MOVIES

What Is A Character Actor? Jo Koy’s Barbie ‘Joke’ Explained

The good news for character actors is this: they work a lot. A super-casual term for an actor could be “that guy” or “that girl” as they seemingly pop up in everything as a standout supporting player. Think Kathryn Hahn before she took leading roles in projects like the upcoming Agatha Harkness spinoff in the Marvel Cinematic Universe or the original series “Tiny Beautiful Things.” Greta Lee, too, broke out of character actor status when she took on a leading role in Celine Song’s “Past Lives,” for which she’s earned several major award season nominations. J.K. Simmons, who also falls in this category, won a best supporting actor Oscar for playing the main antagonist in “Whiplash.”

Judy Greer is another perfect example. She rarely plays a lead role, but she adds her considerable talent to any ensemble she joins, whether she’s a sidekick in romantic comedies like “The Wedding Planner,” “27 Dresses,” and “13 Going on 30” or flashing unsuspecting businessmen in “Arrested Development.”

Popular actors who are eminently recognizable but not household names are the very definition of character actors. These include Luis Guzmán (“Wednesday”), John Carroll Lynch (“American Horror Story”), Lorraine Toussaint (“The Equalizer”), Margo Martindale (“Cocaine Bear”), and Becky Ann Baker (literally everything, including “Girls,” “Freaks & Geeks,” and even “Ted Lasso”). Martindale, in fact, is referred to as “Esteemed Character Actress Margo Martindale” on the animated series “BoJack Horseman,” where she voices an especially unhinged version of herself.

It’s definitely not a bad thing to be a character actor; it ensures you stay booked and busy if you can deliver a wide range of performances at the drop of a hat.

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