53 Best Character Actresses

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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...
Jennifer Coolidge
Actress, 2 Broke Girls
Jennifer Coolidge is a versatile character actress and experimental comedienne, best known for playing Stifler's mom in American Pie. She was born on August 28, 1961, in Boston, Massachusetts, USA, to Gretchen (Knauff) and Paul Constant Coolidge, a plastics manufacturer. Young Coolidge was dreaming of becoming a singer...
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...
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)...
Wendie Malick
The actress Wendie Malick was born in Buffalo, New York, in 1950 and attended Ohio Wesleyan University, from which she graduated in 1972. The 5-foot, 10-inch beauty was a Wilhelmina model in the 1970s, giving it up to go to work for Buffalo-area Congressman Jack Kemp. She quickly left Washington, DC, behind to act in the theater...
Juliette Lewis
Juliette Lewis has been recognized as one of Hollywood's most talented and versatile actors of her generation since she first stunned audiences and critics alike with her Oscar-nominated performance as "Danielle Bowden" in Cape Fear. To date, she has worked with some of the most revered directors in the industry...
Hope Davis
Actress, About Schmidt
Davis, second of three children, was born in Englewood, New Jersey, the daughter of Joan, a librarian (at one time, for the elementary section of Elisabeth Morrow School), and William Davis, an engineer. Davis has described her mother as a "great storyteller" who would take Davis and her siblings to museums or to "something cultural" every Sunday after church...
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"...
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...
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...
CCH Pounder
Actress, Avatar
CCH Pounder (the CCH standing for Carol Christine Hilaria, her birth name). As can be said of other similarly styled actresses such as Alfre Woodard and Cicely Tyson, most of Pounder's characters are enriched with these same positive attributes and it is a testament to this actress' abilities that she continues on such a high plane in a nearly three-decade career...
Amy Irving
Actress, Carrie
Naturally brunette/blue-eyed beauty Amy Davis Irving was born in Palo Alto, California. She is the youngest of three children, and the daughter of influential theatrical/television director and producer Jules Irving, and actress Priscilla Pointer. Her father was of Russian Jewish descent, and her mother's ancestry includes English, Scots-Irish, Welsh, Jewish, and German...
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...
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...
Embeth Davidtz
Embeth Davidtz was born on August 11, 1965 in Lafayette, Indiana. She is known for her role as Miss Honey in the film Matilda. Her parents, Jean and John Davidtz, were South Africans, with Dutch, English, and French ancestry. The family moved to Trenton, New Jersey, before returning to her parents' native country...
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...
Connie Britton
Actress, Nashville
Connie Britton began playing country music fading sensation Rayna Jaymes in Nashville after having wrapped production for the five season long Friday Night Lights alongside Kyle Chandler. She previously appeared in Universal's Friday Night Lights -the movie- directed by Peter Berg and also starring Billy Bob Thornton; and Edward Burns' independent feature Looking for Kitty...
Amy Ryan
Amy Ryan was born on May 3, 1969 in Queens, New York City, New York, USA as Amy Beth Dziewiontkowski. She is an actress, known for Birdman or (The Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance), Gone Baby Gone and Escape Plan. She has been married to Eric Slovin since August 23, 2011. They have one child.
Sharon Lawrence
Actress, NYPD Blue
You may know her from multiple nominated and SAG Award winning portrayal of ADA Sylvia Costas Sipowitz in NYPD Blue, as a stay-at-home prostitute in Desperate Housewives and a murderous realtor on Monk, as a serial killer on Law and Order:SVU, coming to terms with her long lost daughter on Rizzoli & Isles...
Zooey Deschanel
Actress, Elf
Zooey Deschanel was born in 1980 into a showbiz family. Her father, Caleb Deschanel, is an Academy Award-nominated cinematographer (perhaps most notably for The Passion of the Christ) and her mother, Mary Jo Deschanel (née Weir), is an actress who appeared in Twin Peaks. Her paternal grandfather was French, and her other roots include English, German, Scottish, Irish, and Dutch...
Cloris Leachman
Actress, The Croods
The record-breaking actress set a record when at age 82, she appeared on Dancing with the Stars. Cloris Leachman was born on April 30, 1926 in Des Moines, Iowa to Berkeley Claiborne "Buck" Leachman and the former Cloris Wallace. Her father's family owned a lumber company, Leachman Lumber Co. She is of Czech (from her maternal grandmother) and English descent...
Christine Ebersole
Christine Ebersole was born in Chicago, Illinois, to Marian Esther (Goodley) and Robert Amos Ebersole, a steel company president. She won the 2007 Tony Award for Best Actress in a Musical for her work in "Grey Gardens". Previously, she was awarded the Drama Desk Award, the Outer Critics Circle Award...
Laurie Metcalf
Actress, Roseanne
Laurie Metcalf was born June 16, 1955 in Carbondale, Illinois, the oldest of three children of Libby (Mars), a librarian, and James Metcalf, a budget director. She was raised in Edwardsville, Illinois. Laurie attended Illinois State University, where she obtained her bachelor of arts in theater in 1977...
Missi Pyle
Actress, Gone Girl
Missi Pyle was born on November 16, 1972 as Andrea Kay Pyle in Houston, Texas and was raised in Memphis, Tennessee. The daughter of Linda and Frank Pyle, she has four older siblings, sisters Debbie and Julie, and brothers Sam and Paul. Pyle attended the North Carolina School of the Arts and graduated in 1995...
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...
Camryn Manheim
Actress, The Practice
Camryn grew up in Peoria, Illinois. Her mother, Sylvia, was a schoolteacher and her father, Jerry, was a math professor. She developed an interest in acting after working at a Renaissance Fair at age 16. She earned a Master's Degree in Fine Arts from New York University in 1987. She studied acting at the Atlantic Theater Company Acting School in Chelsea...
Grace Zabriskie
Actress, The Grudge
"Amazing Grace" Zabriskie was born in New Orleans, Louisiana. She wrote her own original poetry, then performed at coffee shops and various artist hangouts in Atlanta. She was also a wonderful silk-screen printmaker. She moved to Hollywood and made her acting debut in Norma Rae. She went on to appear in over 80 movies...
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...
Christine Lahti
Actress, Chicago Hope
Christine Lahti was born April 4, 1950 in Birmingham, Michigan, to Elizabeth Margaret (Tabar), a painter and nurse, and Paul Theodore Lahti, a surgeon. She is of half Finnish and half Austro-Hungarian descent. She studied fine arts at Florida State University and received a bachelors degree in drama from the University of Michigan...
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...
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.
Mimi Kennedy
Mimi Kennedy began her acting career on stage opposite famed TV comedian Sid Caesar. Her theater credits also include her work as Jan in both the national tour and the original Broadway production of "Grease". Work on television has been plentiful for Kennedy following her leading role on the critically acclaimed series...
S. Epatha Merkerson
Actress, Law & Order
A native of Michigan, S. Epatha Merkerson earned a Bachelor of Fine Arts Degree from Wayne State University. In 1978, she moved to New York City to apply her craft on stage. Although best known since 1993 as the smart and shrewd Lieutenant Anita Van Buren on the long-running TV crime drama Law & Order...
Kristin Chenoweth
Actress, Rio 2
Kristin Chenoweth is an American stage, screen and television actress, though, depending on who you ask, Cheno fans may disagree on what her most famous roles are. Since Chenoweth began her career, she has been credited with roles in musicals and plays on and off-Broadway, on various television shows and can be seen in movies on television and the big screen...
Marisol Nichols
Actress, 24
From her breakout role as "Audrey Griswold" in Vegas Vacation, to her powerful performance in the prison drama Felon, to commanding the Counter Terrorist Unit in 24_, Nichols has consistently garnered award recognition and critical acclaim. Her evocative performances have cumulated...
Busy Philipps
Actress, Cougar Town
Busy was born Elizabeth Jean Phillips in Illinois, US. She became interested in acting when she was in fourth grade and was always starring in school productions. In the summer, she would attend theater camp. She is more commonly known as a television actress, getting her first break on Freaks and Geeks...
Sarah Paulson
Sarah Paulson was born on December 17, 1974 in Tampa, Florida, to Catharine Gordon (Dolcater) and Douglas Lyle Paulson II. She spent most of her early years in New York and Maine, before settling in Manhattan to attend the American Academy of Dramatic Arts and the High School for Performing Arts. Although...
Madeleine Stowe
Actress, Revenge
Madeleine Stowe was born in Los Angeles, California, to Mireya Maria (Mora Steinvorth) and Robert Alfred Stowe, a civil engineer. Her mother was a from a prominent political family in Costa Rica, while her father was of English and German ancestry. Stowe grew up in Eagle Rock, a working-class neighborhood of Los Angeles...
Tracie Thoms
Actress, Looper
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...
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...
Megan Mullally
Actress, Will & Grace
Megan is an only child born in Los Angeles, California. Her mother, Martha, was a model, and her father, Carter Mullally Jr., was a contract player for Paramount. Megan first entered Northwestern University intending to study acting, but switched to English literature. However, she still ended up starring in several campus musicals...
Mary Steenburgen
Mary Steenburgen is an Academy Award-winning American actress. She was born February 8, 1953, in Newport, Arkansas, USA. Her mother, Nellie May (Wall) Steenburgen, was a school-board secretary, and her father, Maurice H. Steenburgen, was a freight-train conductor. Her surname comes from distant Dutch ancestry, and her roots also include English, Scottish, and Welsh...
Constance Marie
Actress, George Lopez
Constance Marie was a very busy actress in 2002, juggling two primetime series: a short-lived one-hour drama American Family, which aired on PBS and a half-hour sitcom, George Lopez on ABC. On the critically praised American Family, Marie starred alongside Edward James Olmos, Sonia Braga, Esai Morales and Raquel Welch,as Nina...
Lesley Ann Warren
Actress, Secretary
Lesley Ann Warren started gearing towards a life in show business right off the bat as a child ballerina; little did she know that Hollywood stardom would arrive on her doorstep in the form of a "Cinderella" story -- literally! The New York-born actress (born in 1946) is the daughter of a night club singer...