20 TV Actors More Deserving Of Your "Nepotism" Scorn
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20 TV Actors More Deserving Of Your "Nepotism" Scorn

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | November 6, 2012 | Comments ()


Among the many criticisms hurled at the young cast of HBO's "Girls" (and particularly its star and creator, Lena Dunham), the ridiculous charge of "nepotism" struck me as the most inane.
You can't throw a Louboutin in Hollywood without hitting SOMEONE's daughter. In fact, I'm pretty sure being someone's daughter is actually a prerequisite for dating Brad Pitt. "Girls" starts its second season in January and I, for one, welcome the return because, by the end of season one, Dunham's seemingly pampered world view revealed itself to be a well-honed critique she turned on herself. Think "Louie" with marginally fewer masturbation jokes. If "Girls" ain't your cup of tea, that's fine. But cram the nepotism crap up your cramhole. Unless, of course, you're willing to write off the following TV actors as well.

Melissa McCarthy -- "Mike and Molly": McCarthy got her acting start with a small role on her cousin Jenny McCarthy's sitcom.

Tony Goldwyn -- "Scandal": Though he's perhaps best known as the weaselly bad guy from Ghost, he'll always be the voice of Disney's Tarzan to me. These days Goldwyn is steaming up the Oval Office windows on "Scandal," but his famous surname (putting the "G" in MGM since 1924) should give you hint of how he got his start.

Mariska Hargitay -- "Law & Order: SVU": If your mother was the glorious Jayne Mansfield (subject of my favorite photos ever), you'd be confident in your sexuality too.
hargitay .jpeg

Campbell Scott -- "Royal Pains": First of all, Campbell Scott, it hurts me that you're on this show. Secondly, Scott is, of course, the son of George C. Scott and Colleen Dewhurst. What would happen if Marilla Cuthbert and Patton had a baby, you ask? This.

Damon Wayans Jr. -- "Happy Endings": Don't worry, I know you already knew this one.

Kyra Sedgwick -- "The Closer: Kyra Sedgwick is, of course, half of one of Hollywood's most enduring and enduringly adorable couples. But did you know that she's also the cousin of Edie Sedgwick aka the Factory Girl? Yeah I don't know how much that helped Kyra in her career, but it was a bit of oddness I wanted to share.

Martha Plimpton -- "Raising Hope": Despite using her mother's last name, Martha Plimpton is a Carradine. Daughter of Keith, niece of David and Robert. So, her father's character on "Deadwood," Wild Bill Hickok, was shot by Garret Dillahunt who now plays her husband on "Raising Hope." Sticky.

Timothy Hutton -- "Leverage": Hutton won the Academy Award in 1980 for Ordinary People, but got his start in the business due, in part, to the pedigree of his father, 1960s film star Jim Hutton. P.S. The image below has forever ruined Beautiful Girls for me.

Minka Kelly -- "Friday Night Lights"/"Charlie's Angels": Ol' Lyla Garrity here is the daughter of former Aerosmith guitarist, Rick Dufay. Not impressive? Oh I'd say it's a pretty close match to the daughter of Bad Company's drummer.

Juliet Landau -- "Buffy The Vampire Slayer": Though Drusilla hasn't been working steadily in TV for quite some time now, I somehow never put it together that she's Martin Landau's daughter. Which makes me a bad Whedonite, I know.

The Sisters Deschanel -- "Bones"/"New Girl": Their father is an Academy Award-winning cinematographer and their mother was a series regular on "Twin Peaks."
Deschanel .jpeg

Emily Mortimer -- "The Newsroom": Americans and non-bookish types may not have heard of Emily Mortimer's father, John. But, trust me, he was super famous, chiefly for his "Rumpole of the Bailey" book series. For simplicity's sake, let's inaccurately call him the British John Grisham.

Mamie Gummer -- "Emily Owens, MD": Gummer is, don't get me wrong, very talented. And I give her major points for not using her mother's last name. But that doesn't change the fact that she's Meryl Streep's daughter and that fact alone must have opened many doors for her. Oh and no, if you're wondering, her show is not very good. Yes, she falls down a lot. She should stick to kicking *ss on "The Good Wife."

Rashida Jones -- "Parks & Recreation": Being Quincy Jones' daughter cannot have hurt this beautiful tropical fish.

Richard Belzer -- "Law & Order": Is the Fonz's cousin.

Dakota Johnson -- "Ben & Kate": Dakota is adorable on the new Fox sitcom and I hope her show sticks around. She also happens to be Don Johnson and Melanie Griffith's daughter. Maybe that will help.

Anderson Cooper -- "Anderson Cooper 360°": Cooper is Gloria Vanderbilt's son. I'm pretty sure her genes were enough to get him anywhere he wanted to go.

Abby Elliott -- "SNL: First person to ever be a second generation "SNL" cast member. I never liked Elliott on the show and am glad she's gone. But, then again, I felt the same way about her dad Chris.

Bryan Cranston -- "Breaking Bad": Yup, the king of television himself, Bryan Cranston, comes an actor/producer family in Hollywood. Are they anyone I've ever heard of? Nope. But, then again, I hadn't heard of Laurie Simmons before either.

(This is, by no means, an exhaustive list. And if I had but time enough, I would have included all the Capshaws, Derns and Caans you could possibly hope for.)

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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not

  • Buck Forty

    When I saw that Mariska Hargitay pic I thought I thought "whoar, she can arrest me any time she likes". Then I remembered what show she was on, and thought "perhaps not".
    Maybe a little wrongful arrest, followed by a full vindication, leading to laughing about it afterwards? And by afterwards I mean sex.

  • Honest Rob

    Weak rebuttal. The difference between the "girls" cast and the rest of this list? EVERY ONE of the Girls cast was DIRECTLY helped by their parents - and they ALL admit it. Tiny Furniture? that laqme film was funded by her mom's art friends and at least one gallery owner is a producer. Brian Williams daughter says in interviews daddy got her in many an audition at NBC, even though "she didn't want it". We all know the Mamet brat got her start on daddy's show "The Unit" - and she sucked as bad back then as she does now. Study, young Mamet! Study!.
    The ONLY one who hasn't come out and admitted she got daddy's help is the bad company daughter - the only one with talent n that whole show.
    So, yeah, weak, but nice try anyway.

  • crispyaod

    Let's not forget the Mara sisters (Kate and Rooney), who's father is New York Giants co-owner John Mara. The other co-owner is Producer Steve Tisch (American History X, Snatch, Forrest Gumb, etc). Not to say they aren't talented, but that's certainly a leg up.

  • nepotism in general (not necessarily in the incestuous world of film) isn't as petty as it seems on the surface. there is nothing peculiar about families looking out for each other(they're supposed to). helping a nephew who is down on his luck into a job, or helping a brother in-law out because you are worried about your sister's future isn't evil even if it isn't entirely fair to some other applicant. That's life, we're tribal, deal with it.

    Also, there is the know-what-you're-getting factor. This is why employers sometimes look for employee referrals too. hiring is a time and resource consuming activity that sometimes has to be repeated because how someone is in an interview and on the job might differ starkly. If you have a cousin you've known all your life, you know they are basically decent and not an alcoholic, you're halfway home with hiring. It's different if you are shunting relatives into high paying positions that they are not qualified for, but I find, people are often quick to whip out the nepotism tarbrush with little call.

  • Nonplussed

    None of these people are particularly amazing actors.

  • wendywoo

    Rupert Murdoch's second wife and mother of most of his children is a one Anna Torv. Fans of Fox show Fringe will recognise her talented niece and namesake.

  • godo

    Belzer was on the scene and a well-known comedian before Henry Winkler ever put on that leather jacket

  • um, the gyllenhaals?

  • Barnitosupreme

    You don't like Chris Elliot? :(

  • Kenny

    Kiefer Sutherland (24), Scott Caan (Hawaii 5-0) and Colin Hanks (Dexter) are a few more you can add onto this

  • Anne

    The physical resemblance between Jayne and Mariska is great. The difference lies mainly in attitude. But both are beautiful women

  • Frank Berrodin

    Give me Rashida Jones with glasses any day of the week and I am a happy man

  • Does nepotism explain Jonah Hill? Otherwise it is perplexing he even has a career.

  • pawlit

    From what I've heard and red he is very close with Dustin Hoffman.

    Not related though, so it doesn't count as nepotism (cronyism perhaps?)

  • F'mal DeHyde

    Quincy Jones AND Peggy Lipton for all the rest of you old farts that remember The Mod Squad. That was the coolest show on TV when I was in grade school.

  • Gayle

    Oona "Grand-daughter of Charlie" Chaplin anyone?

  • csb

    The nepotism jokes about Girls were fun for a while, but I think the only serious issue of nepotism on that show relates to the wooden plank fathered by Brian Williams.

  • Noo

    Not TV anymore, but Chris Pine is the son of Robert Pine and Gwynne Gilford who played his mum and dad in his TV debut on CHiPS. His maternal grandmother is Anne Gwynne, a B movie 'screamer' who married an actor/producer - Max Gilford.

  • llp

    I don't know what this "Royal Pains" program is, but I approve of Campbell Scott's look above. Yes, yes I do.

  • Devin McMusters

    Maybe you should check out Royal Pains. It's very good.

  • Mitchell Hundred

    I'm not sure if it's accurate to compare Mortimer with Grisham. Although not terribly familiar with the Rumpole books, I understand that they are comedic works.

  • e jerry powell


    Ever heard of Grace or Henry Gummer? Also actors, also Streep's kids, and all have worked on mom's projects here and there, among other things.

    And why is it that they always talk about Zosia Mamet's father but never her mother? I figure that Buffy fans would spread the nepotistic love.

  • Jezzer

    Fine, if I agree that the "nepotism" probably isn't that big of a deal, can you agree that Lena Dunham's head is so far up her own ass she can see her duodenum?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Lemme guess - Bryan Cranston is related to The Shadow?

  • Archie_Leach

    Hasn't anyone here ever heard of Blythe Danner? If not, look up "goop".

  • e jerry powell

    How much television did Gwynnie do before mommers went back for Will & Grace and the like?

  • BierceAmbrose

    Joss Whedon, the "world's first third-generation TV writer."

    Bad Whedonite. Bad, bad Whedonite.

  • JoannaRobinson

    No way! This is a list of actors. Bad reader. Bad, bad reader.

  • BierceAmbrose

    Numfar? That was some fine actrissin' right there. Shall I list the cameos & guest spots off the top O my head?

    Also - um - scold me some more.

  • Sarah

    Wouldn't call you a "bad Whedonite". There's always new cast trivia to learn and love. I didn't know until recently that Nathan Fillion had auditioned for Angel and Christian Kane had auditioned for Riley! Now wouldn't that have been interesting...And I'm still digesting that SMG was cast as Cordelia originally.

  • e jerry powell

    Now I'm too caught up in imagining. Angel with a ridonkulous bootay...

  • theotherone

    How about The Bush family? George, George W, and Jeb?

  • pumpkin

    Don't forget Billy!

  • John G.

    And Alec, Alec Bush. Oh...wait, that might be a different family.

  • lowercase_ryan

    Whenever I think about Damon Wayans and his Jr., I can't help but think of his stand up bit where he talks about how his son (Jr.) is abusing masterbation and how he likes to fuck with him. Hi-larious.

  • Opie Curious

    Mamie Gummer and Meryl Streep actually played the same character decades apart in the 2006 movie Evening. That was one of her earliest rolls. So, yes, I'd say it helped her a bit.

    But yeah, what Leelee said. If you work hard, good for you for taking advantage of the doors that are open to you. The way to deal with the problem of privilege isn't for privileged people to shrug and walk away from something they care about and want to be great at.

    If you coast through, though, a pox on your house, preferably one with never-ending boils. (There's only one house in nepotism. It doesn't sound as good this way.)

  • John G.

    But cram the nepotism crap up your cramhole. Unless, of course, you’re willing to write off the following TV actors as well.

    I'm prepared to write off some of them.

  • Leelee

    Nepotism never bothers me if the people on the receiving end are talented or willing to work hard to further their opportunities.
    HOWEVER. Cody. Fucking. Horn.
    I realise that Magic Mike was not a tour de force of acting talent, but that woman was so absolutely dreadful that she managed to make Charming Potato look like Christian Bale. She nearly managed to ruin a film about male strippers. MALE STRIPPERS. And she got in because her dad was COO of the studio.
    That is the only time I have actively detested nepotism in the film industry.

  • apsutter

    OMG.....that bitch was UNBEARABLE!! I had no idea who the hell she was but she was so wooden!! Even my boyfriend, who rarely pays attention to actors, kept mentioning how terrible she was and said she probably blew someone to get the job. At least now I know it's nepotism. She was so bad and she reminded me of Kristen Stewart! They both have the same annoying mannerisms and can't act their way out of a paper bag.

  • I actually didn't think she was that bad. I'm assuming awkward is what they were going for. (There were plenty such don't-know-what-to-say scenes with other characters as well.)

  • no one

    I agree. I don't really care about nepotism in hollywood. so acting is a family business, big deal. That being said, if every actor up there disappeared I'd miss like 3 of them at most.

  • MGMcD

    Oh I could not agree more, I had no idea how that piece of cardboard landed in that movie. How one can not only have absolutely zero chemistry with a half-naked and dancing Charming Tater but also maintain that "I just sharted" expression through every line delivery is beyond me. Every time she was onscreen, half of the audience groaned. This was not Citizen Kane but damn you're right, she almost ruined it.

  • kushiro -

    She will get more work. One thing about nepotism and entertainment is that, while being remarkably shitty at something in the real world can get you fired, in Hollywood you can suck out loud forever, rake in the bucks and be A STAR.

  • Arran

    The funny part about people complaining that Lena Dunham only got her job because of nepotism is that they hadn't even heard of her mother until Girls started.

  • kushiro -

    I'd suggest that for most of the people mentioned in this piece, there's not a whole lot of bad feeling about their family connections because, for the most part, they are hardworking and talented people who have done their best to learn and improve, and a lot of them are focused on being actors instead of "movie stars".
    And they seem to have a certain amount of humility that comes along with that (or if not, they're smart enough to not act like raging egomonsters).

    The problem lies in the ones who just get handed the career and then act like they deserved it all along. No commitment, no sign of trying to excel, no integrity. "Just put me on the screen and give me lots of money, because my folks are famous and so too should I be. And now I'm off to the club, byeeeee."

  • L.O.V.E.

    Gwyneth Paltrow does not think you are talking about her. She would be wrong.

  • kushiro -

    I was thinking more along Jaden Smith/Rumer Willis lines, but I don't disagree with you.

  • duckandcover

    If there's one person who deserves a "potato" nickname, it's Rumer Willis.

  • Puddin

    And Blake Lively is Teen Witch's half sister! Do you think they rap "Take That" at the holidays?!

  • becks

    It's "Top That", heathen.

    You'll never be hip.

  • Puddin

    Trick, I don't really give -a- about tryin' to top that.

    **struts back to bike**

    So top THAT.

  • becks

    I'm so embarrassed.

    Look at how funky he is.

  • KC

    I love you both

  • KatSings

    Who you know is significant in every industry. Networking and connections lead to more jobs than talent (this is not knocking talent or hard work - those keep the jobs the networking and connections get you). Show business is the obvious demonstrator of this because a lot of industry types marry and procreate with other industry types. Also? We know their lives more than your regular CEO. So we harp on these connection harder. But it's the reality for almost all job fields that connections open doors. I worked reception at my dad's office for awhile, and that hiring was because I was his daughter. It's not show biz exclusive.

  • ClaireB

    Like basically any other jobs. It is nepotism. Been around for quite a awhile. But if you're talented, you still deserve a good place, even if you're life has been easy.

  • ShagEaredVillain

    Who the hell is Abby Elliott's mother? That girl dodged a major genetic bullet.

  • duckandcover

    Paula Niedert, a talent coordinator.

  • EAG46

    Never mind that; what about her grandfather being radio humor icon Bob Elliot of Bob & Ray?! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/B...

  • BWeaves

    My favorite "are they related bit" is when Carrie Fisher runs down her family tree in "Wishful Drinking" to see if two young 'uns, who are dating, are committing incest or not.

    I thought Nepotism was when you hired your relatives, not if you happened to be related to someone else in show business.

    #1 Nepotism scorn: Glen on Mad Men.

  • apsutter

    Even worse because he's acting right alongside Kiernan Shipka who is a little powerhouse on that show! I usually can't stand child actors but that girl has chops.

  • BWeaves


  • To be fair, though, that kid was freakishly perfect as the character. He was so damn creepy.

  • BWeaves

    Yeah, he's creepy ("Thanks, Dad!"), but he always looks like he's reading off the cue cards, while Kiernan Shipka acts circles around him. It wouldn't bother me so much if he was actually good at acting.

  • It always cracked me up to think of how that poor kid will one day realize just why his dad put him on the show.

  • LwooodPDowd

    There is a distinct difference between being given a small part to show your talents and being given a staring role in a major vehicle.

  • kidicarus222

    Do people know that Tim Daly is Tyne Daly's brother? Even though they look alike, I find this insane. Also, Alia Shawkatt is the granddaughter of Paul Burke, from Valley of the Dolls, Jason Sudeikis is the nephew of George Wendt, and Win Butler's granddad was a famous guitar man. And Rashida is Peggy Lipton's kid too, so she and Zooey could share their Twin Peaks heritage on the set of Our Idiot Brother. I'd like to think they talked of nothing but.

  • frankly

    Talk about can't unsee - Sudekis and Wendt? Look into your chubby future...

  • Devin McMusters

    I'm creaming. Two mentions of Twin Peaks on one webpage.

  • sistercoyote

    Today's random six degrees of...moment:

    Martin Landau (in redface, unfortunately) and Jim Hutton starred together in a very odd little comedy called "The Hallelujah Trail."

  • chanohack

    Mariska's father was also Mr. Universe. (No wonder she is PERFECT.) And I didn't know that Munch and the Fonz were related, but now I can't unsee it.

  • sistercoyote

    I didn't know, either, but...yeah.

  • Blake

    If the said person is actually talented then there is no "Nepotism" and in most of the cases above that is in fact true. Nepotism in Hollywood is like Six Degrees of Separation to Kevin Bacon.

  • kushiro -

    I guess I'd have to disagree somewhat, in that if having the right connections gets you in a place to have those talents recognized, then there must be some nepotism going on.

  • Arran

    I heard Jason Ritter on a podcast once, and he said being John Ritter's son really did NOT help him get any jobs. HOWEVER, if he did get a job it helped, because so many people remembered his dad as one of the nicest people in town and treated Jason well as a result.

  • John himself was the progeny of Tex Ritter, a famous country singer and star of Westerns in the 30's and 40's.

  • kushiro -

    That's probably true. I'm certain nobody ever said, "He's John Ritter's kid? Hire him." But being his son does mean that he already knows tons of people in the industry. Hollywood is a small place. And while maybe he doesn't get the job, he probably gets considered way more often than an equally-talented (or even more talented), non-connected person, because hey, he's John's son, give him a look.

    And anyway, I doubt that John Ritter was the type to go around asking people to do him a favour and give his boy a break. So yeah, he probably had to prove he had what it takes. Other parents are not so reluctant to throw their weight around.

  • Arran

    Right, it's not the same every time. I mean, I don't think Will Smith's kids are getting jobs based on talent alone.

  • That's not nepotism, that's cynicism. These kids can be whored out for serious cash all around in a way that they could not be f they weren't famous. I don't see how it is nepotism if everyone makes more money than they otherwise would.

  • Jezzer

    You don't even want to know how much Willow had to whip her hair to get where she is today.

  • Blake

    But connections (or actual talent) don't necessarily equal fame. In a perfect world talent should trump all and if you are lucky enough to have a connections to put that talent to use then good for you.

  • chanohack

    Isn't it one of the downsides to Nepotism that working with (say) a mother and daughter is hard on the other employees, because they have to be sensitive to the relationship (and not say things like, "God I can't stand Mamie! Some people's kids!")? So I'd argue that there especially is no "Nepotism" if the relatives aren't working with each other.

  • duckandcover


  • zeke_the_pig

    This is a list that should be expanded into a giant, comprehensive connections matrix that encompasses every discipline and it should then be posted on the walls of every school in the country, along with the tagline: 'KNOW SOMETHING? DON'T BOTHER. KNOW SOMEONE!'
    That's how you encourage a meritocracy! Don't tell me we all start from the same place! Tell me I'm fucked because I know noone! That's when I'll start working my fucking arse off, just to spite the misfortune of a connection-less family!

  • ,

    I am constitutionally required to say:

    Emily is the hot Deschanel.

  • also, i had no idea anyone else felt this way. all you ever see is people flailing drooly about the vapid plain wooden sister

  • word. there's just no contest there.

  • Fabius_Maximus


  • Natallica

    Besides, Emily is the one I would like to share a beer with. Zooey looks like she would burst into singing twee songs randomly. With an ukulele

  • John G.

    wait, are you pronouncing that "oooh-kooo-lay-lee?"

  • Groundloop

    This is the subject of much contention over on Warming Glow, but yeah, Emily > Zooey.

  • Blake

    Emily is prettier but straight up talent wise Zooey wins.

  • HMDK

    How? She's never shown any?

  • DarcyMcCarbomb

  • The Other Agent Johnson

    I am morally and ethically bound to agree with you.

    It's not even really that close.

  • I wonder if Kyra Sedgwick and her other half will be, on day, buried in the Sedgwick Pie in Stockbridge MA. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S...

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Are they of those Sedgewicks? I've been reading about Mumbet, who was also buried in the family plot. Pretty awesome woman.

  • Fabius_Maximus

    Yep, they are related.

  • Guest

    "Joss Whedon was born in New York City. He has been described as the world's first third-generation TV writer, as he is the son of Tom Whedon, a screenwriter for The Electric Company in the 1970s and The Golden Girls in the 1980s, and the grandson of John Whedon, a writer for The Donna Reed Show in the 1950s." (Wiki)

  • BierceAmbrose

    Oh, of course you got there before me. Dammit.

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