10 Great Actors Who Never Played The Lead In A Movie

By z20z.com 10 Min Read


  • Some actors, despite their talent and acclaimed roles, haven’t had the opportunity to star in breakout or lead roles in films.
  • Some actors become known for certain iconic roles or as “character actors” who excel in supporting roles across different genres.
  • While these actors have showcased their abilities and experience, they have yet to be given the chance to play significant lead roles in films.



Despite their recognizable talent and having acclaimed roles in their filmography, some actors still haven’t been able to star in a breakout or notable lead role. Though they sometimes star as the lead in a television series, their film work has mostly been limited to supporting roles. The reasons for this vary depending on the actor.

Some actors, such as Danny Pudi or Benedict Wong, have become largely associated with one of their more popular roles, therefore it’s difficult to connect with any other character portrayed by them. However, other actors have become known as “character actors,” meaning much of their work has been as a supporting character. Typically, these actors come across as having an easier time adapting to a variety of genres. In both cases, these actors haven’t been given the chance to play a significant lead role, despite their experience and abilities.

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10 Holt McCallany

Known as Bill Tench in Mindhunter

Holt McCallany as Fritz Von Erich in The Iron Claw

Holt McCallany has starred in a variety of roles throughout his career, including Fight Club, Burn Notice, and most recently, The Iron Claw. McCallany’s performance in The Iron Claw was a large takeaway from the film, as his portrayal of Fritz Von Erich was driven and commanding. However, his most notable role is as Bill Tench in Mindhunter, where McCallany excels as the practical and grounded FBI agent. McCallany led the FX series Lights Out and showcased a captivating, dramatic performance, but similar leading roles have yet to be seen in films.

9 William Fichtner

Known as Alexander Mahone in Prison Break

William Fichtner in an office in Prison Break

Fans of the television series Prison Break will recognize William Fichtner as Alexander Mahone. He skillfully portrays Mahone’s cleverness and antagonistic behavior to the character of Michael Scofield, but quickly became a fan favorite as his time on the series progressed. While Fichtner hasn’t had opportunities for leading roles in film, his supporting work showcases his talent for dramatic acting and his ability to fit in with a variety of casts. He was nominated for ensemble cast awards for Nine Lives, Black Hawk Down, and Crash.

8 Danny Pudi

Danny Pudi is mostly recognized for his comedic roles, especially as the character Abed Nadir in Community. During the years Community was on air, Pudi received much praise from critics and fans for his performance, earning him three Critics’ Choice Television Award nominations. Despite his comedic talent, Pudi hasn’t had a breakout leading role, especially in film. However, in 2016, Pudi led the film The Tiger Hunter, portraying an aspiring engineer in a charming and comedic role that proved he’s capable of more leading roles in film.

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7 Margo Martindale

Known as Mags Bennett in Justified

Margo Martindale sitting at a table with her fingers clasped together.

Margo Martindale is among the more well-known character actresses in Hollywood. She’s taken on supporting roles in films such as August: Osage County, Million Dollar Baby, and more recently, Cocaine Bear. Despite a lack of significant lead roles in film, Martindale’s range and talent for dramatic characters haven’t gone unnoticed. She played Claudia, an intense and assertive KGB handler on The Americans. For this role, she won two Emmy Awards for Supporting Actress in a Drama.

6 Jim Rash

Dean Pelton (Jim Rash) holds a microphone in the cafeteria in Community

Known most for his recurring role in Community as Dean Craig Pelton, Jim Rash has appeared in numerous television and movie roles as a supporting character. While he did star as one of the titular characters in Bernard and Huey, the comedy film never took off and received negative reviews. Despite this, Rash has the talent for a leading role, on and off-screen. He was nominated for a Critics’ Choice Television Award for his role in Community and won the Academy Award for the screenplay of The Descendants, which he co-wrote.

5 Luis Guzmán

Known as Chino in Out of Sight and as Gomez Addams in Wednesday

Luis Guzmán As Gabato next to his helicopter in Journey 2 The Mysterious Island

Luis Guzmán’s credits in film and television are extensive and include supporting roles in Magnolia, Out of Sight, and Narcos. Most recently, he took on the role of Gomez Addams in Netflix’s Wednesday, with his portrayal being one of the most similar to that of Gomez Addams seen in the comics. Throughout his career, Guzmán has continuously shown his depth as an actor, especially when it comes to emotional and intense roles. Whether it’s Ray Castro in Traffic or José Gacha in Narcos, Guzmán has proven he can handle a leading role.

4 Judy Greer

Known for 13 Going on 30 and 27 Dresses

In 2014, Judy Greer released her autobiographical book detailing her career as a character actress. Since the start of her career in 1997, Greer has over 100 credits to her name in film and television. Throughout Greer’s career, she’s adapted her acting skills for a variety of genres, including comedy, drama, action, and horror. In 2015, Greer took on a rare lead role in Addicted to Fresno, a comedy film co-starring Natasha Lyonne. The film received negative reviews from critics, and it ultimately wasn’t a success, but many noted the dynamic between Greer and Lyonne to be a highlight.

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3 Hiam Abbass

Known as Marcia Roy in Succession

Hiam Abbass in Succession

Having recent roles in television series like Ramy and Succession, Hiam Abbass has shown her acting skills in dramatic roles. The latter shows Abbass as Marcia, the third wife of Logan who his children are skeptical of when it comes to her intentions. Though Abbass has mostly starred in international films, she’s had supporting roles working with Steven Spielberg in Munich and Tom McCarthy’s, The Visitor. In The Visitor, Abbass plays Mouna, a mother whose son has been arrested and is facing the possibility of deportation. Abbass conveys an equal balance of emotion and determination, worthy of a leading role.

2 Alan Tudyk

Known as Wat in A Knight’s Tale and Wash in Firefly

Alan Tudyk in Resident Alien season 2

Alan Tudyk has starred in many films throughout his career, mainly in supporting roles or doing voice work. In fact, for Disney films alone, Tudyk has lent his voice to Wreck-It-Ralph, Big Hero 6, Moana, Frozen, and more. Tudyk excels in comedy, with a few dramatic roles occasionally. More recently, Tudyk leads the Syfy series Resident Alien, with his comedic timing. It’s only a matter of time before a similar leading role for Tudyk is seen in films.

1 Benedict Wong

Known as Wong in Doctor Strange

In recent years, Benedict Wong has become an important and well-received character in the MCU. He’s played Wong in various Marvel projects, including Doctor Strange and She-Hulk: Attorney at Law. However, before that, he starred in a few television shows, plays, and other films. In 2021, he was nominated for an Independent Spirit Award for his supporting role in Nine Days. The drama film stars Wong as Kyo, the assistant to a man in the pre-existence who determines which souls get to be born. Differing from other projects, the film showcases Wong’s versatility.

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