Every person who's played Colonel Sanders in a KFC ad
13 celebs and spices — and one original recipe
Col. Sanders' image has been synonymous with KFC since the first franchise opened more than 60 years ago. After founder Harland Sanders died in 1980, it didn't seem like any one person could fill his shoes. Over 30 years later, that philosophy still stands: one person can't play Sanders, but many people can! Ahead, see all of the celebrities who've worn Col. Sanders' iconic white suit, black tie, and signature facial hair.
Col. Harland Sanders
Col. Harland Sanders did more than found KFC and patent its fried chicken recipe. He was also the spokesperson and brand ambassador, starring in television commercials and making other appearances to promote the franchise. His iconic, unmistakable look and enduring legacy are why the role is still so recognizable today.
Darrell Hammond became a legend on Saturday Night Live for his talent as an impressionist, so he was the perfect choice as the person to bring Col. Sanders back to television. Hammond believed he would be playing the role long term, and did extensive research to do the part justice. In an interview, Hammond expressed disappointment at being replaced, saying he felt "played" by the company.
Another SNL alum, Norm Macdonald's turn as Sanders made clear that the role would be a rotating gig. His self-aware version poked fun at the campaign, claiming that he himself was the "real" Colonel Sanders and the one who came before was an "impostor." (In real life, Macdonald tweeted his support for Hammond's version, saying "KFC made a big mistake" in replacing him.)
Comedian Jim Gaffigan continued the silly self-awareness of KFC's advertising. His Sanders was introduced waking from a nightmare in which Macdonald's version was his impostor. Waking up in a cold sweat was this Sanders' schtick: in another ad, he said after waking up, "Boy, I sure do have a lot of nightmares about chicken."
George Hamilton's (The Godfather Part III, American Housewife) Colonel used Hamilton's image as part of the joke. The famously tanned actor portrayed the "extra crispy Colonel" to promote KFC's extra crispy chicken meal.
WWE wrestler Dolph Ziggler is sort of a bonus Colonel: he donned the suit for a WWE-specific spot in which the Colonel throws down with a lesser fried chicken mascot.
The third former SNL cast member to play Sanders, Riggle's version was a more athletic, competitive Col. Sanders. He played the part as the "owner, head coach, and marketing director" of the fictional "Kentucky Buckets" football team.
Vincent Kartheiser of Mad Men fame played the Nashville Colonel, a younger, '50s-style heartthrob. His appearance was more unconventional; showing up on an album cover or TV-within-TV.
Billy Zane (Titantic) appeared as the "Golden Colonel" to promote KFC's "Georgia Gold" chicken. His Colonel shared double billing with Rob Riggle in a competitive Super Bowl spot with the tagline, "There can only be one at a time."
Unlike the Riggle/Zane double billing, Shades of Blue's Ray Liotta plays a version of the Colonel as just one man – with two personalities. With demented glee, he battles himself over promoting two different KFC meals.
As a character actor, Christopher Boyer (Lincoln, American Crime Story) is less recognizable than past Colonels, which suited his portrayal of the "Value Colonel." This version of Sanders explained that instead of hiring any fancy celebrities, the brand saved money to bring consumers KFC's Value Meal.
The Seinfeld alum fittingly portrays the Colonel in a '90s sitcom-themed spot. Alexander's Colonel stars in the psuedo-sitcom "What's for Dinner" where he cycles through '90s TV tropes, dressing as everything from a mailman to a nosy neighbor.
Rudy’s (Sean Astin) first dream was to be a football star at the University of Notre Dame, his second? Colonel Sanders! He didn’t have the signature ‘stache, glasses, or the white suit at first, but he had the perseverance and made it happen. As the KFC commercial points out, “He’s Colonel Sanders now.”
Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson
Forget the iron throne, Game of Thrones actor and Icelandic strongman, Hafþór Júlíus Björnsson (The Mountain) had his strengths set on crispier things. Known as "Double Colonel," Björnsson sported the KFC founder’s traditional suiting and facial hair while taking part in the "Double Crispy Challenge."
In a series of KFC advertisements, Colonel Sanders went cyborg. Granted RoboCop Sanders’ determination to feed guests at a fancy dinner table and a family watching television, quite threatening, but the only consequence in his mind is a delicious meal.
Film producer Craig Fleming took on the role of Colonel Sanders and had the "time of his life" while doing it. The face of KFC found his Baby in Mrs. Butterworth with a dance and the famous Dirty Dancing lift. No one puts Mrs. Butterworth in the corner!
The Saved by the Bell star debuted as a sexified, soap-opera version of the Colonel in a 15-minute KFC-sponsored Lifetime original "mini-movie." Debuting on Dec. 13, 2020 before hitting digital streaming platforms, A Recipe for Seduction will see Colonel Harland Sanders getting involved with a young heiress, who's trying to be set up with another suitor.