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Why These Movie Actresses Look So Familiar

It's happened to all of us — you're enjoying a new show or movie that you haven't seen before, and one of the actresses seems so familiar that it stops you dead in your tracks. After obsessing over it for a few minutes, you whip out your phone, hit IMDb or Wikipedia, and go through the artist's entire history, whether you recognize them from a big budget film or a single episode of your favorite sitcom or prestige drama. Sometimes they've appeared in a ton of different projects, and sometimes they just have an incredibly recognizable face. Either way, there are tons of actors and actresses out there who make you say, "Who is that again?"

The actresses on this list are accomplished and have starred in plenty of different series and films, but they're likely best known for one role. Next time you're watching a series or a film and can't place an actress' face, you can check out this group of diverse, talented actresses to help figure out what movie or television show you've seen them in before.

Carol from The Walking Dead

The massive AMC hit The Walking Dead has always been home to a fairly large cast and has featured plenty of fan favorite characters throughout its run. One of the longest-running faces on the show has been Carol, as played by Melissa McBride. From domestic abuse survivor to fierce fighter, Carol has been through hell and back, but has returned time after time to survive once again (in fact, she's one of the few original survivors still left on the show).

Before she was facing down an invasion of zombie hordes, McBride had a long career — the 53-year-old actress got her start on a two-part episode of Matlock in 1993. After that, she appeared in single episodes of several shows, including American Gothic, Dawson's Creek, and Walker, Texas Ranger. McBride went on to become a casting director in the Atlanta area, and was encouraged to audition for a part in the film adaptation of Stephen King's The Mist in 2007. Though her part was small, it caught the attention of director Frank Darabont, the eventual showrunner of The Walking Dead, who would remember her appearance so vividly that he called her directly for his show just a few years later.

Missandei from Game of Thrones

As a part of the cast of one of the biggest television shows on the planet, Game of Thrones, Nathalie Emmanuel, who plays Daenerys Targaryen's trusted advisor Missandei, has become far more recognizable over the past couple of years than likely ever seemed possible during her humble beginnings on the stage. Born in Essex, the British actress got her start thanks to her mother, who recognized her passion and talent early on. At the young age of ten, Nathalie appeared as Nala in the West End stage production of the hit musical, The Lion King.

Her first and most notable television appearance other than Game of Thrones was on the popular British soap, Hollyoaks, where she starred as Sasha Valentine from 2007 to 2010. As a corrupted good girl, Emmanuel's character struggled with addiction, bad boyfriends, losing her mother, and even turned to prostitution before her character was written off the show. This part was enough to put her on the map, however, and after a few more parts on BBC series and in smaller films, she was cast as Missandei in 2013. Since the success of Thrones, she has also appeared in the Maze Runner series of films as well as in Furious 7, and she will return in the final season of Thrones in 2019.

Michelle from Spider-Man: Homecoming

Since her breakthrough role as Michelle "MJ" Jones in Spider-Man: Homecoming, Zendaya has become a name in her own right (at the very least, who could forget this year's absurd "Zendaya is Meechee" meme?), but if you were ever a Disney Channel fan, you likely recognized the child model and actress by the time she joined the MCU and found her place in gossip columns speculating on her relationship with Spider-Man co-star Tom Holland.

Zendaya got her start on the Disney Channel comedy Shake It Up! as one of two girls (alongside Bella Thorne, who has now become a huge star as well) who work as background dancers for a local series. Though the show mostly attracted younger fans, it was an enormous hit, and after starring in a few music videos based on the show (also with Thorne) and a Disney Channel Original Movie called Frenemies in 2012, she released her self-titled debut album in 2013, when Shake It Up! Ended. She continued her work on the Disney Channel through 2018, including another original film (Zapped) and her own series, K.C. Undercover, which she also produced. 

After her inaugural appearance in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, Zendaya appeared in The Greatest Showman alongside Hugh Jackman and Zac Efron in late 2017, and she's got quite the slate of projects coming up. Alongside the next Spider-Man film, she will appear in Finest Kind alongside Ansel Elgort, the HBO series Euphoria, among others.

The Mother from How I Met Your Mother

Casting the titular Mother on the popular CBS sitcom How I Met Your Mother was no easy feat after eight seasons of suspense, but producers found the perfect fit in Cristin Milioti, who was primarily known for her Tony-nominated leading role in Broadway's Once (based on the 2007 film of the same name), alongside numerous other stage performances. She had appeared on television before her breakthrough role, including a winning single-episode turn on 30 Rock as a bawdy, babyish comedian named Abby Flynn who happened to be hiding a dark secret, but 2013 was her biggest year. Aside from her first-ever appearance on HIMYM as the Mother (whose name, we would later learn, is Tracy), she was featured as Jordan Belfort (Leonardo DiCaprio)'s first wife in Martin Scorsese's The Wolf of Wall Street.

As a series regular in the ninth and final season of HIMYM, Milioti charmed as Tracy, the perfect match for Ted Mosby ("How Your Mother Met Me," which provides the mother's full background and lets Milioti show off her musical talent, was a fan favorite), but many fans were stunned and disappointed when the series killed Tracy off in the series finale. Since then, Milioti has shined in several prestige dramas, including a small part in FX's Fargo and a starring role in the fourth season of dystopian drama Black Mirror.

Mantis from Guardians of the Galaxy 2

Guardians of the Galaxy: Volume 2 introduced a few new characters to the film's roving band of wild outsiders, and one of the most popular of the bunch was Mantis, who manages a large slate of powers, including martial arts, telepathy, and more. Though Mantis is first introduced as the meek servant of Ego (Kurt Russell), she soon grows close to the Guardians, particularly Dave Bautista's Drax, and helps them escape his clutches. Even after reprising her role in Avengers: Infinity War, many may not recognize the actress who plays Mantis. However, French and Canadian actress Pom Klementieff has appeared in several smaller films, all of which are quite far from the MCU.

After appearing in several French films, Klementieff's Hollywood debut was as a part of Spike Lee's 2013 remake of the classic revenge film, Oldboy, as Haeng-Bok, a fiercely powerful bodyguard who had several fight scenes with Josh Brolin (an actor she would face off with again as a part of the MCU). After starring in Hacker's Game in 2015, she appeared in Ingrid Goes West alongside Aubrey Plaza and fellow MCU superhero Elizabeth Olsen (also known as Scarlet Witch) in 2017, just before her debut in the second Guardians film. However, since Mantis was one of the victims of Thanos' snap, it remains to be seen if she will reappear in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame.

Mary Austin from Bohemian Rhapsody

Mr. Robot star Rami Malek was likely the most recognizable face in the 2018 Freddie Mercury biopic Bohemian Rhapsody, but the film was stacked with several other notable talents playing people who helped Mercury become a star. Among them was  Lucy Boynton, who took on the role of Mercury's partner Mary Austin. Austin, who worked as an assistant in a clothing store, stood by Mercury throughout much of his early career. She was engaged to marry Mercury when he revealed his sexuality to her, at which point she ended the relationship, despite Freddie assuring her he was bisexual. In the film, as in real life, they remained friends, and she is present for the historic Live Aid concert where Queen performs.

Boynton is relatively new on the scene, but this British actress made her mark in a few films before she appeared in Bohemian Rhapsody. At the age of 12, she appeared as a young Beatrix Potter in Miss Potter (Renee Zellweger played the adult Potter), and in 2016 and 2017, she appeared in the critically acclaimed Sing Street and the latest adaptation of Murder on the Orient Express alongside Michelle Pfeiffer, Judi Dench, and others.

Rachel from Crazy Rich Asians

In the summer of 2018, audiences went wild for Crazy Rich Asians, the big-screen adaptation of Kevin Kwan's novel of the same name — the film was critically adored, was the number one film in both the U.S. and Canada during its opening weekend, and more than that, Asian-American moviegoers were thrilled to see themselves represented onscreen. As the first Hollywood studio film to feature an all-Asian cast since The Joy Luck Club in 1993, the film had a high bar to clear, and it easily surpassed all expectations. Part of the reason for the film's success was the perfectly suited cast, and as leading lady Rachel Chu, who travels to Singapore to meet her wealthy boyfriend's elitist family, Constance Wu brought the intellect, class, and biting wit required to carry the entirety of the film.

After turns on everything from Law & Order: Special Victims Unit to One Life to Live, Wu's big break was as wife and mother Jessica Huang on ABC's Fresh off the Boat, a sitcom loosely based on the life of chef Eddie Huang. Once the series premiered in 2015, Wu was widely praised for her performance, and she has received numerous Critic's Choice Award nominations for Fresh off the Boat since its inception. With a sequel to Crazy Rich Asians in development (likely based on the book's sequel, China Rich Girlfriend), audiences are likely to see much more of Constance Wu very soon.

Karen from Halloween

The Halloween franchise found new life in late 2018, bringing scream queen Jamie Lee Curtis back as Laurie Strode, who must fight vicious killer Michael Myers for her life once again. The film finds Laurie living in fear of Michael's return 40 years after his first attack, but it also focuses on her family life, introducing her daughter, Karen, played by veteran character actress Judy Greer.

Greer — whose book is aptly titled I Don't Know What You Know Me From — is likely best known as the frequent "best friend" in various romantic comedies, including The Wedding Planner, 13 Going on 30, 27 Dresses, and Love & Other Drugs, as well as critically acclaimed films like Adaptation and The Descendants, motion-capture roles in the Planet of the Apes franchise, and appearances in the MCU as Maggie Lang in both Ant-Man and Ant-Man and the Wasp

She also has a storied television career: she is instantly recognizable as the unstable secretary Kitty Sanchez from Arrested Development, and she has been featured in winning guest turns on shows like It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and How I Met Your Mother (among many others). Since 2009, she has voiced Cheryl Tunt on Archer. Beginning in 2018, she's been starring alongside Jim Carrey on Showtime's Kidding, showcasing both her dramatic and comedic abilities in perfect balance once again.

Carla from Bad Moms

Bad Moms, which has already spawned a holiday-themed sequel since its 2016 release, matches a winning script with an outstanding lead cast including Mila Kunis, Kristen Bell, and Kathryn Hahn. Most people are quite familiar with Kunis and Bell, but Kathryn Hahn may not quite be a household name. Despite this, almost every casual television and film fan has seen her in at least one of her nearly 70 roles.

Hahn's first big role was in the early aughts as Lily Lebowski on Crossing Jordan from 2001 to 2007, a role created for her after a fortuitous meeting with the show's creator and producer, Tim Kring. As far as film work, she appeared in several romantic comedies in the early 2000s, including How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days and Win a Date with Tad Hamilton!, and would later go on to other rom-coms like The Holiday and How Do You Know. However, she didn't limit herself, and appeared in everything from broad comedies like Anchorman and Step Brothers to intense dramas like Revolutionary Road and independent films like Our Idiot Brother and Afternoon Delight (a film by Jill Soloway, who also worked with Hahn on Transparent). 

Aside from Transparent, her return to television was marked with recurring roles in Parks & Recreation, playing a ruthless campaign manager to (frequent collaborator) Paul Rudd's hapless candidate, as well as leading roles in Showtime's Happyish and Amazon's I Love Dick. Most recently, she can be heard in Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse.

Ann from Arrested Development

As George Michael (Michael Cera)'s unforgettably forgettable girlfriend on Arrested Development, Ann — Jason Bateman's Michael Bluth would commonly refer to her as everything from "egg" to "bland" to "mouth" rather than remembering her name — one might think that Mae Whitman would naturally fade into the background herself. However, Whitman has since made a name for herself playing broad yet down-to-earth characters, and has established herself as a fine dramatic and comedic actress through her film and television roles.

Aside from reprising her role as Ann Veal throughout several rebooted seasons of Arrested Development, Whitman's most notable television role was on NBC's Parenthood playing Amber Holt, the daughter of Lauren Graham's character, who is rebellious, strong-willed, and troubled, eventually enduring a surprise pregnancy amidst finding her place in life. Whitman also appeared in scene-stealing supporting roles in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World (as an "evil ex" that the title character must fight to win over a girl) and The Perks of Being a Wallflower (as a romantic interest for the lead character Charlie), she snagged her first starring role in The DUFF. Whitman has since returned to a leading role in television, and is currently starring as Annie Marks on NBC's Good Girls alongside Mad Men's Christina Hendricks and Parks & Recreation's Retta.

Emily from The Big Sick

Kumail Nanjiani's semi-autobiographical comedy The Big Sick charmed audiences in 2017, even scoring an Academy Award nomination for Best Original Screenplay, and considering that Nanjiani's wife Emily Gordon wrote the script with him (drawing on her experience being placed in a medically induced coma early on in their relationship), there was likely a lot of pressure to cast the right person to play Emily. The screenwriting couple found that actress in Zoe Kazan, who brought the exact right amount of heart, magnetism, and truth to Emily's very real story.

Kazan has has also made a name for herself on the stage, beginning with the 2006 off-Broadway revival of The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie alongside Cynthia Nixon, and her Broadway debut in William Inge's Come Back, Little Sheba (for which she won considerable critical acclaim). She also worked as a playwright and screenwriter — her play Absalom, which premiered at a festival in Kentucky in 2009, was workshopped at Yale University, and she wrote the screenplay for the 2012 film Ruby Sparks. As far as her film roles go, aside from The Big Sick, she has appeared in big crowd-pleasers like It's Complicated as the daughter of Alec Baldwin and Meryl Streep, as well as small romantic comedies like What If opposite Daniel Radcliffe and Adam Driver. She recently collaborated with her partner, actor Paul Dano, on Wildlife, co-writing the script rather than appearing in the film.

Maeve from Westworld

When HBO introduced Westworld in 2016, audiences flocked to the futuristic, borderline dystopian series. Created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, the show is set in theme parks that encompass entire worlds and are home to hyper-realistic human-like androids that exist solely to please wealthy human guests — though, naturally, the androids soon begin to rebel against their human captors. On a show stocked with incredible actors like Anthony Hopkins and Evan Rachel Wood, Thandie Newton, who plays the bold and driven android Maeve, has emerged as a standout, earning herself a Primetime Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series in 2018 for the role.

Newton's career took off long before Westworld — the British actress has appeared in several high-profile films, including Academy Award winner for Best Picture in 2004, Crash, for which Newton received a BAFTA Award for Best Supporting Actress. Aside from prestige television and serious dramas, Newton has diversified her films, appearing in Norbit alongside Eddie Murphy, Solo: A Star Wars Story, and Mission: Impossible 2 (her second project with Tom Cruise after 1994's Interview with a Vampire), as well as television stints on The Slap and ER. In 2017, she even made an appearance in a music video, guest starring in Jay-Z's "Family Feud" from his extremely personal album, 4:44.