Academy Alumni In: Commercials!
Updated: Jun 12, 2022
It’s often for big-screen features, Emmy-winning television, and masterful stage work that our alumni earn recognition. But in this business (and it is a business) countless alumni find work in commercials, bringing gusto and gravitas to varying companies and causes. Here is a list, though by no means complete, of some of the most easily recognizable alumni who’ve worked in commercials. Who else do you want to see featured? Get in touch here.
She’s one of Hollywood’s favorite character actresses – Jennifer Coolidge, Past Student with the Class of 1982. Coolidge’s most recognizable roles range across television and film, including Legally Blonde, A Cinderella Story, American Pie, numerous Christopher Guest films, and most recently, HBO’s The White Lotus, playing the role of Tanya McQuoid.
It’s no surprise that Coolidge has managed to pull off commercial work with her knack for comedy – particularly her ability to lean into broad comedy. Working in commercials for programming distributor DIRECTV, Coolidge and a cast of comedians brings a sense of lax humor, while her work on Uber Eats brings a slapstick touch; at one point, she discovers lipstick in her order, and, it being from Uber Eats, decides to have a taste of it. “Aw, it tastes like purple!” Coolidge remarks. Watch her Uber Eats commercial here.
From a career that includes Judd Apatow comedies to starring in the Marvel cinematic universe as Ant-Man, Paul Rudd (Class of 1991) has cemented himself as a household name: and one of our favorites at that. And his work continues beyond cinema, including a number of commercials that have no doubt found their way onto your television screen.
One of Rudd’s now “cult-classic” commercials aired in the 1990s, with a young Rudd playing a Super Nintendo in classic 90’s fashion. No stranger to Super Bowl commercials, last year, Rudd served as Patrick Mahomes’ “stand-in” in an ad for State Farm, playing into the iconic “Jake from State Farm” bit. This year, alongside Seth Rogen, the duo share a bag of potato chips while reminiscing over fond memories in an ad for Lay’s titled “Golden Memories.” Watch the classic Super Nintendo commercial here, then watch the high-budget Lays commercial here.
Adam Scott (Class 1993) is best known for his role as Ben Wyatt in Parks & Recreation, NBC’s 7-season running sitcom featuring a star-studded cast led by Amy Poehler, as well as his work on Step Brothers with Will Ferrell, and most recently, Severance on Apple TV+.
Scott’s commercial credits are equally noteworthy. Dotting television screens for years, you can catch Scott’s delightful charm in a number of ads: several ads for Smirnoff alongside Alison Brie, star of the cult favorite Community, and with Michael Peña and Christopher Mintz-Plasse in ads for Volkswagen. Watch Scott not invite Michael Pena to his party in this Volkswagen commercial.
Actress Jessica Chastain (Class of 1998) is fresh off her reception of the Academy Award for Best Actress for her titular performance in The Eyes of Tammy Faye, this being her third nomination and first win at the annual award show. Her onscreen work continues far beyond this, with roles in Scenes From A Marriage, Zero Dark Thirty, Interstellar, and Molly’s Game, just to name a few.
Chastain, who managed to avoid a strong idea of typecasting artistically, has worked in several prominent commercials over the years. Working with Ralph Lauren encapsulates what makes Jessica Chastain one of Hollywood’s most prominent leading ladies: “balancing power with grace.” Watch here.
Recent grad Jasmine Haver (Class of 2019) immediately captures the attention of audiences with her charisma and proficient technique. With boundless talent and a strong work ethic, and her love of classic cinema (Lucille Ball, Judy Garland, Rita Hayworth, and Audrey Hepburn serve as inspirations), Haver had no other choice but to pursue a career in entertainment.
With numerous screen credits and a wide range of roles on stage, including Gloria and Women Behind Bars, Haver’s craft continues to find its way to audiences. She continues her work in commercials, having worked for: Dollar Shave Club, Moroccan Oil, Il Makiage, Function of Beauty, and Noom.
Alejandro Aguilar (Class of 2021) is a recent graduate of The American Academy of Dramatic Arts. A young and driven actor, Alejandro is based in Mexico City, Mexico. He recently worked on a commercial for one of the biggest Mexican beverage producing companies called Del Valle Frut--a commercial that is seen all over Facebook and YouTube. See if you can spot Alejandro here.
Eric Nenninger (Class of 1999) is a committed actor and writer who has starred in shows like Malcolm in the Middle, One Day at a Time, The Flash, and most recently Winning Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty alongside incredible actors like John C. Reily, Quincy Isaiah, and Sally Field on HBO Max. He has had a long-standing career in the entertainment industry, especially with his commercial work.
He recently starred alongside football star Tom Brady in a commercial for crypto trading service FTX and has also done several commercials for companies like Geico, Dish Network, AT&T, and Toyota. Watch Eric confuse what Tom meant by "a trade" here.
Dennis Haysbert (Class of 1977) has an iconic voice that some even call “the voice of God.” He did, in fact, play God in the show Lucifer, but many people know him as the voice and face of Allstate insurance. By the time he was doing commercials for Allstate, he was already a household name due to his role in the hit series 24. His talents were also shared in films like Far From Heaven and Heat with Robert De Niro.
Haysbert's voice was known for being “incredibly reassuring,” which is perfect for an insurance agency. He was the face of AllState for almost twenty years, making him the official “AllState Guy.” Watch Dennis watch his Allstate commercials in this Allstate commercial.
In 2008, he was featured in short television advertisements commissioned by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development. The ads highlight issues surrounding housing and lending discrimination.
Angel Parker (Class of 1999) is a talented actress who has worked on many shows, including Marvel’s Runaways, Disney XD’s Lab Rats, American Crime Story: The People vs OJ Simpson, and The Rookie. As she grew to fame, she starred in many commercials before she found herself on popular shows. Parker joined New Girl star Lamorne Morris on a comedic Jiffy Lube advertisement and has also done commercials for Honda, McDonald's, Verizon, and Cox Communications. Watch Angel bring the holiday cheer in this Honda commercial.
Lauren Bacall (Class of 1942) had an illustrious career with films like, To Have and Have Not, The Big Sleep, and Murder on the Orient Express. Many companies clamored to have Bacall endorse their products due to her popularity. In the 80s, she promoted a coffee called High Point. In these hilarious, nonsensical commercials, she was known to be able to sell anything and would “make you want to drink highly caffeinated coffee even in the middle of the night.” Watch one of the commercials here.
Kathy Searle (Class of 1999) is a wildly comedic actress who has done films like My Man is a Loser and Baby Mama with Tina Fey and Amy Poehler. Searle is a rockstar when it comes to commercial work, promoting Discover Card, Oral-B toothbrushes, Embassy Suite Hotels, Progresso Soup, along with a large array of voiceover work. She has a funny and strong on-screen presence that has given her a long-standing career as a performer. Watch her Discover Card TV spot here.
This article was co-written with Contributing Writer Alex Matthews, whose efforts made possible the size and scale of this piece. Videos provided by Duke Daniel Pierce.