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Name on the tip of the tongue: Male Character Actors

November 17, 2009

You know their faces. They play your TV and movie cops, background lawyers, second banana’s third banana. They are the working actors and here are five of my favorites.

Bruce A. Young

Bruce A. Young

I first spied Mr. Young in the short lived Elliott Gould vehicle E/R (’84) as Officer Fred Burdock. He brought an assortment of drunks, homeless folks and runaways to the emergency room, where Gould’s ENT would “treat and street” them. Despite a busy schedule, Officer Fred always had time to flirt with Maria, a triage nurse. He showed up as yet another cop in Basic Instinct and has continued to work steadily ever since.

William Atherton

William Atherton

Best known for his memorable douchebag roles in Ghostbusters and the Die Hard Series, Atherton had pivotal roles in Looking for Mr. Goodbar and The Sugarland Express. Despite having a diverse body of roles, for better or worse he is often cast as the either the overly ambitious asshole or the uptight governmental agency wonk.

James Cromwell

James Cromwell

It feels weird to be including James “That’ll do pig.” Cromwell on the list because he’s pretty well recognizable now. But there was a long stretch of time where the 6’7 actor was relegated to a dizzying array of bureaucrats and bad guys. Most notably was his cheeky turn as Charles Keating (which is where I first noticed him) in The People vs. Larry Flynt

Charles Chun

Charles Chun

Of the actors listed, Charles Chun is the one I most wish would work MORE. Best known as Dr. Wen on Scrubs, though has had roles on Star Trek: Deep Space Nine, Mission Impossible III and General Hospital. I loved him as Dr. Wen. He was deliciously snarky in the episode where he and Turk discuss what song to play during a surgery.

Courtney B. Vance

Courtney B. Vance

Courtney B. Vance commits himself to his stinky roles like The Preacher’s Wife and meaty roles like A.D.A Carver on Law & Order: Criminal Intent. While I’m not particularly interested in watching FlashFoward I’m excited that Courtney is on television again. Just don’t call him Mr. Bassett.

…up next my favorite female character actors.

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19 Comments leave one →
  1. redlami permalink*
    November 17, 2009 2:20 pm

    Elisha Cook, Jr. King of the character actors. Honorable mention goes to Harry Dean Stanton.

  2. Charlie permalink
    November 17, 2009 2:33 pm

    YES to Harry Dean Stanton.

    Wasn’t sure if these guys counted:

    – Dean Stockwell
    – Alfred Molina

  3. redlami permalink*
    November 17, 2009 2:37 pm

    And I forgot Steve Buscemi.

  4. November 17, 2009 2:38 pm

    William Atherton will always be a douchebag in my eyes, although I am sure he is a perfectly good guy in real life.

  5. November 17, 2009 2:38 pm

    Dean Stockwell and essentially all the folks hanging out with Glenn Close during Air Force One should be included on the list.

    Alfred Molina was amazing in Boogie Nights and definitely deserves mention!

  6. Charlie permalink
    November 17, 2009 2:42 pm

    The thing is, I never forget his name!

    I always used to have a fondness of Jeffrey Jones too. Does Christopher Walken count?

  7. Charlie permalink
    November 17, 2009 2:44 pm

    You should see Alfred Molina in ‘Hancock’ (1991) a BBC drama about the comedian Tony Hancock. His performance was amazing to watch.

  8. November 17, 2009 3:35 pm

    I think Walken and Jones are fine examples of character actors (though Jones is not a particularly charming off screen). Walken has become quite famous, but essentially, he is a character actor and seems to rather enjoy this.

  9. redlami permalink*
    November 17, 2009 3:36 pm

    Jeffrey Jones is in the very exclusive intersection set of my favorite character actors and villains, particularly with his work in Ferris Bueller, Amadeus, Beetlejuice and of course Howard the Duck.

  10. Josie permalink
    November 17, 2009 3:51 pm

    Bruce A. Young also had a five year run as the often surly Captain Simon Banks on the long canceled UPN cop show, The Sentinel, abut a cop who uses his heightened senses to fight crime. It’s one of my guilty pleasures. I think reruns can be seen on the Syfy channel.

  11. November 17, 2009 4:18 pm

    When I was sniffing around for info about Bruce A. Young I noticed his work in The Sentinel. I wanna watch this! It sounds like my kind of show.

  12. January 5, 2010 7:51 pm

    You could probably add the entire cast of Crimson Tide to this list too.

  13. January 5, 2010 8:02 pm

    Here’s a couple more (not featured in Crimson Tide):

    Michael Rooker

    Bebe Neuwirth

  14. January 5, 2010 8:09 pm

    I’m a huge fan of Alfred Molina – he’s pretty well known over here though, so not really a tip-of-the-tongue kind of guy

    Do you know the actor Jim Broadbent? Definitely one of my all time favourite character actors. A film with him and Molina would be amazing!

  15. January 6, 2010 11:06 pm

    That’s what I’m screaming! It’s like a character actor convention!!!

  16. January 6, 2010 11:07 pm

    Jim Broadbent and Tom Wilkerson are TWO of my favorite exports. I have seen their work for years while living overseas and am delighted with the way their careers have expanded stateside! Thanks for stopping by, Niall.

  17. redlami permalink*
    January 8, 2010 8:24 am

    How did I ever manage to forget Donald Pleasance? Maybe because he seemed to blend into whatever film he appeared in, or maybe because he was the poor man’s Peter Ustinov?

  18. January 8, 2010 9:03 am

    Maybe due to his association with that Stigwood mess Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band: The Movie!.

  19. redlami permalink*
    January 8, 2010 9:28 am

    Oops my last comment should not have ended in a question mark. Or maybe it should have?

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