10 Actors Who Couldn’t Shake Their Most Memorable TV Roles

A truly great TV character doesn’t cease to exist when his show ends — he remains entirely real in the memory of fans and, in some cases, the consciousness of a culture he helped shape. Whether you loved or hated Will & Grace, that’s certainly true of Will Truman, who became Middle America’s first gay best friend (an archetype that we hasten to add is troubling in itself) around the turn of the millennium. The question is, can the actor who portrayed Will, Eric McCormack, shake his association with the character to make viewers believe him as neuroscientist Daniel Pierce in the new TNT crime drama Perception? Although we’re pulling for McCormack, we can’t ignore the curse that tends to befall stars who are best known for playing a certain iconic and/or distinct TV character. After the jump, we round up 10 actors who haven’t managed to shake their most memorable roles.

Sean Hayes

Aside from helping teach tolerance to the mainstream, Will & Grace introduced us to two unforgettable characters — not the titular best friends but their pals, Sean Hayes’ flamboyant, narcissistic Jack and Megan Mullally’s spoiled, debauched Karen. But while Mullally soon moved on to great and different roles on Party Down, Parks and Recreation, and Childrens Hospital, we tend to see Hayes doing a lot of Jack-like guest appearances (and reminding us of Jack even in supposedly different roles, like his run in Broadway’s Promises, Promises). Although it certainly wasn’t a critical favorite (and it wasn’t a big hit at the box office, either), this year’s The Three Stooges did find Hayes doing an entirely different kind of comedy and may well help launch the second act of his career.