If you watch a lot of television, particularly if you can’t find your DVR remote, you’re bound to see a lot of commercials, and in those commercials over a period of time, you’re also likely to see some of the same actors rotate through different commercials for different products. (There was an interesting article on this phenomenon a few years ago on Slate, which I can’t seem to find.) More often than not, you have no idea what that actor’s name is, at least until you see him or her on a television show or up on the big screen, at which point you exclaim, “Hey! That’s the guy from that commercial.”
Today’s Seriously Random List explores the always under-appreciated “guy from that commercial.” It’s not about famous actors who appeared in commercials before they were stars, or even current celebrities, like Sam Waterston, who are inextricably linked to a certain product. It’s about actors — mostly minor — who we will probably always identify first with the ad spot, then with his or her film or television roles.
It wasn’t an easy list to put together, in part, because “that guy in that commercial” is often not famous enough to be equated with a real name — he’s the Enterprise Guy, or the Sprint Dude. A special thanks to the Twitter community who helped out with this list, particularly John Gholson over at Sci-Fi Squad, Rob Hunter at Film School Rejects, and Becky Bame, who each made two contributions to the list.
10. Seth Green: Green is at the bottom of the list because for most people, he’s still most famous for a variety of film and television roles, particularly Austin Powers and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.” But to those of us in a certain age bracket, particularly who grew up in an area where the Rally’s Burger Chain existed, Seth Green will always be the Ka-Ching guy first, and Oz and/or Scott Evil second. Those commercials were practically omnipresent. And even in 2010, I still can’t see the guy, who is now 35, without first thinking, “Ka-Ching!”
9. Orlando Jones: Orlando Jones has 48 film and television credits to his name, including a three-year reign on “MadTV,” but he’s never really broken out. At least, not to the extent that we can forget his most famous role: The 7-Up Guy. My favorite: “Show Us Your Can”:
8. Ben Curtis: Ben Curtis is the complete opposite of the first two, in terms of commercial vs. television and film experience, in that he’s not really found much success in the latter, aside from a stint on “Mercy” last year. Why is that? Because he’s the Dell Guy. And he’s going to be the Dell Guy for a very long time, long enough to doom the poor guy’s acting career, perhaps. Dude — You’re Getting a Dell!
7. Anthony Stewart Head: Tony Head wouldn’t belong on this list if it were being written for a British audience — he’s kind of a big deal over there, I believe, as he’s appeared in dozens of British television shows, as well as being a regular on “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” stateside. But if you aren’t a Whedon person, or if you don’t live in Britian, Tony Head is probably just one thing to you: The Taster’s Choice Guy! (I’m being told over on Twitter that he’s also known in the UK as The Gold Blend Guy!)
6. Hallie Eisenberg: Can you believe that Hallie Eisenberg is actually 18 years old now? You may now Hallie from her roles in Bicentennial Man or How to Eat Fried Worms. But more than likely, you just know her as … The Pepsi Girl.
5. Jim Varney: Varney is actually something of a strange choice for this list, because what he’s most famous for — his Ernest P. Worrell character — was in both commercials and low-rent hillbilly movies — he was the friendly redneck, and God Bless America for loving him in Ernest Goes to Jail, Ernest Goes to Camp, and Ernest Scared Stupid. You knowwhatimean, Vern? The truth is, I don’t really even remember what product he’s best remembered for, which kind of made him a lousy pitch man:
4. David Leisure: Leisure has been in every crappy straight-to-DVD comedy and every forgettable sitcom of the last 20 years, including an 8-year stint as a regular on “Empty Nest,” during the ’80s and ’90s (did that show really last 8 years?). You’ll see him every once in a while in an older movie or a television re-run while you’re flipping the channels (or even now, on a soap opera), and your first immediate thought will be: Hey! It’s Isuzu Joe! I don’t even think they make Isuzus anymore, which just shows you the staying power of David Leisure.
3. Justin Long: He dated Drew Barrymore. He’s been in high-profile movies. He’s been a character actor in bad movies. He’s pretty much been in everything — in fact, he’s the fourth most prolific actor of the last five years. And yet, to most of us, Justin Long is still “The Mac Guy.” I’d feel bad for him, but those Mac commercials actually helped his career, and probably bought him one helluva nice house.
2. Sean Whalen: Whalen is actually my favorite person on this list — he’s got more than 80 film and television credits, and he’s probably most famous for his role in People Under the Stairs. But he’s also in a ton of commercials, even today (to be honest, this list was inspired by a Whalen sighting in some commercial for a cell phone). He’s probably done 50 or 60 commercials — you’ll see him a lot, but he’ll probably only register as a familiar face and little else. But I think what he’s most famous for is this commercial, which was directed by Michael Bay: The Original “Got Milk?” ad, from way back in 1993:
1. Nate Torrence: Torrence is something of a huge success story — he’s famous for not one, but two commercial campaigns, and thanks to those two campaigns, Torrence became something of a pervasive presence on television in the late Aughts. And remarkably, he’s actually managed to parlay that commercial success into a respectable acting career, most notably in “Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip,” and now, the forthcoming She’s Out of My League. What’s most remarkable about that, however, is that he’s done it despite being one of the most obnoxious commercial actors to date. You know him as The Capitol One Guy and The Enterprise Guy. So, what’s in your wallet?