Why These 2023 Commercial Actors Look So Familiar - Looper (2024)


Why These 2023 Commercial Actors Look So Familiar - Looper (1)

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ByLeo Noboru Lima/

Like every year since the dawn of media in the United States, 2023 has been marked by a plethora of memorable advertising campaigns. And while watching commercials is no one's favorite part of a TV broadcast, the medium of commercials remains an ever-fascinating one to analyze and pick apart, whether you're a communication studies academic or just a casual TV viewer trying to decipher how different brands try to persuade you to buy their stuff.

One thing that can't be denied is the dedication and professionalism of the various performers who have appeared in commercials in 2023. From social media stars to A-list film thespians to performers whose acting credits have been largely contained to other commercials, this year has seen a vast number of TV ads featuring actors giving it their all. Some of those ads may even have featured actors you know from somewhere else; here, we've compiled 13 commercial actors from 2023 and offered some explanations as to why they might have looked familiar to you.

Judy Greer - Sonesta

And what better way to start a list of familiar-looking commercial actors than with a commercial that uses that idea as its whole premise? In January 2023, Sonesta International Hotels launched an advertising campaign titled "Famous Yet Nameless," which sought to acknowledge and remedy the company's lack of name recognition in the hospitality business. In the ad, an actress whom viewers would likely recognize, yet might not be able to place, compares herself and her top-notch performances to Sonesta's tradition and service quality. And the actress they called for the job was, naturally, Judy Greer.

Greer has become a kind of legend in American film and TV, not only for her enormous versatility and consistency as a performer but for being perennially underrated. After breaking out with early-2000s hit comedies like "The Wedding Planner" and "13 Going on 30," she became a sitcom mainstay, turning in memorable work in shows ranging from "Two and a Half Men" to "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" to — perhaps most memorably — "Arrested Development," where she played eccentric Bluth Company secretary Kitty Sanchez. Between 2014 and 2015, she starred in the FX series "Married" alongside Nat Faxon. Her film work, meanwhile, is equally as accomplished; she's played characters ranging from Scott Lang's (Paul Rudd) ex-wife Maggie in the "Ant-Man" films to a role opposite George Clooney in "The Descendants."

Deanna Colón - Jardiance

One commercial that made waves in April 2023 was the ultra-peppy ad for the prescription drug Jardiance, which is used to lower blood sugar in adults with Type 2 diabetes. The Broadway-style commercial finds a woman singing a song extolling Jardiance's virtues as "the little pill with a big story to tell," accompanied by a large ensemble of dancers and moving through several bright-colored sets. The commercial has been criticized and mocked by many viewers for the dissonance between its sunny, escapist tone and the lengthy list of potential side effects, which takes roughly half the runtime for the announcer to rattle off. (Though much of the hate it's received online is also barely concealed fatphobia.) But the tune is catchy, and the actress at the center, Deanna Colón, acquits herself with undeniable charisma.

You may remember Colón from the various other musical-themed commercials she's appeared in over the years — and there are even more to which she only lent her singing voice without appearing on screen. The multi-hyphenate performer and musician, who got her start on Season 8 of "America's Got Talent" as Deanna DellaCioppa, has also contributed songwriting to several films and TV shows, and had a guest role in a 2021 episode of "Miracle Workers." More recently, she appeared as a contestant on Season 10 of MasterChef USA.

Joe and Frank Mele - Gillette

A July 2023 ad for Gillette Labs, a razor brand line from Gillette, is centered around a FaceTime call between a father and a son. The father calls just as the son is about to start his shaving routine, and the two exchange ribbing yet friendly rapport about the importance of "the process," with the young man assuring his dad that the advanced technology of his Gillette Labs razor allows him to shave his facial hair quickly without sacrificing any cleanness or efficiency. There isn't much to the commercial beyond that straightforward interaction; it's an ad that banks on star power, as opposed to writing or style, as its primary draw.

The star power in question belongs to a duo of TikTok megastars: Joe Mele and his father, Frank. Joe has been posting videos featuring his dad since 2019, poking fun at his grumpy, boisterous personality; his uncanny physical resemblance to "Ratatouille" food critic Anton Ego; and, most of all, his unmistakable Long Island accent. Over the years, the Meles have garnered a following of over 27 million on TikTok, not to mention over 5 million subscribers on YouTube.

Natasha Lyonne - Old Navy

Between August and December 2023, Old Navy aired a series of short commercial spots featuring the same smirking, self-deprecating redhead actress and her thick New York accent. Some spots find her being commended on her Old Navy pants and having trouble taking the compliments, while others have her interact with duplicate versions of herself; all of them conclude with her cooly and simply saying of her outfits, "It's Old Navy." In each spot, the actress' charisma and effortless comedic timing shine through. Hard not to, when the actress in question is none other than Natasha Lyonne.

One of the most iconic performers of the post-1990s American indie scene, Lyonne has a lengthy resume of arthouse, off-kilter, and underground classics; throw a dart at her filmography and you'll hit a cult favorite. From playing confused protagonist Megan Bloomfield in conversion camp comedy "But I'm a Cheerleader" to appearing across the "American Pie" films as Jessica to headlining underrated gems like "The Intervention" and "Slums of Beverly Hills," she's a major name in contemporary cinema. In TV shows, meanwhile, she's accrued even more mainstream visibility, starring as Nicky Nichols on "Orange Is the New Black," Nadia Vulvokov on "Russian Doll," and Charlie Cale on "Poker Face."

Ben Barnes - T-Mobile

American mobile network operator T-Mobile has been known to recruit big stars for its ads, but the casting of those stars doesn't always bank on name recognition. In a series of commercials aired throughout 2023, they brought in the same "charming British actor" — as he repeatedly refers to himself along with the onscreen titles — to directly address Verizon and AT&T customers feeling aggrieved by unexpected price hikes. The star of those ads, Ben Barnes, is indeed a charming British actor. But even more importantly, he's very funny, which is what makes the commercials work.

Barnes first had a major mainstream breakthrough with "The Chronicles of Narnia: Prince Caspian," joining the popular fantasy franchise in the role of the titular king, whom he would later play again in "The Voyage of the Dawn Treader." Although the role of Caspian called for a kind of stately, straight-faced regality, Barnes' subsequent television work allowed him to show that he was a much more eccentric actor than he might have initially appeared. He played gleefully amoral executive Logan Delos on "Westworld," and Frank Castle's (Jon Bernthal) friend-turned-nemesis Billy Russo aka Jigsaw on "The Punisher." Between 2021 and 2023, he also played Shadow Summoner and Grisha leader Aleksander Kirigan aka the Darkling on "Shadow and Bone."

Dot-Marie Jones - Allstate

Allstate has managed to put together one of the most recognizable recurring ad campaigns of the 21st century with its "Mayhem" commercials, featuring Dean Winters as a kind of god of mischief. But another memorable 2023 spot for the insurance company took things in a very different direction. Centered around a woman with the power to always know when something is going to fit — whether it's a car in a garage, a tray in an oven, or an article of clothing — the commercial works largely on the strength of actress Dot-Marie Jones' convincing, assured performance.

After a successful career in college track and field, including record-setting shot put performances, Jones segued into acting with bit parts in the 1990s, including a small role in "The Boondock Saints." The 2000s saw her pop up frequently in roles that took advantage of her sportsmanship and physical prowess, including Coach Kelly in several episodes of "Lizzie McGuire," an inmate on "George Lopez," and a prison guard on "iCarly." She finally had her big acting breakthrough with "Glee," playing Coach Sheldon Beiste between Seasons 2 and 6, charting the character's gender transition arc. After "Glee," she continued to appear frequently on TV shows, and also had roles in films like "Bros" and "Weird: The Al Yankovic Story" — as well as "Golden Arm," in which she got to play up her expertise in the field of professional arm wrestling.

Sydney Sweeney - Giorgio Armani

It has long been a tradition of the luxury fashion and perfumery business to center advertising campaigns around stately, supernaturally beautiful and charismatic actors who embody a certain aspirational grandeur. For the launch of its My Way perfume in 2023, bolstered by several TV commercials, Giorgio Armani cast an actress who very much fit the bill: Sydney Sweeney.

2018 saw Sweeney nab her first substantial, multi-episode TV roles; she played Emaline Addario on the short-lived Netflix teen dramedy "Everything Sucks!," Alice on the acclaimed HBO miniseries "Sharp Objects," and Eden Spencer on Season 2 of "The Handmaid's Tale." She had a major mainstream breakthrough in 2019 when she began playing Cassie Howard on "Euphoria," which was followed up by her performance as Olivia Mossbacher on Season 1 of "The White Lotus." But it was Season 2 of "Euphoria," with its increased focus on Cassie, that really catapulted Sweeney into superstardom. She received dual Primetime Emmy nominations in the same year for "Euphoria" and "The White Lotus" and became a highly sought-after film actress, receiving widespread acclaim for her performance as Reality Winner in Tina Satter's "Reality," and co-starring in the Will Gluck romcom "Anyone but You" alongside Glen Powell.

Jennifer Coolidge - Discover

Sometimes, great advertising is about nothing more than tapping a great comedic actress and having her perform a mini-sketch with full conviction. The commercial aired by Discover in October 2023 to introduce its cashback debit function finds one such actress, in the inimitable cadence that worldwide audiences have fallen in love with over the past few years, learning about the cash back on debit — and reacting with disappointment. She thought Discover was giving her special treatment, but no dice: Everyone gets that benefit. "What about Debbie John? All those years that I couldn't find my bike, it was in her garage. Like, she gets it?" asks a typically 100% committed Jennifer Coolidge.

Although Coolidge had already had several parts in films and on TV shows throughout the 1990s, her career took off after "American Pie," in which she played Jeanine Stifler. Following the hit sex comedy film, she struck up a partnership with filmmaker Christopher Guest, who went on to cast her in three of his mockumentary comedies: 2000's "Best in Show," 2003's "A Mighty Wind," and 2006's "For Your Consideration." In that period, she also played evil stepmother Fiona Montgomery in "A Cinderella Story." Following a decade as an underrated workhorse performer — a period especially marked by her work on "2 Broke Girls" as Sophie Kaczyński — Coolidge had something of a career renaissance following her show-stopping, Emmy-winning turn as neurotic socialite Tanya McQuoid on the first two seasons of "The White Lotus."

Will Arnett - GEICO

Car insurance company GEICO scored a big advertising hit with its cute CG gecko mascot, which turned out to be a perfect avatar for the image of friendliness and helpfulness that the brand wanted to get across to customers. In 2023, the GEICO gecko found a screen partner in Will Arnett, who appeared on several commercials as the mascot's unlikely, bumbling arch-nemesis.

Arnett is arguably best known for his role as George Oscar "Gob" Bluth on "Arrested Development," which was also his first big mainstream exposure following a series of unsuccessful pilots and a handful of guest spots. Like the rest of the show's main ensemble, he attained the status of sitcom royalty and went on to build a fruitful television career. His subsequent roles include Devon Banks on "30 Rock," Brent Wilts on "The Increasingly Poor Decisions of Todd Margaret," Chris Brinkley on "Up All Night," Nathan Miller on "The Millers," and Chip on "Flaked," which he also co-created. He's also played Vern Fenwick in the two "Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles" reboot films. On top of all that, Arnett is a prolific voice actor, having voiced such iconic characters as BoJack Horseman in the Netflix series of the same name and Batman in the "Lego Movie" franchise.

Randall Park - Amazon

Garnering consumer sympathy can also be a simple matter of making them laugh, without the joke needing to send a message in itself, as demonstrated by the 2023 "back to school" ads aired by Amazon. The e-commerce giant wants the public to know that the Amazon website offers good deals on school supplies for kids and teens, and it has an announcer telling the camera just that. Then, the announcer has awkward interactions with nearby teens, kids, parents, and grandparents — which, while essentially non-sequiturs, are worthy of at least a giggle or two, thanks to Randall Park's impeccable comedic timing.

Park has been a rising star of American comedy for over a decade, going back to his guest stints on shows like "Curb Your Enthusiasm," "Community," and "New Girl." His first big TV role was as one of Selina Meyer's (Julia Louis-Dreyfus) recurring political rivals, Minnesota Gov. Danny Chung, on "Veep." From there on out, Park started nabbing more substantive parts in movies and on TV alike, the most notable of which is arguably his leading role as Louis Huang on "Fresh Off the Boat," which he played for all of the show's six seasons. He joined the Marvel Cinematic Universe as FBI agent Jimmy Woo in "Ant-Man and the Wasp" and has since reprised the role on "WandaVision" and in "Ant-Man and the Wasp: Quantumania." In 2019, Park also co-wrote and co-starred alongside Ali Wong in the Netflix romcom "Always Be My Maybe."

Austin Butler - Yves Saint-Laurent

Why These 2023 Commercial Actors Look So Familiar - Looper (12)

Yves Saint-Laurent

Sydney Sweeney wasn't the only up-and-coming performer who got cast as the face of a luxury fragrance in 2023. The campaign for YSL Beauty's MYSLF features a confident, self-assured actor with a voiceover boasting about being "strong, proud, free," all while the actor is posing, dancing, and shooting piercing looks to the camera. It's a borderline campy display of idealized masculinity as male fragrance commercials are wont to be, but the actor, Austin Butler, has good reason to be feeling himself.

Butler was a staple of teen-oriented television in the 2000s, playing James Garrett in Season 4 of "Zoey 101," appearing throughout "Ned's Declassified School Survival Guide" as a background character, and making guest appearances on "iCarly," "Hannah Montana," "Jonas," "Zeke and Luther," and "Wizards of Waverly Place." He then had main roles as Sebastian Kydd on "The Carrie Diaries" and Wil Ohmsford on "The Shannara Chronicles" and later got a boost to his movie career by working with Jim Jarmusch in "The Dead Don't Die" and Quentin Tarantino in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood." None of that, alas, had quite prepared audiences for the gauntlet that Butler would throw down in 2022 with his uncannily perfect and astonishingly energetic performance as Elvis Presley in Baz Luhrmann's "Elvis," which earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor.

Zooey Deschanel - Choice Hotels

In a March 2023 commercial for the Choice Hotels chain, a married couple is struggling to pick one out of the many accommodation options for their upcoming trip. To help them, an entity who refers to herself as the Fairy Hotelmother materializes in their living room and explains to them that Choice Hotels offers a wide array of options under different brands depending on their needs, whether they're looking to travel with the kids or go on a romantic getaway. The Fairy Hotelmother — who insists that her wand cannot be waved carelessly at things — is played by Zooey Deschanel.

Deschanel had her critical breakout as the star of David Gordon Green's legendary 2003 indie drama "All the Real Girls," which also launched the acting careers of Paul Schneider and Danny McBride. In the same year, she had her concurrent mainstream breakout, playing Jovie in "Elf." From there on out, Deschanel became a ubiquitous and prolific actress who established one of the most distinctive and well-known personal brands of any performer in her generation — a brand that she brought to films including "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy," "(500) Days of Summer," and "Yes Man." That screen persona of a perky, eccentric woman was subsequently sent up on "New Girl," which starred Deschanel as Jess Day for seven seasons and is arguably her best-remembered screen credit nowadays.

Benjamin Clementine - Givenchy

To round out the list, another luxury fragrance that debuted in 2023 and brought with it an actor to embody its spirit was Givenchy's Gentleman Society. The ads for the men's perfume, focused on exclusivity and a sense of belonging to a refined "state of mind," feature British actor and musician Benjamin Clementine as the brand's face.

Clementine's work as a singer-songwriter in the art pop and contemporary classical genres has resulted in several television appearances. He has performed his music on "Later... with Jools Holland," the Spanish talk show "Torres y Reyes," and over on the American side of the pond on "The Late Late Show with James Corden" and "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon." Since 2021, he has also been branching out into acting, having played the Herald of the Change in Denis Villeneuve's "Dune." He is currently slated to continue his acting career with appearances in two upcoming films from major arthouse auteurs: Steve McQueen's "Blitz," and Julian Schnabel's "In the Hand of Dante."

Why These 2023 Commercial Actors Look So Familiar - Looper (2024)
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