Not only have streaming services changed the way in which people consume movies and television shows, but it has also helped make famous a whole new lot of actors — many of whom are now being seen even more on the big screen and enjoying their stardom rising to new levels thanks to a breakout role they got starring in a Netflix original. Of course, many of the breakout stars on Netflix were regular actors before they worked on a project with the streaming service. So while you may recognize some of these stars from other places, it was the popularity of their Netflix projects that propelled them to new levels of fame and fortune. Even some regular people (non-actors) who have been the subject of Netflix documentaries have also become famous thanks to the streaming company. Here are 10 people who have achieved fame through Netflix.
10. Claire Foy – The Crown
The Crown, about the ascension and early reign of Queen Elizabeth II of England is one of Netflix’s newest shows. But it fast became a critical and fan favourite – recently winning Golden Globe Awards for Best Television Series, Drama and Best Actress, Drama for British actress Claire Foy, who portrays Queen Elizabeth II in the program. It’s a fast rise for Claire Foy, whose biggest previous role had been playing “The Girl” in the 2011 turkey of a movie Season of the Witch, starring Nicolas Cage. She’d also had supporting parts in a number of television shows and mini-series in her native England, but nothing like the exposure she is now getting starring in the The Crown, which is reported to be the most expensive production yet made by Netflix. Foy will next be seen in the big budget romantic movie Breathe, co-starring actor Andrew Garfield.
9. Ellie Kemper – Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Among the best known actors on this list prior to starring in a Netflix series, Ellie Kemper gained some fame from her supporting role as receptionist Erin Hannon on The Office, and also had a supporting turn in the box office hit movie Bridesmaids. However, she didn’t achieve household name status until she starred in her own series for Netflix, as the title character in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, about a young woman who is rescued from a cult and starts life over again in New York City with a renewed sense of optimism. The comedy show has been nominated for 11 Emmy Awards since its debut in 2015, including for Best Comedy Series and a Best Actress nod for Kemper. Created and produced by Tina Fey, Kimmy Schmidt has proven to be an unbreakable series and Ellie Kemper is riding it to new heights of fame.
8. Jim Jefferies – Stand-Up Comedian
Jim Jefferies is a foul mouthed Australian comedian whose brand of humor never quite translated to American audiences until his Netflix original stand-up comedy shows Bare and Freedumb premiered on the streaming service. People suddenly found his specials, understood his humor, and Jim Jefferies quickly went from not selling out night clubs to easily selling out concert halls. In interviews since, Jefferies has praised Netflix for his new found fame, which came after a comedy series he made for FX in 2013 called Legit failed. Now, the comedian is working on more Netflix original stand-up specials, and headlining comedy festivals around the world.
7. Ben Mendelsohn – Bloodline
You know you’ve reached a new level of fame when you’re starring as the main villain in a Star Wars movie. And that is exactly what has happened to Australian character actor Ben Mendelsohn, who solidified his A-list status by portraying Imperial leader Orson Krennic in 2016’s Rogue One: A Star Wars Story. And Mendelsohn owes his work in a high profile Rogue One to Netflix, which hired him to star in the streaming service’s original program Bloodline, about a dysfunctional family living in the Florida Keys. One of Netflix’s most critically lauded series, Bloodline has been nominated for many awards since debuting in 2015. Mendelsohn himself has been nominated for multiple awards for his portrayal of troubled brother and black sheep Danny Rayburn. In fact, he won an Emmy Award (TV’s highest honor) for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series for the Netflix series. Always a hard working actor in his native Australia, Mendelsohn has graduated to A-list Hollywood movies since Bloodline’s success. He’ll next be seen as the Sherriff of Nottingham in a big budget update of Robin Hood that co-stars Jamie Foxx and Jamie Dornan (50 Shades of Grey and The Fall).
6. Taylor Schilling – Orange Is the New Black
Prior to Orange Is the New Black debuting on Netflix in 2013, actress Taylor Schilling had a small part in the Ben Affleck movie Argo and a starring role opposite Zac Efron in the box office turkey The Lucky One. She also played a nurse in the short-lived medical drama show Mercy back in 2009, which lasted all of one season. However, Schilling was not lighting up screens until Netflix cast her as the star of the female prison ensemble Orange is the New Black. As Piper Chapman, a woman in her thirties who is sentenced to fifteen-months in prison after being convicted of transporting money to a drug dealer, Schilling has found a devoted legion of fans and huge fame. Orange Is the New Black remains one of Netflix’s most popular shows with four seasons under its belt. Schilling has recently wrapped work on the big budget sci-fi movie The Titan, opposite actor Sam Worthington (of Avatar fame) and will next be seen opposite Alec Baldwin in director Emilio Estevez’s movie The Public, about a librarian who lets homeless people in Los Angeles squat in a public library.
5. Krysten Ritter – Jessica Jones
Thirty-five year old Krysten Ritter has been around since 2001. But until she played Jessica Jones for the Marvel Studios produced Netflix series, she mostly starred as the friend or girlfriend on series such as Veronica Mars and Gilmore Girls. Her best role before Jessica Jones was as Jesse Pinkman’s girlfriend on Breaking Bad, who overdoses and dies as Walter White watches impassively. But since assuming the lead role in Jessica Jones, about a former superhero who decides to overhaul her life by becoming a private investigator, Ritter’s fame has skyrocketed. After all, Jessica Jones has been nominated for tons of awards, and even won a prestigious Peabody Award for its first season. Not too shabby. For her part, Ritter won Saturn and Critic’s Choice awards. And she’s expanding her role as Jessica Jones into a second season, as well as the upcoming Defenders cross over. Movies will likely be on the horizon soon.
4. Steven Avery – Making a Murderer
No, he’s not an actor. Rather, Steven Avery is a convicted killer and subject of the Netflix original documentary series Making a Murderer, which caused a sensation when it landed on the streaming service at Christmas 2015. Viewers were riveted by the case of Avery, who served 18 years in prison for the wrongful conviction of attempted murder of Penny Beerntsen, before being fully exonerated in 2003 by DNA evidence, only to be arrested and convicted again in 2005 for the murder of Teresa Halbach, a local Wisconsin photographer. Filmed over 10 years, this riveting documentary takes viewers inside a pressure cooker of a criminal case, where things are never as they seem. Avery’s case (and that of his nephew, Brendan Dassey) ballooned in fame after this series landed on Netflix. Many fans of the show became convinced of their innocence, and sent petitions to the White House, demanding a new trial. Avery even met a woman and almost got married in jail last year, thanks to the popularity of the Netflix show. The couple have since split, and Avery remains in jail.
3. Jon Bernthal – The Punisher
Like many people on this list, Jon Bernthal was a largely unknown working actor prior to being cast in a Netflix original series. He had small parts in decent movies such as The Wolf of Wall Street and Sicario, as well as a decent 20 episode run as Shane Walsh on The Walking Dead, but never really stood out as a lead actor in any of his projects. However, his portrayal of Frank Castle aka The Punisher on the Netflix original series Daredevil was so memorable that his character was given his own series by the streaming service, something not originally in their plans. Set to debut later this year, The Punisher looks likely to be another hit for Netflix and to propel Bernthal to new levels of fame. Of course, The Punisher will probably also turn up in new seasons of the other Marvel produced Netflix shows, such as The Defenders, Luke Cage, Daredevil, and Iron Fist. Playing such a beloved character as The Punisher, Bernthal’s fame will only grow in the coming years.
2. The Kids from Stranger Things
Stranger Things was arguably the biggest breakout hit for Netflix in 2016. And while the supernatural thriller starred famous actors such as Winona Ryder and Matthew Modine, it was the cast of largely unknown kids that got the most attention when this series became available for streaming. And while Finn Wolfhard (who plays Mike Wheeler), Gaten Matarazzo (who plays tooth challenged Dustin Henderson), and Millie Bobby Brown (who plays the mysterious Eleven) are not household names yet, their fame and stock in Hollywood is certainly on the rise after starring in this creepy 80s throwback series. Wolfhard will next be seen in the big screen adaptation of Stephen King’s IT. The other cast members are also getting involved in movies and appearing in other TV shows, such as The Blacklist and Blue Bloods. Of course, there’s also the second season of Stranger Things coming.
1. Mike Colter – Luke Cage
Prior to hitting it big as the star and title character of Netflix’s Luke Cage, American actor Mike Colter was a largely unknown supporting player who had small parts in movies such as Zero Dark Thirty and Million Dollar Baby, and guest spots on television shows such as ER and American Horror Story. His biggest role had been a recurring one on a single season of the TV show The Good Wife. But now, thanks to Netflix, Colter has a signature role that is catapulting him to greater levels of fame and more lucrative pay checks. Not only is Colter playing Luke Cage on his own critically acclaimed series, he’s also playing the role on other Netflix shows too, like Jessica Jones and The Defenders. And he was recently nominated for an Image Award for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series for his work on Luke Cage. Fans can’t seem to get enough of him!