Learn English – Who is “That Guy”


I found the term “that guy”, used as “He embarked on a career as a 'that guy',” in the following sentence of the article of the New Yorker (Feb. 7, 2011) titled “the Most Interesting Man in the World”:

In a recalls of a contentious exchange with Hoffman: “I jumped up and said, ‘Dustin, the reason you don’t like me is because I’m gonna make it and you’re not.’ ” Jonathan Goldsmith eventually made it – out to Los Angeles, anyway—and embarked on a career as a “that guy,” very often the that guy who gets killed, on television shows such as “Bonanza,” “Mannix,” “Gunsmoke,” “Hawaii Five-O,” … to name a few.

As I don’t understand what that guy used in quotes means, I checked online dictionaries. Neither Cambridge online, nor Free Merriam-Webster has an entry for “that guy.”

Only Onlineslangdictionary.com carries the definition as “any person who does something considered inappropriate,” with an example, “I was going to crack a joke then, but I didn't want to be that guy.” But I don’t think this definition applies to “that guy” appearing in the above sentence.

What does “that guy” as a career Goldsmith built up mean? Does it mean a villain (in the film)? Is "that guy" a well-received of its own word?

Best Answer

'That guy' is Hollywood speak for a character actor.

A 'That Guy' actor is self-explanatory - he's familiar because you've seen him in several movies, but you may not know his name because he's not famous like say, Al Pacino or Johnny Depp, so you usually refer to him as 'that guy who...'