When you’re an actor, the goal is usually to end up in a popular movie or top-rated TV show. However, a number of actors get their start in commercials. Some of the actors who are famous for their work in TV and movies were once commercial actors trying to break into the business. They include Dakota Fanning, Lindsay Lohan and even John Travolta. Of course, there’s also Ali Landry, who will always be known as “the Doritos girl,” even though she’s also a model and has had acting gigs since the commercial. However, there are a few commercial actors who are content to continue starring in commercials, since it can be pretty lucrative.
There’s no denying that commercials can mean big money. After all, some of the biggest names in music also lend their talents to commercials. Barry Manilow penned the ever-famous Band-Aid jingle, and Pharrell Williams re-vamped the McDonald’s jingle, which has made the restaurant even more popular.
Of course, there are some times (like during the Super Bowl), when the commercials are almost as important as the main program. If actors are lucky enough to win a spot in one of these promotional slots, it could mean great things for their careers. Here are 12 commercial actors who actually make a lot of money.
12. T.J. Jagodowski
T.J. Jagodowski has the distinction of being called “the best improv actor in Chicago” by the Chicago Improv Festival. He is an alumni of Second City, and adds lots of comic relief to Sonic commercials with his co-star, Peter Grosz. The pair have been working with Sonic since 2004, and Jagodowski has a reported net worth of around $300,000, mostly because of the fast food chain. In addition to being known for his Sonic commercials, Jagodowski has also starred in movies such as Club 83, No Sleep ‘til Madison, The Mole Man of Belmont Avenue, Serious Business, Soul Survivors and Get Hard.
11. Melanie Paxson
Melanie Paxson, a native of Chicago, is a member of Second City improv troupe. She is also known for her mouse-like voice, which has made her popular in the Red Robin commercials. Paxson got her start in acting in high school, when she was part of the drama club. She also worked with the Steppenwolf Theatre Company in Chicago. In addition to being the face of Red Robin, Melanie Paxson is also the “voice of reason” in Gladware ads, and has also done commercials for DayQuil. She worked in television in the late 1990s on Early Edition, and she was most recently seen on the now-cancelled Nickelodeon show True Jackson, VP and in the Disney movie Descendants.
10. Stephanie Courtney
You may not recognize her without her heavy eyeliner, since that’s part of Stephanie Courtney’s trademark look as Flo the Progressive Girl. Courtney’s character has become a pop culture icon, but before she got this gig in 2007 (which pays her $500,000 per year), she appeared on several television shows, including ER, Everybody Loves Raymond and The Man Show. Stephanie Courtney is a member of The Groundlings, a sketch comedy and improv theater in Los Angeles. Her original plan was to move to LA to become a standup comedian, but she ended up auditioning for commercials in order to pay her bills in the meantime. Looks like she won’t need to hit the comedy stage any time soon—unless she wants to, of course. She currently has a net worth of around $1 million.
9. Beck Bennett
Beck Bennett has become pretty popular lately due to his candid conversations with school kids for AT&T’s “It’s Not Complicated” campaign. Bennett is a member of a comedy troupe and started doing comedy and improv acting in college, so making people laugh is easy for him. Bennett is also known for being one of the co-founders of the comedy sketch group Good Neighbor, and in 2011, he created the show Fresh Perspectives (a fake news show). Beck Bennett’s comedic dreams came true when he joined the cast of Saturday Night Live in 2013. He is known for his impressions of celebrities, including Harry Connick, Jr., Elton John, Nick Offerman, Bill Clinton and Howie Long. In addition to commercials and television, Beck Bennett has starred in the movies Acting Like Adults, Intramural, Kill Me Now, Beside Still Waters and The Party Is Over.
8. Diane Amos
Even though Diane Amos is a stand-up comedienne and actor, she’s widely known as The Pine-Sol Lady, which is a title she’s had since 1993. When she’s not convincing TV viewers that Pine-Sol is the best way to clean their homes, she’s appearing in movies. Amos is most well-known in the movie world for being in 1995’s thriller Copycat, and the 2013 movie Blue Jasmine. Diane Amos got her start in improvisational acting when she was a student at Washington High School. She then joined the National Theater of the Deranged, and was encouraged by her friends to start doing stand-up comedy. She was a well-known comic in the San Francisco area, and she toured regularly. Amos also appeared in a few game shows in the 1980s, for which she reportedly earned about $50,000.
7. Jonathan Goldsmith
Actor Jonathan Goldsmith is one of the oldest spokespeople in television at the age of 76. He has done commercials for MedicAlert, but is most known for being “the most interesting man in the world” due to working with Dos Equis. He makes a $2 million salary working with the beer company, and has a net worth of around $3 million. In the mid 1960s, Goldsmith moved to LA in order to become an actor. He’s worked several odd jobs in order to make ends meet, and is also known for his appearance in the 1976 movie The Shootist, which was John Wayne’s final project. Jonathan Goldsmith was also featured on television shows such as Murder, She Wrote, The Fall Guy and The A-Team.
6. Carly Foulkes
Carly Foulkes is a Canadian model who has done lots of photoshoots and ads, but she’ll probably always be known as the T-Mobile Girl. She makes $1 million per year working with the company, and has a net worth of $3 million. Foulkes is a native of Toronto and started modeling when she was just 13. In addition to her gig with T-Mobile, she has also modeled for big names like Ralph Lauren, Abercrombie & Fitch, Tommy Hilfiger and Macy’s. Carly’s original intention was to shift her focus from modeling to acting, but she only found marginal success until she became T-Mobile’s new “it” girl. She was only supposed to appear in a few advertisements for the company, but is now very closely associated with the T-Mobile brand, and can be seen in online advertisements, TV commercials and print campaigns.
6. Dean Winters
Dean Winters is the gruff-voiced actor known as Mayhem in the Allstate Insurance commercials. If you’re a fan of dramatic miniseries, you may remember Winters’ rugged good looks from shows like Law & Order and Oz, as well. If you’re more of a comedy person, Dean’s face may look familiar from the episodes of 30 Rock in which he appeared. Allstate originally created the Mayhem commercials to dethrone Flo and her progressive reign, but their plan didn’t work in terms of popularity. However, Winters did make $4 million as a result of being a spokesperson for Allstate. Dean Winters also appeared in movies such as 1997’s Conspiracy Theory and 2007’s P.S. I Love You.
5. Isaiah Mustafa
Isaiah Mustafa has held a number of jobs in his lifetime, but most people know him as the Old Spice Guy. Mustafa’s ad campaign with Old Spice is one of the most successful to date, and Isaiah has even filmed responses to Old Spice customer questions while in character to increase the brand’s popularity. He is a native of Portland, Oregon, and was a history major at Arizona State University. He later purchased a barbecue restaurant in LA, which has since closed. During the late 1990s and early 2000s, Mustafa was a wide receiver for NFL team training squads. After he participated in the 2000 training camp for the Seattle Seahawks, he decided to get into acting. Ten years later, Isaiah Mustafa got his big break as The Old Spice Guy, aka The Man You Wish You Could Smell Like. His net worth is now around $5 million.
4. Paul Marcarelli
Paul Marcarelli was known for nine years as the guy who says “can you hear me now?” in Verizon commercials. He “traveled” to some of the most remote locations to ask this familiar question, in an attempt to convince potential customers that Verizon’s signal strength was superior. Marcarelli’s contract with Verizon ended in 2011. That’s when the public was able to get to know him a little better–he came out as a gay man, and was allowed to write and direct movies, since he was no longer under contract. During Paul’s time with Verizon, he earned $10 million. He is also a founding member of Table Ten Film and Mobius Group Productions, and was the screenwriter for the movie Sweet Flame. In addition to working with Verizon, Paul Marcarelli has also done commercials for United Airlines, Aetna Insurance and Comedy Central.
2. Jared Fogle
He may be in some serious legal trouble now, but there was a time when Jared Fogle’s story was truly inspiring. Fogle is still known as “the Subway guy,” because he developed his own diet, which included Subway sandwiches, to lose 245 pounds in just one year. Fogle’s original weight was 425 pounds, and he started the weight loss program while he was in college. Jared Fogle definitely helped boost Subway’s business, especially at a time when the restaurant was struggling to make their healthy menu items popular. When Subway was accused of using bread that contains harmful chemicals, the restaurant’s partnership with Fogle remained intact. However, when Jared was associated with a child pornography ring recently, he was ordered to pay $1.4 million in restitution.
1. Dennis Haysbert
San Mateo-born Dennis Haysbert is an accomplished actor in movies and television, and his net worth is around $42 million. However, these days, he’s best known for appearing as the Allstate spokesperson. His commanding, yet soothing voice has likely made a number of consumers wonder if they are actually in good hands if they’re not Allstate customers. Haysbert made his movie debut in the late 1970s in Lou Grant, but his first big breakthrough role was in Major League, in 1989. He was also the father of Omar Epps’ character in the 2000 cult classic, Love and Basketball. Dennis Haysbert is also well-known by 24 fans for his role as president David Palmer on the show, and got a Golden Globe nomination for his outstanding performance. He has stated that his role on the show help Barack Obama to win his real-life presidential election, since 24 normalized the idea of a Black president.
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