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Character actors rock their roles

Had you ever heard of John Hawkes until recently? With his lean frame and melancholy face, he's one of those character actors who makes everything he's in a little better.

Hawkes has had roles on "Deadwood," "Lost" and "Eastbound & Down." He's been in movies like "The Perfect Storm" and "American Gangster." But he's been an unsung hero of Hollywood until now.

Hawkes recently got what you might call a big promotion. He was nominated for a best supporting actor Oscar for his performance in a small indie film, "Winter's Bone." And his nod is a victory for every little-known actor who's working steadily and impressively in films and television without fanfare.

To celebrate his journey down the red carpet on Feb. 27, here's a look at some other character actors who deserve a mention for doing their jobs without an entourage or paparazzi patrol.

Jeffrey DeMunn | The veteran actor has guested on many TV series and is a regular cast member of Frank Darabont films like "The Shawshank Redemption" and "The Green Mile."

He's the go-to guy for smart weariness, which he has conveyed in abundance as a calm, caring widower on Darabont's latest hit, AMC's "The Walking Dead." Even a zombie apocalypse couldn't make a dent in his compassion.

Margo Martindale | There's a shortage of good roles in Hollywood for women over 30 who don't look like supermodels. But that hasn't stopped Martindale, who brings realism and a wonderfully tart sense of humor to her characters. She's played moms ("Lorenzo's Oil"), nuns ("Dead Man Walking") and neighbors (FX's "The Riches").

Walton Goggins | With eyes that burn through your soul and the wall behind you, Goggins has an intensity that jumps off the screen. He played volatile Detective Shane Vendrell in "The Shield" - a performance many thought cried out for an Emmy - and steals scenes on FX's "Justified" as Boyd Crowder.

Lisa Gay Hamilton | Known best to TV viewers as a co star of "The Practice," Hamilton is a frequent guest on small-screen dramas. But she's a big part of the success of TNT's "Men of a Certain Age" as Andre Braugher's empathetic but independent wife, who's making the transition from stay-at-home mother to going back to work. Although the show focuses on middle-aged men, Hamilton's character gives a believable look at the complicated lives of women.

Shaun Majumder | This Canadian actor, who was in "Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle," has made an impression as Detective Vikram Mahajan, the partner of James McDaniel on "Detroit 1-8-7." As his character fights crime in the Motor City and tries to decide whether to contact the woman his parents have picked for an arranged marriage, Majumder makes him so vivid that we even forgive him for putting ketchup on a coney dog.

Aubrey Plaza | This young actress is a Gen-Y Buster Keaton on NBC's "Parks and Recreation" as April Ludgate, an office worker who can't be bothered to care about anything - but who occasionally lets a bit of vulnerability slip past her deadpan demeanor.

J.K. Simmons | If character actors had an all-star team, Simmons would be the captain. He's a master at being gruff in roles like J. Jonah Jameson, Peter Parker's boss in the "Spider-Man" movies. He also played a dad in "Juno" and had a memorable moment in "Up in the Air" as a laid-off employee who goes from angry to resigned in a beautifully acted scene. And he's even convincing in those Farmers Insurance commercials.