Character Actors You See All Over But Probably Can't Name

The good news is that with the advent of streaming channels and a sprawl of cable slots, there are lots of roles for male characters out there. The bad news is, there are tons of great character actors vying for those roles. What is a character actor? They're those guys who you totally recognize from that thing... and maybe that other thing? But you can't quite place and certainly can't remember their names. These male character actors are the best in Hollywood, filling out casts and rounding out films with memorable bit parts and supporting roles. Who are the best character actors?

Actors don’t get into the business thinking they'll be a character actor, they simply want to act. Time and taste dictates who will emerge from a long career as a leading man and who will simply continue on, giving audiences their best in the roles they land.

There are tons of characters actors working today (and who stole scenes in the past) but for the sake of brevity, we’ll concentrate on just these guys, the most well-known of the little known and often not recognized supporting actors in character roles. It may not be fair and it certainly isn’t easy but we had to look at the list like a casting agent or judge and make some hard choices. Where’s Paula Abdul when you need her?


  • The Real A-Lister

    He’s played the artist, the politician, the minster, and the devil, and all with masterful skill.

    Career highlights: 
    The Hunger Games: Mockingly - Parts 1 & 2, Boardwalk Empire, The Hunger Games: Catching Fire, Only Lovers Left Alive, Robot Chicken, House M.D., Extremely Loud & Incredibly CloseQuantum of Solace, W., Casino Royale, Syriana, Broken FlowersAngels in AmericaBasquiat  

  • Wright’s talent is unmatched and largely unsung. From his riveting performance as Valentin Narcisse on Boardwalk Empire to his still haunting personification of the artist Jean-Michel Basquiat decades ago, he continues to be one of the finest actors working in the business.
  • The Change Over Artist

    The Change Over Artist
    Photo: Deadwood / HBO

    You need a tough guy? A military guy? An Old West no count varmint? A fixer? He’s played them all.

    Career highlights: 
    Bosch, Transformers: Age of Extinction, The Good Wife, Argo, The Mentalist, The Town, Gone Baby Gone, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D., Promised Land, Sons of Anarchy, LostDeadwood

  • Welliver pulled a rare crossover from character actor to show lead with the Amazon series Bosch. Considering that he got started in 1990, that tells you what an overnight success really looks like.
  • The Legacy

    He brings an understated quality to his characters with often hilarious results. His deadpan is so deadpan, you’ll get the joke long after the show has ended. It’s all right there on the face.

    Career highlights:
    Broad City, Alpha House, The Grand Budapest Hotel, The Monuments Men, Girls, Family Tree, Moonrise Kingdom, The Good Wife, Howl, Web Therapy, A Mighty Wind, Waiting for Guffman, Seinfeld, Close Encounters of the Third KindGhost World

  • Balaban gets called upon so often, he has rarely stopped working since his start in the 1960s. He’s also busy between jobs, working as a director as well. No one here feels lazy at all.