I assume “actor” is gender-neutral in this case.
Starting to parse the category, I began with theater actors. But I don’t really see stage actors that often, though in fact, this year’s Tony nominations feature a lot of familiar names from TV and movies.
Favorite television performer: I could pick actors I watched in more than one series: Bob Newhart (Bob Newhart Show, Newhart); James Garner (Maverick, The Rockford Files); Mary Tyler Moore (Dick van Dyke Show, MTM Show); Jimmy Smits (L.A. Law, NYPD Blue). There are others who qualify because of other functions, such as Alan Alda (writer/director). I might have to go with Betty White, game player extraordinaire, who’s been on TV longer than I’ve been alive, because not only did I record a new Saturday Night Live for the first time in forever, I might even check out her new series on TV Land called Hot in Cleveland.
Still, when I thought about it further, it was always the movies that defined the question in my mind, fairly or not. Which is to say: “Who would I pay to go to see in most anything they were in?” I recognized that the leading males in this category were Robert Redford, Paul Newman (a couple of times together), Dustin Hoffman, and Denzel Washington. It might be Philip Seymour Hoffman or Paul Giamatti down the line.
But there were two actresses for whom I saw a large majority of their films in a particular stretch.
One was Jane Fonda. I saw well over half of the movies she was in between 1969 (They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?) and 1985 (Agnes of God), even the truly dreadful Rollover (1981), filmed partly in Albany, NY.
The other is Meryl Streep, whose output between 1977 (Julia, starring Jane Fonda) and 2009 (the mediocre It’s Complicated) I’ve seen maybe 70% of.
Eventually, Laura Linney will likely be in this category.
All pictures from LIFE magazine from the 1990s.