The Survivors
After years in the casting-call grind, these two lifers almost gave up. Now you can't turn on a TV without seeing them.

Seven years ago, Chris Messina (left, bottom) was leaving Hollywood for good when the call came. Then 31, he had just lost out on a role in The Departed and was on his way back to New York. On the phone was his manager—Six Feet Under wanted him to read for the role of Claire's boyfriend in the series' final season. "I was pretty confident it wasn't going to work out for me in TV and movies," Messina says. "I went to the audition, then drove back to the airport. As I was pulling in, they called and said not to get on the plane." Messina's subsequent career trajectory—which currently includes regular roles on The Newsroom and The Mindy Project as well as parts in films like Argo and the upcoming Fairhaven (for which he also helped develop the story)—proves not only that it is working out for him in TV and movies but that it's easier than ever to dart between the two. "When I was in my twenties, I was like, 'Fuck TV,'" he says, "but right now feels like a golden age."

Andrew Rannells, who's having a similar omnipresent moment with Girls and The New Normal, also came close to bailing after 13 years of off- and off-off-off-Broadway roles, with the occasional Pokémon or Yu-Gi-Oh! voice-over job to keep the utilities on. "Right before I got The Book of Mormon," he says, referring to his lead role in Matt Stone and Trey Parker's smash musical in 2010, "I had this dropout fantasy of moving to a port town and making scones." Now what once appeared to be a break—like the glorified walk-on part in Sex and the City 2—reminds Rannells that the best part of success is being able to just say no: "To do something so high-profile and be so low on the totem pole, better to be the lead in some bumfuck playhouse. I know how poor I can be, I know how unemployed I can be—I'm not afraid of that anymore."

Andrew Rannells, 34
Credit check: Girls, The New Normal, Bachelorette
Pro-choice position: "As I get older, I don't want to work with assholes. If I get to pick, I want to work with my friends."
Blazer by Louis Vuitton, shirt by Maison Martin Margiela, jeans by A.P.C., shoes by Bottega Veneta.

Chris Messina, 38
Credit check: The Newsroom, The Mindy Project, Argo, Ruby Sparks, Fairhaven
So you think you can dance?: "My mom was a dance teacher when I was a kid—I wanted to be Baryshnikov. I got my ass kicked all throughout junior high."
Jacket and T-shirt by Levi's, chinos by C.P. Company, boots by Alden for J. Crew.

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Hollywood Mavericks

The Leading Man

The Showrunners

The Career Opportunists

The Next Big Thing

The Survivors

The Idea Man

The Directors

The Outsourced Superhero

The Creative Collectives