5 Former Character Actors Who Made It Big

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Character actors are those people that you see on TV and the movies and think, “Oh, it’s that guy!” “That guy” or “that lady” has a face that you’ve seen often. You can describe the person, but you don’t necessarily know who the person is. A handful of lucky actors made it past being just a recognizable face and got on to the silver screen with their names on movie posters and marquees.

5 Danny Trejo

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If Danny Trejo looks like a bad boy, it’s because he was. As a young person, Trejo was in and out of jail for 11 years on charges like drug violations and armed robbery, and even served time in San Quentin. After completing a 12-step program, Trejo mentored a fellow Cocaine Anonymous meeting member who was in the movie industry. He became “that guy” for his signature ponytail, scarred face and tattoos when he had small roles in movies and TV shows like “Runaway Train,” “Baywatch” and “Mi Vida Loca.” Trejo started to make it big when he landed roles on movies like “Desperado,” “Once Upon a Time in Mexico” and “From Dusk till Dawn.”

4 Giovanni Ribisi

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Once upon a time, Giovanni Ribisi was just a kid who did an “X-Files” episode with Jack Black, played a tough Italian teenager and was the guy who played Phoebe Buffay’s brother on “Friends.” Ribisi also had gigs on shows like “My Two Dads,” “Blossom,” “The Wonder Years” and “The Postman.” He started to make it big when he landed roles on movies like “Saving Private Ryan,” “The Mod Squad” and “Avatar,” for which he won a 2009 Teen Choice Award for Choice Hissy Fit.

3 William H. Macy

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Before he started to win Emmy Awards, William H. Macy was generally typecast as the guy who always seemed to have bad luck or was always worried. Before being nominated for an Oscar in 1996 for his lead role in the movie “Fargo,” Macy had a recurring role on shows like “Law & Order” as an attorney and “ER” as a head doctor. He later went on to have memorable roles in movies like “Magnolia,” “The Cooler” and “Wild Hogs.”

2 Amy Adams

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Sweet Amy Adams began her career as a singer and dancer in dinner theater productions. She became “that girl” after appearances in movies like “Drop Dead Gorgeous” and “Cruel Intentions 2.” She also had some gigs on TV shows, including “The West Wing,” “Smallville” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” After landing a small starring role in Steven Spielberg’s “Catch Me if You Can,” she went on to win a Special Jury Prize at the 2005 Sundance Film Festival for her role in “Junebug.” The public didn’t really notice Adams, however, until she played Giselle in the Disney flick “Enchanted.” Since then, Adams has only had starring roles in movies like “Doubt,” “Night at the Museum 2: Battle of the Smithsonian” and “The Master.”

1 Samuel L. Jackson

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After participating in the civil rights movement and studying acting at Morehouse College, Samuel L. Jackson was “that guy” until he met Spike Lee and Morgan Freeman. Jackson’s acting career started in the theater and with several small roles in TV shows and movies like “Coming to America” and “Goodfellas.” During the 1980s, Jackson struggled with drug addiction and entered rehab in the early 1990s. After successfully completing treatment, Jackson played a drug addict in the movie “Jungle Fever.” His biggest break, however, came when he landed the role of Jules Winnfield in Quentin Tarantino’s film “Pulp Fiction.” Since then, Jackson has had is choice in big roles as a master villain or the ultimate hero.

Flora Richards-Gustafson has been writing professionally since 2003. She creates copy for websites, marketing materials and printed publications. Richards-Gustafson specializes in SEO and writing about small-business strategies, health and beauty, interior design, emergency preparedness and education. Richards-Gustafson received a Bachelor of Arts from George Fox University in 2003 and was recognized by Cambridge's "Who's Who" in 2009 as a leading woman entrepreneur.

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