Supporting actors/actresses in movies who hit big through TV?

Whenever I watch an old movie on the classic movie channels, it catches me by surprise sometimes to see actors and actresses I grew up watching on TV and were stars there, appearing in movies as supporting actors earlier in their careers.

A few are Jack Klugman (Quincy, the Odd Couple); Norman Fell and Audra Lyndley (Three’s Company), most of the cast of Gilligan’s Island, Harry Morgan (MASH), Claude Akins (The adventures of Sherrif Lobo) and of course, the daddy of them all…William Shatner.

There aren’t as many actors/actresses today who got noticed in film and have hit it big on TV…most go the other way, starting in TV and moving to films. The only one I can think of off the top of my head is Norman Reedus (8mm and Boondock Saints, before becoming Daryl on The Walking Dead.). I guess Whoopi Goldberg applies as well because of The View.

Who are the actors/actresses today who started in movies, then became well-known through television, either as actors or show hosts? And how suggesting about other TV icons who had early film credits?

Well, there’s Jon Cryer.

Not that he wasn’t already well-known, but Steve Buscemi was pretty much exclusively a supporting actor before he hit big as a leading man on Boardwalk Empire.

According to Tom Selleck, he had a small part as a corpse in the movie Coma a couple of years before Magnum, P.I.

Man, I completely forgot about Jon Cryer…50 lashes with a wet noodle.

Boy, there’s loads of them.

Jamie Farr - as Jameel Farah - had some small parts early in his life (including Blackboard Jungle!) and went on to fame as Klinger in MASH.

The finest version of this character I’ve ever seen in Bronson Pinchot. Pinchot absolutely nailed the ‘clerk with undefined eastern European accent who’s a bit weird’ role in Beverly Hills Cop. Total screen time, possible 2 minutes. But pretty much that exact character was his Balki in Perfect Strangers 2 years later. He took that bit part as far as he possibly could.

Lucille Ball was a steadily-working mostly-B-movie actress for many years before I Love Lucy.

How about Paul Reiser? Part of the ensemble cast in Diner, gets supporting-actor work in blockbusters like Beverly Hills Cop and Aliens – and, after My Two Dads, he gets his signature leading role on Mad About You.

The real question is, do we get to count Charlie Sheen?

But Lucille Ball was already a hit before I Love Lucy She’d starred in DuBarry was a Lady and The Big Street (opposite Henry Fonda) and Lover Come Back before that, and Mt Favorite Husband (sorta the pre-I Love Lucy) was already a big radio hit before she became a TV star.

Ed O’Neill got a couple of supporting-actor roles on film – as the big cop backing up Al Pacino, or the hired gun Christopher Walken wants back in the game – before getting famous on MARRIED WITH CHILDREN before his current run on MODERN FAMILY.

Cloris Leachman from Raising Hope also had a couple of minor film credits in the 40s and 50s. I saw her in Kiss Me Deadly, a film noir B-movie from 1955 a couple of weeks ago. She had a small role right at the beginning, but she was the standout in the movie. Of course, she first hit it big on TV with the Mary Tyler Moore Show.

Neil Flynn was in a few movies before becoming known through Scrubs and The Middle.

Zooey Deschanel and Timothy Olyphant are the two that come to mind right away.

After All That Jazz, John Lithgow did tons of supporting work – especially in The World According To Garp and Terms of Endearment, not to mention his “antagonist” roles in Footloose and Buckaroo Banzai – and, after decades of getting billed lower than Aykroyd or Stallone or Berenger or whoever, he started racking up Golden Globes on television.

You are correct, and I see now that I misunderstood the OP’s question.

He’s also in Midway. Then again, every male actor was in Midway.

Agnes Moorehead had a steady stream of movie work before she was Endora.

William H Macy has forever been a strong supporting character actor type with very few starring film roles. He’s currently starring in Shameless on Showtime, and they’re on their 4th or 5th season of that.

Peter Dinklage spent most of his career in supporting film roles before breaking out on Game of Thrones, and is arguably the star of the show.

How about Martin Sheen? He was in a bunch of movies but his only major lead was Apocalypse Now. His career reached its peak on The West Wing.

Ix-nay on the arstay! You know how George Double Aaargh Martin is about leading characters! (Makes slashing motion across throat.) Don’t be giving him any ideas!