My top 10 character actors

To make it as a Hollywood leading man you not only need to be an amazing actor but you also need the looks and the body to pull in the crowds. Fortunately good movies are not all about the leading man and some of the most memorable performances come from actors who have made their name playing secondary characters rather than they guy who saves the day/gets the girl/wins the game. They appear again and again often carving out a niche but most of the time no one remembers their names. Without them the world of cinema would be a much more boring place. These are my favourites.

2014AndySerkis_Getty453915637210314Andy Serkis
Niche role: More often than not you never actually see Serkis’ face since he’s a pioneer in playing motion-capture characters.
Most memorable role: Gollum in The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers (2002), The Lord of the Rings: The Return of the King (2003), The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey (2012)
Show-stealing ability: 7/10
“For me, I’ve never drawn a distinction between live-action acting and performance-capture acting. It is purely a technology.”

Danny-Trejo---Machete-005Danny Trejo
Niche role:
If you need a tough Latino convict/gangster/drug dealer there simply isn’t anyone better
Most memorable role: Machete in Machete (2010) and Machete Kills (2013)
Show-stealing ability: 5/10
“Hollywood wants guys who can act tough – Hollywood don’t want tough guys.”

Eddie-Marsan-interview-007Eddie Marsan
Niche role: The straight man to an utterly out of control wild character, who takes his loyalty for granted.
Most memorable role: Bladsey in Filth (2013)
Show-stealing ability: 4/10
“I sometimes think if I had gone to Oxford or Cambridge and looked like a handsome young guy who could be in an Evelyn Waugh novel or something, I’d be a massive movie star. But there’s a longevity to what I do. It’s more reliable. Someone isn’t deciding that I’m the next big thing. Because if they’re deciding I’m the next big thing, they can decide that someone else is the next big thing.”

ernie_hudson_bannerErnie Hudson
Niche role: Police chief who acts as a voice of reason
Most memorable role: Winston Zeddemore in Ghostbusters (1984) and Ghostbusters II (1989)
Show-stealing ability: 3/10
“After all these years, almost 30 years later, whenever I’m on the street, someone will call out, ‘Who you gonna call?'”

hoffman_2815206bPhilp Seymour Hoffman Niche role: Larger-than-life eccentric who has a cutting insight into what is going on
Most memorable role: Lester Bangs in Almost Famous (2010)
Show-stealing ability: 9/10
“Actors are responsible to the people we play. I don’t label or judge. I just play them as honestly and expressively and creatively as I can, in the hope that people who ordinarily turn their heads in disgust instead think, ‘What I thought I’d feel about that guy, I don’t totally feel right now’ “

img_8896Jason Flemyng
Niche role: Monster with a heart. His best roles always seem to involve full disfiguring make-up.
Most memorable role: Azazel in X-Men: First Class (2011)
Show-stealing ability: 5/10
“My skill, which I’ve mastered, is being slightly out of focus behind really expensive actors.”

movies-chris-cooperChris Cooper
Niche role: Tough but flawed military man
Most memorable role: Colonel Fitts in American Beauty (2000)
Show-stealing ability: 8/10
“I suspect that a lot of studio executives still think of me as ‘what’s-his-name’.”

pete-postlethwaite-311372914Pete Poselthwaite
Niche role: Wise father-figure
Most memorable role: Father Laurence in Romeo + Juliet (1996)
Show-stealing abilitiy: 6/10
“It’s all in the cheekbones, this career of mine. They are quite whopping, aren’t they? Who was it that said, ‘He looks like he’s got a clavicle stuck in his mouth?'”

william-Fichtner-prison-break1William Fichtner
Niche role: Morally bereft sleaze-ball
Most memorable role: John Carlyle in Elysium (2013)
Show-stealing ability: 5/10
“What I truly get excited about is not the genre of a movie or the size of a part – it’s character. I like to find characters.”

Reservoir Dogs (1992)Steve Buscemi
Niche role: Creepy loser/nutter who never stops talking
Most memorable character: Mr Pink in Reservoir Dogs (1992)
Show-stealing ability: 10/10
“It’s weird; I was not a really tough guy in high school, but I end up playing all of these psychopaths and criminals. I don’t really care who they are, as long as they are complicated and going through something that I can understand and put across.”


  1. LOVE this list. These definitely are some solid actors for this list, and they excel at what they do!

    1. Abbi

      Thanks! I think being a character actor can probably feel like a thankless task but there are some amazing performances from these guys. Steve Buscemi steals every film he is in even if it’s only for five minutes.

      1. I am with you there completely, excellent. Serkis is also an important one.

  2. Glad to see Chris Cooper make the list!

    1. Abbi

      I love Chris Cooper. He’s had such a great career.

  3. theipc

    Abbi – have you ever seen a movie called “Rat” with Postelthwaite??

    1. Abbi

      No but now I feel like I should look it up.

      1. theipc

        Rat is a wonderfully funny movie!!

  4. Great list. Love Steve Buscemi! He owns Boardwalk Empire and I can’t wait to see where his career takes him next.

    1. Abbi

      I think he’s going to be in our screens until he’s 90!

  5. Another great list. I’d also add Jim Broadbent.

    1. Abbi

      Excellent choice!

  6. Terrific list and love those quotes you picked out!

    1. Abbi

      Thank-you! It was actually so easy to find self-deprecating quotes from these guys. Probably part of what makes them awesome.

  7. Great post! I LOVE Andy Serkis (loved stalking him at Comic-Con until we took a picture together, as well). Chris Cooper is so underrated. PSH is one of my favorite actors (gone too freaking soon, dammit).

    Also, the quotes by Flemyng and Postlethwaite are awesome.

    1. Abbi

      I got to see Serkis doing a panel for Dawn of the Planet of the Apes and he was so fricking cool. Total legend.

      I was looking forward to seeing PSH become a great eccentric old man onscreen. So sad that will never happen now.

  8. YES! This is a great list! William Fichtner and Steve Buscemi are always highlights when they show up! However, I’ll have to disagree with Serkis only scoring a 7/10. Gollum and Caesar are genuine show stealers and some of the best characters of cinematic history.

    1. Abbi

      You make a good point and after seeing Dawn of the Planet of the Apes last night I think I’m going to have to up it.

  9. […] of my favourite performances come from character actresses. So following up from last week’s top 1o character actors, these are my most loved character […]

  10. Tom

    Hey Abbi, these lists are really great!

    In fact I was wanting to link back to some of these posts when I do my own Top Ten Actors/Actresses Who I’ll See in Anything (. . .pretty much), if that is alright with you. The only snag is I can’t find the links to those particular posts on here, unless you don’t mind which ones I link to. I was going to provide links to the Actors/Actresses who you like and who you are annoyed by, seeing as that’s the set-up I’m going with. Just let me know. And also: thanks for letting me continue to spread the post! It’s a good idea.

      1. Tom

        okay, awesome! Those links help a bunch, I was actually looking thru a bunch of other people’s blogs to try and find the original posts. lol

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