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Why These Marvel Actors Look So Familiar

The Marvel Cinematic Universe encompasses a lot of movies and a massive cast. Some of these actors are very high-profile and have long been famous for their appearances in hit films or TV shows. Robert Downey Jr., for instance, has been acting for four decades, playing iconic figures from Charlie Chaplin to Sherlock Holmes. Captain America, meanwhile, isn't even the first Marvel character played by Chris Evans, who was also the Human Torch in 2005's Fantastic Four.

Even some lower-profile Marvel actors might look familiar. For example, did you know that the actress who played Michelle in Spider-Man: Homecoming is a former Disney channel star? Or that Ghost in Ant-Man and the Wasp can also be seen on Game of Thrones? Or that the actor who plays Peter in Deadpool 2 is actually an author? Here are some Marvel actors that probably seem very familiar, even if you haven't been able to put a finger on why.

Proxima Midnight (Avengers: Infinity War)

In the MCU, Proxima Midnight was one of Thanos' children. As part of the Black Order, she helped him find the Infinity Stones. The character was brought to life by Carrie Coon, an American actress who had a long list of accolades before she ever reached the Marvel Universe. Coon is probably best known for her work on Fargo, which garnered her an Emmy nomination. Others will recognize her from HBO's drama series The Leftovers. On the show, Coon played Nora Durst, who was called "one of the weirdest, most complex, and... best female characters of this era of TV" by The Ringer. For her work as Nora Durst, Coon received a Critics' Choice Television Award for Best Actress in a Drama Series.

Coon hit the big screen in the 2014 thriller Gone Girl, the 2017 Steven Spielberg film The Post, and the 2018 heist movie Widows, among others. She's even been nominated for a Tony Award for her Broadway debut in a production of Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? She didn't win the award, but she did meet her now-husband while working on the show.

Michelle (Spider-Man: Homecoming)

Young viewers turning up for Spider-Man: Homecoming might not have recognized newcomer Tom Holland outside of playing Spider-Man or fully appreciated award-winning actress Marisa Tomei as Aunt May, but it's a pretty safe bet that every single one of them recognized Michelle — a mysterious, reserved classmate of Peter Parker's (and potentially his love interest). Michelle is played by Zendaya, a young actress who first caught the attention of kids thanks to her Disney Channel fame. Zendaya got her start in 2010 on the show Shake It Up and quickly graduated to K.C. Undercover, where she played a teenage spy performing undercover missions for a top-secret agency. She also starred in a 2014 teen movie called Zapped.

In addition to her work on the Disney Channel, Zendaya competed on season 16 of Dancing with the Stars and has done voiceover work for several animated films, including Smallfoot and Super Buddies. She also appeared as Anne Wheeler in the 2017 musical drama The Greatest Showman, where we got to hear her sing a duet with Zac Efron while flying around on a trapeze — in other words, all of our greatest dreams come true.

Peter (Deadpool 2)

Rob Delaney didn't actually audition for Deadpool 2, and when he was offered the chance to participate, he didn't care what part he would get. The role was that of Peter, the totally ordinary guy who just happens to answer Deadpool's X-Force recruitment ad. Deadpool himself, Ryan Reynolds, reached out to Delaney after watching Catastrophe, the sitcom he co-created and starred in alongside Sharon Horgan. After four years on Channel 4 in the U.K. and Amazon in the U.S., the show wrapped up in 2019. A Los Angeles Times article on Catastrophe's end praised the show for its "distinct blend of uproariously filthy humor and brutal emotional honesty, exploring subjects such as death, addiction, [and] postpartum depression." 

Delaney's other on-screen appearances include guest spots on Key and Peele and a brief role in the zombie rom-com Life After Beth. His name might be recognizable in print, too — he has a huge Twitter following, is a published author (his memoir was released in 2013), and writes regularly for outlets such as The Guardian on topics ranging from Medicaid to Carrie Fisher.

Mantis (Guardians of the Galaxy)

Mantis entered the Marvel Cinematic Universe in Guardians of the Galaxy Vol. 2 before taking part in Avengers: Infinity War. French actress Pom Klementieff brings the empathetic alien to life. After attending the Cours Florent drama school in Paris, she took several small roles in French films before her international career began in earnest with Spike Lee's 2013 remake of the South Korean revenge film Oldboy.

She continued to gain prominence in a run of indie projects — including the French/American cyber-thriller Hacker's Game, the steamy romance Newness, and the Aubrey Plaza/Elizabeth Olsen dramedy Ingrid Goes West — in the run-up to her blockbuster debut as the "total weirdo" of the MCU. Although Mantis fell victim to Thanos' fateful finger snap at the end of Infinity War, audiences who have enjoyed Klementieff's past films can see her reprise the role in the upcoming Avengers: Endgame.

Elder of the Border Tribe (Black Panther)

In Black Panther, the Border Tribe is an important group of characters — they protect Wakanda from outside threats. The Elder of the Border Tribe is played by Danny Sapani, a British actor with a Ghanaian background. If you think you've seen Sapani somewhere before, you're probably correct. He has been a prominent face in British television for over a decade, with recurring roles in series like Penny DreadfulMisfits, and The Fear, not to mention guest spots on Doctor Who and The Crown

Sapani has acted in movies outside of Black Panther, too. Notably, he appeared in Danny Boyle's 2013 crime drama Trance, and he can even be spotted in Star Wars: The Last Jedi as the captain of a medical frigate. "I had a passion to just tell stories, I guess," he said to Flavour while reflecting on his career. "It was always my passion, my desire, my drive."

Ghost (Ant-Man and the Wasp)

Ghost, the wall-phasing tech thief fighting desperately for survival, was a highlight of Ant-Man and the Wasp. Though the Ghost of the comics has traditionally been an enigmatic male character, the MCU reimagines her as a young woman with complex motivations. She was played by Hannah John-Kamen, a British actress who's acquired a fairly long list of credits over the past few years. 

Many MCU fans will recognize her from Steven Spielberg's Ready Player One, where she played F'Nale Zandor, or as Sophie in 2018's Tomb Raider. She's even become part of the Star Wars universe, landing a cameo as a First Order Officer in The Force Awakens. On the small screen, meanwhile, John-Kamen plays the lead role of Dutch on Syfy's Killjoys, and has made guest appearances on Game of Thrones and Black Mirror.

"Hannah John-Kamen's movie career is a bit like that old saying about London busses: you wait and wait for your one big break, and then three come at once," said The Hollywood Reporter. That sums it up nicely — John-Kamen had three big movies hit theaters in 2018, so even if you didn't recognize her as Ghost, you're certain to see her again soon.

Wong (Doctor Strange)

Wong, a Master of the Mystic Arts, appears in several MCU films, including Doctor Strange, Avengers: Infinity War, and the upcoming Avengers: Endgame. The character is played by Benedict Wong, who has already had a robust career on film, television, and stage. Wong is probably most well-known for playing Bruce Ng in the 2015 Matt Damon film The Martian and Kublai Khan in Netflix's Marco Polo series. "I'm just ecstatic playing this character of the Khan. It's just been a dream role to play," Wong has said of his work on the Netflix show.

Wong also appeared as Ravel in Ridley Scott's Alien prequel Prometheus, Mr. Kim in Kick-Ass 2, and Lomax in 2018's Annihilation, among several other films. And if you're into TV shows based on somewhat obscure graphic novels, you might also recognize Wong from Syfy's new 2019 series Deadly Class, where he plays the mysterious headmaster of a school for assassins.

Harley Keener (Iron Man 3)

Don't read this if you're one of the six people on Earth yet to see Avengers: Endgame. 

In the final Avengers installment, the superhero squad defeats Thanos and reverses his Infinity Stone-enabled snap that eliminated half of all life. Along the way, original Avenger Tony Stark sacrifices himself so that others may live, and pretty much every surviving Marvel Cinematic Universe entity attends his very sad funeral. All the A-list Avengers are there. Even Peter Parker's Aunt May shows up. 

The camera also lingers for a few seconds on a teenage boy standing by himself, paying his respects. That's a cameo appearance from Ty Simpkins, reprising his role as Harley Keener, the helpful young assistant who proved loyal to Stark way back in Iron Man 3 (long before Tony mentored Spider-Man). He's grown up since the release of Iron Man trilogy capper in 2013, making him a little hard to recognize, but that's definitely Harley. 

Simpkins has fewer than two dozen film credits to his name, but the young actor knows how to choose projects. Apart from his role in Iron Man 3, he's probably best known for playing Gray Mitchell, the younger of the two kids lost and in jeopardy in Jurassic World. Viewers may also recognize him from his work in The Nice Guys.

Okoye (Black Panther)

Black Panther would have had a stellar cast of actors playing fascinating characters even without Danai Gurira. That just makes it all the more impressive that she turned in one of the most memorable and complex performances in the whole of the MCU as Okoye, leader of Wakanda's all-female Dora Milaje warrior faction. Okoye figures prominently in the central conflict of Black Panther, reluctantly and temporarily abandoning her loyalty to T'Challa (Chadwick Boseman) when Killmonger (Michael B. Jordan) seizes power. Okoye and Gurira returned in Avengers: Infinity War, as part of the superheroic but ultimately unsuccessful fight against Thanos. She survives that devastating "snap," but witnesses T'Challa's dusting, living to avenge her fallen king in Endgame

The role marks Gurira's second iconic performance in a popular science-fiction franchise, following her long stint on The Walking Dead. She joined the cast of the show in 2012 as the katana-wielding Michonne. The versatile actress takes on other, more straight-forward dramatic projects, too. She co-starred in a Black Panther movie of a different sort, portraying Afeni Shakur, member of the Blank Panther Party and mother of rapper Tupac Shakur, in All Eyez On Me.

Red Skull (Avengers: Infinity War)

Lord of the Rings and The Matrix star Hugo Weaving opted to not be a franchise player for a third time and abandoned the role of Captain America foe Red Skull after Captain America: The First Avenger. So, the Marvel Cinematic Universe filmmakers once again looked to The Walking Dead for talent, tapping Ross Marquand to take on the role when the character re-emerged in Avengers: Infinity War. 

Of course, Marquand is barely recognizable under all that Communist-colored-Skeletor makeup and prosthetics. Since 2015, Marquand has portrayed kind, gentle, metal-armed zombie apocalypse survivor Aaron on The Walking Dead. His role as Red Skull, or rather Stonekeeper (such is his job as custodian of the Soul Stone on the planet Vormir) is more of a voice performance, of which Marquand is more than qualified. He's a master of that trade, as well as a gifted impersonator. He played a Matthew McConaughey-like character in a True Detective parody commercial for AT&T, popped up on an episode of Mad Men as Paul Newman, and imitated Christopher Walken and James Gandolfini in sketches for Conan. He's also portrayed Han Solo almost as many times as Harrison Ford has, playing the space pirate on Robot Chicken, Phineas and Ferb, and in a Star Wars video game.

Morgan Stark (Avengers: Endgame)

Alexandra Rachael Rabe, who sometimes goes by Lexi Rabe in her screen credits, portrayed a late-breaking but very important character in the interconnected Avengers universe. Introduced in the concluding Avengers: Endgame, Rabe plays Morgan Stark. Yes, Stark as in Tony Stark — she's the daughter of Iron Man and Pepper Potts (Gwyneth Paltrow), who finally (if bittersweetly) settled into a happy marriage in the wake of Thanos' devastation. Endgame filmmakers took the name from the Marvel library, but not the character — in print, Morgan Stark is Tony's bad guy cousin.

Rabe makes her screen acting debut in the record-breaking blockbuster as this shining beacon of hope for a potential future set of Young Avengers. Audiences likely haven't seen her before, but she'll pop up on megaplex screens later in 2019 in another blockbuster: Godzilla: King of the Monsters. There, she plays a younger version of Millie Bobby Brown's character, Madison Russell.

Sam Guthrie (The New Mutants)

A dark take on the superhero genre, Marvel's The New Mutants film will serve as the suitably unlucky 13th entry in the X-Men series, and it's also poised to be the most disturbing. Based on the comic series, it's sort of like the X-Men — only instead of getting to live in a big house with the kindly and supportive Professor X, these young, powerful mutants are instead imprisoned in a facility and kept hidden from the world. There are five main protagonists in The New Mutants, including Sam Guthrie, a.k.a. Cannonball, a Kentucky-born mutant who possesses two of the best and most dangerous superpowers there are: invulnerability and flight. Cast as Cannonball in The New Mutants, which hits theaters in April 2020, is Charlie Heaton, an actor familiar with projects about young people interacting with secret facilities and frightening powers. Portraying quiet, smart teen Jonathan Byers, he's one of the breakout stars of Stranger Things, Netflix's hit series about the odd, supernatural occurrences in a small Indiana town in the 1980s. 

Magik (The New Mutants)

Playing characters in peril in films about the extraordinary is quickly becoming a specialty for actress Anya Taylor-Joy. In Marvel's The New Mutants, she'll portray Russian mutant Illyana Rasputin, who also goes by the name Magik because she's a sorceress who can teleport.

Taylor-Joy's previous two biggest roles came in two deeply unsettling (but very different) movies. She portrayed Casey Cooke, the protagonist in 2016's Split, starring as an emotionally troubled teenager and the last surviving member of a trio of young women kidnapped and held hostage by Kevin Crumb (James McAvoy), a powerful villain with a "Horde" of multiple personalities. While she returned for the superhero-themed 2019 follow-up Glass, Taylor-Joy's other big role came in the spooky 2015 horror movie The Witch.

Wolfsbane (The New Mutants)

Another character in The New Mutants, Marvel's 2020 movie that tells the creepy tale of institutionalized teen mutants: Rahne Sinclair, a religious Scottish woman who's coming to terms with her ability to transform into a wolf (and thus also be known as Wolfsbane). Portraying her is a very familiar face to Game of Thrones fans: Maisie Williams, who grew up on TV portraying Arya Stark on the series.(She even earned an Emmy nomination.) During that show's epic eight-year run, Arya learned to steal the faces of the dead, developed world-class combat skills, and stabbed the Night King to death, thus saving Winterfell from a zombie army. Williams is now free to parlay her fame and popularity into a movie career, and The New Mutants marks her first major film role after leaving Westeros.

Loxias Crown (Morbius)

The phenomenal success of Marvel's Avengers-related movies prompted Marvel Studios to dig a little deeper and take some risks, turning relatively obscure properties into films like Guardians of the Galaxy and Doctor Strange. Sony's taking a page from Marvel's tactics with Morbius, which marks the most audacious installment in its budding shared universe populated by Spider-Man and his affiliated characters. Jared Leto will star as Michael Morbius, a scientist with a blood disease whose self-created cure accidentally turns him into a vampire. To hedge its bets on this somewhat unpredictable property, Marvel cast sci-fi veteran Matt Smith in the prominent role of Loxias Crown, a friend of Morbius who shares his affliction. Smith earned an Emmy nomination for his work as Prince Philip on the Netflix historical drama The Crown, but he's also one of a handful of people to ever portray the iconic role of the Doctor on Doctor Who. From 2010 to 2012, he was the Eleventh Doctor, an especially buoyant, bowtie-and-fez-wearing incarnation of the alien Time Lord. After leaving that long-running show, he took on a few movie roles, including one in the 2015 franchise reboot Terminator Genisys.

Martine Bancroft (Morbius)

In the upcoming Morbius, Michael Morbius (Jared Leto) has a lot to manage, including a terrible blood disease and his newfound vampirism...and he's supposed to be getting married soon. He's engaged to a woman named Martine Bancroft, a role set to be played by Adria Arjona.

Arjona broke into the entertainment history in 2014, and has been paying her dues with notable roles in a number of high-profile movies and TV shows — primarily projects with a science-fiction or fantasy bent, which should be good prep for her for her work in 2020's Morbius. She's played Dorothy Gale on NBC's Emerald City, a dark and gritty adaptation of The Wizard of Oz, had a role in Pacific Rim: Uprising as a member of the Pan-Pacific Defense Corps, and played a witch named Anathema Device in Amazon's miniseries adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's Good Omens. She also popped up in the Vince Vaughn-lead season of True Detective, the Melissa McCarthy college comedy Life of the Party, and millions of video game sessions. She's also voiced Ramirez, a character in the enormously popular Fortnite.