Since 2010, The Walking Dead has invaded our TV screens and dominated ratings to become a pop culture classic. With millions of viewers tuning in every week, it’s no wonder we’re all waiting with anticipation for the next round of plot twists when the show returns for its 7th season this fall. Many of the actors are familiar to us and have appeared in many movies over the years (let’s be honest, some were better than others). While they may not have left a memorable mark on our collective memories, they’ve proven their acting abilities. In some cases, you might find yourself asking, “where have I seen her before?” Sometimes the answer springs to mind and other times the answer is just at the edge of your memory, just out of reach. The actors have done such an incredible job of becoming their characters that it’s almost impossible to see them as anyone else. Honestly, who could play Rick Grimes better than Andrew Lincoln? He is Rick Grimes.
While not all actors on the show are as high profile as Lincoln, many have seen success in the past and have done a fabulous job of making The Walking Dead what it is today. Check out these popular actors from the show below to get a refresher on some of their most high profile acting credits. You might be surprised with some because you saw the movie years ago and you might be aware of others but amazed at how different the characters each actor has played are. Again, this is further proof of their remarkable acting abilities.
15. Jeffrey Dean Morgan (Negan) – Watchmen
Morgan joined the cast in the highly anticipated final episode of season 6 as the menacing Negan. Rumors of his pending arrival permeated through each episode until his ultimate unveiling. And what an unveiling it was. But before Morgan became our new favorite TV villain, he played Edward Blake aka The Comedian in the 2009 movie The Watchmen. He was a pseudo superhero, more of a wild vigilante. Perhaps not so different from his Walking Dead character since they both have a penchant for violence and a blatant disregard for human life. Morgan is convincing as the villain you want to know more about in both of these movies. Another high profile movie that you may remember him from is P.S. I Love You, the 2007 movie starting Hilary Swank and Gerard Butler. Morgan plays William Gallagher the childhood friend of Butler’s character and semi-love interest of Swank’s character. I must say, he puts on a very convincing Irish accent.
14. Seth Gilliam (Fr. Gabriel Stokes) – Starship Troopers
When we first meet Gilliam’s character Gabriel in season 5, he isn’t well liked. His extreme fear of the walking dead caused him to do some highly questionable things when his congregation needed him the most. We saw him struggle to deal with the impression this left on Rick’s group but he slowly proved his loyalty and has become a trusted part of the group. The end of season 6 saw him wielding a weapon like a pro which brings to mind the 1997 movie he appeared in. He played Cpl. Sugar Watkins in Starship Troopers and wasn’t afraid of anything. Not even massive alien insects bent on the destruction of all of mankind. Quite a contrast from his current role but highlights his acting ability. While he’s appeared in other movies (the only other high profile one is 1996’s Courage Under Fire which starred Denzel Washington and Meg Ryan), he’s appeared in a long line of TV shows over the years. Most notably Oz, Law & Order, Person of Interest, Homeland and Criminal Minds.
13. Christian Serratos (Rosita Espinosa) – Twilight
OK all you Twihards out there, you may have watched all five Twilight movies a million times and not realized that the quiet and kind Angela Weber would grow up to become the no nonsense Rosita Espinosa. How different could these two characters be? As Rosita she’s tough as nails, physically fit and takes out zombies without blinking an eye. But while appearing in the Twilight movies she played the kind, quiet and at times shy friend to Bella and Jessica. She’s absolutely believable in both roles. While Twilight is her cinematic claim to fame (she appeared in all five movies), she’s also appeared in a slew of TV shows since 2004. She’s appeared in Hannah Montana in 2007 and American Horror Story in 2011. Since joining the cast of The Walking Dead she’s been promoted to series regular status. With the recent breakup of Rosita and Abraham, it’ll be interesting to see where her story line takes us. Here’s hoping she escapes Negan’s wrath.
12. Michael Cudlitz (Abraham Ford) – Surrogates
Speaking of Abraham, would you recognize Cudlitz without his trademark handlebar mustache? Seems like that mustache is what makes Abraham who he is. But before his days as a zombie slayer, Cudlitz appeared in a movie you’re probably familiar with. He played Colonel Brendan in the 2009 movie Surrogates. While it was a small role it was completely different from how we’ve come to see the actor. In the movie he debriefs Bruce Willis’ character (a rather smooth skinned and somewhat glowing robot) on the use of surrogates in battles. Soldiers no longer have to actually be on the front line but rather at stateside army barracks and plugged into a bot. This wasn’t his first time playing this kind of role. In addition to his very extensive TV appearance resume, he’s also appeared in several seasons of Southland. He played officer John Cooper who struggled with addition, severe back pain and various personal strife.
11. Lawrence Gilliard Jr (Bob Stookey) – The Waterboy
Gilliard Jr. played Bob Stookey for two seasons of The Walking Dead. His struggle with alcohol addition became apparent over the course of season 4 and the lengths he was willing to go to to medicate. It isn’t until Bob started a relationship with fellow survivor Sasha that he began to have a more positive outlook of the future. He sets aside the alcohol and works to become a contributing member of the group. I think audiences were sad to see him go but Sasha eventually avenged his death. Gilliard Jr. is probably an actor you wonder where you’ve seen him before. And that’s for good reason, he’s been in many movies and just as many TV shows. If you’re an Adam Sandler fan, you may recall seeing Gilliard Jr. in the 1998 movie The Waterboy. In the hilarious film he plays one of the football players on the Mud Dogs football team that Sandler’s character acts as water boy for. In this role Gilliard Jr. shows off his comedic skills and has us in stitches during the movie. Other TV shows he’s appeared in are The Wire and CSI: NY.
10. David Morrissey (Philip Blake aka The Governor) – Basic Instinct 2
Former Walking Dead bad boy, Morrissey played Philip Blake aka The Governor for two seasons. Everyone loved to hate him because of his dual personality and evil ways. We were all just waiting to see when his true colors would shine through. When they finally did it was definitely something to see. Side note, did you know that Morrissey’s actually British? His convincing and very impressive southern accent was thanks to a voice and accent coach.
Before his days as the most hated TV villain, he appeared in the 2006 movie Basic Instinct 2 with Sharon Stone. He plays psychiatrist Dr. Michael Glass who is hired to understand the mind of the femme fatale. While Michael ultimately loses himself and becomes entangled in the ever changing plot, viewers can’t help but feel sorry for him. The movie failed to become a box office hit but that hasn’t stopped Morrissey. He’s also appeared in theatre plays and lesser known TV shows. Interestingly, he appeared in 1991’s Robin Hood. Unfortunately for the film it had to compete with Robin Hood: Prince of Thieves which was released the same year. With Kevin Costner’s star power at the time, Morrissey’s film faded into obscurity.
9. Scott Wilson (Hershel Greene) – Pearl Harbor
Take away the long white hair and white bread and you’re sure to think that Wilson looks familiar. This is because Wilson is a seasoned actor and has appeared in a long list of movies over the years. One such movie is Pearl Harbor where he played General George Marshall (an actual soldier who was criticized in the aftermath of the attack). Other high profile movies that he’s appeared in are G.I. Jane starring Demi Moore and The Last Samurai starring Tom Cruise. As Hershel on The Walking Dead he played a doctor and protective father of his daughters Maggie and Beth for three seasons. His untimely death in the series (at the hands of The Governor no less) was sad and changed the dynamic of the show. His character had become an integral part of the survivor group and having their own doctor on call had its privileges.
8. Lauren Cohan (Maggie Greene) – Casanova
Another member of the Greene family, Cohan plays Hershel’s daughter and Beth’s older sister Maggie. She joined the cast in season two and has grown to become a valuable member of the group but when we last saw her, her fate was uncertain. It remains to be seen whether the complications from her pregnancy will be fatal or whether she’s the one that becomes Lucille’s latest victim. I’d be curious to see what Glenn would do if either was the case. He and Maggie’s relationship has come so far and has been tested a time or two.
Like a few other actors in the cast, Cohan has a British accent that she’s worked to mask with a southern drawl. Before her days as Maggie Greene, zombie slayer, she appeared in the 2005 movie Casanova with the late Heath Ledger. She played Sister Beatrice who becomes smitten by the charms of Casanova. In addition to a handful of movies, Cohan has also appeared in a few popular TV shows such as Modern Family, CSI: NY and The Vampire Diaries.
7. Lennie James (Morgan Jones) – Sahara
He’s one of the most loved characters on the show, Morgan is amazing. While his constant proclamation that all life is precious can rub his fellow survivors the wrong way at times, there’s no doubt that he’s dependable and loyal to all of them. Audiences first caught a glimpse of him in season 1 when he was hiding out with his son. We see him again the next season as a deranged loner after he’s lost both his son and wife to the zombie epidemic. His eventual rehabilitation is astonishing (not to mention his skills with his walking staff) and he rejoins Rick and his group to become a core member of the group. He’s made a few mistakes along the way but we forgive him.
This character is miles apart from the character he played in 2005’s Sahara (starring Matthew McConaughey and Penélope Cruz). In the movie he played Brigadier General Zateb Kazim a warlord dictator bent on destroying his homeland for the sake of money. He plays the ultimate bad guy and viewers are no doubt happy when he gets his dues. Another Brit, he puts on an impressive Nigerian accent. You may have also seen him in Lost in Space, Snatch and Colombiana.
6. Norman Reedus (Daryl Dixon) – American Gangster
Who doesn’t love Daryl Dixon? The resident motorcycle riding, leather vest wearing, cross bow slinging man of few words is a beloved character. Over the course of several seasons we’ve seen him grow from the reclusive bad boy to the no nonsense adviser of Rick Grimes. There’s no denying that he’s loyal to his core. He’s seen some things and been through a few bad situations but he keeps pushing through. Before he became one of the most loved characters on TV, Reedus appeared in 2007’s American Gangster which starred Denzel Washington and Russell Crowe. Reedus played Detective Norman Reilly. His character collaborates briefly with Crowe’s character during an autopsy. Norman is a normal, average Joe kind of guy when compared to Daryl. Reedus has also appeared in Blade II and The Boondock Saints II: All Saints Day.
5. Michael Rooker (Merle Dixon) – Cliffhanger
Rooker is one of the most well rounded actors to grace the show. He’s appeared in dozens of movies over the years, many of which have been blockbusters. With his distinct voice, you know you’ve seen him somewhere. He’s played his fair share of bad guys but do you recall he played Hal Tucker in 1993’s Cliffhanger. His first scene in the movie gets the adrenaline pumping early on and the movie doesn’t disappoint from there. He’s also been in Tombstone, Mallrats, The Bone Collector and The 6th Day (starring Arnold Schwarzenegger). He’s even appeared in dozens of TV shows and a handful of video games.
By the time his tenure on the show came to a close, audiences had grown to love Merle. Despite some of his misdeeds, he tried to right a few wrongs with Rick’s group. His final scene with his brother Daryl was heart breaking with the reality that anyone can become the walking dead becoming very real possibility.
4. Melissa McBride (Carol Peletier) – The Mist
Carol has probably had one of the most drastic transformations out of all of the characters on the show. She’s gone from being an abused and timid housewife, to become a helpless grieving mother, to a kick butt first and ask questions later GI Jane type of woman to a remorseful, yet highly skilled survivor. When we last saw her, the realities of the new world had started to take their toll on her. She hated the things that she had been forced to do to survive and chose to strike out on her own. I don’t know about you but I think Morgan is going to have a huge influence on how she further evolves during the 7th season.
She’s one of the few actors who has been on the show since day one. Before this, McBride appeared in a movie called The Mist. In it a deadly fog settles over a small town and the townsfolk are forced to hide in a grocery store. Lots of bad things happen (as is often the case in movies when lots of people are forced together) and McBride’s character emerges as a woman frantic to get out of there because she’s left her kids at home. She of course leaves the store and isn’t seen again until the end of the movie. The Walking Dead is definitely her claim to fame but she’s also appeared in TV shows such as Walker, Texas Ranger and Dawson’s Creek.
3. Jeffrey DeMunn (Dale Horvath) – The Green Mile
DeMunn appeared on the show from seasons 1 -3 and played Dale Horvath. He was loyal to the group and acted as their moral guide (it’s easy to lose touch with the world when everything seems lost) but eventually became zombie food. Take away the scruffy look that all of the characters have and his fisherman’s bucket hat and you might be surprised to recall that DeMunn played officer Harry Terwilliger in The Green Mile. As a guard on the Green Mile, he showed compassion and wisdom to the inmates, not unlike his character Dale on The Walking Dead. He’s also appeared in The Shawshank Redemption, The Mist and Phenomenon (starring John Travolta, Forest Whitaker and Robert Duvall). He also has dozens of TV acting credits to his name which further highlight his acting chops.
2. Laurie Holden (Andrea) – The Mist
Audiences met Holden’s character, Andrea, when she and her sister Amy were rescued by Dale Horvath. The three of them form a strong bond and traverse the challenges of the new world together. With the eventual loss of her sister and Dale, audiences see a new side of Andrea. She’s tougher and ready to do what it takes to protect herself and the group. However, she’s surprisingly blind to the evil ways of The Governor and joins his ranks. It’s a sad day when she finally realizes the truth and has to pay the price of her naivety with her life.
Holden did a fabulous job of playing Andrea for three seasons. But before this, she was also in The Mist. What a coincidence that three actors on the show were all in the same movie. She played Amanda Dumfries a woman also trapped in a grocery store while a mysterious fog settles over a town. She makes a stand against some of the wrongdoings in the store and eventually joins forces with a few others. It’s interesting that this character carried a weapon reluctantly but when we first meet Andrea in The Walking Dead, no one wants to give her one despite her pleas.
1. Andrew Lincoln (Rick Grimes) – Love Actually
Before Lincoln became the fearless leader of a survivor group, he was the clean and fresh faced guy Mark in Love Actually. His character was hopelessly in love with Keira Knightley‘s character (although most of the movie has us thinking he actually dislikes her). He’s another Brit whose previous characters couldn’t be more different from Rick Grimes. Over the course of six seasons Lincoln has proven himself an integral part of the show. Of course Rick is a big part of the story but Lincoln truly brings him to life. He’s proven himself to be a versatile actor and has legions of fans. Let’s hope he wasn’t the one who fell victim to Negan’s bat baseball bat, Lucille. The show just wouldn’t be the same without him.
He’s appeared in many different TV shows over the years, mainly in the UK, but The Walking Dead has put him on the map. He’s been nominated for and won various awards for his portrayal on the show. Let’s hope there are many more seasons to come and many more adventures for Rick in store.