5 Actors Who Starred in Multiple TV Shows at the Same Time

Television actors have a unique challenge. Despite being some of the hardest working performers in the industry, they often don’t receive the same amount of praise and notoriety that movie stars find. Despite all this, many TV actors give fans the gift of some truly wonderful, unforgettable characters. It’s hard enough to do this once, but some actors and actresses have found a way to create more than one stellar small screen performance. Even more impressive? When they’re pulling double duty, performing as two often very different characters on separate television shows at the same time. Here are five amazing performers that have accomplished this feat.

1. Lisa Kudrow

Lisa Kudrow as Phoebe Buffay in 'Friends.'

Source: NBC

She’s world famous for her portrayal of eccentric singer-songwriter Phoebe Buffay in Friends, but Lisa Kudrow has had a prolific television career. In fact, when Friends was first on the air, she already had a recurring role on another NBC sitcom. On Mad About You, she frequently popped up as Ursula Buffay, a quirky, forgetful waitress. Fans of both shows later learned that she was Phoebe’s identical twin, when she began to pop up on Friends as well.

Kudrow has performed in several TV series since Mad About You and Friends ended. But she once again decided to work double time, this time for two different premium networks. Since 2011, she’s been starring in Showtime’s Web Therapy. It’s an improvisational comedy series about a therapist who counsels her patients over the Internet. In 2014, HBO brought her series The Comeback, about a has-been actress trying to reboot her career, back for a second season. She can be seen in both series when their new seasons premiere next fall.

2. Michael K. Williams

Michael K. Williams as Chalky White in 'Boardwalk Empire.'

Source: HBO

Michael K. Williams is best known for his spectacular performance as Omar Little in HBO’s The Wire. But after he left Baltimore behind, he wracked up some pretty impressive credits on other acclaimed series.

From 2010 to 2014, he played Chalky White, a powerful Atlantic City gangster, on HBO’s period drama Boardwalk Empire. Then, from 2011 through 2012, he appeared periodically in a significantly different capacity, as biology professor Dr. Marshall Kane on NBC’s comedy series Community. Showing up on both programs helped him show audiences his range as an actor, and gave fans more than one chance to see him in action.

3. Zosia Mamet

Zosia Mamet as Joyce and Elisabeth Moss as Peggy in 'Mad Men.'

Source: AMC

She’s definitely most recognizable as Shoshanna Shapiro, the bubbly college student on HBO’s Girls. But before she booked that breakthrough role, she was still working steadily on TV. From 2010 to 2012, she played Joyce, a free-spirited photographer, on AMC’s Mad Men. In 2010 and 2011, she also portrayed Kelsey, a wealthy friend to middle-class main character Amber (Mae Whitman), on NBC’s critically-acclaimed Parenthood. Though each part was only a supporting role, they gave her a chance to express her off-beat personality. They also gave her momentum to become a more permanent fixture on TV – Girls premiered, and became an instant hit, just a week after her final appearance on Mad Men.

4. Christopher Meloni

Christopher Meloni as Detective Elliot Stabler in 'Law and Order: SVU.'

Source: NBC

Not many actors could pull off playing both sides of the law simultaneously. But for some time, you could flip channels and catch Christopher Meloni playing either a criminal or a police detective. From 1998 to 2003, he had a recurring supporting role on Oz, a gritty prison drama on HBO. Meloni played Chris Keller, a sociopathic murderer with a chilling ability to charm and manipulate. In the meantime, from 1999 to 2011, he had a leading role as the tough but empathetic Detective Elliot Stabler on NBC’s Law and Order: SVU. The two roles really couldn’t have been more different, but Meloni’s performance in both proved how versatile he is as an actor.

5. Alison Brie

Alison Brie as Annie in 'Community.'

Source: NBC

She’s still relatively under the radar, despite a long and successful career in Hollywood. But Alison Brie has made a name for herself playing intelligent and charismatic, if neurotic, women on some of television’s most beloved television shows. Brie had concurrent roles on both Community and Mad Men from 2010 through 2015. On Mad Men, she had a recurring role as Trudy Campbell, the long suffering, bubbly wife of Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser). On Community, she had a leading role as Annie, a type-A, highly ambitious and insecure community college student. Both characters radiated energy, but Brie managed to channel and develop their more subtle personality traits in a way that made both her characters seem unique and memorable.

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