It can be a little tiresome watching gorgeous, muscular, dazzling actors playing mundane, quirky, bullied, put-upon characters. It often doesn’t make sense to see a performer who could be a model or a Greek statue playing a janitor or desk clerk or an oppressed computer nerd. Certainly, it can be done and indeed it should be done, as great acting has no boundaries and no limits. But there are times when you just need a great craftsman, a humble character actor to achieve verisimilitude and authenticity in the unostentatious, everyman roles in the cinematic realms. 

With that in mind, here is a list of sometimes under-appreciated, and oftentimes under-the-radar actors working in Hollywood today.

Scoot McNairy

Early in his career, Scoot McNairy wasn’t landing the roles that really interested him, so he took the bull by the horns and produced his own independent film In Search of a Midnight Kiss. Scoot starred in the no-budget production, and after winning a host of indie awards, the young actor’s career took off. He went on to star in and produce the independent sci-fi/horror film Monsters, which he also starred in, and the sequel  Monsters 2 wasn’t very far behind. Since then, Scoot has taken on a laudable array of projects and characters, and he’s distinguished himself as the go-to guy when you need a real actor. McNairy’s portrayal of a meek man turned heroic figure in the 2012 film Argo arguably put him on the map, but old Scoot’s rendition of Boston lowlife Frankie in Andrew Dominik’s Killing Them Softly is simply classic. Here is McNairy dressed in brown playing a convincing but deceitful character in 12 Years a Slave. 

Pablo Schreiber

Even though Pablo Schreiber is a bonafide hottie, he manages to play psychos, weirdos, average jerks, and no-account criminals with astonishing presence. Just watch him as the utterly vile prison guard George “pornstache” Mendez in Orange is the New Black and you’ll understand the meaning of commitment. The character is entirely hilarious and decidedly frightening all at the same time, and the way he pulls off a 70’s mustache is the stuff of legend. And if you haven’t caught Schreiber as the criminal mastermind Ray Merrimen in Christian Gudegast’s Den of Thieves, you are missing out. Other notable roles include 13 Hours as the heroic Kris “Tanto” Paronto, local drug lord Wyatt Rivers in the indie crime drama Thumper, and the character Dude in the 2017 comedy Big Bear.

Anthony Mackie

Anthony Mackie is equally adept at acting in just about any and every genre of film known to man and womankind. Superhero movies, action shoot-ups, social and historical dramas, comedies, indies—it just doesn’t matter. The man can act! Whether he’s playing Falcon in the Avengers franchise, or the tortured author Tommy Carter in the horror thriller Repentance, or the lovable loser and avowed muscle head Adrian Doorbal in Pain and Gain, or the emotional warrior Sergeant JT Sanborn in 2008’s The Hurt Locker, the versatile and accomplished actor just seems to disappear into his characters. And be sure to check Anthony out in the gut-wrenching drama Shelter with Jennifer Connely; it’ll break your heart.

John Hawkes

John Hawkes has been acting since 1984, and he’s still going strong. Although he’s been doing it for so long, Hawkes nevertheless procured his first major starring role in HBO’s Deadwood at 45 years of age. The Minnesota native cut his teeth on episodic TV and low-budget horror only to become an indie darling well into middle age. Since then, John’s been tearing up the independent film world with searing performances in films like Identity, Winter’s Bone, Martha Marcy May Marlene, and Wristcutters: A Love Story. Hawkes is particularly convincing as a world-weary loner hellbent on doing the right thing in films like the stylish modern noir masterpiece Too Late and the inimitable indie crime thriller Small Town Crime. Other Hawkes film roles worth checking out are Mike “Bugsy” Moran in The Perfect Storm, Frances McDormand’s ex-husband Charlie in Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri, the partially paralyzed romantic Mark O’Brien in The Sessions, and the long-suffering brother of the one and only Kenny Powers in HBO’s Eastbound and Down.

Character actors serve to ground any given production; they give us a sense of plausibility and color where there is oftentimes just glitz and glamour. If we’re simply left with the allure and pizzaz of comely Hollywood, we’ll miss a whole lotta personality, imagination, spirit, and unorthodox expression. And wouldn’t that be a shame?

So, any character actors or overlooked performers you love? Please share!

And stay tuned, as next week we’ll cover some of our favorite female character actors.

 

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