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Why these Amazon Prime Original actors look so familiar

Amazon Prime isn't just a relatively cheap way to get paper towels, laundry detergent, and a gross of candy bars delivered to your home in a smiling cardboard box in under 24 hours. The special service tier from the world's biggest online retailer is also a provider of streaming video content. Like competitors Netflix and Hulu, Amazon Prime Video offers thousands of movies and television shows, as well as original content developed in-house. These high-quality "Prime Original" shows can and do compete — for eyeballs and awards — with programs from traditional peak TV outlets like HBO, Showtime, and other streamers. Amazon's Transparent, Mozart in the Jungle, and The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel have all competed for (and even won) multiple Emmy Awards and Golden Globes.

All of these shows are great vehicles for actors and actresses, newcomers and entertainment veterans alike. Here are some of the breakout stars from Amazon's series, and why they might look familiar.

Midge from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Rachel Brosnahan became a bona fide star virtually overnight, following the streaming debut of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. Created by Gilmore Girls and Bunheads mastermind Amy Sherman-Palladino, the comedy stars Brosnahan as Miriam "Midge" Maisel, a wealthy Manhattan stay-at-home mom in the late 1950s. As the story begins, Midge finds she's an extremely talented stand-up comedian after giving it a try in a dingy Greenwich Village Club the night she finds out her wannabe-comic husband has been unfaithful. 

Brosnahan has won an Emmy, a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award, and countless other trophies for her inspirational, aspirational, and motor-mouthed performance, but she didn't quite come out of nowhere. She's put in her time with plenty of TV character work, particularly on shows that got lost in the peak TV shuffle. She played a friend on "the outside" to an inmate on Orange is the New Blacka criminal pretending to be a teacher for six episodes of The Blacklist, and she was a main cast member on the short-lived 2014 psychological drama Black Box. Prior to Mrs. Maisel, Brosnahan was likely most recognizable for her work as call girl Rachel Posner on 19 episodes of House of Cardsor as regular character Abby Isaacs on WGN America's World War II-set drama Manhattan.

Susie from The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel

Another dynamic comic actor who won an Emmy for her work on the first season of The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel: Alex Borstein. This is not the first time she's worked with Amy Palladino — Borstein played Sookie in the Gilmore Girls pilot, but when a series was ordered, found herself replaced by Melissa McCarthy. Nevertheless, Borstein showed up on Gilmore Girls here and there in two roles: as harpist Drella, and, buried under facial prosthetics, a personal stylist named Miss Celine. 

Borstein couldn't commit to Gilmore Girls because she was too busy in the early 2000s with her regular, full-time job as a cast member on Fox's MAD TV. One of the bigger stars ever produced by the tenacious, long-running Saturday Night Live competitor, Borstein portrayed a few recurring characters, notably Ms. Swan and Eracist Anne. While working there in the late '90s, Borstein met young animator Seth MacFarlane, who'd been in talks to produce a series of short cartoons for the show. Though he didn't end up working on MAD, he went on to develop Family Guy, where Borstein has voiced Lois Griffin and reporter Tricia Takanawa since 1999. Back in the realm of live-action, Borstein starred as head nurse Dawn Forchette on the 2013-15 HBO hospital-set comedy Getting On.

Audrey from Sneaky Pete

Character actress Margo Martindale is so widely regarded as the best character actress in show business that on the very inside-Hollywood show BoJack Horseman, she's referred to as "Character Actress Margo Martindale." She plays herself — but as a criminal who gets away with it because she's character actress Margo Martindale. Speaking of crimes and love, she portrays sweet family matriarch Audrey Bowman on Amazon's crime/family drama Sneaky Pete, arguably her most prominent role in a career that stretches back 30 years and to more than 100 roles. 

While always finding regular work with supporting roles in '90s movies like Practical Magic and The Firm, Martindale started to get noticed — by name — around 2007. That's when she landed the role of Nina Burns on FX's Emmy-nominated The Riches, and portrayed Ma Cox in the biopic sendup Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story. Ever since, she's never been off TV for long, with recurring roles on Dexter and The Good Wife, and a co-starring role on the short-lived sitcom The Millers. Between 2011 and 2016, Martindale earned five Emmy nominations, winning for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series for her role as Kentucky marijuana kingpin Mags Bennett on Justified, and again for Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama for her work as KGB handler Claudia on The Americans.

Otto from Sneaky Pete

Peter Gerety is a classic "hey, it's that guy," one of those actors who, while never a leading man in a blockbuster or a star of his own sitcom, works so consistently and ably in small or supporting roles that audiences recognize his face (and can assume he'll put in a great performance). Actors are often cast according to their looks, and Gerety has experienced that phenomenon. Since entering screen acting in middle-age in the early '80s, Gerety has portrayed countless men of moderate authority: police officers, judges, bosses, doctors, and patriarchs. That experience probably helped land him the role of Bowman family leader Otto on Amazon's Sneaky Pete.

He played men of the law in a Cagney & Lacey TV movie, in the 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street, and most prominently, in Paul Blart: Mall Cop. He's also a go-to guy to play TV judges (evidenced by his work on The Wire and The Good Wife)and bosses, too — check him out in Leatherheads and War of the Worlds. Recently, he played a Civil War doctor in PBS's Mercy Street, following up a turn in the acclaimed period crime movie A Most Violent Year.

Taylor from Sneaky Pete

The role of Sneaky Pete's Taylor Bowman, a police officer and one of the few people on the series not harboring a secret criminal life, is the breakout role for long-toiling character actor Shane McRae. But it's hardly his first — he's popped up on an episode or two of seemingly every network TV of the past 15 years. Audiences might have seen him, briefly, on Cold Case, Medium, Gossip Girl, Chicago Fire, Blue Bloods, Law and Order: Criminal Intent, or Law and Order: Special Victims Unit. 

In 2006, he scored one of the leading roles on the NBC multi-cam sitcom Four Kings. Created by Will & Grace masterminds David Kohan and Max Mutchnick, the show featured McRae as one of four life-long dude-bro friends who are also roommates. The series lasted for just 13 episodes, and McRae was back to guest-star work and small film roles. He appeared in Oscar-winners like The Help and Still Alice, and in 2008 landed a recurring role on Fox's dark detective drama The Following

Marius/"Pete" from Sneaky Pete

Giovanni Ribisi stars on Amazon's Sneaky Pete in something of a dual role. He's Marius, a paroled con man in hiding from a bad gangster, who assumes the identity of Pete Bowman, his old cellmate. The real Pete hails from a big, warm family... that's up to some shady business of its own. Ribisi is only in his early 40s, but he's been acting for most of his life, with kid roles on Highway to Heaven and Simon & Simon dating back to 1985. His first big role came on another perfectly '80s show: as lovesick Cory Kupkus on My Two Dads. 

Into the '90s, he crafted a career of short-term and recurring roles on The Wonder Years; Walker, Texas Ranger; Ellen; and The X-Files. He eventually moved into grown-up roles like drummer Chad in That Thing You Do! and medic Wade in Saving Private Ryan. That's also the versatile Ribisi as car thief Kip Raines in Gone in 60 Seconds, Phoebe's little brother and harried father of triplets on Friends, and the star of the short-lived Fox sitcom Dads. He again teamed up with Dads producer Seth MacFarlane as one of the leads in A Million Ways to Die in the West and as Ted-obsessed stalker Donny in both Ted movies. He also starred as administrator Parker Selfridge in Avatarone of the biggest hits of all time.

Crowley from Good Omens

Playing nearly any part in Amazon's adaptation of Neil Gaiman and Terry Pratchett's sci-fi/fantasy/comedy classic Good Omens would make an actor into a genre icon, particularly if that part is Crowley, a shades-wearing, cooler-than-thou demon who sashays and struts around during Earth's end of days like circa-1972 Mick Jagger. David Tennant portrays this wonderful demon man, but he was already a legend to sci-fi fans. From 2006 to 2010, he played the Doctor, as in the titular space-and-time traversing deity-like alien on Doctor Who, the long-running sci-fi institution. 

The Scottish actor is only the tenth "official" Doctor, and the second in the series' big-budget, 2000s reboot. That role launched the likable Tennant to fame and notable roles in a variety of projects. He played the villainous Barty Crouch, Jr. in Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, but also troubled detective Alec Hardy on the bleak crime drama Broadchurch, and on the American version, Gracepoint, he virtually reprised his role as detective Emmett Carver. On the Netflix series Jessica Jones, Tennant took on the task of portraying Kilgrave, the truly chilling, seemingly unkillable mind-controlling bad guy. Tennant often adopts an English or American accent for his roles, but he got to use his real brogue to portray one of entertainment's greatest Scottish characters, Scrooge McDuck, in Disney XD's DuckTales reboot.

Bosch from Bosch

In the '70s, there were dozens of lone-wolf cop shows whose titles were the last name of the main tough-guy detective: Mannix, Cannon, Kojak, Baretta, et cetera. Based on the popular detective novels by Michael Connelly, Amazon's Bosch is a throwback to that style of show, right down to the naming convention. It's about a cop who, of course, doesn't play by the rules as he investigates crimes in the seedy underbelly of Los Angeles. That cop's name is also Bosch, and he's played by veteran character actor Titus Welliver, who often plays rough-around-the-edges guys on both sides of the law. 

Welliver had a recurring role on NYPD Blue in the late '90s as Dr. Mondzac, and starred on co-creator Stephen Bochco's follow-up cop show, Brooklyn South, as Officer Jake Lowery. On the short-lived series Big Apple, Welliver played an FBI agent, before finding his breakout role as Silas Adams, bagman-turned-lackey over three seasons of HBO's immaculate Deadwood. Then came a recurring role as crime boss Jimmy O'Phelan on Sons of Anarchy. But even with all these high-profile TV roles, Welliver will perhaps forever be best remembered as the mysterious "Man in Black" on Lost.

The Tick from The Tick

He's kind of hard to recognize under the form-fitting, muscle-covered blue insect costume of the Tick, protector of The City on The Tick, Amazon's adaptation of Ben Edlund's comic (the third TV adaptation overall), but that's actually actor Peter Serafinowicz. Like his Shaun of the Dead co-star Simon Pegg (Serafinowicz played nerdy Pete), Serafinowicz jumped from British comedic television to showcase roles in big, American movies. 

Serafinowicz co-created and played a scientist on the educational show parody Look Around You and portrayed virtually everyone on the sketch-oriented The Peter Serafinowicz Show, before showing up as attentive resort manager Sctanley (pronounced "Stanley") in Couples Retreat, a spy named Aldo in Spy, the gun "Sommelier" in John Wick: Chapter 2and Denarian Garthan Sagal in Guardians of the GalaxyHis deep-throated, announcer-quality voice has earned Serafinowicz lots of voice-acting gigs. In addition to appearances on The Simpsons, Bob's Burgers, Gravity Falls, Archer, American Dad!, Adventure Time, and Rick and Mortyhe provided the voice of Darth Maul in Star Wars: Episode I – The Phantom Menace.

Claret from Patriot

Patriot is a quirky, under-the-radar Amazon series with a novel premise. Intelligence guy John Tavner (Michael Dorman) takes a job at a Midwestern industrial piping company as part of a plan to prevent Iran from developing nuclear weapons. Portraying his jargon-spewing, cocaine-loving boss, Leslie Claret: Kurtwood Smith, one of the all-time greats at playing angry older guys who have a problem with the protagonist. He mainly honed that persona via two very different projects. 

His most famous role is doubtlessly tough-as-nails veteran and dad Red Forman on That '70s Showwho grumbled through thankless jobs and whose parenting style consisted mostly of calling his son (Topher Grace) a "dumbass." Prior to that 1998–2006 gig, Smith was best known for his work in RoboCop as Clarence J. Boddicker, the brutal gang lord who murdered the police officer who was built into RoboCop. Of course, RoboCop got his revenge, providing for Boddicker one of the bloodiest and most graphic deaths in movie history. Beyond those two signature roles, Smith has shown up in more than 150 movies and TV series, including 24 (as Sen. Blaine Mayer) and Star Trek VI: The Undiscovered Country (as the Federation President).

Marissa from Hanna

In 2019, Amazon Video debuted Hanna, an action series about a teenage girl trained to be an ideal assassin... who escapes. The show is based on a 2011 movie starring Saoirse Ronan as Hanna and Cate Blanchett as Marissa, the CIA agent who gives chase. In the streaming adaptation, Mireille Enos steps into the role of Marissa, bringing some high-level acting chops to the affair. After breaking out on Broadway in 2005 with a Tony-nominated turn in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?, Enos joined the cast of HBO's plural marriage drama Big Love, portraying twins Kathy and JoDean Marquart. 

She's since taken center-stage on two major TV series. On AMC's dark and dreary The Killing she played Sarah Linden, a reserved, devoted Seattle homicide detective, a role for which she received Emmy and Golden Globe nominations. Then she switched gears, starring in ABC's breezy cat-and-mouse dramedy The Catch. Before she started chasing after young assassins, she got some experience running away from super-charged zombies — along with Brad Pitt, Enos led the cast of the 2013 zombie apocalypse blockbuster World War Z. 

Starlight from The Boys

Acting professionally since just 2010, Erin Moriarty is a star on the rise. She's got barely 20 credits to her name, but most of them are for some highly regarded and major projects. After landing small roles on One Life to Live and Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, she portrayed Vince Vaughn's daughter in the sci-fi comedy The Watch and represented a third of the central love triangle in the acclaimed indie film The Kings of Summer. In 2013, Moriarty found her first job as a series regular, on ABC's one-season wonder Red Widow. In this darker take on Weeds, Moriarty played the teenage daughter of a widowed mom forced to continue her husband's marijuana smuggling operation. 

Moriarty was then lucky enough to be a part of the lightning-in-a-bottle first season of HBO's True Detective, in the brief but pivotal role of Audrey Hart, the troubled daughter of Woody Harrelson's character. From there, she made her move into superhero television, with a recurring role on Jessica Jones as Hope Shlottman, one of villain Kilgrave's most exploited victims. In 2019, Moriarty began playing what looks to be her breakout role: Annie January, a.k.a. the superhero Starlight, on The Boys, Amazon's adaptation of the comic by Garth Ennis and Darick Robertson about a world in which superheroes are real, but kept in check by gangs of violent thugs.

The Priest from Fleabag

Fleabag (Phoebe Waller-Bridge) on Fleabag is a sex and love addict, but she finally finds true intimacy when physical touch is (supposedly) off the table. She meets a young, intellectually challenging priest, who's scheduled to perform the ceremony for Fleabag's father's second marriage. Taking on the complicated role of this character that the internet dubbed the "hot priest" is Irish actor Andrew Scott. He's probably best known for supporting (but important) roles in some of the most iconic British entertainments. 

Throughout the long run of Sherlock on the BBC (and PBS), he portrayed the brilliant and cunning Jim Moriarty, criminal adversary of detective Sherlock Holmes (Benedict Cumberbatch). He's also recognizable from a handful of performances in franchise films. That's Scott as Dr. Addison Bennett in Alice Through the Looking Glass, Inspector Turpin in Victor Frankenstein, and "C" — a.k.a. Max Denbigh, SPECTRE agent — in the James Bond adventure Spectre.

Godmother from Fleabag

Olivia Colman steals just about every scene in which she appears in Fleabag. An absolutely insufferable, passive-aggressive artist who specializes in the erotic, she was once Fleabag's godmother only to get a promotion to stepmother when she married Fleabag's grieving father. Emmy nominated for her role, Olivia Colman absolutely has the skills to blend comedy, tension, and awkwardness and still come out likable. It's a tone she's perfected over two decades of work primarily on British television comedies, any number of which would qualify as "cult classics." 

One of her first roles: a paper trade publication writer interviewing David Brent on the last regular episode of the original British The Office. She also appeared as Pam Bachelor on the educational magazine parody Look Around You, and Harriet on the silly hospital comedy Green Wing. On the big screen, Colman landed parts as PC Doris Thatcher in Hot Fuzz and the Hotel Manager in the surreal The Lobster. However, Colman is certainly most recognized for one of her relatively few dramatic roles. She starred as Queen Anne in The Favourite, and won an Academy Award for her performance. In 2019, she replaced Claire Foy as Queen Elizabeth II in the third season of the Netflix docudrama The Crown.

Imogen from Carnival Row

Carnival Row takes place in a world where humans and mythical creatures — particularly fairies — live alongside each other in a vaguely Dickensian or Industrial Age city called the Burgue, a tense place what with all the crime and anti-immigration sentiment. Among this unique world is Imogen Spumprose, an ambitious human heiress who takes up with Mr. Agreus, a faun rejected by Burgue's high social circles but who remains wealthy nonetheless. 

Portraying this integral character is British actress Tamzin Merchant, who brings to her role plenty of experience in genre television. She was a main cast member on WGN America's Salem, playing Anne Hale, an actual witch in a show set amidst the Salem Witch Trials. Merchant later popped up for an arc on Supergirl as alien Lyra Strayd. The actress may be best known for her work in historical dramas and classy adaptations of literary classics. Merchant showed up on The Tudors as Catherine Howard, King Henry VIII's ill-fated fifth wife, in Jane Eyre as Mary Rivers, and, in her first big job, as Georgiana Darcy in 2005's Oscar-nominated Pride and Prejudice.

Absalom Breakspear on Carnival Row

On Carnival Row, a series about humans interacting with creatures like fauns under great resistance, somebody has to be the authority figure, a representative of the government trying to figure out what to do about all that new immigration. The Chancellor of the Republic of Burgue is probably the most powerful man in the land, leading and wielding great control over Parliament. Who better to play this big-man-in-charge than raspy-voiced British character actor Jared Harris, a guy who specializes in playing bosses and world-weary sad sacks. 

He played both of those things on what's likely his most famous role to date: financially (and severely emotionally) troubled advertising executive Lane Pryce on Mad Men, which earned Harris an Emmy nomination. In 2019, Harris landed another Emmy nom for his work as real-life chemist and chief disaster investigator Valery Legasov in HBO's devastating Chernobyl miniseries. He may also look familiar from his appearances as the dying King George VI in early episodes of The Crown, or as the truly evil villain David Robert Jones on Fringe. The actor's film appearances include Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows (as Professor Moriarty), Lincoln (as Ulysses S. Grant), and in 2020, he'll make the leap to big comic book movies, playing a mentor figure to the title character in Morbius.