Famous Actors and Actresses from Wisconsin

Mark Ruffalo

The Dairy State is home base for quite a few actors and actresses who have starred in blockbuster-hit movies and wildly popular television series. Born and bred in Wisconsin, their journeys later took them to Hollywood, for roles ranging from a detective on CSI to RoboCop to dramas like Desperate Housewives, House of Cards, Sex & the City and Gossip Girl. There’s even a Wisconsin-born actress in the most tear-jerking movie ever—The Notebook—and an ‘80s starlet who got to bump elbows with teen heartthrobs Corey Feldman and Corey Haim. And did you know a member of the Real Housewives of Orange County cast (Jeana Keough) hails from Milwaukee, too? And that another (Nancy Olson) won Best Supporting Actress for her role in Sunset Boulevard?

Many of these folks got their start in community theatre or high-school drama and took their dreams to the West Coast, eventually being discovered and landing roles on the silver screen or on television shows. They followed in the footsteps of such acting legends as Alfred Lunt and Spencer Tracy (yes, they hailed from Wisconsin, too!).  You just never know who you see in a community play today might go on to win an Academy Award or an Emmy.

Here’s the lowdown.


Mark Ruffalo

Hometown: Kenosha

Starred In (most recently): The Avengers as “Dr. Bruce Banner/The Hulk” and Spotlight as “Michael Rezendes”


Michael Maize

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: National Treasure: Book of Secrets as “Daniel”


David Giuntoli

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: Grimm as “Detective Nick Burkhardt” and 13 Hours: The Secret Soldiers of Benghazi as “Scott Wickland”


Gene Wilder

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: The Producers as “Leopold Bloom” and Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory as “Willy Wonka”


Peter Bonerz

Hometown: Milwaukee (but born in Portsmouth, New Hampshire)

Starred In: The Bob Newhart Show as Dr. Jerry Robinson


Jeff Doucette

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: E.R., Desperate Housewives, Weird Science and Girl Meets World


Chris Noth

Hometown: Madison

Starred In: Sex & the City as “Mr. Big”


Kurtwood Smith

Hometown: New Lisbon
Starred In: RoboCop as “Clarence Boddicker” and That ‘70s Show as “Red Forman”

Peter Weller

Hometown: Stevens Point

Starred In: Dexter as “Stan Liddy” and RoboCop as “RoboCop”

Sam Page

Hometown: Whitefish Bay

Starred In: various roles on Gossip Girl, House of Cards, Mad Men, Desperate Housewives and Melrose Place


Bradley Whitford

Hometown: Madison

Starred In: The West Wing as White House Deputy Chief of Staff “Josh Lyman”


Willem Dafoe

Hometown: Appleton

Starred In: Platoon as “Sergeant Elias”


Richard Riehle

Hometown: Menomonee Falls

Starred In: Office Space as “Tom Smykowski”

Tom Wopat

Hometown: Lodi

Starred In: The Dukes of Hazard as “Luke Duke”

Tony Shalhoub

Hometown: Green Bay

Starred In: Monk as “Adrian Monk”


Chris Mulkey

Hometown: Viroqua

Starred In: Whiplash as “Uncle Frank”


Eric Szmanda

Hometown: Mukwonago

Starred In: CSI: Crime Scene Investigation as “Greg Sanders”


Rachel Brosnahan

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: House of Cards as “Rachel Posner”

Deidre Hall

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: Days of Our Lives as “Marlena Evans”

Kristin Bauer van Straten

Hometown: Racine

Starred In: Bad Blood as “Pamela Swynford De Beaufort”


Gena Rowlands

Hometown: Madison

Starred In: The Notebook as “Allie Calhoun”

Amy Pietz

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: Caroline in the City as “Annie Spadaro”


Emily Roeske

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: Disney Channel Original Movies (Halloweentown, Halloweentown II: Kalabar’s Revenge and Halloweentown High) as “Sophie Piper”


Jane Kaczmarek

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: Pleasantville as “David’s Mom” and Malcolm in the Middle as “Louis Welker-Wilkerson”

Heather Graham

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: The Hangover as “Jade” and License to Drive as “Mercedes Lane”


Aimee Graham

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: Jackie Brown as “Amy”


Nancy Olson

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: Sunset Boulevard as Betty Schaefer


Salome Jens

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: several Star Trek episodes


Jeana Keough

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: The Real Housewives of Orange County


Charlotte Rae

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: Diff’rent Strokes and The Facts of Life as “Edna Garrett”


Mary Stein

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: Changeling as “Mrs. Hutchins” and How the Grinch Stole Christmas as “Miss Rue”


Jessica Szohr

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: Gossip Girl as “Vanessa Abrams”


Karen Morrow

Hometown: Milwaukee

Starred In: The Love Boat; Falcon Crest; Murder, She Wrote; Sabrina, The Teenage Witch and other shows


Laura Ramsey

Hometown: Brandon

Starred In: She’s the Man as “Olivia Lennox”

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