Flo from Progressive, the Orbit gum lady, and more of your favorite ads

By Kate Ward
Updated March 19, 2010 at 04:00 AM EDT

They star in some of the biggest and most memorable advertising campaigns currently on TV. While they may not be household names, these commercial standouts have transcended faceless-thespian status to reach the ”Hey, I know you!” level of fame all working actors dream of. So before you hit that fast-forward button, read on to meet a variety of familiar faces who make the 30-second spot worth your time.

You know her as…
Flo, Progressive Insurance’s giddy saleswoman
Stephanie Courtney
Age 40 Where else you’ve seen her Roles in Mad Men, The Heartbreak Kid, and — interestingly enough — Cavemen, the short-lived ABC sitcom inspired by Geico’s advertising campaign.
Lip service The actress had trouble booking commercials prior to landing Progressive. ”I have that sarcasm disease,” she says. ”I had an audition for Sylvan Learning Center, and all I had to do was say ‘Your son’s doing great.’ And every time I said it, they said, ‘Can you stop saying it like you’re making fun of the son?”’
Hair necessities It takes about 90 minutes to transform Courtney into the red-lipstick-wearing, high-hair-sporting Flo. ”[The hairdresser] will comb my hair out at the end of the day, and by the end of my ride home, it’s creeped up to the beehive again,” Courtney says. ”It’s aggressive hair. It has its own life. It has its own Social Security number.”
What’s next A small role on Fox’s Sons of Tucson (March 21), and more Progressive ads.

You know him as…
The shirtless, sweet-talking, horse-riding Old Spice spokesman
Isaiah Mustafa
Age 36 Where else you’ve seen him Among other bit parts, Mustafa — a former NFL player — has played a bailiff on Ugly Betty and a cop on Days of Our Lives.
Giving voice Mustafa used the distinctive voices of Adam West, James Brolin, and Robert Wagner as inspiration for his exaggerated tone in the Old Spice spots. But he impressed Old Spice with more than just his voice: ”I had to walk in the audition with my shirt off,” he says.
Take off According to the actor, most folks on the street have yet to recognize him — except for one TSA agent at the airport: ”She said, ‘Are you that guy on the commercial? I saw you on TV last night!”’ Did she give the buff actor an extra pat-down for good measure? ”No! I was kind of like, ‘You’re asking me questions? Shouldn’t you be, like, checking for bombs?”’
What’s next Look for the actor as a SWAT team leader during Castle‘s March 22 episode.

You know her as…
Orbit gum’s ”fabulous!” spokeswoman
Vanessa Branch
Age 36 Where else you’ve seen her Branch played Charlie’s sister-in-law on Lost and a wench in the Pirates of the Caribbean movies.
On-the-job injury Branch was surprised to learn she had landed the Orbit gig, especially since her audition resembled something straight out of America’s Funniest Home Videos. ”They were going to throw a tennis ball past my head,” she says. ”So they threw the ball and it hit me smack-dab in the middle of the forehead.” That said, the job also has its perks: Branch receives a lifetime supply of Orbit gum. Says the actress, ”Actually, this is embarrassing — I’m chewing it right now.”
Blending in The actress says she rarely gets recognized in public. ”I can be in line at the supermarket, and somebody will be picking up Orbit gum and they say, ‘I love the girl in this commercial.’ And I’ll stand there and say, ‘Yeah, I know. She’s gorgeous, I love her.’ And they have no idea that it’s me.”
What’s next Branch, who speaks fluent Chinese, will star in Kung Fu Man — her third Chinese film — and will appear in the Tony Shalhoub-starring indie film Feed the Fish.

You know him as…
The guitar-strumming, jingle-singing FreeCreditReport.com guy
Eric Violette
Age 28 Where else you’ve seen him Unless you frequent the Montreal theater scene, probably just in the FreeCreditReport.com ads.
French twist Exchange one word with the actor, and you’ll realize his commercials are dubbed: Violette speaks with a French accent. (Quel scandale!) Yet the present-day Milli Vanilli still sings along to the catchy FreeCreditReport.com tunes while taping. ”It puts you into the mood if you sing it for real,” says Violette, who is a musician as well as an actor. ”I’m not just moving my lips like a fish, you know? I really do sing it. And loudly.”
Costume drama The actor was admittedly hesitant about donning pirate and Renaissance-fair duds for the ads. ”You see that costume and you’re like, ‘No, you’re kidding me,”’ Violette says. ”If you have too much pride, you cannot do this kind of job. But I think the green tights in the Renaissance commercials looked very good on me.” Many fans must agree — Violette’s favorite part about starring in the ads? ”The naked pictures I receive from girls.”
What’s next Focusing on his music career with his indie-rock band, God Against God.

You know them as…
Ocean Spray’s wise, experienced cranberry farmer and his younger, klutzy workmate
Henry Strozier and Justin Hagan
Ages 68; 35 Where else you’ve seen them Strozier had small roles in Damages and the Sex and the City movie; Hagan has appeared in bit parts on shows like Law & Order and Fringe.
On location Strozier and Hagan shoot the Ocean Spray ads in a real cranberry bog near Plymouth, Mass. ”It’s gorgeous,” Hagan says. ”One of my friends who works for an ad agency, she refuses to believe we were on location. She thought it was all CGI.”
Budding careers As part of their Ocean Spray gig, Strozier and Hagan have to attend growers’ conventions. Not that Strozier minds the work. ”Those are fun, because we get to meet real people,” he says. ”And I had my picture taken one time with the Chiquita banana.”
What’s next For Hagan, caring for his newborn baby girl; Strozier — a former voice of Discovery Channel — narrates the trailer for the upcoming release of Nanny McPhee and the Big Bang.

You know him as…
Fiber One’s friendly (and near-telepathic) supermarket manager
Ajay Mehta
Age 47 Where else you’ve seen him Mehta has had recurring parts on Eli Stone and Royal Pains.
Satisfied customers For Mehta, a satisfied customer is the ultimate compliment: ”When someone tells me that their doctor or their nutritionist has actually told them to use the product, then you know you’re doing something good.”
You pitch it, you buy it Since he’s the face of Fiber One, does Mehta get a lifetime supply of the product? ”Honey, I don’t get a box,” Mehta says. ”I have to buy it. I’ve got to keep the business going, right? I use my Fiber One money to buy Fiber One.”
What’s next Mehta’s ad helped him land a role in Eddie Murphy’s upcoming film A Thousand Words.

You know her as…
Chase Sapphire’s dress-wearing hottie
Molly Culver
Age 42 Where else you’ve seen her Culver has been in spots for Olive Garden and Symbicort. Oh, and did we mention that she starred alongside Pamela Anderson on the camp-tastic syndicated TV show V.I.P.?
Nice work if you can get it ”It’s one day’s work, you get paid for 10 years — who wouldn’t want to do this job?” says Culver. But what we want to know is: Did she get to keep her Chase Sapphire dress? ”No, I didn’t,” Culver says. ”It all goes back to the client. But I was pretty taped-in there, so I don’t think I could do it all on my own.”
This old spouse Culver was quite familiar with her Chase Sapphire costar, David Starzyk. ”He was actually my husband on V.I.P.,” Culver says. ”I was married seven times on that show. Once to the same guy twice, because he was a master of disguise.”
What’s next Hosting Ride to Adventure: Extreme on the Outdoor Channel.

You know them as…
Verizon FiOS’ affable fiber-optic guy and his crotchety slacker cable rival
Jim Annan and Matt McCarthy
Ages 33; 30 Where else you’ve seen them Annan has appeared in a Wendy’s ad; stand-up comic McCarthy has appeared in spots for Guinness, Crunch Fitness, and DieHard car batteries, as well as collegehumor.com videos.
Ad nauseam Says Toronto-based Annan: ”I come to New York to shoot, and people are like, ‘I’m so sick of seeing you!”’
Famous fan McCarthy’s work in the FiOS ads has attracted one well-known fan: Will Ferrell, whom McCarthy met on the set of The Other Guys. ”In between takes, he says to me, ‘Hey, how you doing?’ And I’m thinking, Oh, s—, he thinks I’m somebody else,” McCarthy says with a laugh. ”And then he says to me, ‘You’re really funny in those commercials.’ I practically dropped on my knees. Like, you think that’s funny?! You’re freaking funny!”
What’s next Annan plays an airport security guard in the Jude Law–Forest Whitaker film Repo Men and will also appear in this year’s Textuality; McCarthy will be seen alongside Ferrell in Guys and will continue releasing videos via his sketch group, Front Page Films.

You know her as…
The frugal AT&T mom with the deadly glare who’s desperate to save her family’s Rollover minutes
Geneva Carr
Age 38 Where else you’ve seen her Carr helped deliver Miranda’s baby on Sex and the City, sat with Alec Baldwin in a fertility clinic in It’s Complicated, and plays Nancy Grace-esque TV reporter Faith Yancy on Law & Order: Criminal Intent.
Trendsetter Carr’s AT&T mom has become a prototype for commercial auditions. ”A couple times I’ve gone to auditions and it will say: ‘Looking for a mom who is tough but not mean — like the AT&T mom,”’ Carr says. ”And it’s like, ‘Can I have the job? Because it’s me!”’
Fun fact Carr’s onscreen husband in the spots, Dan Brennan, has played her hubby in ads for Tyson and Chase as well.
What’s next She’ll appear as a TV journalist on FX’s Rescue Me this summer and has a small role in the upcoming Anne Hathaway-Jake Gyllenhaal flick Love and Other Drugs.

You know her as…
The very comfortable, very warm Snuggie lady
Jane DeNoble
Age 46 Where else you’ve seen her DeNoble regularly hawks products on QVC.
Snuggie shenanigans DeNoble admits filming the Snuggie ad was, well, silly. ”I’m a goofball, and we were doing ridiculous things with it,” she says. ”Snuggie high fives, dancing in your kitchen, raising the roof at the campground, and I go, ‘Oh, this will never make the commercial.’ And sure enough, there it is!” She’s now fully embraced the phenomenon, and even dressed as her Snuggie-wearing self for Halloween. ”People said, ‘That’s a brilliant outfit!”’ she says. ”And eventually they were like, ‘Wait a minute — you were in the commercial? You’re the Snuggie lady!”’
As seen on TV Since DeNoble dabbles in home shopping, she’s acquired quite a collection of infomercial products. ”People call me the gadget girl,” she says. And DeNoble has some ideas for Snuggie 2.0: ”Maybe we should come up with the Snuggie belt. That would be cool, for your remote, for your beer. A holster. Brilliant.”
What’s next More QVC appearances.