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When you think of Jon Bernthal, you probably have the same reaction many do to great character actors: “Oh yeah, I remember him from that particular TV show/movie.”

Bernthal has become ubiquitous in both movies and TV over the last 16 years (including The Walking Dead), though only becoming a familiar name in the last decade.

What is he most famous for now as we look back at some of his most prominent roles? In another decade, he might be even more notable for the roles he has coming up.

Popular roles Bernthal played when a character actor

Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh on The Walking Dead
Jon Bernthal as Shane Walsh on The Walking Dead | AMC

The first roles for Bernthal go back to 2002 when he was intending to become a stage actor. It seems many theatre trained actors often go on to bigger things, likely because casting agents see a certain charisma and acting integrity you don’t see in others. Bernthal even created his own theatre company that won numerous awards for their work.

In 2002, he managed to land subsequent roles in a movie and a guest shot on a TV series. The former was a small indie film called Mary/Mary, and the latter was a small role in Law & Order: Criminal Intent.

Despite these dual roles, it took another year before he hit his stride as a full-time character actor. For the rest of the decade, you saw Bernthal on TV shows ranging from Boston Legal to the ABC series Eastwick. On the big screen, he was in World Trade Center and The Ghost Writer as just two.

He jumped to the next acting plateau after being in a prominent HBO miniseries.

Bernthal’s role in ‘The Pacific‘ leads to ‘The Walking Dead

Once Bernthal appeared in the 2010 Band of Brothers counterpart The Pacific for HBO, he’d been acting eight years. His memorable appearance in this WWII miniseries gained him a wider audience and likely caught the eye of The Walking Dead casting department.

You could say 2010 was his breakout year landing a co-starring lead as Shane Walsh on The Walking Dead, plus prominent roles in The Ghost Writer and Date Night.

Critics lauded Bernthal’s performance as Shane, though the character wouldn’t have the long life Rick Grimes had. It didn’t matter, because Bernthal had some of his best TV and movie work still ahead.

Acting in more mainstream films

The Wolf of Wall Street was another breakout part for Bernthal, particularly because he was nominated for his first acting awards playing Brad Bodnick. This brought him greater success in movies the last five years, along with occasional TV appearances.

Not until 2017 did he end up in a recurring TV series again with Netflix’s The Punisher. He’d already played the part of Frank Castle/Punisher in Daredevil a year earlier and brought a general consensus of being the best actor to portray the character.

As of 2019, Bernthal is still playing the role for Netflix. Yet, he managed to sneak in a new cameo as Shane Walsh on The Walking Dead in late 2018 as part of Andrew Lincoln’s farewell episode. While Shane was thought to be a figment of Rick Grimes’ imagination (or maybe as a ghost), it gave a compelling full circle to the role.

Future projects

Bernthal is signed to star in a prequel to The Sopranos called The Many Saints of Newark. High-profile as this is, he’s also going to be in his first biopic playing a young Lee Iacocca in Ford vs. Ferrari.

Along this journey, you can find Bernthal on social media where he recently tweeted about the second season of The Punisher. On his Instagram, he posted a pic of a recent appearance on Jimmy Kimmel and posed with his Punisher cast.

One of the most distinctive actors out there, expect to see Bernthal win some overdue awards in another couple of years. With his upcoming films turning him more into an acting chameleon, it’s likelier he’ll end up being top billed.