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Check Out These Big-Deal Actors From The Bay Area

Picture of Samantha Cardenas
Updated: 11 January 2017
The film industry is full of ultra-talented and award-winning actors, and some of the biggest names are products of the Bay Area. Here’s a list of actors who cut their teeth there.

Benjamin Bratt (San Francisco, CA)

You might recognize this face from popular films like Miss Congeniality and Ride Along 2 or hit shows like Modern Family and Law and Order. Benjamin Bratt attended Lowell High School where his focus began in the academia, since he was part of the Lowell Forensic Society. It wasn’t until he was in his early 20s where he expressed an interest in acting while attending The University of California, Santa Barbara.

After graduating from UCSB, he went on to study at the American Conservatory Theatre in San Francisco but did not make it all the way to complete his Masters. Instead, he went on to pursue acting full time which is where we began to see him in his noteworthy roles today. He returned to his native San Francisco in 2009 where he filmed La Mission.

Margaret Cho (San Francisco, CA)

Margaret Cho is widely known for pushing boundaries and leaving no subject or topic off limits. Having grown up in San Francisco’s Haight/Ashbury district, on Haight Street specifically, a lot of Margaret’s material has derived from her experience growing up in such an eclectic and progressive neighborhood. Although most of her work is stand-up, her most memorable performances in television can be seen on Drop Dead Diva.

Dwayne Johnson (Hayward, CA)

Hailing from across the water, Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson was born and raised in Hayward, CA. Dwayne grew up watching his father and grandfather, both professional wrestlers, in the ring, but was never actually interested in pursuing the industry. Instead, he went off to study at The University of Miami where he played football and almost played in the NFL until he suffered a back injury that prevented his progress. As the saying goes, all things happen for a reason and instead he went into acting and has enjoyed surprisingly success. We can see him in films like Walking Tall, Be Cool, Tooth Fairy, and the last three installments of the Fast and Furious franchise.

Tom Hanks (Concord, CA)

The Bay Area is lucky enough to claim Tom Hanks as their own. The funny man was born in Concord, CA and relocated to Oakland at the age of five with his siblings and father after his parents divorced. There in Oakland he completed his high school education and then went on to attend community college in Hayward. After completing community college, he transferred over to California State University in Sacramento where he studied theatre.

In the early ’80s, Tom dropped out of college to pursue full time acting. We can thank our lucky stars for this because he went on to star in classic films like Bachelor Party and one of his biggest roles in Penny Marshall’s Big. After these two, the hits were endless. From Turner and Hooch, Sleepless in Seattle, Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, the Toy Story films, and many more!

James Franco (Palo Alto, CA)

Known as a man who wears many hats, James Franco has had the most interesting career we’ve seen. A graduate of Palo Alto High School, James did not initially show much interest in acting. He struggled finding his way in high school, constantly getting in trouble and having rebellious tendencies. After high school, he attended UCLA where his interest in acting sparked and caused him to drop out his freshman year to to pursue acting full time.

Things got off to a good start for him as he landed his first role in the popular but short-lived NBC series Freaks and Geeks in 1999. He then went on to star in films we know and love today like Never Been Kissed, Spider-Man, Tristan + Isolde, Pineapple Express, and Milk.

Jeffrey Tambor (San Francisco, CA)

Born and raised in San Francisco, Jeffrey Tambor developed an interest in acting at the young age of 11. He took it upon himself to take classes and perfect his craft until attending San Francisco State University. He got his start on Broadway where he had a long-running career for 15 years. Tambor’s most noteworthy role was on the critically acclaimed series Arrested Development which lasted for 10 years. Most recently, he starred on the Amazon series Transparent, where Tambor won a Golden Globe for Lead Actor.

Zendaya Coleman (Oakland, CA)

At just 20 years old, Zendaya Coleman is the youngest actor on our list. Born and raised in Oakland, CA, Zendaya developed an interest in theater and acting as a child and attended the Oakland School for the Arts. There she started small, starring in several local productions and eventually landed a role on the Disney Channel show Shake It Up. Not only has she had success on the big screen, but also in the music industry. In 2013, she released her self-titled debut album, Zendaya. She has also made appearances on popular television series like Blackish and is set to star in the upcoming blockbuster Spider-Man: Homecoming.