Add selling and acting together, and you’ve got quite a daunting task in front of you! Maybe that’s why some of these talented commercial actors have gone on to accomplish some truly remarkable things. See if you can recognize some of the 25 most successful commercial actors ever to appear on our televisions.
As the no-nonsense star of Pine Sol cleaning products commercials since 1993, it’s hard not to recognize commercial actress Diane Amos. But she’s bound to be familiar even for those who haven’t seen the ads. Amos has also had roles in Hollywood films, including as Rebecca’s nurse in Nine Months and the older waitress in Patch Adams.
Recently, Amos opened up about the difficulties she had being a single mother trying to find work. Her luck changed the day she was hired for Pine Sol, an audition process which she said “took a long long time.” In addition to Pine Sol, she also does stand up comedy and acts in theater plays.
Having moved to New York as a screenwriter for theater productions, Paul Marcarelli’s first words upon finding out that he got the role as the “Verizon guy,” were, “Think of all the plays we can put on!” But that would not end up being his reality.
Unfortunately, the “can you hear me now?” guy was contractually obligated to stay exclusively with Verizon, and found it interfered with his other projects. When he left them after several years, he was soon signed by one of their major competitors, Sprint. Marcarelli’s first commercial for them aired during the NBA Finals, a sly dig at Verizon.
John Lehr’s performance as Geico’s somehow extinction-proof caveman found his character being regularly offended by the Geico slogan, “So easy a caveman can do it.” But in reality, the commercial actor has a much better sense of humor than the sensitive soul he played in the ads.
Discovered doing improv in Chicago, Lehr landed a deal with NBC before first appearing in the ad in 2004. He has since settled down in LA, has a wife and two kids whom he describes as “my light,” and regularly performs in comedy shows with the goal of helping people deal with substance abuse and stay sober.
She’s racked up credits in films like The Brothers Solomon, Blades of Glory, and The Heartbreak Kid. Yet actress Stephanie Courtney is best known for playing the cheerful, helpful face of Progressive Insurance, Flo. She describes her performance on the commercial as being based on her mom, “when she’s at her most chipper!”
Originally from New York, the energetic insurance actress studied her craft at the Neighborhood Playhouse, after which she started doing stand-up. Those performances brought her to Los Angeles, where Courtney became a main company member of the prestigious Groundlings Theatre, regularly performing there in sketch and improv comedy.
The dry, humorless character that Beck Bennett plays in the AT&T commercials could not be further from reality. Funny man Bennett has been a cast member on the seminal sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live since 2013, treating audiences to satirical portrayals of figures like Russian President Vladimir Putin and CNN anchor Jake Tapper.
While apparently in Hollywood there’s an old adage warning actors not to work with children, Bennett couldn’t disagree more. He’s said in The Daily Beast that starring alongside them in his commercials has done wonders for his career, and that “I don’t find them intolerable or frustrating. They’re just fun, full of energy, and happy to be there.”
When Dennis Haysbert first moved to Hollywood, he was working at a grocery store during the day and attending classes at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts at night. Most recently, the familiar face from the Allstate commercials just posted his Malibu home for sale…for a whopping $10 million dollars!
Haysbert’s career longevity dates back far before Allstate, however. He first began his career in the spotlight in 1978, starting with a guest role in The White Shadow. He became well-known for his role as Senator (later President) David Palmer in 24 and as Sergeant Major Jonas Blane in The Unit.
While many actors from commercials have realized their passion for the screen at a young age, Geneva Carr isn’t one of them. Hailing from Jackson, Mississippi, Carr studied French in college. She put that degree to good use, moving to Paris to study in one of France’s top business schools before getting a job at a French bank on Wall Street.
While working on Wall Street, Carr was suddenly inspired by a Broadway play. She decided to drop everything and become an actress. In addition to being the “AT&T mom,” Carr’s résumé includes numerous roles in television shows and on-stage productions. She was even nominated for a Tony Award as part of the original cast of Hand to God.
Described by Business Insider as one of the most recognizable brand spokespeople in the industry, Carly Foulkes began working for T-Mobile in 2000 at age 20. Originally dressed in either pink or magenta, her look changed around 2000, being featured in a leather bike suit as T-Mobile went for an adventurous motorcyclist look.
That biker look seemed to stand out. After a series of online proposals (particularly from service members) Foulkes posted a video saying that while flattered, she would not be going on any dates with any strange men. T-Mobile and Foulkes parted ways in 2013 after the company began integrating iPhone into its service.
Having appeared in over 50 television commercials, Andrea Rosen’s most notable campaigns have been for Staples, the New York Lottery, and of course, yogurt franchise Yoplait. But that’s not to say that commercials have been her only source of work.
Rosen was also the writer and creator of the Nick Jr./NickMom comedy show, Take Me to Your Mother. In 2000, the company Terry’s Chocolate named Rosen “America’s Wackiest Amateur Comedian,” and she hasn’t stopped making audiences laugh since. She has been a part of comedy troupes Stella and Variety Chac, and even hosted shows for the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater in Chicago.
Arguably, Bill Parks’ most recognizable commercial appearance was in the now-famous Snickers ad during the 2010 Super Bowl. In it, Parks sits in the backseat of a car beside legendary singer Aretha Franklin, who’s very hungry. After she gets a Snickers candy bar in her system, however, she magically turns back into one of Parks’ buddies.
In an interview for Vox, Parks explained that many of these ads are looking to find actors who are modeled after, “whoever the famous schlubby celebrity of the week is.” Often, Parks finds, his auditions will correlate him with the famous faces of celebrities like Zach Galifianakis or Seth Rogen.
NEXT: They started out as actors from commercials, just wait and see where they ended up!
Snapple’s motto for being “Made from the Best Stuff on Earth,” likely wouldn’t have become such a pop-culture phenomenon were it not for actress Wendy Kaufman. These 1990s Snapple ads featured Kaufman cheerfully and enthusiastically answering letters from fans of the product, with her signature Long Island accent.
Many of these ads were not only funny but heartwarming, such as when Kaufman and crew actually went to the house of a fan who wrote that his dog would come running when he heard a Snapple opening. Kaufman was credited with helping Snapple secure a $18.7 billion dollar deal, making it one of the largest drink brands in the US.
While having also landed smaller roles in ensemble comedy series like The Office, Modern Family, and Curb Your Enthusiasm, Laurel Coppock is best known as Jan, the fun and ambitious car dealership employee. “Toyota Jan,” became famous in 2014 by appearing pregnant in Toyota’s Mother’s Day commercial.
Coppock has kept herself diligently busy off-camera. She is a part of the improvisation and sketch comedy troupe The Groundlings, the same group whose alumni include such massive names as Conan O’Brien and Will Ferrell. Additionally, Coppock runs a YouTube page, The BreakWomb, with sketches written and performed by her and two other mothers.
One of Dean Winters’ earliest and most recognizable roles came in 1997, when he played the leading part of Ryan O’Reily on the HBO award-winning prison drama series Oz. Since then, he has worked on other notable television shows, such as Rescue Me, 30 Rock, and Law & Order. But then he ended up in the hospital when his heart stopped beating for nearly three minutes.
After his ordeal, Winters was offered a spot playing “Mayhem” in Allstate’s insurance ad campaign. No doubt he hopes that his role may inspire others to get ready for when “Mayhem is coming.” He currently has a recurring role on the comedy police series Brooklyn Nine-Nine, playing a rival police officer known simply as “The Vulture.”
When asked by StarMetro about when her interest in acting started, Morgan Smith answered with, “I was four years old, acting out The Wizard of Oz in our living room, so my love for it started then.” For Smith, acting is a way to get out of her shell, as growing up she was admittedly quite shy.
Even though she has had the opportunity to work on shows like Veep and Boardwalk Empire, people can easily recognize Smith as the Wendy’s Girl, known as “Red.” In the commercials, Red captivates audiences by enticing friendly strangers and co-workers to try Wendy’s products.
Carrying himself with confidence and charisma, Jonathan Goldsmith dons a suave Latin accent as he plays the smooth-talking, mysterious figure known simply as the “Most Interesting Man In The World” in the Dos Equis beer commercial. The commercial’s ten-year run was wildly popular, launching Goldsmith’s character into Internet meme immortality.
Goldsmith had worked as a garbage collector before briefly making it big starting a waterless car-washing company. The job propelled him from living in “bug-infested apartments” to multi-million dollar homes. Sadly, his partnership ended up going sour and he lost it all. Turns out that Dos Equis guy really does have a fascinating past!
NEXT: You may have to look twice when you realize that this star was once just one of many actors from commercials!
Back in the 2000s, Isaiah Mustafa was just another aspiring actor finding little success in the competitive Hollywood industry. That all shifted radically in 2010, when the former Arizona State football wide receiver ended up landing the gig that would change his life, as deodorant company Old Spice’s “The Man Your Man Could Smell Like”.
The character, a hilariously over-the-top man’s man, took the Internet by storm. Mustafa’s appearance on the commercial was met with such approval that Old Spice continued with him for years, hiring actors like Terry Crews and Kevin Hart to star next to him. Mustafa’s star just keeps on rising: in 2019 he starred as Mike Hanlon in the popular horror film, It Chapter Two.
After making his debut in the 1989 film Alien Space Avenger, it seems like Jerry Lambert’s face has appeared almost everywhere. He’s appeared in over 80 films and TV shows, including Shameless, Everybody Loves Raymond, and Malcolm in the Middle, not to mention commercials for some major companies.
But one of Lambert’s most instantly-recognizable commercial roles came as PlayStation’s Kevin Butler, aka the “VP of Everything.” After years of starring in the PlayStation campaign, Lambert began working for Nintendo. PlayStation were less than pleased, and after complaining to Nintendo, they actually ended up scrapping the commercials that they’d filmed with Lambert.
Gillian Vigman goes above and beyond your average commercial star and comedy actress. In fact, according to her IMDb page, she’s been bestowed with the title of “Commercial Queen” for her appearances in dozens of television advertisements. Known as playing Jack’s Wife for Jack in the Box restaurant ads, she has also appeared on commercials for Hanes, Chase, Swiffer, and DirectTV.
Vigman’s career hasn’t been defined by just doing commercials, though. As a writer and actress, she has received credits for working on such acclaimed comedy films as Step Brothers, The Hangover, and Walk of Shame. Vigman also worked for seven years in a recurring role on the television series New Girl.
Known simply as “The Messenger” on the Progressive Insurance spots, Johnny Jenkinson’s character will often help out strangers by washing cars or filling up gas tanks. He does it all as he reminds them of his “message”, that the only reason that he can afford it is thanks to all the money he saved by switching to Progressive.
Before taking up the mantle of “The Messenger,” Jenkinson was a contestant and winner on 2004’s Fear Factor. Additionally, he isn’t just an actor, but has chalked up some writing accolades as well. He is known for his work on College Options Man, Appreciated Andy, and Outpost: Gun to a Gunfight.
Though her character of store manager Lily Adams in the AT&T commercials can be described as helpful and perky, Milana Vayntrub can nonetheless convey a sly sense of humor hiding just under her cheerful demeanor. What started as a one-time spot ended up becoming a three-year contract, with Vayntrub becoming one of the most memorable commercial actresses in television.
Varntrub’s family was originally from Uzbekistan when it was a part of the Soviet Union, fleeing to the United States when the future actress was just two years old. She ended up building an on-screen career, also well-known for starring as Sloane on the inter-generational NBC television drama, This Is Us.
NEXT: These actors from commercials went on to accomplish some impressive feats!
What’s so memorable about that Orbit Gum girl? Is it her signature vintage outfit, all white with a scarf? Perhaps it’s how she abruptly appears in awkward situations with a glowing smile and calm, cheerful demeanor? Or maybe it’s her catchphrase, “Dirty mouth? Clean it up with Orbit gum!” Whatever the reason, she’s made sure however we remember her, it’s going to be “fabulous!”
Branch was born in London, England (as you might expect), but after moving to the United States, she became Miss Vermont in 1994. Not content with only competing in pageants, the smiling actress also learned to speak fluent French and Mandarin, and her acting accolades even include 2003’s Pirates of the Caribbean.
Jake Stone didn’t have any aspirations to be an actor, until his college roommate suggested he try out for a State Farm television spot. Soon, people were recognizing this “regular guy” left and right. According to Stone himself, they couldn’t get enough of him. Asking for autographs has become a regular occurrence, and people routinely stop him to take photos.
Stone has said that his fame as a commercial star has been so well-received by audiences that the infamous pair of khakis that he wears in the commercials have even been signed by him and are hanging at his favorite campus bar, Pub II in Bloomington, Illinois.
Turns out that telling Hallie Eisenberg that you’re out of Pepsi is quite the risky move. In the soda commercials, the young girl walks into a restaurant and orders a Pepsi. When she is told that they only have Coke, she does a Mafiaesque impersonation until she receives her precious beverage.
Following her success with Pepsi, Eisenberg acted in several films as a child actress, including Bicentennial Man with Robin Williams, The Insider with Al Pacino and Russell Crowe, and Disney’s moving film about Helen Keller, The Miracle. But here’s the biggest twist of all: it may be hard to tell from the photo, but Hallie Eisenberg is actually the sister of Oscar-nominated actor Jesse Eisenberg!
Originally a part of the Steppenwolf Theatre troupe, Melanie Paxson ended up transitioning into work in television while still living in Chicago. She gained minor recognition for her role as Jaclyn in the 1998 series, Cupid. Post-Cupid success, Melanie fell in love with acting and moved to Los Angeles, guest-starring on a number of television shows.
With an already recognizable face, Paxson increased her television presence by appearing on various advertising campaigns, Gladware reusable containers being one of the most popular. Most recently, Paxson has a starring role on the television series Dealbreakers, a show that tries to answer the question, “Why am I still single?”
You’d never know it, but the “SlapChop Guy”, aka Vince Offer, originally hails from Israel. He used to sell an early version of the device at flea markets after moving from the Middle East to Los Angeles. The profits that Offer earned from his early sales were used to finance his personal project, The Underground Comedy Movie, in 1996.
Unfortunately the movie didn’t do so well, and by 2002, Offer was back to flea markets, selling SlapChops and that famous absorbent towel, the ShamWow. Only now, Offer began making late-night infomercials for the products, often adding to them a touch of his own raunchy humor. While it’s unknown exactly how much he sold, by Offer’s own account, the infomercial helped him to sell “millions.”
Sources: The Atlantic, Forbes