I am not sure "character actor" is the right phrase I want for this: I want to talk about those TV and movie actors who play very small roles but who I am always irrationally happy to see. I want to talk about that moment where you watch something and smile and say "Oh, THAT guy. I love that guy" and you say "that guy" because you probably don't even know his name -- you just know him as "the guy from that other show." I am also not sure what I want to say exactly, except that they bring this strange pleasure with them -- part of the reason I like to see these actors is that for some reason I am glad so see them continue to get work, and part of it is that they are so small that I can feel closer to them than the big star -- there is an odd sort of unconscious identification with them, in part because I know if I was an actor I would be one of these minor guest stars rather than a main player. There is no way I will be able to remember enough of these guys: they can be hard to think of out of context. You guys will help. Here are 10 to start you off.
Leslie Jordan is the 4'11" actor I know most from Will and Grace, where he played closeted millionaire Beverlie Leslie, and Reba where he also played a character who acted fay. David E Kelly is a big fan of his -- he appeared on Boston Public, Alley McBeal and Boston Legal.
Robert Patrick. Everybody knows Robert Patrick from Terminator 2, but I am happy to see him in anything: the gym teacher in The Faculty, the leader of The Unit, the voice of Hawkman and the voice of Sokka's sword-teacher on Avatar, the X-Files (I actually like the team up between him and Anabeth Gish), and the Sopranos.
Gerald McRaney. I grew up knowing Gerald McRaney as Major Dad and kind of always think of him that way. My parents knew him from Simon and Simon. Then I knew him as Delta Burke's husband, and I am having a bit of a Gerald McRaney renaissance now that he has played major roles on Jericho and the third season of Deadwood. Also: The West Wing,
Timothy Omundson. I watched more Judging Amy than is appropriate for someone in my demographic (I really like Tyne Daly on that show), which is where I got to know this actor from but he pops up in odd places: he has a regular role on Psych now, but has also played a terrorist on 24and kind of a psycho on Jericho, was a bit of an idiot in the first few episode of Deadwood.
John Larroquette. Night Court obviously, but I loved him on Boston Legal, West Wing, House, the Practice, and the voice of Mirror Master.
Jeff Fahey. When I was a kid Lawnmower man was perhaps my favorite movie -- I think because it was the first movie I ever saw where the bad guy WON. I was very happy to see him on LOST and Planet Terror. Also Psych apparently, but I am not sure I saw that one.
Keith David. When I saw Coraline I really recognized the voice of the cat, and it is Keith David. Looking at his imdb page I could not figure out where I knew him and his awesome voice from until I remembered all those "If your life was a book, would anybody want to read it" military ads. Dude is awesome. (this guy was also on Psych: this is a thing with me today). [Thanks Lucas]
Kathryn Joosten: Mrs Landingham on West Wing. Also: Desperate Housewives, Scrubs and about a million other shows.
Stephen Root. From Newsradio, mostly but he also does a ton of voices on King of the Hill, and was on Pushing Daises and Grounded for Life O Brother Where Art Thou, and Office Space, and I even saw him on Rosanne the other night.
Toby Huss does tons of voices on King of the Kill, including Kahn. Also on: Reno 911, the Venture Bros, Carnival, Newsradio, and the Adventures of Pete and Pete.
Obviously I could do this all day. What are your favorites? With a bigger list I feel like I could write better about why these guys matter to me so much.