List of actors whom in my opinion, do not receive the credit that is due. Many of these actors are characterized as 'character actors', which for many is a suitable role. However, there are some on this list that deserve to have shared the critical success of their 'hollywood' peers. But for whatever reason, their careers have halted or failed to thrive and have been left with the cliche of being a character actor. Afterall, that is the risk in being an actor, in that your career often is hanging on by a thread. In other words, just when you think you've 'made it', you've been replaced and left behind in mediocrity. You are welcome to suggest names of actors whom you think deserve consideration for this list. There are a few actors on this list that are currently deceased so their mention is a post-humous consideration. There are also some among this list who have recently achieved critical and/or mainstream success, however, when I selected them they were underrated or at least lesser known. Some have mentioned the fact that several of these names have either won or been nominated for academy awards. In some cases, winning the award does not change their level of obscurity.
He was born in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, in 1939 and attended Temple University briefly before moving to New York where he studied drama with Stella Adler and at Actors Studio.
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...
Classically-trained actor Pete Postlethwaite was born Peter William Postlethwaite in 1946 and was a distinguished character actor on stage, TV and film. Growing up in Warrington, Lancashire amid middle-class surroundings, he went to college and while completing his studies developed an interest in theatre...
Tom Aldredge was born on February 28, 1928, in Dayton, Ohio. First appearing off-Broadway in 1957 in "Electra" and on Broadway in 1959 in "The Nervous Set," Aldredge has appeared in over 30 Broadway and off-Broadway productions. Others include "On Golden Pond," "The Litte Foxes" (opposite Elizabeth Taylor
Gaston has appeared in numerous movies and TV shows, as well as various productions on and off Broadway, including "Lucky Guy," with Tom Hanks, in 2013. He' has a B.A. In History from UC Davis and an M.F.A. From NYU. He has two children and lives in New York's Hudson Valley.
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 originally planned to be a singer and studied at the University of Montana to become a composer...
Robert John Odenkirk was born in Berwyn, Illinois, to Barbara (Baier) and Walter Odenkirk, who worked in printing. His ancestry includes German and Irish. He grew up in Naperville, IL, the second of seven children. He worked as a DJ for WIDB, his college radio station at Southern Illinois University Carbondale...
An incisive talent when it comes to playing bent, off-the-wall characters, Jeffrey Tambor has been captivating audiences for nearly four decades. Tambor was born and raised in San Francisco, to Eileen (Salzberg) and Michael Bernard Tambor, a flooring contractor. His family is Ashkenazi Jewish (from Hungary and Ukraine)...
Walton Goggins is an American actor. In his second collaboration with Academy Award-winning Quentin Tarantino, Walton Goggins stars in the writer/director's THE HATEFUL EIGHT. He plays the integral role of 'Chris Mannix,' a southern renegade who claims to be the new sheriff. In the last few years Goggins...
Titus Welliver was born on March 12, 1961 in New Haven, Connecticut. His father was a famous landscape painter, Neil Welliver. His mother was a fashion illustrator, Norma Cripps. He has three brothers, one was killed overseas. He was raised in Philadelphia and New York City, surrounded by poets and painters...
One of the most prolific character actors working today, Stephen Root has worked alongside many of the biggest names in Hollywood. Born in Sarasota, Root majored in acting and broadcasting at the University of Florida and remains a die-hard Gator fan. After three years of touring the U.S. and Canada with the National Shakespeare Company...
Jay Karnes was born in Omaha, NE and attended the University of Kansas, where he studied theatre, history, and political science. He has performed extensively in the regional theater, including in The Tempest, Two Noble Kinsman, Richard II, Macbeth, Coriolanus, Love's Labor's Lost, and Tom Stoppard's Arcadia...
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 Revolutionary
Giancarlo Giuseppe Alessandro Esposito was born in Copenhagen, Denmark, to an Italian carpenter/stagehand father from Naples and an opera-singing African-American mother from Alabama. His parents, working in Europe at the time of his birth, settled in Manhattan by the time he was six, and that's where he grew up...
Jason Isaacs was born in Liverpool, the third of four children of Sheila (née Nathan) and Eric Isaacs. His parents were both from Jewish families (from Eastern Europe). He studied law at Bristol University and graduated in 1985 with a degree in law but decided to study acting. While at Bristol University...
Tom Sizemore rose in prominence throughout the 1990s, establishing himself as a memorable tough-guy actor, sought by the most respected directors in the business. Thomas Edward Sizemore, Jr. was born in Detroit, Michigan, to Judith (Schannault), an ombudsman staff member, and Thomas Edward Sizemore...
Ted Danson is well known for his role as Sam Malone in the television series Cheers
. During the show's 11-year run, he was nominated nine times for an Emmy Award as Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series and won twice, in 1990 and 1993. The role also earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Actor in a Comedy Series in 1989 and 1990...
Philip Baker Hall
Philip Baker Hall was born in Toledo, Ohio, to Berdene (McDonald) and William Alexander Hall, a factory worker who was originally from Montgomery, Alabama. He did not start acting until he was 30 years old, and shot to cult fame when he turned in an electrifying performance as Sydney, the veteran gambler...
It seems the second generation of acting Carradines -- David, Keith and Robert -- are proudly continuing the family tradition and begetting a third generation of talent. The dynasty began with veteran Hollywood patriarch John Carradine
, the son of a surgeon and a correspondent for the Associated Press. Keith was a child, born of John's second marriage to actress Sonia Sorel
Peter Stormare was born in Arbrå, Gävleborgs län, Sweden, to Gunhild (Holm) and Karl Ingvar Storm. He began his acting career at the Royal National Theatre of Sweden, performing for eleven years. In 1990 he became the Associate Artistic Director at the Tokyo Globe Theatre and directed productions of many Shakespeare plays...
Clifton Collins Jr.
An acting chameleon who can easily lose himself in the life of his film and television characters, Clifton Collins Jr. is a native Angeleno who grew up destined to become a part of the Latino entertainment industry. His great-grandparents on his mother's side were a Mexican trumpet player and Spanish dancer who formed a traveling family act...
John Carroll Lynch
John Carroll Lynch was born August 1st, 1963 in Boulder, Colorado. He was raised in Denver Colorado. 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...
He was interested in directing films at the age of 19 and he made several shorts. As he wasn't admitted to the National Film School, he decided to dedicate himself to acting, and made his debut in the theatre in 1988 before moving to cinema and television. Fame came with the parts he played in such films as Riff-Raff
by Ken Loach
Michael Corbett Shannon was born and raised in Lexington, Kentucky, the son of Geraldine Hine, a lawyer, and Donald Sutherlin Shannon, an accounting professor at DePaul University. His grandfather was entomologist Raymond Corbett Shannon. Shannon began his professional stage career in Chicago. His first acting role was in "Winterset" at the Illinois Theatre Center...
Born in Florida, educated at Purchase, and coming from the NYC based theatre scene, Shea Whigham's big break came when director Joel Schumacher cast him opposite Colin Farrell in Tigerland (2000). Since then he has racked up impressive credits working with such legendary Hollywood directors as Martin Scorcese...
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.
David Russell Strathairn was born on January 26, 1949 in San Francisco, California. He is the son of Mary Frances (Frazier), a nurse, and Thomas Scott Strathairn, Jr., a physician. He has two siblings, Tom and Anne. His ancestry includes English, Scottish, Irish, Portuguese, Native Hawaiian, and one sixteenth Chinese (the latter three from his paternal grandmother)...
Anthony Mackie is an American actor. He was born in New Orleans, Louisiana, to Martha (Gordon) and Willie Mackie, Sr., who owned a business, Mackie Roofing. Anthony has been featured in feature films, television series and Broadway and Off-Broadway plays, including Ma Rainey's Black Bottom, Drowning Crow...
Michael Kenneth Williams
Born in Brooklyn, to an African American father from South Carolina and a Bahamian mother from Nassau, Michael K. Williams was raised in the Vandaveer housing projects in East Flatbush, Brooklyn, New York City and attended George Westinghouse Career and Technical Education High School. According to a DNA analysis, he is descended partly from the Mende people of Sierra Leone...
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 entered Guildhall School of Drama...
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...
Patrick Joseph Wilson was born in Norfolk, Virginia and raised in St. Petersburg, Florida, the son of Mary Kathryn (Burton), a voice teacher and professional singer, and John Franklin Wilson, a news anchor. Wilson has a B.F.A. in Drama from Carnegie-Mellon University. His theater work has produced many nominations and awards...
Alan Arkin is an Academy Award-winning American actor who is also an acclaimed director, producer, author, singer and composer. He was born Alan Wolf Arkin on March 26, 1934, in Brooklyn, New York. His family were Jewish immigrants from Russia and Germany. In 1946 the Arkins moved from Brooklyn to Los Angeles...
Actor, writer and producer David Michael Koechner was born in Tipton, Missouri, to Margaret Ann (Downey) and Cecil Stephen Koechner, who ran a turkey coop manufacturing business. He is of German, Irish, and English ancestry. An alumnus of Chicago's Second City Theater, Koechner got his first break as...
Ray Winstone was born on February 19, 1957, in Hackney Hospital in London, England, to Margaret (Richardson) and Raymond J. Winstone. He moved to Enfield, at age seven, where his parents had a fruit and vegetable business. He started boxing at the age of twelve at the famous Repton Amateur Boxing Club...
Tall, dark, but somewhat gentle-looking actor Ray Stevenson was born in Lisburn, Northern Ireland on 25 May 1964, on a British army base. His father was a British pilot in the Royal Air Force, and his mother is Irish. He moved with his family to Lemington, Newcastle-Upon-Tyne, England in 1972 at the age of eight, and later to Cramlington, Northumberland, where he was raised...
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 Stanislavski Theatre...
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...
Ian McShane was born in Blackburn, Lancashire, England, to parents Irene (Cowley) and Harry McShane, a soccer player for Manchester United. His father was Scottish and his mother was of English and Irish descent. Ian originally planned to follow in his father's 'footballer' steps, until his high school teacher encouraged him to be an actor...
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 11...
Garret grew up in the state of Washington and attended the University of Washington where he studied journalism. He received his MFA from New York University's Graduate Acting Program. He has appeared on and off Broadway and in theaters around the country before he began pursuing film and television roles. He has two brothers: Brett, a teacher; and Eric, deceased.
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...
If "born to the theater" has meaning in determining a person's life path, then John Lithgow is a prime example of this truth. He was born in Rochester, New York, to Sarah Jane (Price), an actress, and Arthur Washington Lithgow III, who was both a theatrical producer and director. John's father was born in Puerto Plata...
John Cazale was born in Boston, Massachusetts, to an Irish-American mother, Cecilia (Holland), and an Italian-American father, John Cazale. Cazale only made five feature films in his career, all which many fans and critics alike call classics. But before his film debut, the short The American Way
, he won numerous Obie Awards for his stage performances in "The Indian Wants the Bronx" and "The Line"...
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"...
John Hawkes was born John Marvin Perkins in Alexandria, Minnesota, to Patricia Jeanne (Olson) and Peter John Perkins, a farmer. He is of British and Scandinavian descent. John moved to Austin, Texas to begin his career as an actor and musician. He co-founded the Big State Productions Theatre Company and appeared in the group's original play...
Mitra was born in Paddington, London, England, the daughter of Nora Downey and Anthony Mitra, a cosmetic surgeon. She has an older and a younger brother. Her father is of Bengali Indian and English descent, and her mother is Irish. In 1984, when Mitra was eight, her parents divorced, and she was sent to boarding school...
Bill Paxton was born William Paxton on May 17, 1955 in Fort Worth, Texas. He is the son of Mary Lou (Gray) and John Lane Paxton, a businessman and actor (as John Paxton
). Bill moved to Los Angeles, California at age 18, where he found work in the film industry as a set dresser for Roger Corman
's New World Pictures...
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 decision to become an actor...
Olga Kurylenko, a Ukrainian-born actress and model, went from sharing a cramped flat with her aunt, uncle, grandparents and cousin to starring as a Bond girl opposite Daniel Craig
. She was born Olga Konstantinovna Kurylenko on November 14, 1979, in Berdyansk, Ukraine, Soviet Union. Her mother, Marina Alyabysheva...
Bryan Cranston is an American actor, voice actor, screenwriter, director and producer. He is best known for portraying Walter White on the AMC crime drama series Breaking Bad, Hal on the Fox comedy series Malcolm in the Middle, Tim Sacksky on the CBS comedy series King of Queens, and Dr. Tim Whatley on the NBC comedy series Seinfeld...
Brendan Gleeson was born in Dublin, Ireland, to Pat and Frank Gleeson. From a very young age, he loved to learn, especially reading classical text in and outside the classroom. He took great attention to Irish play writers such as Samuel Beckett
, which eventually led to him performing in his high school play production of "Waiting for Godot"...
Joseph Alberic Twisleton-Wykeham-Fiennes was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, to Jennifer Anne Mary Alleyne (Lash), a novelist, and Mark Fiennes, a photographer. He is one of six children. Four of his siblings are also in the arts: Ralph Fiennes
, an actor; Martha Fiennes
, a director; Magnus Fiennes
, a musician; and Sophie Fiennes
, a producer. He is of English, Irish, and Scottish origin...
Winona Ryder is an American actress. One of the most profitable and iconic 1990s actresses, she made her film debut in the 1986 film Lucas. In 1988 she stars as a goth teenager in Tim Burton's Beetlejuice. She later appeared in the coming of age drama Mermaids (1990), earning a Golden Globe nomination...
Joan Allen was born on August 20, 1956 in Rochelle, Illinois, the youngest of four children. She is the daughter of homemaker Dorothea Marie (Wirth) and gas station owner James Jefferson Allen. Her mother's family was German, and her father had English, Scots-Irish, and German ancestry. She attended Rochelle Township High School where she was voted most likely to succeed...
Annette Bening was born on May 29, 1958 in Topeka, Kansas, the youngest of four children of Shirley (Ashley), a soloist and church singer, and Arnett Grant Bening, an insurance salesman. She has German and English ancestry. Her family moved to California when she was young, and she grew up there. She...
Jessica Michelle Chastain was born in Sacramento, California, and was raised in a middle-class household in a northern California suburb. Her mother, Jerri Chastain, is a vegan chef whose family is originally from Kansas, and her stepfather is a fireman. She discovered dance at the age of nine and was in a dance troupe by age thirteen...
This remarkable, one-of-a-kind actress has, since the early 1990s, intrigued film and TV audiences with her glowing, yet careworn eccentricity and old world-styled glamour. Very much in demand these days as a character player, Patricia Clarkson nevertheless continues to avoid the temptation of money-making mainstream filming while reaping kudos and acting awards in out-of-the-way projects...
Quite possibly the most underrated and underexposed actor of his caliber and generation, Jeffrey Wright's undeniable talent and ability to successfully bring to life any role he undertakes is on a par with the most praised and revered A-list actors in the business. Born and raised in Washington DC, Wright graduated from the prestigious Amherst college in 1987...
Fionnula Flanagan was born and raised in Dublin, Ireland. From an early age she grew up speaking both English and Irish on a daily basis. Her parents weren't native Irish speakers but wanted Fionnula and her four siblings to learn the language. Her mother used to say, "A nation without a language is a nation without a soul"...
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...
Bruno Ganz debuted at the theatre in 1961 and gained there a good reputation as a solid, young actor. In 1970 he founded with Peter Stein
the theatre company "Schaubuehne" of Berlin. His debut at the movies was early and unsuccessful during the decade of 1960. His talent as a reflexive actor with tendencies towards introspection was widely known after Summer Guests
For someone who has made an award-winning impact in all three mediums (stage, film and TV), actress Kathy Baker has been strangely denied all-out stardom, yet continues to demonstrate her versatility in whatever material comes her way. The comely blonde was born Katherine Whitton Baker in Midland, Texas...
Character actor Brad Dourif was born Bradford Claude Dourif on March 18, 1950 in Huntington, West Virginia. He is the son of Joan Mavis Felton (Bradford) and Jean Henri Dourif, a French-born art collector who owned and operated a dye factory. His father died when Dourif was three years old, after which his mother married Bill Campbell...
Danny DeVito has amassed a formidable and versatile body of work as an actor, producer and director that spans the stage, television and film. Daniel Michael DeVito Jr. was born on November 17, 1944, in Neptune, New Jersey, to Italian-American parents. His mother, Julia (Moccello), was a homemaker...
Tobin Bell is an American actor with a career in film, television and theater spanning three decades. He was born in Queens, New York and raised in Weymouth, Mass. His mother is the British actress Eileen Bell. He is perhaps best known for his role as the iconic villain "Jigsaw" in the Saw film series...
Donald Edmond Wahlberg, Jr. was born August 17, 1969, in Dorchester Massachusetts, into a family of Swedish (from his paternal grandfather), Irish, French-Canadian, and English descent. He is the eighth of nine children of Alma Elaine (Donnelly), a nurse's aide and clerk, and Donald Edward Wahlberg...
Barbara Hershey was born Barbara Lynn Herzstein in Hollywood, California, to Melrose (Moore) and Arnold Nathan Herzstein, a horse racing columnist. Her father, born in Manhattan, was from a Jewish family (from Hungary and Russia), and her mother, originally from Arkansas, had English and Scots-Irish ancestry...
Timothy Leonard Spall was born in Battersea, London, to Sylvia R. (Leonard), a hairdresser, and Joseph L. Spall, a postal worker. He was raised in London. Spall auditioned and earned a spot with the National Youth Theatre and later showed great promise at RADA where he portrayed the title roles in "Macbeth"...
Anjelica Huston was born on July 8, 1951 in Santa Monica, California, to prima ballerina Enrica "Ricki" (Soma) and director and actor John Huston
. Her mother, who was from New York, was of Italian descent, and her father had English, Scottish, and Scots-Irish ancestry. Huston spent most of her childhood overseas...
James Robert Rebhorn (September 1, 1948 - March 21, 2014) was an American actor who appeared in over 100 films, television series, and plays. At the time of his death, he had recurring roles in the current series White Collar and Homeland. An early performance was in Butterflies are Free at the Peterborough Players in New Hampshire in 1974...
Jane Adams has performed theatre at the Seattle Repertory Theatre. The plays include "Love Diatribe", "The Nice and the Nasty", and "Greetings From Elsewhere Cabaret". She also performed in "Careless Love" at the Empty Space Theatre, "Candide/Len Jenkin" at the Pioneer Square Theatre", "Talking With" at the Group Theatre and "Camino Real" at the Juilliard School...
Ben Gazzara's screen career began with two critically acclaimed roles as heavies in the late 1950s. He turned to television in the 1960s but made a big screen comeback with roles in three John Cassavetes
films in the 1970s. The 1980s and 1990s saw Gazzara work more frequently than ever before in character parts...
A multi-talented performer--as well as being an actor, he is an accomplished singer. He released a new music CD in late 2000 on which he sings American and Italian standards.
Dean Winters is best known for his role as "Ryan O'Reily" on HBO's award-winning series Oz
. Most recently, he recurred as Tina Fey
's "Beeper King" boyfriend on the Emmy-winning comedy, 30 Rock
. His noteworthy comedic performance was recently included in Entertainment Weekly's "Must List" as well as Variety's short-list of Emmy-worthy guest performances...