With 11 years and 21 films, the Marvel Cinematic Universe has stacked up quite the massive cast over the years. We all remember the big names, of course. Robert Downey Jr., the two best Chrises (yeah, not Pratt!), ScarJo, Mark Ruffalo, Paul Rudd, Chadwick Boseman, Brie Larson … the MCU is an ever-growing roster of Big Names!
But the smaller supporting actors form an important part of the larger universe, even if we rarely discuss their contribution. In fact, the MCU can easily double as a dystopian alternate universe inhabited by a smorgasbord of random TV characters plus our beloved movie superstars. (Seriously, the unsuspecting crossovers between the MCU and popular television shows is just uncanny.)
A lot of these supporting cast members have gone on to do much bigger things since their appearance in these movies, which makes their stepping stone-cameos stand out even more.
Think of this as your minor deep dive into finding all the casting Easter eggs — Marvel does love them —about the many supporting players over the years. Here’s how Marvel took their catchphrase and flipped it to basically say Actors Assemble™.
Leslie Bibb as Christine Everhart
Bibb played the Vanity Fair reporter who tried and failed to interview Tony Stark (and also maintain a flirtatious relationship with him).
She’s a familiar face to regular TV watchers (Entourage, About a Boy, Nip/Tuck). She also appeared in Iron Man 2, and, fun fact, in her last movie Tag, she played
Hawkeye Jeremy Renner’s bride. She’s set to lead Amazon Prime’s upcoming sci-fi drama Jupiter’s Legacy alongside Josh Duhamel … so take that, Tony!
Nazanin Boniadi as Amira Ahmed
Boniadi had the absolute briefest of cameos in Iron Man, as a reporter from Afghanistan. But let me tell you why she’s on this list as a reference to my point about random TV crossovers.
She went on to play Nora in How I Met Your Mother. She was part of a love triangle with Barney Stinson and Robin Scherbatsky, played by … Cobie Smulders, a.k.a. Maria Hill of the MCU. Boniadi is known for her TV work in Counterpart, Homeland, and Scandal, and she recently starred in the film Hotel Mumbai.
Incredible Hulk (lol, remember that film?)
Ty Burrell as Dr. Leonard Samson
Burrell played the jealous psychotherapist who dates Bruce Banner’s former girlfriend Betty and reveals Bruce’s location to Thaddeus Ross.
First, just chew on the fact that goofiest dad Phil Dunphy is also part of the MCU. If these actors had kept their Incredible Hulk roles, there’s a good chance we’d see him transform into his comic book avatar/superhero version Doc Sampson. Who knows if Burrell would’ve gotten his part in Modern Family and won all those awards then?
Martin Starr as Computer Nerd (yes, really)
Starr literally just played a computer geek in this film. He went on to get an ever so slightly bigger role in Spider-Man: Homecoming as science teacher Roger Harrington. But this was his MCU debut!
The actor is best known for Silicon Valley, Party Down, and Freaks & Geeks, but he’s also cameo’d in Parks and Recreation and New Girl, and he was in a blink-and-miss scene from the Season 8 premiere of this little show called Game of Thrones. (This marks the beginning of the Thrones x MCU crossovers on this list.)
Iron Man 2
Sam Rockwell as Justin Hammer
Rockwell played Tony Stark’s business nemesis, who teams up with his other enemy, Ivan Vanko. I spaced about his role, probably because Iron Man 2 is the worst MCU film.
Sure, Rockwell was a star before he got this part, but this was apparently a memorable role for him personally. You know, playing a comparatively chill villain before setting up his new extra-deceptive vibe with Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri; Vice; and Best of Enemies. A super meta fact: he’s married to Bibb!
Olivia Munn as Chess Roberts
Munn played a news reporter covering the excitement at the Stark expo. The minor Iron Man 2 role was just a starting step for her; she went on to play the mutant Psylocke in 2016’s X-Men Apocalypse.
Elon Musk as Elon Musk
Truly, this is just for laughs. Musk played himself because of course Tony Stark would know him. It’s just funny to think this dude is also part of the MCU.
Kate Mara as U.S. Marshal
She serves Tony with a subpoena. That is all.
Mara, now known for her unforgettable role in House of Cards, had one weirdly steamy convo with Stark in the film, but it’s fine, she got her shot at being a superhero 5 years later in Marvel’s Fantastic Four. She played Sue Storm/Invisible Woman. Unfortunately for her, the movie was a total bust.
Josh Dallas as Fandral
He actually played the Asgardian warrior in the first Thor film before Zachary Levi took over in the two sequels. Dallas couldn’t continue because he was busy playing Prince Charming in ABC’s eight-season long Once Upon a Time.
Captain America: The First Avenger
Natalie Dormer as Private Lorraine
Didn’t I say there was more Thrones x MCU coming? She played Private Lorraine, who served in the U.S. Army during World War II and tried to seduce Steve Rogers. As if.
Dormer, of course, worthily basked in the glory of playing Margaery Tyrell in Game of Thrones. She’s got some love for franchises, because she went on to star in two Hunger Games films and will lead the Penny Dreadful spin-off on the small screen.
Jenna Coleman as Connie
She goes goes on a date in one scene with Bucky Barnes. Coleman was already popular due to her regular role in British soap opera Emmerdale before her minor stint in Captain America. But what’s fun is that a year after this role, she signed on to play Clara Oswald in the mammoth Doctor Who. She’s also known for her leading performance in the drama series Victoria.
David Bradley as Church Keeper
Bradley’s Church Keeper was the designated guardian of the Tesseract until Red Skull killed him to find it.
Was Captain America: The First Avenger the most Thrones-loving movie in the MCU? I’d say so. Bradley’s loathsome Walder Frey is etched in my memory forever, but he’s also done a ton of great stuff including some Harry Potter films, Doctor Who, The Tudors, and The Midsomer Murders.
Alexis Denisof as The Other
He was the pesky Thanos servant who armed Loki with the Chitauri army to conquer Earth. He also appeared in Guardians of the Galaxy.
Denisof worked with The Avengers director Joss Whedon in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, and like Boniadi, he worked with Smulder in How I Met Your Mother for a few episodes.
Hey, nothing’s a stretch when finding connections in the MCU, okay?
Iron Man 3
Corey Hawkins as Navy Op
Hawkins had a brief stint in the film as a … you guessed it, navy op.
This was before he rose to fame with his performances in Straight Outta Compton, Kong: Skull Island, and The Walking Dead. All that led him to 24: Legacy, in which he replaced Kiefer Sutherland as the lead of the popular TV franchise. Hawkins is now leading Six Underground with Ryan Reynolds and will star in the musical In the Heights. Quite a glow up from an MCU cameo, I say.
Adam Pally as Gary
This is yet another “just for laughs” addition. Pally played a cameraman and Tony Stark superfan. The comedy actor has a bunch of TV roles under his belt, notably Happy Endings and The Mindy Project. In an interview, Pally spoke about his experiences doing the cameo and his love for Downey Jr., calling him the greatest and most underpaid actor. Sure, Adam.
Thor: Dark World
Chris O’Dowd as Richard*
He goes on a very short date with Jane, who is obviously still pining for a real God, a.k.a. Thor.
Actor and comedian O’Dowd was in this brief scene after his role in Bridesmaids, but before his voice role in Mary Poppins Returns, if that matters at all. He is also known his role in the Broadway play Of Mice and Men, which lent him a Tony nomination.
*This info is also vital mostly for O’Dowd, who forgot about his 2-minute scene in the film, and you know what, I damn well don’t blame him.
Adewale Akinnuoye-Agbaje as Algrim/Kurse
He played Dark Elf Algrim, a loyal Malekith servant who is transformed into the bull-like creature Kurse, who has a mission to destroy Thor.
Lost actor Akinnuoye-Agbaje is yet another MCU to Thrones crossover actor. He played Malko in Season 5. Beyond that, the actor jumped ship from Marvel to DC, starring in Suicide Squad as Waylan Jones, a.k.a. Killer Croc in 2016.
Captain America: Winter Soldier
Danny Pudi as Moore
And the award for the most arbitrary actor who is part of the MCU — and in the best film, even! — goes to Pudi, who played a S.H.I.E.L.D. communications officer for one scene.
In 2017, he starred in the short-lived NBC superhero comedy Powerless, which is set within the world of the DC Universe, so let’s assume Moore didn’t like Cap, Maria, and Falcon pointing a gun at him very much.
Alan Dale as Councilman Rockwell (not Sam … sorry)
He played a councilman of the World Security Council, set up after The Avengers events, but he was killed after Hydra’s deep infiltration of S.H.I.E.L.D. was revealed.
He’s on the list for the TV fans everywhere, because it’s impossible that you’ve not seen Dale in at least one of the shows you watch. His line-up includes Lost, Homeland, Once Upon a Time (perhaps the Marvel casting folks watch the same shows), Ugly Betty, The O.C., and The West Wing.
Guardians of the Galaxy
Seth Green as Howard the Duck
He voiced the character in both the Guardians films, so it’s fine if you didn’t notice it was Green, who also had an uncredited cameo in Iron Man 2.
In the DisneyXD animated series Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. and for one episode of Avengers Assemble, he voiced Rocket Raccoon.
Essentially he’s got a widespread role in the MCU. No amount of Chrises can accomplish what Green did, I guess?
Don’t hate me for mentioning this, but Green *also* showed up in one episode of How I Met Your Mother, which is on track to be the biggest crossover with the MCU. Who woulda thunk it?
Julie Delpy as Madame B
As shown in flashbacks, she played Natasha Romanoff’s trainer and tormentor, who ensured that Romanoff turned into notorious assassin/spy Black Widow. The famed French-American actress was a great addition to the MCU, in part because she’s already such a revered name thanks to the Before movie trilogy.
Garrett Morris as cab driver
Morris played a shocked taxi driver who is obviously wondering why Scott Lang has fallen atop his cab. An acclaimed comedian, Morris agreed to do this tiny cameo in Ant-Man for throwback purposes. He was a cast member of Saturday Night Live in 1979 and part of the famous sketch “Superhero Party,” in which he played Ant-Man himself.
Captain America: Civil War
Alfre Woodard as Miriam Sharpe
Woodard has a varying history with Marvel, so it was fun to see her pop up in Civil War as a form of emotional torture for Tony, telling him about her son who died in Sokovia by the mess made during Ultron.
Five months later, she began starring in a regular role as the villain Mariah Dillard in Marvel’s 2-season long Netflix drama Luke Cage. In 2010, she voiced Dondi Reese and Queen Mother of Wakanda in the Black Panther animated series, which Marvel released on YouTube last year.
Florence Kasumba as Ayo
I know Kasumba is prominently featured as the Dora Milaje warrior in Black Panther, but I completely forgot that she actually made a one-scene debut in Civil War, standing up to Natasha, who wants to confront T’Challa. Kasumba, meanwhile, also makes a pit stop in the DC Universe: She played Senator Acantha in Wonder Woman. She will voice Shenzi in the upcoming Lion King movie.
Guardians of the Galaxy 2
Michelle Yeoh as Aleta Ogord
She cameos as the Ravager captain and wife of Stakar Ogord. Yeoh’s prowess has been around as early as 1997, when she stared in the James Bond film Tomorrow Never Dies. She’s got a love for famous franchises, too. She plays Philippa Georgiou in the CBS All Access Star Trek drama and will lead her own spin-off. She’s signed on to star in the next two Avatar movies and will reprise her role as Eleanor Young in the continuation films of Crazy Rich Asians. Whew.
David Hasselhoff as Ego
Hasselhoff is yet another actor with a deep Marvel history. He played Star-Lord’s biological father in Vol. 2 of Guardians and appeared as himself in the end credits. He recorded “Guardians Inferno” with The Sneepers for this film.
It’s hard to imagine now with Samuel L. Jackson’s established performance, but Hasselhoff played the titular role in Nick Fury: Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D. in the 1998 film.
Elizabeth Debicki as Ayesha
Debicki’s claim to fame was 2018’s Widows, but she also played Ayesha, the leader of the Sovereign in Guardians Vol. 2, and will return in the third movie as well.
Hannibal Buress as Coach Wilson
Indeed, Ilana’s Broad City boyfriend is very much a part of the larger MCU. He played Peter’s P.E. teacher and introduced those excellent Cap PSA videos. Like Bibb, Buress also starred in Tag with Renner. In the animated series Justice League Action, he voiced Mister Terrific.
Lotsa camp shifters exist among the supporting actors, huh?
Jennifer Connelly as Karen
Remember what I said about Marvel loving Easter eggs, right? This casting sure is a big one. Connelly, who is the wife of Vision/J.A.R.V.I.S. actor Paul Bettany, voiced the user interface installed in the Spider-Man suit. She’s already played Betty Ross in 2003’s Hulk.
Matt Damon, Luke Hemsworth, and Sam Neill as pretend Loki, Thor, and Odin
You probably didn’t forget they appeared in Ragnarok in a seemingly silly play as a fictional version of these (already fictional) Asgardian characters — but their scene was such a well-kept secret that it’s bound to be one of the best cameos in the MCU.
Trevor Noah as the Griot
Shuri created Griot, an A.I., who Noah voices in the film.
Avengers: Infinity War
Ross Marquand as Red Skull
He replaced Hugo Weaving as Red Skull in Infinity War. It’s fairly hard to tell because … well, just look at him. This marks another MCU x TV crossover; Marquand and Okoye actor Danai Gurira both star in The Walking Dead.
Ant-Man and the Wasp
Brian Huskey as Elementary School Teacher
This is probably a treat only for the magnanimous TV comedy fans out there, but you know why I have to add Huskey to the list. He’s got a wide-ranging list of shows, including Veep, X-Files, BoJack Horseman, Arrested Development, and *coughs* How I Met Your Mother.
Nelson Franklin as Medical Examiner
Franklin is on the list for pretty much the same reason as Huskey. He’s been around on the small screen for quite a while (Blackish, New Girl, Dollhouse) so it was cool to see him show up in the most recent MCU film, even if briefly. Franklin does have a previous Marvel connection. He guest-starred in the ABC drama Marvel’s Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D.
Note: Doctor Strange did not have any supporting actor surprises, but shall we collectively agree they wasted Rachel McAdams’ talent? Cool.