actors I'm particularly fond of...

This is in absolutely no order of any kind; I just add them as they come to me. But these are the performers I look forward to seeing in ANYTHING, as they can elevate any film or TV episode with their presence.
View:
Log in to copy items to your own lists.
1.
 
2.
M. Emmet Walsh
Wonderfully talented, heavyset character actor (from New York, but regularly playing Southerners) M. Emmet Walsh has made a solid career of playing corrupt cops, deadly crooks, and zany comedic roles since the early 1970s. Michael Emmet Walsh was born in Ogdensburg, to Agnes Katharine (Sullivan) and Harry Maurice Walsh...
 
3.
 
4.
John Diehl
Performer whose career has spanned over 30 years. Particularly called upon to play various delinquents, wackos and psychos in his earlier years, he has matured into a fine screen character actor. His career began in the early 80s with a number of bit parts in movies such as Escape from New York with Kurt Russell...
 
5.
 
6.
R.G. Armstrong
Actor, Predator
A golden career was reflected in his name. Robert Golden Armstrong ("Bob" to his friends) was born in Birmingham, Alabama on April 7, 1917. He attended the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. While there, he was frequently performing on stage with the Carolina Playmakers. After graduating, R.G...
 
7.
L.Q. Jones
Actor, Casino
Tall, sandy haired, mustachioed actor from Texas born Justus McQueen, who adopted the name of the character he portrayed in his first film, Battle Cry. Jones, with his craggy, gaunt looks, first appeared in minor character roles in plenty of WWII films including The Young Lions, The Naked and the Dead...
 
9.
Luke Askew
Tall and rangy, usually sporting long mangy hair, and frequently projecting a strong and intense on-screen presence, character actor Luke Askew made a potent and lasting impression playing a substantial volume of mean and fearsome villains in both motion pictures and television shows alike in a career that spanned over forty years...
 
10.
William Sanderson
Prolific and versatile character actor William Sanderson was born on January 10, 1944, in Memphis, Tennessee. His mother was an elementary school teacher and his father was a landscape designer. William served two years in the US Army. Following his military service he attended Southern Methodist University...
 
11.
Brion James
Brion James was born February 20, 1945, in Redlands, California, to Ida Mae (Buckelew) and Jimmy James. The family soon moved to Beaumont, California (between Los Angeles and Palm Springs), where his parents built and operated a movie theater, where stars such as Gene Autry would occasionally stop by...
 
12.
 
13.
Ed Lauter
Actor, The Artist
Edward Matthew Lauter II was born on October 30, 1938 in Long Beach, New York. In a film career that extended for over four decades, Lauter starred in a plethora of film and television productions since making his big screen debut in the western Dirty Little Billy. He portrayed an eclectic array of characters over the years...
 
15.
Charles Tyner
In 1959, American actor Charles Tyner appeared on Broadway with film star Paul Newman in Sweet Bird of Youth. Duly impressed by Tyner's work, Newman brought his theatrical coworker to Hollywood eight years later to play Boss Higgins, the sadistic prison camp guard in Cool Hand Luke (1967). It was the first of many such roles for Tyner...
 
16.
Matt Craven
Canadian-born actor Matt Craven is among the most sought after character actors of film and television today, starring in such blockbuster critically acclaimed films as the Academy-Award-nominated "Crimson Tide" and "A Few Good Men" and SAG Award nominated "X-Men: First Class." Craven has starred opposite great Hollywood actors such as Denzel Washington...
 
17.
Noble Willingham
Noble Willingham has appeared in more than 30 feature films, including Up Close & Personal, Ace Ventura: Pet Detective, Chinatown, Good Morning, Vietnam, City Slickers, City Slickers II, and The Distinguished Gentleman. He was born in the small town of Mineola, Texas, east of Dallas. After graduating from North Texas State College...
 
18.
Gailard Sartain
Graduated from the University of Tulsa with a BFA. A successful illustrator, Sartain's artistic credits range from record cover designs such as Leon Russell's "Will O' the Wisp" to illustrations for nationally published magazines. Sartain created and hosted Tulsa's first late night off-the-wall comedy program...
 
19.
Terry Kiser
Excellent, prolific and dependable character actor Terry Kiser was born in Omaha, Nebraska. Terry attended the University of Kansas on both football and dramatic scholarships. He graduated with a degree in Industrial Engineering and worked for three years in this profession in his hometown of Omaha...
 
20.
Ed O'Ross
Rough'n'tumble character actor Ed O'Ross was born as Ed Oross on July 4, 1946 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. He was an alter boy as a kid and graduated from Munhall High in 1964. Following graduation O'Ross attended both Point Park College and Carnegie Tech. He was an amateur Golden Gloves boxing champion and minor league baseball player prior to embarking on an acting career...
 
21.
 
22.
Peter Jason
Excellent, prolific and versatile character actor Peter Jason was born on July 22, 1944, in Hollywood, CA, and grew up in Balboa. He attended Newport Beach Elementary School, Horace Ensign Junior High and Newport Harbor High School. He originally planned on being a football player, but fell in love...
 
23.
Skelton Knaggs
Skelton Knaggs was a diminutive, emaciated-looking actor who more or less picked up where the late Dwight Frye left off in the early forties, and created a marvelous gallery of eccentric or sinister background characters in various movies. Two of his most memorable roles: as the constantly grumbling villager Steinmuhl in Universal's House of Dracula...
 
24.
Vincent Schiavelli
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 articles on food for magazines and newspapers. In 2001, he received the James Beard Journalism Award.
 
25.
Don Calfa
Don is probably best remembered for his role as "Ernie Kaltenbrunner" in the 1985 comedy horror The Return of the Living Dead. Don's career spans over 40 years in both film and TV. Born in Brooklyn, New York, and raised in Ozone Park Queens, and later Westchester, Long Island, Don Calfa was originally interested in a career in the fine arts...
 
26.
Clu Gulager
Clu Gulager was born William Martin Gulager in Holdenville, Hughes County Oklahoma. His nickname was given to him by his father for the clu-clu birds (known in English as martins, like his middle name) that were nesting at the Gulager home at the time Clu was born. He grew up on his uncle's ranch as...
 
27.
James Karen
Veteran Broadway, TV and film actor James Karen was encouraged as a young man to take up an acting career by U.S. Congressman Daniel J. Flood, who was an amateur actor himself. In 1947 Karen made his Broadway debut in "A Streetcar Named Desire", which led to appearances in over 20 Broadway productions...
 
30.
Vito Scotti
With his dark features and having spent much of his early years in Naples, Italy, Vito Scotti was understandably typecast as Italian waiters, government functionaries, policemen, maitre d's and barbers. When Vito was seven, the Scottis moved back to the U.S. where his mother became a diva in the Italian theatre in New York...
 
31.
Vic Diaz
Vic Diaz reigns supreme as the jolly evil fat man of Filipino exploitation cinema. With his broad, mirthful grin, beady dark brown eyes, trim black goatee and mustache, swarthy complexion, thinning hair, protuberant sagging belly, and smooth, oily baritone voice, Diaz was a steady, scuzzy, often sinister...
 
32.
Bill McKinney
Bill McKinney, the movie and television character actor who was one of the great on-screen villains, was born in Chattanooga, Tennessee on September 12, 1931. He had an unsettled life as a child, moving 12 times before joining the Navy at the age of 19 during the Korean War. Once, when his family moved from Tennessee to Georgia...
 
33.
Paul Guilfoyle
Paul Guilfoyle, the actor best known for playing Capt. Jim Brass on CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, was born in Boston Massachusetts on April 28, 1949. After graduating from Boston College High School in 1968, he attended Lehigh University. He studied acting as a member of the Actor's Studio in New York, and then for 12 years was a member of the Theatre Company of Boston...
 
34.
Richard Edson
Actor, Platoon
The great character actor Richard Edson's first feature film role came in Jim Jarmusch's 1983 cult hit, Stranger Than Paradise, where he played "Eddie", one of the main characters. Edson then had small, but memorable, roles in other big hits such as Desperately Seeking Susan, John Hughes' Ferris Bueller's Day Off, Oliver Stone's great Vietnam-movie Platoon...
 
35.
 
36.
Robert DoQui
Actor, RoboCop
Excellent, prolific and versatile character actor Robert DoQui was born in 1934 in Stillwater, Oklahoma. He attended Langston University on a music scholarship and was a member of the popular singing group, "The Langstonaires". Following a four-year stint in the U.S. Air Force, DoQui went to New York to pursue a career in show business...
 
38.
Frank McRae
African-American former NFL player, with plenty of height and built like an ox, has scored over 40 film appearances predominantly as tough thugs, authority figures or even successful comedy roles. McRae first came to attention playing a grinning jail inmate, "Reed Youngblood", helping Warren Oates escape in Dillinger...
 
39.
Alan North
Actor, Highlander
After wartime naval service, Alan North began his show business career as a stage manager in New York. He first worked on Broadway in "Plain and Fancy", doubling up as understudy for the small part of Isaac Miller. The play had a successful run between 1955 and 1956 (461 performances) and this led to further acting work in diverse productions...
 
40.
James Tolkan
Fiery, forceful and intimidating character actor James Tolkan has carved out a nice little niche for himself in both movies and television alike as a formidable portrayer of fierce and flinty hard-boiled tough guy types. James Stewart Tolkan was born on June 20, 1931 in Calumet, Michigan. His father...
 
41.
Marshall Bell
A tall, imposing character actor with a penetrating stare, Marshall Bell has provided excellent support in a variety of roles and genres. He was born in Tulsa, Oklahoma, on September 28, 1942, and had been working as a consultant, teaching senior executives how to improve their speaking skills, prior to starting an acting career relatively late in life...
 
42.
Frederick Coffin
Actor, Identity
A solid, reliable working actor since the early 70s, Frederick Coffin was born January 16, 1943 to actress Winnie Collins, as one of five siblings. Educated at Western Reserve Academy, in Hudson, Ohio, Coffin was both an excellent athlete and student. It was at WRA that he first began theater studies; he graduated in 1961 with a BA in theater...
 
43.
Jerry Hardin
Actor, The Firm
A highly engaging, charismatic, and reliable character actor with a long and distinguished career spanning half a century, Jerry Hardin has been gracing both the big and small screen, and stage, with many enjoyable performances, highlighted by a relaxed and pleasing Southern twang. Born November 20...
 
44.
Richard Dysart
Actor, The Thing
Richard Dysart served for four years in the Air Force during the Korean War. He's a founding member of the American Conservatory Theatre, San Francisco. He received the Drama Desk Award in 1972 and a Emmy Award in 1992. He is good friends with Diana Muldaur, who played Rosalind Shays on L.A. Law.
 
45.
Keith David
Actor, Platoon
Keith David was born Keith David Williams in New York City's Harlem district, and was raised in East Elmhurst, in the Queens section of the city. He is the son of Dolores (Dickenson), a New York Telephone manager, and Lester Williams, a payroll operations director. As a child, he realized he wanted...
 
46.
George 'Buck' Flower
There aren't many actors who can claim that they appeared in everything from innocuous family features to sexy soft-core smut to popular television programs to various horror, science fiction, and exploitation movies as well as worked behind-the-scenes on a slew of films in assorted production capacities throughout the course of their careers...
 
47.
John F. Goff
Actor, The Fog
John F. Goff rates highly as an extremely prolific, versatile and shamefully underrated jack of all trades in the delightfully down'n'dirty annals of 70s Grade B exploitation cinema. He was born on May 24 and was raised on the Gulf Coast of Mississippi in the small town of Kreole. Moreover, John attended Mississippi Southern College on a scholarship...
 
50.
Kenneth McMillan
Actor, Amadeus
Character actor Kenneth McMillan was born on July 2, 1932 in Brooklyn, New York. Prior to becoming an actor, McMillan was a manager at Gimbels Department Store. At age 30, McMillan decided to pursue an acting career. He attended the LaGuardia High School for Performing Arts and took acting lessons from Uta Hagen and Irene Dailey...
 
51.
 
52.
Joe Spinell
Actor, Rocky
Joseph J. Spagnuolo was born on October 28, 1936 in Manhattan, New York City at his family's apartment on 2nd Avenue. Spinell was a tough guy on and off screen all his life. During his teen years, while still in high school, he acted in various plays on the New York stage, on and off Broadway, eventually earning a place in Joe Papp's Shakespeare Festival Theater...
 
53.
William Sadler
William Thomas Sadler was born on April 13, 1950 in Buffalo, New York, to Jane and William Sadler. He began his acting career in New York theaters, appearing in more than 75 productions over the course of 12 years. His roles included that of Sgt. Merwin J. Toomey in Neil Simon's Tony Award winning play "Biloxi Blues"...
 
54.
Jeffrey DeMunn
Jeffrey DeMunn was born on April 25, 1947 in Buffalo, New York. He studied in England at the Bristol Old Vic Theatre School, then returned to America and was a member of the National Shakespeare Company. He has starred in many theatre productions, both on and off Broadway, including "K2" (for which he received a Tony Award nomination for Best Actor), "Spoils of War" and "Comedians"...
 
55.
 
56.
Eric Christmas
Christmas trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art, gained experience in English repertory theatre in 1936, and had a principal role in the London production of Noël Coward's "Bitter Sweet" in the 1930s. During the Second World War, he was a member of Royal Air Force production units and performed in the RAF's Gang Show...
 
57.
Stephen Tobolowsky
Actor, Memento
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 the intention of studying geology...
 
58.
Chelcie Ross
He was born in Sacramento, California, the eldest of three sons of a career Air Force Officer. A military "brat", he attended many schools in the United States and abroad, graduating Stateside from Pemberton Township High School in New Jersey. Very athletic, Chelcie lettered in Baseball, Football and Basketball...
 
60.
 
62.
Richard B. Shull
Actor, Splash
Veteran character actor Richard B. Shull was born on February 24, 1929 in Evanston, Illinois and raised in the Midwest. He attended the University of Iowa, then served with the U.S. Army in 1953. Finding work as a stage manager following his release, he finally made his Broadway debut in the Marx Brothers musical bio "Minnie's Boys" starring Shelley Winters on Broadway in 1970...
 
63.
Eloy Casados
Eloy won 'Best High School Actor' for the role of Creon in the play Antigone in the Colorado Springs city competition. He also attended the prestigious 'Colorado Springs School for Girls' as an exchange student actor. Eloy decided to give Hollywood a try when Sidney Poitier won the Best Actor Academy Award...
 
64.
Gerrit Graham
Gerrit Graham was born on November 27, 1949 in New York City. He grew up in St. Louis, Missouri, Chicago, Illinois and Grosse Pointe, Michigan. Gerrit made his acting debut at age eight in a Detroit Art Institute stage production of "Winnie the Pooh." Graham was the president of the dramatic association...
 
66.
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa
Cary-Hiroyuki Tagawa got his first big break as an actor when he was cast in Bernardo Bertolucci's The Last Emperor. A US Army brat, he was born in Tokyo and lived in various cities while growing up. His father was in the army, stationed at Ft. Bragg (NC), Ft. Polk (LA) and Ft. Hood (TX). His mother was an actress from Tokyo...
 
67.
Stan Shaw
Actor, Rocky
Started acting in the Chicago production of the Broadway musical "Hair" as well as the Broadway production of "The Me Nobody Knows". His last Broadway show "Via Galactica" was directed by Sir Peter Hall.
 
68.
Ray Wise
Actor, RoboCop
Raymond Herbert "Ray" Wise (born August 20, 1947) is an American actor. Some of his best-known roles include Leland Palmer in Twin Peaks, henchman Leon C. Nash in RoboCop, Jack Taggart Sr. in Jeepers Creepers II, the Devil in the CW television series Reaper, Donald Wadsworth in Suburban Gothic...
 
69.
Nicholas Worth
Character actor Nicholas Worth was born on September 4th, 1937 in St. Louis, Missouri. A big, beefy and imposing hulk of a man, Worth was often cast as extremely nasty and intimidating villains. Worth served in the armed forces as a paratrooper during the Vietnam war. Worth made his film debut in For Pete's Sake...
 
71.
Tom Everett
Graduate of The London Academy of Music and Dramatic Arts on an ITT International Fellowship in the Fulbright Competition, Tom is an accomplished country singer-songwriter (RCA album - "Porchlight on in Oregon" and the independently released "Still Waters - (A collection of Years)), a Lifetime Member of The Actors Studio...
 
72.
Everett McGill
Everett McGill was born Charles Everett McGill III on October 21, 1945 in Miami Beach, Florida. He graduated from Rosedale High School in Kansas City, Kansas in 1963. He trained at the Royal Academy of Dramatic Arts in London. McGill first gained attention from his memorable portrayal of Naoh, the leader of the Caveman tribe in Quest for Fire...
 
73.
Maury Chaykin
The award-winning Canadian-American character actor Maury Chaykin was born on July 27, 1949 in Brooklyn, New York, the son of Professor Irving J. Chaykin and his wife Clarice. Irving Chaykin, an American citizen, taught accountancy at the City College of New York. The former Clarice Bloomfield, his mother...
 
74.
Michael Wincott
Actor, The Crow
Over more than thirty years, Michael Wincott has gained the reputation of a respected and uncompromising actor. Born in Scarborough, Ontario, he eventually moved to New York City where he graduated from Juilliard in 1986 and began a relationship with Joseph Papp's Public Theatre beginning with his creation of the role of Kent in Eric Bogosian's Talk Radio...
 
75.
Paul Gleason
Actor, Die Hard
Character actor Paul Gleason was adept at playing tough guys and white collar sleazebags, making his film debut in Winter A-Go-Go. He made a name for himself portraying these unlikeable characters. A native of Jersey City, New Jersey, Gleason studied extensively at the Actor's Studio in New York City...
 
76.
 
78.
J.C. Quinn
Actor, The Abyss
J.C. Quinn- Was born in Philadelphia. Studied acting in New York and spent 17 years on Stage before moving to Hollywood to act in films.
 
79.
Tom Noonan
Actor, Heat
Offbeat character actor Tom Noonan started off his career in various theater troupes that utilized his skills as a guitarist and composer. A graduate from Yale's acting school, he founded the Paradise Theatre in 1983, which was instrumental later in his growth as an artist. Gravitating toward film and TV in the 80s...
 
80.
William Morgan Sheppard
William Sheppard was born and raised in London, England to an Anglo-Irish family. He is a graduate of the Royal Academy of Dramatic Art in London. He was an Associate Artist with the Royal Shakespeare Company for 12 years. He appeared on Broadway in 1966 with "Marat-Sade" and later in 1975 with "Sherlock Holmes"...
 
81.
 
82.
Mitchell Ryan
American character actor born in Cincinnati and raised in Louisville, Mitchell Ryan is a well known supporting actor in films and television. During his term in the Navy in 1951, he was assigned to the Special Services Entertainment and became hooked on acting. After his term in the Navy, he appeared...
 
83.
Anthony James
Actor, Unforgiven
Character actor Anthony James was born on July 22nd, 1942 in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Tall and lanky, with a rough, pockmarked face, a lean, stringy build, greasy dark hair and an extremely edgy'n'intense screen presence, James was often cast in Westerns as really scary, sleazy and disgusting villains...
 
84.
Víctor Israel
Victor Israel was one of the most prolific and ubiquitous, yet anonymous, often overlooked and hence underrated character actors in Spanish film history. Born on June 13th in 1929 in Barcelona, Cataluna, Spain, Israel attended the Escuela de actores de la Ciudad Condal. He began acting in films in the early 1960s...
 
86.
William Schallert
The son of Edwin Schallert, drama editor of the "Los Angeles Times" and the dean of West Coast critics, William Schallert became interested in an acting career while at UCLA in 1942. After graduation, he became involved with the Circle Theater (eventually becoming one of its owners) and made his film debut in The Foxes of Harrow...
 
87.
Morris Ankrum
A graduate of the University of Southern California School of Law, Morris Ankrum was an attorney and an economics professor before switching careers and joining the theater. He was a veteran stage actor by the time he entered the film industry in the 1930s, where he spent much time in westerns, playing everything from Indian chiefs to crooked town bankers...
 
88.
 
89.
Ted Levine
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 The Remains ensemble...
 
90.
William Fichtner
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, and graduated from Maryvale High School in 1974...
 
92.
Charles Cyphers
Actor, Halloween
Charles is a graduate of the American Academy of Dramatic Arts. He also took drama classes at Los Angeles City College and is a graduate of Cal. State at LA, receiving his BA in theatre arts. Aside from his many film and tv credits he is especially proud of his body of work in the LA theatre. He was a member of the company of angels for 25 years...
 
93.
 
94.
Paul Koslo
Lean-faced, intense-looking, German-born, Canada-raised Paul Koslo was at his busiest during the 1970s, usually playing shifty, untrustworthy and often downright nasty characters. He first broke into films at age 22 in the low-budget Little White Crimes, and then appeared in a rush of movies taking advantage of his youthful looks...
 
95.
 
96.
 
98.
Michael Ripper
Actor, The Mummy
The British character actor Michael Ripper was born in 1913 in Portsmouth, Hampshire, England. His father was a speech therapist and encouraged him to participate in diction and public speaking competitions. From this, the young Michael gained an interest in acting and got his first taste of the stage through his father's amateur dramatics company...
 
100.
Jeff Kober
Jeff Kober, a native of Billings, Montana, was born on December 18, 1953. Not satisfied with being a rancher, Kober relocated to the L.A. area in his twenties with the desire to become an actor. His first appearance on the small screen was a non-billed role in the 1980s series V. Kober...