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September 5, 2015

Eight Character Actresses You Should Know

by Jane Murphy, posted May 16th 2010 4:00PM
Where have I seen her before? The answer: everywhere. Here are eight of the hardest working character actresses on TV. Inspired by Eight Character Actors You Need to Know in Details, we present two quartets of women whose faces, at least, are familiar. After reading this, you won't be excused from calling any of them "Oh, her!"

Alison Brie – Classically trained at CalArts and still in her 20s, Brie specializes in "uptight and highly strung." She plays the prim Annie on 'Community,' but might forever be known as the sensible wife Pete Campbell doesn't deserve on ''Mad Men'.

Like a true character actor, Brie knows that the physicality of her roles is what helps her distinguish between the two. "Trudy has a different walk, she has a different voice. Annie carries herself differently, walks faster, does some things higher pitched, you know," she told TV Squad earlier this year.

Archie Panjabi – Her tough-as-nails role as Kalinda on 'The Good Wife' is a total 180 from her work as silly Pinky in 'Bend it Like Beckham.' Before crossing the pond, she guest-starred on the original 'Life on Mars' for BBC One.

Kate Burton – It's ironic that the daughter of one of the most famous actors of all time would be flying under the radar, but Richard Burton's daughter tends to inhabit supporting roles ('The Good Wife,' 'Rescue Me.') Indelible (and an Emmy-winner) as Alzheimer's patient Dr. Ellis Gray on 'Gray's Anatomy', Meredith's mother and mentor.

Suzy Nakamura – Most recently seen on 'Castle' as a super-intense reality show star and prime suspect, Nakamura was Kat's principal on the just-canceled '10 Things I Hate About You'. Perhaps her best role to date: Inger, the most hilariously mental of Ted Danson's patients on ABC's group therapy sitcom 'Help Me Help You.'

Melinda Page Hamilton – The straw that stirred the martini in 'Mad Men's' third season. Meet the real Don Draper's wife, who accepts a payoff and keeps the many secrets of Dick Whitman (Jon Hamm as Whitman and, well, "Don Draper.") 'Big Love' fans saw Hamilton as Malinda this year. In 2006, she received raves starring in Bobcat Goldthwait's controversial cult comedy 'Sleeping Dogs Lie' (AKA 'Stay.')

Merrin Dungey – Just cast in the new season of 'Hung,' Dungey has punched up punchlines in 'The King of Queens' and most recently in ABC's appreciated but little-seen 'Better Off Ted.' In the early '00s, she aced a rare dramatic role on 'Alias' as Sydney's confidante Francie. She also played Dr. Naomi Bennett in the backdoor 'Private Practice' pilot on 'Grey's Anatomy,' a role that went to Audra McDonald when the series was picked up.

Lois Smith – Turning 80 this year, she got her start opposite James Dean in 'East of Eden.' While still working in features ('Sweet Land' and the current 'Please Give'), she's one of TV's grande dames. Portrays the granny on 'True Blood' and has guest starred on all three 'Law & Order' shows, including a 'Criminal Intent' appearance as the mom of a deranged forger, played by Stephen Colbert – yes, Stephen Colbert.

Amy Sedaris – Bronzed and cross-eyed as incurable floozy Jerri on Comedy Central's beloved 'Strangers with Candy.' Infinitely more attractive when guesting on 'The New Adventures of Old Christine' and 'The Middle.' She's also David Letterman's 21st century Teri Garr – a frequent guest who cracks him up – as well as the sister of humorist David Sedaris.

Did we miss any actresses who've made an impression on you? Do you think any -- or all -- of these actresses should step out of the shadows and get a show of their own? Add your own favorite Most Valuable (Supporting) Players in the comments below.

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j joseph

Melinda Page Hamilton is terrific. She reminds me of Grace Kelly.

May 18 2010 at 7:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Judy Greer. She's like the female version of '6 degrees of Kevin Bacon'!

Judy Lynch is another.

May 16 2010 at 9:57 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
BC McKinney

Grace Zabriskie. Always indelible even in small roles, best known for 'Big Love', 'Seinfeld', 'The Big Easy', and 'Twin Peaks'.

May 16 2010 at 9:39 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Suzy Nakamura was Sam's assistant on The West Wing. When was the Ted Danson show on? I never saw it. You can hardly watch anything on TV without seeing Merrin Dungey. It's almost like when she was on 3 shows at the same time. Is the g in her name pronounced, or is it dun-ee?

May 16 2010 at 9:24 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Dare I suggest you missed Felicia Day?

May 16 2010 at 7:47 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Kari Matchett

May 16 2010 at 6:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Umm... Amy Acker... HELLO!?!?!?!?

Basically any actress used by Joss Whedon who is on the periphery of the main group, sometimes even IN the main group.

Emma Caulfied.

Gina Torres.

Morena Baccarin.

You could even add Alyson Hannigan to the list.

May 16 2010 at 5:46 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Allison Brie is a fantastic actress and is pretty underrated. She's great on Mad Men and absurdly adorable on Community.

May 16 2010 at 5:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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