With excellent theatrical and communication programs at schools like Michigan State, U of M, and Wayne State, and a vibrant theatrical scene, it’s no surprise that so many of the nation’s finest actors have come from Michigan.
Rose Abdoo is an actor and comedian, best known for her roles on Gilmore Girls, Bunheads and That’s So Raven. She was born in Detroit and is a graduate of Michigan State.
Curtis Armstrong is a Michigan native who graduated from Berkley High School and later Oakland University. The actor and producer is best known for his film work in Risky Business and Revenge of the Nerds, and has also had many recurring TV roles including Supernatural, New Girl, and American Dad.
Justin Bartha grew up in Metro Detroit, and graduated from West Bloomfield High. He then pursued acting and landed pivitol roles in the National Treasure and Hangover movie franchises. His television work includes The New Normal and The Good Fight.
Kristen Bell hails from Huntington Woods and has had a successful career in theatre, television, and film. She made her Broadway debut in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer, then captured national attention as the star of her own series, Veronica Mars. Other television credits include star turns in Heroes, House of Lies and The Good Place. Her best known movie appearances include Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Couples Retreat, and the voice of Elsa in the Disney smash, Frozen.
Elizabeth Berkley is a Farmington Hills native and Detroit Dance Company alum, who started her career in local theatre. She rose to fame as Jessie on Saved by the Bell. Other recurring roles on television series include CSI Miami and The L Word.
Selma Blair graduated from the University of Michigan after attending Cranbrook in Bloomfield Hills. As an actor, she first gained mainstream attention through popular films like Cruel Intentions and Legally Blonde, and went on to a lead role in the television series, Anger Management.
Ellen Burstyn is an award-winning actor, and alum of Cass Technical High School in Detroit. Her lengthy filmography includes starring roles in Requiem for a Dream, The Last Picture Show, Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore, Same Time, Next Year and Resurrection. She has one Academy Award and four more nominations.
Timothy Busfield of Lansing, is a highly acclaimed actor, director and producer, who has also served as a professor at Michigan State. His most recognizable performances are as Elliot Weston on Thirtysomething and reporter Danny Concannon on West Wing.
Bruce Campbell banded together with his Detroit area friends, Sam Raimi and Rob Tapert, and raised $350,000 for a low-budget film, The Evil Dead, in which he starred and co-executive produced. The blockbuster trilogy opened the door for many acting, producing, and directing roles to follow.
Larry Joe Campbell was born in Pontiac, but grew up in Cadillac. He studied theater as an undergrad at Central Michigan, before getting a Masters from Wayne State and joining the improv company at Second City-Detroit. He rose to fame as Andy on the TV sitcom, According to Jim, and has gone on to do several movies and television shows, including a recurring role on The Orville.
Terry Crews earned his high school diploma from Flint Southwestern, he received a Chrysler-sponsored art scholarship at the Interlochen Center for the Arts. He attended Western Michigan on a full athletic scholarship, and was then drafted into the NFL. He then embarked on a successful second career as an actor with roles in films like White Chicks and The Longest Yard, which lead to several TV series including Everybody Hates Chris, Brooklyn Nine-Nine, and American Dad.
Jeff Daniels is an award-winning actor, musician, and playwright whose career includes roles in films, stage productions, and on television. His films have been as diverse as the Oscar Best Picture winner Terms of Endearment and the crowd-pleaser Dumb and Dumber. He resides in his hometown of Chelsea, where he founded the nationally-recognized Purple Rose Theatre.
Sutton Foster grew up in Troy, and started her professional theatrical career at just 17 years old. She has won two Tony Awards among a total of six nominations. She gained an even wider audience as the TV series actor in Bunheads and Younger.
Max Gail won America’s hearts with his performance as Detective Stan “Wojo” Wojciehowicz on the popular late 1970s sitcom Barney Miller. He is most recently known for the role of Mike Corbin on General Hospital.
Judy Greer hails from Livonia, where she attended Churchill High School. Her notable films include 13 Going on 30, Adaptation, 27 Dresses, Jurassic World and Halloween. She has had recurring or starring roles on several television programs including Arrested Development, Two and a Half Men, Married, Kidding, and as the voice of Cheryl Tunt on the long-running animated series, Archer.
Stacy Haiduk was born on in Grand Rapids, Michigan. She is an actor and producer, best known for her work on The Young and the Restless, NCIS and Days of Our Lives.
Ernie Hudson was born in Benton Harbor and launched his career in Detroit, where he became the resident playwright at Concept East, the oldest black theatre company in the United States. He enrolled at Wayne State University to further develop his writing and acting skills, and established the Actors’ Ensemble Theatre where he and other talented young black writers directed and appeared in their own works. His lengthy career includes recurring roles on Oz, Desperate Housewives and Grade and Frankie, though he is probably best known as one of the stars of the original Ghostbusters movie franchise.
Tom Hulce was born in Detroit and grew up in Plymouth. He started his career on Broadway in Equus, followed by Memory of Two Mondays, Julius Caesar, Romeo and Juliet, Candida,” The Sea Gull. He has earned multiple acting and producing including 2 Tony awards for producing and one nomination for acting, as well as an acting Oscar nomination for his performance as Mozart in Amadeus.
Laura Innes is an actor and director who was born in Pontiac and graduated from Birmingham’s Seaholm High School. In the fall of 1995, she joined the hit NBC medical drama ER in its second season, where she was cast as Kerry Weaver, a skilled doctor with an abrasive exterior and a physical disability. She became an advocate for the disabled community, utilizing her role as a director to help employ disabled people.
Brian D’Arcy James is an actor and musician from Saginaw who has truly made his mark on Broadway, having earned multiple honors including three Tony nominations for Sweet Smell of Success, Shrek the Musical and Something Rotten! respectively.
James Earl Jones moved to Jackson, Michigan at the tender age of five. After graduating from Dickson Rural Agricultural School (now Brethren High School), he attended the University of Michigan where he was initially a pre-med major but soon gravitated toward drama studies. He began his acting career at the Ramsdell Theatre in Manistee, and would eventually land on Broadway. His esteemed career ranks him among the “EGOT” honorees, those talented few who have earned Emmy, Grammy, Oscar and Tony awards.
Keegan-Michael Key is an actor, comedian, writer and producer. The Southfield native attended the University of Detroit Mercy and got his comedic start on the stage at Second City Detroit. He spent six seasons as a cast member on Mad TV before starring in the Comedy Central sketch series Key & Peele. His career has also included regular roles on Parks and Recreation, Playing House, and Friends from College, to name a few.
Christine Lahti is a graduate of Birmingham’s Seaholm High School and the University of Michigan. She has starred in numerous films and television shows notably including Chicago Hope, Hawaii Five-O, and The Blacklist, and earned as Oscar nod for her performance in 1984’s Swing Shift. She would later win an Oscar in the Best Live Action Short category for Lieberman in Love, a film she directed and co-produced. She stays involved in the Michigan theatrical community as a member of the Board of Directors for the Traverse City Film Festival.
Taylor Lautner skyrocketed to fame playing a werewolf in the blockbuster Twilight series of movies. The Grand Rapids native has also found success on the small screen with recurring roles in Scream Queens and Cuckoo.
S. Epatha Merkerson was born in Saginaw, and graduated from Cooley High in Detroit, where she would eventually complete her B.A. in fine arts at Wayne State University. She made her television debut as Reba the Mail Lady on Pee-wee’s Playhouse, but rose to stardom primarily from her work throughout seventeen seasons on Law & Order.
Terry O’Quinn was born in Sault Ste. Marie and grew up in Newberry. He began acting as a student at Central Michigan, where he also wrote and directed a musical called Orchestrina that starred fellow Michigander, Jeff Daniels. His feature film credits include Tombstone, Ghosts of Mississippi and X-Files. His star turn came when cast as John Locke the television series Lost.
Gilda Radner was a comedian and actress from Detroit who was the first of the seven original members cast for the NBC sketch comedy show Saturday Night Live. In her routines, Radner specialized in parodies of television stereotypes, such as advice specialists and news anchors, and in 1977, she won an Emmy Award for her performances on the show. She also portrayed those characters in her highly successful one-woman show on Broadway. The U of M alum’s public battle with terminal ovarian cancer led to the creation of Gilda’s Clubs across the nation providing support for cancer patients.
Elizabeth Reaser was born in Bloomfield and attended high school at Academy of Sacred Heart. She studied for a year at Oakland University before transferring to Juilliard. She first gained national recognition with a recurring part on Grey’s Anatomy and eventually in the role of Esme in the tremendously popular Twilight movie franchise.
Sam Richardson graduated from the University of Detroit Jesuit High School and Academy in and studied theater at Wayne State University. He got his professional start with Second City, and eventually landed the role of Richard Splett on Veep. He and Tim Robinson created and starred in Detroiters, a love letter to their hometown.
Tom Robinson honed his skills on improv stages at Second City, IO Theater and Just for Laughs, before landing a job as a writer on the legendary comedy sketch show, Saturday Night Live. The Clarkston High grad is also the co-creator and co-star of Detroiters, along with fellow Detroit native Sam Richardson.
Dax Shepard is a Michigan native and graduate of Walled Lake Central High School. He is married to fellow native, Kristen Bell. He first got noticed for his improv work on Punk’d. Several movie roles followed and then a five-year run as Crosby on the television series Parenthood. He has since gone on to become a writer, producer, and director.
Tom Skerritt was born in Detroit where he would attend Mackenzie High and Wayne State. He is known for his film roles in Alien, Top Gun, A River Runs Through It, and the television series Picket Fences, the latter of which earned him a Primetime Emmy Award.
James Wolk is a native of Farmington Hills who graduated from North Farmington High and U of M’s School of Drama. His big break came in the lead role of Brad Cohen in the television film, Front of the Class. Based on the book of the same name, Cohen is challenged by Tourette Syndrome from a young age, yet defies all odds to become a gifted teacher. His notable performance led to recurring parts on Mad Men, Zoo and Tell Me a Story.
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