The 142 Most Talented Character Actors in Hollywood

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1.
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 originally planned to be a singer and studied at the University of Montana to become a composer...
 
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Ernie Hudson
As a child growing up in Benton Harbor, Michigan, Ernie Hudson wrote short stories, poems and songs, always thinking that his words might one day come to life on stage. After a short stint in the Marine Corps, he moved to Detroit where he became the resident playwright at Concept East, the oldest black theatre in the country...
 
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Michael Badalucco
Michael Badalucco, a Brooklyn native, got his start in the entertainment industry at a very young age, going to work with his father Giuseppe, a Sicilian born immigrant, who worked as a carpenter on movie sets. In 1963, during the filming of Fail Safe starring Henry Fonda, a photo of a young boy was needed...
 
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Thomas F. Wilson
Tom Wilson is a creative artist whose professional career has explored almost every imaginable artistic discipline, blending them into a unique and very individual declaration of a life in the arts. A man of fervent but private faith his whole life, the last few years have been interesting, with hundreds of invitations to speak at conferences and retreats...
 
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Viola Davis
Actress, The Help
Actress Viola Davis was born on her grandmother's farm, at the then-Singleton Plantation in St. Matthews, South Carolina. When she was two months old her family moved to Central Falls, Rhode Island, where her father, Dan Davis, worked as a horse groomer and trainer. Her mother, Mary Alice (Logan), a maid and factory worker...
 
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Clancy Brown
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 pianist...
 
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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...
 
10.
Mare Winningham
Actress, Philomena
Mary 'Mare' Megan Winningham is an actress and songwriter who has appeared in nearly 100 TV shows and feature films. She began her career in 1976 as a singer, and starred in numerous and diverse film roles before hitting it big as one of the original Brat Pack in Joel Schumacher's St. Elmo's Fire with Emilio Estevez, Andrew McCarthy, Demi Moore, Judd Nelson, and Ally Sheedy...
 
11.
Donal Logue
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 he majored in Intellectual History and discovered his love for the performing arts...
 
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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...
 
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Luis Guzmán
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.
 
15.
Tess Harper
Tess Harper attended Southwest Missouri State University, now known as Missouri State University, in Springfield, MO. During the late 1960s, she did "street" acting in the theme parks, Dogpatch, USA, in Jasper, AR, and Silver Dollar City in Branson, MO. She was discovered while doing theater work in Dallas...
 
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Kurt Fuller
Kurt Fuller is best known for his work in the films Wayne's World with Mike Myers, Anger Management, with Jack Nicholson and Adam Sandler, and most recently as part of the all star cast of Woody Allen's Midnight in Paris. Kurt was born in San Francisco and raised in the agricultural heartland of California's San Joaquin Valley...
 
17.
Stephen Root
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...
 
18.
Veronica Cartwright
Actress, Alien
Born in Bristol, England, Veronica is the older sister of the popular child actress Angela Cartwright. In her early career, Veronica was cast in a number of popular movies such as The Children's Hour, Spencer's Mountain and Alfred Hitchcock's The Birds. As such, she was cast as "Jemima Boone" in the popular television series Daniel Boone...
 
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Glynn Turman
Actor, Super 8
New York City-born African-American actor Glynn Turman enjoyed his first real taste of acting success at the age of 13 originating the role of Travis Younger on Broadway in Lorraine Hansberry's landmark play "A Raisin in the Sun" in 1959 opposite Sidney Poitier, Ruby Dee, Claudia McNeil and Diana Sands as his various family members...
 
20.
Kevin Corrigan
A native of the Bronx, New York, Kevin Corrigan has been acting and writing since the age of 15. He made his film debut in Lost Angels and around that time, when he was just 17, his original play "The Boiler Room" was produced by the Young Playwrights Festival of New York. He has gone on to star in countless independent films and has made quite an impression...
 
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Martha Plimpton
Actress, Raising Hope
She has show biz in her blood. Martha Plimpton was born November 16, 1970, in New York City to two actors: Keith Carradine and Shelley Plimpton. Martha began her career at age 8, when her mom had a friend of hers, composer Elizabeth Swados, enroll her in an actors' workshop. At age 10, she got a small part in Rollover, and also made a series of Calvin Klein commercials...
 
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Bobby Cannavale
Actor, Ant-Man
In both career and in real life, Bobby Cannavale tends to choose the unconventional way of doing things. In the beginning, his decisions may have cost the dark, swarthily good-looking actor some acting roles and/or good-paying money but, in the end, his strong work ethic and sense of self, despite a lack of formal training...
 
24.
Steve Buscemi
Actor, Fargo
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...
 
25.
Daniel Roebuck
Having made his feature film debut starring in the teen comedy Cavegirl Daniel Roebuck quickly realized that there was only one direction to travel in his career. Up! Soon after Cavegirl, Roebuck established himself as one of the industry's youngest character actors with his haunting portrayal as the teenage killer, Samson in The River's Edge...
 
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Danny Trejo
Actor, Machete
Danny Trejo was born Dan Trejo in Echo Park, Los Angeles, to Alice (Rivera) and Dan Trejo, a construction worker. A child drug addict and criminal, Trejo was in and out of jail for 11 years. While serving time in San Quentin, he won the lightweight and welterweight boxing titles. Imprisoned for armed robbery and drug offenses...
 
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Richard Riehle
Richard Riehle was born in Menomonee Falls, Wisconsin, to Mary Margaret (Walsh), a nurse, and Herbert John Riehle, an assistant postmaster. He is of German and Irish descent. Richard attended the University of Notre Dame, where he became heavily involved with the University Theatre. Appearing in such productions as "Luther"...
 
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Stanley Tucci
Actor Stanley Tucci was born on November 11, 1960, in Peekskill, New York. He is the son of Joan (Tropiano), a writer, and Stanley Tucci, an art teacher. His family is Italian-American, with origins in Calabria. Tucci took an interest in acting while in high school, and went on to attend the State University of New York's Conservatory of Theater Arts in Purchase...
 
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Loretta Devine
Actress, Crash
Loretta Devine was born August 21, 1949 in Houston, Texas, to Eunice O'Neal (née Toliver), a beautician, and James Devine, who worked as a laborer. Loretta grew up in the Acres Home area of Houston and later enrolled at the University of Houston, where she earned a a Bachelor of Arts in Speech and Drama...
 
30.
Frances Conroy
Frances Conroy is a graduate of the Juilliard Drama Division and a member of The Acting Company. She recently won a Tony Award nomination for her performance in the Broadway hit "The Ride Down Mt. Morgan." Her other Broadway credits include "Ring Round the Moon", "The Little Foxes", "The Rehearsal" (Drama Desk Nominee)...
 
31.
Frances Fisher
Actress, Titanic
Frances Fisher began by apprenticing at the Barter Theatre in Abingdon, Virginia. She spent 14 years based in New York City, playing leads in over 30 productions of plays by such noted writers as John Arden, Noël Coward, Emily Mann, Joe Orton, Sam Shepard, William Shakespeare, Jean Claude Van Italie...
 
33.
Patricia Clarkson
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...
 
34.
Joe Morton
Joe Morton was born on October 18, 1947 in New York, New York, USA. He is a television, film, and theater actor, best known for The Brother from Another Planet, Terminator 2: Judgment Day, Eureka, and Scandal. He also writes and directs, and is a singer/songwriter.
 
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Garret Dillahunt
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.
 
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Bill Smitrovich
Actor, Iron Man
Connecticut-born actor Bill Smitrovich (on May 16, 1947) started his acting career rather late. A Masters degree holder from Smith College and a former acting teacher at the University of Massachusetts, the hefty actor earned his big break in an understudy role in the world premiere of Arthur Miller's "The American Clock" at the Spoleto Festival...
 
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Alan Dale
Actor, Neighbours
Alan Dale was born on May 6, 1947 in Dunedin, South Island, New Zealand. He is best known for his eight year role as Jim Robinson in the long running Australian soap opera Neighbours, played Caleb in the hit Fox series The O.C., featured on Lost and has a long list of recurring roles...
 
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Fionnula Flanagan
Actress, The Others
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"...
 
42.
Raymond J. Barry
Before moving into film, Raymond J. Barry appeared in more than 75 stage productions, winning two Obie Awards for "Leaf People" and "Molly's Dream." Barry earned a degree in philosophy at Brown University before being accepted by the Yale School of Drama. After he moved to New York in the 1960s, his...
 
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Gary Basaraba
Gary Basaraba left the Yale School of Drama and began his career working for many of the most highly acclaimed directors of our times. His career has spanned all genres of film and television from cutting edge art film such as "The Last Temptation of Christ" to beloved classics such as "Fried Green Tomatoes" and the popular animated series of Smurf films...
 
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Allison Janney
Actress, The West Wing
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. Entertainment Weekly magazine describes Janney's screen presence as "uncommonly beautiful and infinitely expressive"...
 
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Jim Beaver
Actor, Deadwood
Jim Beaver is an American character actor, best known for his leading roles on the TV series Deadwood and Supernatural. 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...
 
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Clifton Collins Jr.
Actor, Star Trek
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...
 
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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...
 
51.
Peter Dinklage
Peter Hayden Dinklage was born in Morristown, New Jersey, to Diane (Hayden), an elementary school teacher, and John Carl Dinklage, an insurance salesman. He is of German, Irish, and English descent. In 1991, he received a degree in drama from Bennington College and began his career. He continues to work in the theatre with roles in "The Killing Act", "Imperfect Love", and "Richard III"...
 
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Mary Lynn Rajskub
Actress, 24
Mary Lynn Rajskub is an American actress, comedienne and singer who is best known as a co-star of Kiefer Sutherland on the popular television series 24. She was born on June 22, 1971, in Detroit, Michigan, into a family of Irish, Czech, and Polish ancestry. She was brought up in Trenton...
 
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Terry Kinney
Actor, Billions
Terry Kinney, the stage, film and television actor, was born on January 29, 1954 in Lincoln, Illinois and attended Illinois State University. While at university, his friend, the aspiring actor Jeff Perry, took Kinney to Chicago to see a production of "Grease" in which his best friend, Gary Sinise...
 
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Mark Margolis
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.
 
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Sean Patrick Flanery
Sean Patrick Flanery was born in Lake Charles, La. and raised in a small town outside of Houston, Texas. While attending the University of St. Thomas in Houston, he saw a beautiful girl leaving a building on campus every Monday and decided to drop an English class and sign up for "whatever the hell they were teaching in that building"...
 
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John Amos
Actor, Die Hard 2
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...
 
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Muse Watson
Rugged character actor Muse Watson is an established stage actor and veteran screen performer with a host of widely varying characters to his name, ranging from the hook-wielding killer in "I Know What You Did Last Summer" (1997), to the gentle, cat-loving con in the Fox television suspense drama "Prison Break" (2005)...
 
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JoBeth Williams
Actress, Poltergeist
The product of a musical family, Margaret JoBeth Williams was born in Houston, Texas, to Frances Faye (Adams), a dietitian, and Fredric Roger Williams, a wire/cable company manager and opera singer. Her father encouraged her early interest in theater during high school. She made her professional debut at age 18 in a Houston-based musical production...
 
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Michael Madsen
Michael Madsen's long career spans 25 years and more than 170 films in which he has played memorable characters in myriad box office hits, including: Kill Bill: Vol. 1, Kill Bill: Vol. 2 Sin City, Hell Ride, Die Another Day, Donnie Brasco, Species, The Getaway, Thelma & Louise...
 
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Margo Martindale
Margo Martindale was born July 18, 1951 in Jacksonville, Texas, to Margaret (Pruitt) and William Everett Martindale, a lumber company owner and dog handler. She is the youngest of three children, and the only daughter. Margo attended Lon Marris College, and later transferred to University of Michigan at Ann Arbor...
 
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Betty Buckley
Betty Buckley was born in Big Spring, Texas to Betty Bob and Ernest Buckley. She attended Texas Christian University (TCU) in Fort Worth. She was crowned "Miss Fort Worth" in 1966, and was runner-up in the Miss Texas competition. While Betty has always been a product of Broadway, the roles in which she played before-the-camera are mesmerizing...
 
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Kirk Acevedo
Born in Brooklyn, raised in the Bronx, and spent most of his formative years hanging out in New York City, Kirk Acevedo, who is of Puerto Rican/Chinese descent, received his BFA from SUNY Purchase and founded a theater company called The Rorschach Group. After guest-starring on several television shows like New York Undercover and Law & Order...
 
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Celia Weston
Actress, The Village
Direct from Spartanburg, South Carolina, this tall, blonde actress may not exude shimmering star potential, but she certainly has earned the respect of stage and film audiences alike for her many touching portrayals of matter-of-fact, down-to-earth Southern folk. For someone who first attracted attention...
 
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Virginia Madsen
Actress, Sideways
One of the hottest stars of the mid-1980s, Virginia Madsen has since played a variety of roles that have cemented her reputation as a fantastic actress who can adapt to any part. Virginia was born in Chicago, Illinois, and belongs to an acting family -- with her brother, Michael Madsen, also an actor...
 
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Timothy Olyphant
Actor, Justified
From Timothy Olyphant's first screen appearances, such as his two-minute bit in The First Wives Club, to "Nicko", whose presence at times dwarfed the island in A Perfect Getaway, he has been a force to be reckoned with. Born in Hawaii, Timothy David Olyphant was raised in Modesto, California. He is the son of Katherine Lyon (Gideon) and John Vernon Bevan Olyphant...
 
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Annie Corley
Actress, Monster
Annie Corley graduated from McCutcheon High School in Lafayette, Indiana and later enrolled at DePauw University in Greencastle, Indiana. Since 1990, Annie has appeared in several films, her most notable role to date is Meryl Streep's on-screen daughter in The Bridges of Madison County. She later made a chilling appearance as Donna, Christina Ricci's on-screen aunt in Monster.
 
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Dianne Wiest
One of three children (she has two brothers, Greg and Don), Dianne Wiest was born in Kansas City, Missouri, USA. Her mother, Anne Stewart (Keddie), was a nurse from Auchtermuchty, Scotland, and her father, Bernard John Wiest, was a college dean and social worker who was born in Pennsylvania, of German and Croatian descent...
 
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Ron Perlman
Actor, Hellboy
Ron Perlman is a classically-trained actor who has appeared in countless stage plays, feature films and television productions. Ronald N. Perlman was born April 13, 1950 in Washington Heights, Manhattan, New York. His mother, Dorothy (Rosen), is retired from the City Clerk's Office. His father, Bertram "Bert" Perlman...
 
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Dean Winters
Actor, John Wick
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...
 
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W. Earl Brown
Actor, Deadwood
As a rule, W. Earl Brown does not usually speak of himself in the third-person. However, the Internet Movie Database will not accept biographical information written in the first person, therefore: W Earl Brown was born and raised in western Kentucky. Realizing early in life that he had aversion to manual labor...
 
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Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio
Actress, Scarface
Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio was born in Lombard, Illinois, to Mary D. (Pagone) and Frank A. Mastrantonio, who ran a bronze foundry. Her parents were of Italian descent. She was raised in Oak Park, IL, and began her career in school plays as a teenager. Mary attended the University of Illinois and got bitten by the acting bug, starring in "Guys and Dolls"...
 
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Melanie Lynskey
Actress, Up in the Air
At 16 years of age, Melanie Lynskey captivated audiences with her explosive debut in Peter Jackson's Academy Award-nominated Heavenly Creatures, achieving worldwide acclaim and a Best Actress prize for her portrayal of an outcast teen whose relationship with her best friend (Kate Winslet) spirals dangerously out of control...
 
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Idris Elba
Actor, Prometheus
An only child, Idris Elba was born and raised in Hackney, London, England. His father, Winston, is from Sierra Leone and worked at a Ford motor factory. His mother, Eve, is from Ghana and had a clerical duty. Idris attended school in Canning Town, where he first became involved in acting. He gained a place in the National Youth Music Theatre - thanks to a £1,500 Prince's Trust grant...
 
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Giancarlo Esposito
Music Department, The Electric Company
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...
 
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Roxanne Hart
Actress, Highlander
Roxanne Hart was born July 27, 1952 in Trenton, New Jersey, to Joan Irene (McKee) and Edward J. Hart, Jr. Her father was a teacher who later became the school principal at Horace Greeley High School in Chappaqua, New York. Roxanne graduated from Greeley in 1969. She appeared in several Broadway productions before she made her film debut performance in The Verdict...
 
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Bruce Campbell
In 1979 with his Detroit friends, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, Bruce Campbell raised $350,000 for a low-budget film, The Evil Dead, in which he starred and co-executive produced. Completed piecemeal over four years, the film first gained notoriety in England where it became the best-selling video of 1983...
 
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Ronny Cox
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...
 
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Stephen Fry
Self, QI
Writer, actor, comedian, doer of good works, excellent good friend to the famous and not, Fry lives in his London SW1 flat and his Norfolk house when not traveling. Famous for his public declaration of celibacy in the "Tatler" back in the 1980s, Emma Thompson has characterised her friend as "90 percent gay...
 
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Bruce McGill
Actor, Collateral
Bruce McGill grew up in San Antonio, Texas. His mother, Adriel Rose (née Jacobs) is an artist, and his father, Woodrow Wilson McGill, is a real estate and insurance agent. He graduated from Douglas MacArthur High School San Antonio and from The University of Texas at Austin with a degree in drama. His love for acting stems back to elementary school...
 
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Rainn Wilson
Actor, The Office
Rainn Wilson lives in Los Angeles with his wife, fiction writer Holiday Reinhorn (Big Cats), and his son, Walter McKenzie Wilson who was born in 2004. He grew up in Seattle, Washington but graduated from New Trier H.S. in Winnetka, Illinois. After attending both Tufts University and the University of Washington...
 
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