There are some people who act as sort of entertainment pied pipers: Something just makes us follow them from project to project, occasionally getting us to watch stuff we never would otherwise. Here are some of our favorites: heroes, villains, Whedonverse alums and deserted-island survivors.
Credits: Firefly, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Slither, Serenity, Castle
''He's the entire package: dramatic, comedic, romantic,'' said Joss Whedon, back when Serenity first came out. ''I honestly believe he's Harrison Ford, if given a shot. And, yes, he's genuinely a good guy. Not only nicer, but occasionally more articulate than me. That's why I don't like him.'' Ah, but that's why we do.
Credits: Battlestar Galactica, Spartacus: Blood and Sand, Xena: Warrior Princess, No Ordinary Family
If you're looking for an imposing, powerful, drop-dead-gorgeous female presence, you needn't look much further. She adds an insouciant heft to everything she's involved with.
Credits: Deadwood, Kings, Coraline, Kung Fu Panda, Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides
Just another reinforcement of the fact that British actors only get more titanic with time. His playfully sinister voice can weaken knees and shake resolve, while his eyes can pierce souls.
Credits: Evil Dead, Bubba Ho-Tep, The Adventures of Brisco County, Spider-Man, Burn Notice
Maybe it's the unrelenting zeal with which he tears into even the smallest, cheesiest roles, maybe it's the fact that they don't build chins like that anymore—but no one has gotten me to watch more crap than Bruce Campbell.
Credits: Dollhouse, Undercovers, Community
He was the surprise of Whedon's Dollhouse. At first, he just seemed like another pretty doll, but as the series unspooled, it became clear that he could do almost anything, from spot-on impersonations of other cast members to a hilarious rendition of Kiki the Party Girl.
Credits: Angel, Alias, Dollhouse, Happy Town, The Cabin in the Woods
And she was the surprise of Angel. She was perfectly wonderful as the slightly flighty Winifred Burkle, but when her character transformed into the godly Illyria, it revealed a depth to Acker's talent no one could've suspected.
Credits: Twin Peaks, Reaper, X-Men: First Class (and some 150-odd other roles)
Sweet Jeebus, what hasn't this guy been on? If you want a history of 1980s television, look at Wise's resume. The combination of his blazing eyes and massive forehead makes him the perfect villain—even when he's playing a good guy.
Credits: Star Trek: First Contact, Minority Report, Band of Brothers, Tin Man, Captain America: The First Avenger
There's just something about him that feels resolutely moral. Even when he's playing a villain, McDonough conveys a sense that the character absolutely believes he's doing the right thing. Maybe it's his Irish-immigrant upbringing. Or it could be those crystal-blue eyes.
Credits: Firefly, Serenity, The 4400,, Terminator: The Sarah Connor Chronicles, The Cape
There's an almost elfin otherworldliness to Glau that, when deployed well, brings a magical combination of beauty and strength. The Cape, however, did not deploy her well. Oops.
Credits: Romeo + Juliet, The Matrix Reloaded, Lost, 28 Weeks Later
Though one might have grown weary of hearing him cry "WAAALLLLTTT!" on Lost, Perrineau is rather good at suffering. On screen, anyway. You buy his pain and, because of that, you buy that the dramatic stakes are high.
Credits: Highlander, Starship Troopers, Carnivale, Cowboys & Aliens
You don't see him that much anymore—probably because casting directors are afraid of his raw power—but you hear him an awful lot. Cartoons like G.I. Joe: Renegades, Star Wars: The Clone Wars and even SpongeBob SquarePants know that his rumbly voice is a force to be reckoned with.
Credits: Cleopatra 2525, Firefly, Angel, The Matrix Reloaded, Serenity, Justice League
Like Lucy Lawless, she brings a steely capability to almost everything she's in. Not for nothing does she so wonderfully play a brave, tough and loyal right-hand man better than most men.
Credits: Star Trek: The Next Generation, The Big Bang Theory, Leverage, Eureka, The Guild
He's come a long way since Wesley Crusher, and he's spent that time building a career as a writer and amassing a frightening amount of geek cred. So when he drops by a show it feels like it's because he wants to have fun and that sense of fun permeates. Even as Evil Wil Wheaton. Especially as Evil Wil Wheaton
Credits: Manhunter, Red Dwarf, The Ring, X2: X-Men United, Kings, Doctor Who, Rise of the Apes
His imposing Scottishness can be channeled into menace (he was the first man to play Hannibal Lecter, in Michael Mann's Manhunter) or comedy (he swung with the oldies in last year's Red). And if you haven't seen Kings, you need to, if for no other reason than to watch him and Ian McShane act fiery holes through the screen.
Who's on your list?