What Is a D-List Actor?

By Ted Marten ; Updated September 15, 2017

With the explosion of reality television and the allure of fame, many actors who are unable to achieve or maintain a solid acting career find themselves on the D-List. A-List actors are movie stars who act in blockbusters year after year, such as Matt Damon, Leonardo DiCaprio, Will Smith and Reese Witherspoon. D-List actors are recognizable but don't work in high quality television or film projects.

Former Child Stars

Many former child stars end up becoming D-List celebrities because they get addicted drugs and alcohol, experience the pitfalls of fame or do not have the talent to continue in the business. Child actors often have one legendary role that they are unable to grow out of and cannot find acting work as they become older. Former child stars on the D-List include Dustin Diamond (''Saved By the Bell''), Corey Feldman (''The Goonies''), Todd Bridges (''Diff'rent Strokes'') and Emmanuel Lewis (''Webster'').

Reality Stars

Reality stars who have become famous by winning challenges, being hated or just acting as themselves often delve into acting. They may be cast for guest stints on television sitcoms or dramas. For example, Heidi Montag from ''The Hills'' appeared in Adam Sandler's ''Just Go With It'' in 2011, Jill Zarin from ''The Real Housewives of New York'' had a small roll in USA's ''White Collar'' in 2011 and Gervase Peterson from the first ''Survivor'' has had 12 acting credits to his name, as of publication.

More Famous Siblings

When an individual reaches a certain level of fame through his acting work, his brother or sister may also catch the bug. Many famous actors have siblings who have appeared in movies and television shows, and while audiences can't remember who they are, it's almost impossible not to see the resemblance. D-List actors with famous siblings include Daniel Baldwin (Alec Baldwin), Alexis Arquette (David, Roseanna and Patricia Arquette), Clint Howard (Ron Howard) and Eric Roberts (Julia Roberts).

Well-Known Actors Who Don't Work

Well-known actors may reach D-List status after having been on a hit television show or having a memorable role in a film when they aren't able to match that success in their later career. For example, actors such as C. Thomas Howell ("E.T."), Brigitte Nielsen ("Rocky IV"), Robin Givens ("Head of the Class"), Verne Troyner ("Austin Powers") and Dave Coulier ("Full House") are D-List actors. When well-known actors don't work and can't find acting jobs, they often turn to reality television to gain work.

About the Author

Ted Marten lives in New York City and began writing professionally in 2007, with articles appearing on various websites. Marten has a bachelor's degree in English and has also received a certificate in filmmaking from the Digital Film Academy.