Some all-time great character actors. Leads and supporting. Alphabetically.
A native of New Jersey and son of a mechanic, African-American John Amos has relied on his imposing build, eruptive nature and strong, forceful looks to obtain acting jobs, and a serious desire for better roles to earn a satisfying place in the annals of film and TV. He has found it a constant uphill...
André the Giant
André René Roussimoff was born in a small farming community in Grenoble, France to Boris and Marian Rouismoff. His parents and four siblings were all of normal size, but André suffered from acromegaly, a hormonal disorder that results when the pituitary gland produces excess growth hormone. As the Giant grew up (very quickly...
Carmen Argenziano was born on October 27, 1943 in Sharpsville, Pennsylvania, as Carmen Antimo Argenziano. He is an actor known for his work on hundreds of films and TV series throughout his fifty year career. He was in The Accused, Stand And Deliver, The Godfather: Part II, Identity, and many more, including James Franco's production of Don Quixote...
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...
Dark haired, usually mustachioed US actor with a cheeky grin who achieved pop culture status through his portrayal of the kooky patriarch "Gomez Addams" in the hit TV series The Addams Family
, John Astin was born March 30, 1930, in Baltimore, MD. He attended Johns Hopkins University and studied mathematics...
Philadelphia native Malcolm Atterbury was born into a wealthy family - his father was president of the Pennsylvania Railroad - but he himself had no desire to go into the family business. He had always wanted to be an actor, and to that end got himself a job managing a radio station. From there he went into vaudeville...
George William Bailey was born on August 27, 1944 in Port Arthur, Texas. Although Bailey started college at Lamar University in Beaumont, he eventually transferred to Texas Tech University in Lubbock. He did not complete his studies. He worked at local theater companies during the mid 1960s until his move to California...
Joe Don Baker
Tall, broad shouldered character actor with Texan drawl first appeared in support in several Western vehicles both on TV and the cinema in the mid 1960s. Got himself noticed playing Steve McQueen's younger brother in Junior Bonner
, and then scored the lead role of Buford Pusser (!) in the unexpected hit Walking Tall
Martin Henry Balsam was born on November 4, 1919 in the Bronx, New York City, to Lillian (Weinstein) and Albert Balsam, a manufacturer of women's sportswear. He was the first-born child. His father was a Russian Jewish immigrant, and his mother was born in New York, to Russian Jewish parents. Martin caught the acting bug in high school where he participated in the drama club...
Versatile veteran character actor Jonathan Banks was born in Washington D.C in 1947. While growing up he always had an interest in acting and stage work, so decided to pursue a career in entertainment. To this day he is a very accomplished stage actor. While acting in film, he usually plays sinister types or villains. He can be seen in Better Call Saul
as Mike Ehrmantraut.
Stocky, genial-looking supporting actor Ned Beatty was once hailed by Daily Variety as the "busiest actor in Hollywood". Ned Thomas Beatty was born in Louisville, Kentucky, to Margaret (Fortney) and Charles William Beatty. He grew up fishing and working on farms. His hometown of St. Matthews, Kentucky...
Jim Beaver is an American character actor, best known for his leading roles on the TV series Deadwood
. Born in Laramie, Wyoming a minister's son, he was raised in and around Irving, Texas, a suburb of Dallas. Following high school and a year of college, he joined the Marines and served as a radioman with the 1st Marine Division in Vietnam...
Respected character actor of the silent and early sound period, specializing in cruel villains. The son of Kansas City policeman Noah Webster Beery and Frances Margaret Fitzgerald Beery, Noah Nicholas Beery and his younger brother Wallace Beery
both left home in their teens, each seeking a career as a performer...
Noah Beery Jr.
Familiar and well-liked character actor of very different persona than either his father, Noah Beery
, or his uncle, Wallace Beery
. He attended Harvard Military Academy but managed to make a number of appearances on film and on stage with his father before adulthood. At age 19, he began playing amiable second leads and occasional leading roles...
In 1902, 16-year-old Wallace Beery joined the Ringling Brothers Circus as an assistant to the elephant trainer. He left two years later after a leopard clawed his arm. Beery next went to New York, where he found work in musical variety shows. He became a leading man in musicals and appeared on Broadway and in traveling stock companies...
Although by his own account Benchley was not quite a writer and not quite an actor, he managed to become one of the best-known humorists and comedians of his time. As a Harvard undergraduate, Benchley gave his first comic performance, impersonating a befuddled after-dinner speaker. The act made him a campus celebrity -- and remained in Benchley's repertoire for the rest of his life...
Popular American character actor William Bendix's burly physique and New York accent were equally suited to playing genial lugs and vicious thugs. Bendix was born in midtown Manhattan, the son of musician Oscar Bendix (not violinist/conductor Max Bendix, as is often reported). He made his film debut in 1911...
Whit Bissell came to Hollywood in the 1940s, and by the time he retired he had appeared in more than 200 movies and scores of TV series. He is best known for playing the evil scientist who turned Michael Landon
into a half beast in the 1957 cult classic film I Was a Teenage Werewolf
. Bissell specialized in playing doctors...
Ray Bolger was born Raymond Wallace Bolger on January 10, 1904 in Dorchester, Massachusetts, to Anne C. (Wallace) and James Edward Bolger, both Irish-Americans. Ray began his career in vaudeville. He was half of a team called "Sanford and Bolger" and also did numerous Broadway shows on his own. Like Gene Kelly
Gruff, burly American character actor. Born in 1903 in Benkelman, Nebraska (confirmed by Social Security records; sources stating 1905 or Denver, Colorado are in error.) Bond grew up in Denver, the son of a lumberyard worker. He attended the University of Southern California, where he got work as an...
Ernest Borgnine was born Ermes Effron Borgnino on January 24, 1917 in Hamden, Connecticut. His parents were Anna (Boselli), who had emigrated from Carpi (MO), Italy, and Camillo Borgnino, who had emigrated from Ottiglio (AL), Italy. As an only child, Ernest enjoyed most sports, especially boxing, but took no real interest in acting...
Marlon Brando is widely considered the greatest movie actor of all time, rivaled only by the more theatrically oriented Laurence Olivier
in terms of esteem. Unlike Olivier, who preferred the stage to the screen, Brando concentrated his talents on movies after bidding the Broadway stage adieu in 1949...
In many ways the most successful and familiar character actor of American sound films and the only actor to date to win three Oscars for Best Supporting Actor, Walter Brennan attended college in Cambridge, Massachusetts, studying engineering. While in school he became interested in acting and performed in school plays...
The archetypal screen tough guy with weatherbeaten features--one film critic described his rugged looks as "a Clark Gable
who had been left out in the sun too long"--Charles Bronson was born Charles Buchinsky, one of 15 children of struggling parents in Pennsylvania. His mother, Mary (Valinsky)...
Nigel was, from the beginning, typecast as bumbling English aristocrats, military types or drawing room society snobs and, within the narrow parameters of his range, he was very, very good at playing these parts. Nigel Bruce was born in Mexico, where his father, Sir William W. Bruce, worked as an engineer...
Larger than life, Laughtonesque, and with an eloquent, king-sized appetite for maniacal merriment, a good portion of the work of actor Victor Buono was squandered on hokey villainy on both film and television. Ostensibly perceived as bizarre or demented, seldom did Hollywood give this cultivated cut-up...
Steve Buscemi was born in Brooklyn, New York, to Dorothy (Wilson), a restaurant hostess, and John Buscemi, a sanitation worker. He is of Italian (father) and English, Dutch, and Irish (mother) descent. He became interested in acting during his last year of high school. After graduating, he moved to Manhattan to study acting with John Strasberg...
Although Red Buttons is best known as a stand-up comic, he is also a successful songwriter, an Academy Award-winning actor (and has been nominated for two Golden Globe awards) and an accomplished singer. Born Aaron Chwatt in New York City's Lower East Side, Buttons (who got his name from a uniform he...
Michael Caine was born Maurice Joseph Micklewhite in London, to Ellen Frances Marie (Burchell), a charlady, and Maurice Joseph Micklewhite, a fish-market porter. He left school at age 15 and took a series of working-class jobs before joining the British army and serving in Korea during the Korean War...
Award-winning songwriter ("Stardust", "Ole Buttermilk Sky", "Georgia on My Mind"), composer, pianist, actor and singer, educated at Indiana University (LL.B). He played piano in the college bands, and later gave up a law practice for a career in songwriting. He joined ASCAP in 1931, and his chief musical collaborators included Mitchell Parish
John Carradine, the son of a reporter/artist and a surgeon, grew up in Poughkeepsie, New York. He attended Christ Church School and Graphic Art School, studying sculpture, and afterward roamed the South selling sketches. He made his acting debut in "Camille" in a New Orleans theatre in 1925. Arriving in Los Angeles in 1927...
Leo G. Carroll
One of the most indispensable of character actors, Leo G. Carroll was already involved in the business of acting as a schoolboy in Gilbert & Sullivan productions. Aged 16, he portrayed an old man in 'Liberty Hall'. In spite of the fact, that he came from a military family, and , perhaps, because of his experience during World War I...
Ted Cassidy was born in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania and raised in Philippi, West Virginia. He was a well respected actor who portrayed many different characters during his film and television career. His most notable role was Lurch, the faithful butler on the television series The Addams Family
. His most memorable dialogue as Lurch would be...
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"...
Although his parents were deaf-mutes, Leonidas Chaney became an actor and also owner of a theatre company (together with his brother John). He made his debut at the movies in 1912, and his filmography is vast. Lon Chaney was especially famous for his horror parts in movies like e.g. Quasimodo in The Hunchback of Notre Dame
Lon Chaney Jr.
American character actor whose career was influenced (and often overshadowed) by that of his father, silent film star Lon Chaney
. The younger Chaney was born while his parents were on a theatrical tour, and he joined them onstage for the first time at the age of six months. However, as a young man...
Donald Frank Cheadle was born in Kansas City, Missouri on November 29, 1964. His childhood found him moving from city to city with his family: mother Bettye (North), a teacher, father Donald Frank Cheadle, Sr., a clinical psychologist, sister Dawn, and brother Colin. After graduating high school in Denver...
Educated at Boston University's School for the Arts, majoring in acting, before moving to New York City. Michael has numerous theater credits including the roles of Stanley in A Streetcar Named Desire and Touchstone in Shakespeare's As You Like It.
Thomas Haden Church
Thomas Haden Church was born Thomas Richard McMillen in Yolo, California, to Maxine (Sanders) and Carlos Richard McMillen, who was a U.S. marine and surveyor. He was raised in Texas. Church began his show business career in front of a microphone instead of a camera, first as a radio deejay and then as a voice-over announcer...
Kim's film career began in 1991 with The Last Boy Scout. Two Warner Brothers' hits followed: Innocent Blood and The Client. Since that time he has starred in over forty films, including Academy Award winners Black Hawk Down directed by Ridley Scott, and Pearl Harbor directed by Michael Bay. Other films include Waterworld and Open Range with Kevin Costner...
Lee J. Cobb
Lee J. Cobb, one of the premier character actors in American film for three decades in the post-World War II period, was born Leo Jacoby in New York City's Lower East Side on December 8, 1911. The son of a Jewish newspaper editor, young Leo was a child prodigy in music, mastering the violin and the harmonica...
Randall 'Tex' Cobb
Former Heavyweight boxing contender Randall "Tex" Cobb has had 3 highly colorful careers; kickboxer, pro boxer, and movie actor. Born in Bridge City, Texas on May 7, 1950, the 6 feet 3 inch, 225 pound Cobb excelled in high school football and martial arts. Enjoying "extreme" sports to the max, Cobb launched a professional kickboxing career and racked up 9 straight knockout victories...
A cigar-smoking, monocled, swag-bellied character actor known for his Old South manners and charm. In 1918 he and his first wife formed the Coburn Players and appeared on Broadway in many plays. With her death in 1937, he accepted a Hollywood contract and began making films at the age of sixty.
For decades, Dabney Coleman has often appeared as a smarmy, selfish, nervous person, often with money, who is mostly out for himself. He did such a good job in this type of part that he's made a career of it in film. Dabney Wharton Coleman was born in Austin, Texas, to Mary Wharton (Johns) and Melvin Randolph Coleman...
Misha Collins is an American actor best known for his role as the angel Castiel on the TV series Supernatural (2005). He has had recurring roles on ER and 24, and has guest-starred on NCIS, Nip/Tuck, NYPD Blue, CSI, CSI:NY, Monk and Charmed. On the big screen, Misha is most known for his role in a film called "Karla" about a real life serial killer named Paul Bernardo...
Award-winning Greek-American actor Michael Constantine (born 22 May 1927) is best known for his portrayal of the Windex bottle-toting family patriarch "Gus Portokalos" in the sleeper hit My Big Fat Greek Wedding
. Before his appearance in that movie and the subsequent TV series based on it, he was primarily known for his portrayal of principal "Seymour Kaufman" in the series Room 222
Funny man Tim Conway was born on December 15th, 1933 in Willoughby, Ohio. He was a fraternity man at Bowling Green State University, served in the army, and started his career working for a radio station. Conway got into comedy when he started writing and performing comedy skits between morning movies on CBS...
Elisha Cook Jr.
One of the most familiar character actors of the mid-twentieth century, small-statured Elisha Cook Jr. would be a Hollywood immortal if only for his roles in The Maltese Falcon
. He attended St. Albans College and the Chicago Academy of Dramatic Art, and made his stage debut at age fourteen...
Jackie Coogan was born into a family of vaudevillians where his father was a dancer and his mother had been a child star. On the stage by four, Jackie was touring at the age of five with his family in Los Angeles, California. While performing on the stage, he was spotted by Charles Chaplin
, who then and there planned a movie in which he and Jackie would star...
Born George Melville Cooper on October 15, 1896, in Birmingham England, he was the son of non-professionals W.C.J. and Frances (Brennan) Cooper, and attended various English public schools, including King Edward's School in Birmingham. Attracted to the stage as a teenager, he made his debut at Stratford-on-Avon at age 18...
Barry's full given name is Leonard Barrie Corbin, and he was born on October 16, 1940 in Lamesa, Texas, to Kilmer Blain Corbin, an attorney, and Alma Corbin, an elementary school teacher. Barry has a daughter named Shannon Ross, with whom he shares his 15-acre ranch in Fort Worth, Texas, when he isn't working. He says that he rides horses there every chance he gets.
Ronny Cox is a superbly talented actor, singer-songwriter and musician who has been consistently active in Hollywood for over 40 years portraying a diverse range of characters. Born in Cloudcroft, New Mexico, Cox received positive reviews in his first film role for his portrayal of ill-fated businessman...
Wally Cox was a beloved character actor who made his mark in television and ranks as one of the medium's most memorable performers. His ability to show his range likely was limited by his short stature, slight frame, and high-pitched voice, which along with his talent for being very funny, made him ideal for comedy parts such as his memorable turn as Professor P...
Bryan Cranston is an American actor, voice actor, screenwriter, director and producer. He is known for portraying Walter White on the AMC crime drama series Breaking Bad
, Hal on the Fox comedy series Malcolm in the Middle
, Doug Heffernan's neighbor Tim Sacksky on the CBS comedy series King of Queens, Dr...
Richard Donald Crenna was born in Los Angeles, California, into a modest-income family, the only child of Edith J. (Pollette) and Domenick Anthony Crenna, a pharmacist. His parents were both of Italian descent. His mother managed a small hotel in downtown Los Angeles, where Richard and his family resided...
Donald Crisp was born George William Crisp at the family home in Bow, London. Donald's parents were James Crisp and Elizabeth Crisp, his birth was registered by his mother on 4th September 1882. Donald's sisters were Elizabeth, Ann, Alice (known as Louisa) and Eliza and his brothers were James, John and Mark...
Born in Los Angeles but raised in Manhattan and educated at Middlebury College and Carnegie-Mellon University, James Cromwell, the son of famous film director John Cromwell
, studied acting at Carnegie-Mellon. He went into the theater (like both his parents) doing everything from Shakespeare to experimental plays...
Alan Cumming was born on January 27, 1965, in Aberfeldy, Scotland, to Mary (Darling), an insurance company secretary, and Alex Cumming. His family lived nearby in Dunkeld, where his father was a forester for Atholl Estate. The family (including his brother, Tom) moved to Fassfern near Fort William, before moving to the east coast of Scotland in 1969...
Peter Wilton Cushing was born on May 26, 1913 in Kenley, Surrey, England, to Nellie Maria (King) and George Edward Cushing, a quantity surveyor. He and his older brother David were raised first in Dulwich Village, a south London suburb, and then later back in Surrey. At an early age, Cushing was attracted to acting...
Unlike many actors, John Dehner's career didn't begin on the stage or on radio. He started out as an animator for Walt Disney Studios, then worked as a disc jockey and a professional pianist. He made his film debut in the 1940s, and has appeared in dozens of films. A tall and distinguished looking man with a rich voice and somewhat flamboyant demeanor...
Benicio Del Toro
Benicio Del Toro emerged in the mid-1990s as one of the most watchable and charismatic character actors to come along in years. A favorite of film buffs, Del Toro gained mainstream public attention as the conflicted but basically honest Mexican policeman in Steven Soderbergh
. Benicio was born on February 19...
Born in St. Paul, Minnesota, William Demarest was a prolific actor in movies and TV, making more than 140 films. Demarest started his acting career in vaudeville and made his way to Broadway. His most famous role was in My Three Sons
, replacing a very sick William Frawley
. Demarest was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in a Supporting role in the real-life biography...
Award-winning actor Tony Denison joined the cast of The Closer, starring Kyra Sedgwick, as Det. Andy Flynn in 2005, which quickly became TNT's # 1 Drama. Transitioning his role onto the spin-off series Major Crimes, Lt. Flynn is a consistent fan-favorite known for his antics opposite GW Bailey's Lt...
Bob Denver was attending college at Loyola-Marymount University, in Los Angeles, when he got into acting. At first, Denver wasn't sure he wanted to be an actor, but gradually gave in, deciding that's what he was going to do for a career. Before he became established, he worked as a mailman and teacher...
Rotund comic character actor of American films. Born Andrew Vabre Devine in Flagstaff, Arizona, the later-to-be Rotund comic character actor was raised in nearby Kingman, Arizona, the son of Irish-American hotel operator Thomas Devine and his wife Amy. Devine was an able athlete as a student and actually played semi-pro football under a phony name (Jeremiah Schwartz...
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.
Stocky, balding American character actor with a rich, deep voice, equally adept at Western bad guys and Shakespeare. He began his career in films in minor roles, primarily as gangland henchmen, and progressed to become widely familiar as a figure in a variety of dramas and occasional comedies. Although a stalwart and reliable supporting player...
Two-time Oscar-winner Melvyn Douglas was one of America's finest actors. In addition to his two Oscars, he also won a Tony Award and an Emmy. Douglas would enjoy cinema immortality if for no other reason than his being the man who made Greta Garbo
laugh in Ernst Lubitsch
's classic comedy Ninotchka
, but he was much, much more...
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...
Actor. Born in Franklin, Indiana on December 28, 1923, he was raised in Texas and went to college at Indiana University. There, on a speech and drama scholarship, he began to act and perform however this was interrupted by being called into the service. In World War II where he saw action overseas, he was befriended by actor Melvyn Douglas
who led his division...
Distinguished character villain Douglass (R.) Dumbrille, whose distinctive stern features, beady eyes, tidy mustache, prominent hook nose and suave, cultivated presence graced scores of talking films, was born on October 13, 1889, in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. He was first employed as a bank clerk in...
WWII veteran, dance instructor and diversely talented stage & screen actor were all inclusions on the resume of this perpetually busy US actor who didn't get in front of the cameras until around the time of his fortieth birthday. The stockily built Charles Durning was one of Hollywood's most dependable and sought after supporting actors...
Dan Duryea was educated at Cornell University and worked in the advertising business before pursuing his career as an actor. Duryea made his Broadway debut in the play "Dead End." The critical acclaim he won for his performance as Leo Hubbard in the Broadway production of "The Little Foxes" led to his appearance in the film version, in the same role.
Veteran actor and director Robert Selden Duvall was born on January 5, 1931, in San Diego, CA, to Mildred Virginia (Hart), an amateur actress, and William Howard Duvall, a career military officer who later became an admiral. Duvall majored in drama at Principia College (Elsah, IL), then served a two-year hitch in the army after graduating in 1953...
Buddy Ebsen began his career as a dancer in the late 1920s in a Broadway chorus. He later formed a vaudeville act with his sister Vilma Ebsen
, which also appeared on Broadway. In 1935 he and his sister went to Hollywood, where they were signed for the first of MGM's Eleanor Powell
movies, Broadway Melody of 1936
Colorful American character actor equally adept at vicious killers or grizzled sidekicks. As a child he worked in the cotton fields. He attended Santa Monica Junior College in California and subsequently became an accountant and, at one time, manager of the Bel Air Hotel. Elam got his first movie job by trading his accounting services for a role...
R. Lee Ermey
A talented character actor known for his military roles, Ronald Lee Ermey was in the United States Marine Corps for 11 years. He rose to the rank of Staff Sergeant, and later was bestowed the honorary rank of Gunnery Sergeant by the Marine Corps, after he served 14 months in Vietnam and later did two tours in Okinawa...
Gene Evans was born in Holbrook, Arizona, on July 11, 1922, and was raised in Colton, California. He served in the Army during World War II as a combat engineer, and was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star for bravery in action. He began his acting career there, performing in a theatrical troupe of GIs in Europe...
A grand, robust, highly theatrical British classical actor, Maurice Evans was the son of a justice of the peace who enjoyed amateur playwriting on the side. In fact, his father adapted several adaptations of Thomas Hardy
's novels and Evans would often appear in them. Early interest also came in London choirs as a boy tenor...