The joys of spotting TV actors on the big screen

Clarkgregg_lI hate seeing blockbusters on their opening weekends — mainly because I think a $12 ticket shouldn’t come with color commentary from the inconsiderate goon in the seat behind me — and thus it was that I only recently got around to seeing Iron Man. Thankfully, for me, the movie lived up to Owen Gleiberman’s positive B+ review (click here to read it); like Owen, I enjoyed the way the film seamlessly married the human side of Robert Downey Jr.’s Tony Stark character with his iron-clad superhero persona. And like my colleague Ken Tucker, I’d agree Downey shouldn’t be excluded from the Oscar race just because he happened to be starring in a popcorn flick that’s made $300 million (and counting).

Still, the first thing that crossed my mind as the credits rolled was something along the lines of: "Hey, that was Richard from Old Christine!" Which is to say I was surprised and delighted to see Clark Gregg, who plays Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ goofy ex-husband on CBS’ underrated sitcom, more than hold his own as a Strategic Homeland Intervention agent opposite Oscar winner Gwyneth Paltrow and Oscar nominees Jeff Bridges and Terrence Howard. The weird thing is, even though I watch Old Christine every week, I needed IMDb to come up with Gregg’s name — although I did know the guy wrote the script for What Lies Beneath. ("I think she’s starting to suspect something?" "Who?" "Your wife!" Shudder.)

Anyhow, all this got me wondering if I’m the only one who does the happy dance when under-the-radar TV actors get cast in blockbuster movies. If your answer is "yes," let’s hear about the most recent small-screen-to-big-screen casting choice that left you boogying with joy (or perhaps engaging in some slightly less effusive response). 

addCredit(“Clark Gregg: Mitch Haddad”)


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  • Anonymous

    I actually had a similar moment with Clark Gregg in Iron Man, not because of his tv work, but because he is a well-respected theatre actor. I suppose it’s a comparable feeling. Yay Clark!

  • Ceballos

    This is easy: watching the Janitor from “Scrubs” (aka Neil Flynn) in Indy 4. I’m a HUGE “Scrubs” fan, but my girlfriend actually spotted him first by his voice (leaving me a little embarrassed). Still, I got WAY to excited over what turned out to be a nothing role in a semi-crummy flick.

  • Ceballos

    I also liked seeing Buddy Garrity from FNL (Brad Leland) in “Hancock” yesterday, though I’m 100% I was the only one in my row who noticed (or cared).

  • steph

    I agree with Ceballos 100%! I gasped aloud in the theater and yelled “Janitor!” I think people thought I’d spilled something…

  • Cory

    I love seeing Rachel Bilson from The O.C. in movies. No matter how mediocre the movie (I’m looking at you Jumper and The Last Kiss), she makes it worthwhile for me.

  • Wojo

    My most recent experience of this nature worth commenting about was while watching “The Savages” for the first time a couple weekends ago. It was nice to see Gbenga Akinnagbe, otherwise known as Chris Partlow from “The Wire,” make a couple appearances.
    Spoiler Warning: He doesn’t kill anyone.

  • Binky

    Yes, the Janitor from Scrubs in Indy 4 was hilarious because, as Scrubs fans know, J.D. once noticed the Janitor in his brief role in another Harrison Ford movie, “The Fugitive,” and outed the Janitor as a former actor. So to see the Janitor in Indy 4 just made me laugh.

  • KateDFW

    To Ceballos: Janitor (Neil Flynn) was also in another Harrison Ford movie (in a cameo appearance). Actually was a running gag in a Scrubs episode…any ideas?

  • Catherine

    Long shot, but my mother and I have been obsessed with the actor who plays Aaron (the bodyguard) in 24!! We spoted him in The Fugitive and few other movies. He usually plays a secret agent and he seems to be everywhere!!! It always makes me smile!

  • Catherine

    Scratch thet not The Fugitive…Air Force One! (I was a little mixed up in my Harisson Ford movie…)

  • Ceballos

    Kate and Binky:
    I can’t believe I forgot to mention “The Fugitive” gag from “Scrubs” because it DID occur to me that it wasn’t his first time sharing the screen with Harrison Ford. Maybe they’ll reference it next season on “Scrubs.” A lot of people think the Janitor’s name will turn out to be “Neil Flynn”, so that’d be an excellent way to work it in.
    Catherine: Aaron from “24” (Glenn Morshower) was in “Transformers” towards the beginning and I enjoyed spotting him too (since he’s also done some good work on “Friday Night Lights”).

  • Lauren

    Going along with the theatre actor post–I had a double-dork moment Thanksgiving weekend when I spotted Norbert Leo Butz in Dan in Real Life, AND Idina Menzel in Enchanted!
    I LOVE playing spot the actor!

  • Ceballos

    One more, though it’s considerably less fun:
    Did anyone else spot Michael K. Williams (Omar on “The Wire”) in “The Incredible Hulk”? I don’t blame you if you missed him since he’s only in the movie for one shot, and he doesn’t have any dialogue. All he does is looks surprised and scared. I found it pretty depressing that a guy who played one of the more complex characters in recent TV history is reduced to a silent cameo as “Harlem Bystander” (his credit on IMDb). Ok, I’m done for now.

  • Lindsey

    Ok so I’m slightly OBSESSED with Buffy the Vampire Slayer… so I got super excited when I saw Tom Lenk (Andrew) in Transformers. Then, I noticed One Tree Hill’s Colin Fickes (Jimmy Edwards). Two of my favorite shows in one place!

  • Tripllle

    I’m not surprised you thought Clark Gregg held his own in Iron Man…he played a pretty high-up secret service agent on The West Wing for years…Agent Casper, I think.
    Also, I have more fun watching older movies and seeing actors before they became famous (or at least before I knew who they were..)

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