actresses Female Character Actors You've Seen All Over But Can't Name  

Lisa Waugh
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Actors don’t start out thinking of themselves as character actors. They just think of themselves as actors. It’s the industry that makes the distinction between a lead and a second banana. Despite their smaller roles, these ladies are killing it when they do get screen time, and have made careers, filled with memorable roles and even Oscar wins, out of being the best female character actors in Hollywood. You recognize these women from your favorite TV shows and great films, even though you might not know their name. But good news! Today is a day for learning!

An actor may toil away as a character actor, blending into an ensemble and then emerge as a lead. It’s a long shot but it does happen. And if an actor works long enough, former stars may be today’s character actors. Women don’t seem to get a shot at longevity as much as some male actors do simply due to how many roles are available. Even as trends in entertainment are heading toward more female-driven shows, female actors tend to find the road a little more bumpy and truncated.

Still, there are a ton of amazing ladies out there, turning out great performances across many genres on both the small and big screens. These talented female character actors deserve recognition, by name! What's the name of that actress you've seen everywhere? Look through the list below and find out! From Margo Martindale, Kim Dickens, Niecy Nash, and Linda Hunt, get ready to learn all about the women behind the supporting female characters who make top TV series and good movies as great as they are.

She’s Appeared in Four Nicole Kidman Films and Three with Meryl Streep


She’s Appeared in Four Nicole ... is listed (or ranked) 1 on the list Female Character Actors You've Seen All Over But Can't Name
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She’s played the secretary, the neighbor, the mother, the grandmother, the secret agent, and the accomplice. The east Texan usually maintains her everyman center but it’s the way she handles each role that is the real treat.

Career highlights: 
The Millers, The Americans, Masters of Sex, August: Osage County, New Girl, Smash, Person of Interest, Justified, Hung, Orphan, Dexter, The Riches, Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, Medium, Million Dollar Baby, The Hours, Marvin’s RoomDead Man Walking


Margo Martindale is listed (or ranked) 2 on the list Female Character Actors You've Seen All Over But Can't Name
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“Some things just take time,” Martindale said when she accepted the 2011 Emmy for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her work on Justified.  

This gem of an actor has always been a standout in both TV and film. It’s the subtle levels that Martindale finds in the characters she plays. She’s also an excellent ensemble player and gives other actors something to work with. Her Claudia on The Americans versus her performance in August: Osage County is an excellent idea of her wide range as a performer.

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She Might Hug You, but She Might Just Cut You


She Might Hug You, but She Mig... is listed (or ranked) 3 on the list Female Character Actors You've Seen All Over But Can't Name
Photo: via Wikimedia

This actor bobs and weaves like Muhammad Ali, perfectly fine taking a small role on Broad City and making you remember her flirt it up with Hannibal Buress whether or not you remember the rest of the episode. Then, she blew us all away with her role as Miss Claudette Pelage on Orange Is the New Black.

Career highlights:
Orange Is the New Black, Broad City, Frances Ha, Blue Bloods, All Good Things, The Good Wife, Choke, Sherrybaby, Third WatchLaw & Order


Michelle Hurst is listed (or ranked) 4 on the list Female Character Actors You've Seen All Over But Can't Name
Photo: via Pinterest

Hurst is everywhere and always has been. She works in film and TV, making a few lines seem like a whole episode. She’s a force to be reckoned with and that doesn’t require a whole lot of dialogue.

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