Over six seasons, Girls has welcomed a ridiculously talented group of actors, comedians, singers, and even fashion designers to fill its many guest spots. Some of these bold-faced names pop up in a single episode or even just one scene, like Kim Gordon of Sonic Youth, who plays a rehab patient in the Season 3 premiere; some have arcs over several episodes; and others unexpectedly return years after their first appearance, which is rare on TV but not in life.
Interestingly, the weakest seasons (three and four, in my opinion) saw the highest volume of guest roles, an indication that the writers strayed a little too far from the core cast and tried to do too much. Despite some mid-series unevenness, you can always count on Girls to cast top-notch performers in hilarious, thought-provoking, and sometimes surprising roles. As the final season heads toward its conclusion, we’ve compiled 50 of the most memorable guest stars on Girls.
50. Marc Maron
I totally buy Maron as a greasy New York City Councilman with a very bad haircut who steals from petty cash and adjourns a community meeting early without reason and pissing off a newly politicized Ray.
49. Jennifer Westfeldt
When her editor dies, Hannah is shocked to discover that he was straight all along when she meets his wife, Annalise, played by Westfeldt, at the funeral. “A lot of people thought he was gay,” Annalise acknowledges. “And he was, sometimes.”
48. Jessica Williams
If I had to work a soul-crushing job writing advertorials for a men’s magazine like Season 3 Hannah, I’d want this dope queen as my commiserating co-worker, too.
The Sopranos alum is surprisingly sweet as Powell Goldman, Hannah’s old college professor who always liked her work and who invites her to read at an event he’s hosting.
46. Chelsea Peretti
Peretti kicks off Season 6 as an editor of Hannah’s who gives her the fateful assignment at the surf camp in Montauk where she meets Paul-Louis, the man who will impregnate her. “I already love your writing,” she tells Hannah, “but even if I didn’t, I mean, we’re basically hiring you for your look, your vibe, and your shape.”
45. Zachary Quinto
As Ace (ugh that name alone), the ex-boyfriend of Adam’s new girlfriend — who later becomes Jessa’s short-lived boyfriend — Zachary Quinto is a grade-A jerk, shoving his new relationship in his ex’s face, a move that does not escape Jessa for a minute.
44. Tracey Ullman
It’s kind of amazing it took until the final season for Girls to feature the legendary Tracey Ullman, in the same episode in which Hannah finds out she’s pregnant. In a bit of foreshadowing, Ullman’s character, the author Ode Montgomery, tells Hannah, “Childlessness is the natural state of the female author.”
43. Grace Dunham
As the hilariously named Lob, Grace Dunham, Lena’s little sister, plays a righteous barista who takes umbrage when Ray is confused by her co-worker’s gender. “You offended they,” she says, “and you offended me.”
42. Felicity Jones
This perfect little button plays Dot, the daughter of a co-dependant friend Jessa meets in rehab. Impeccably dressed, adorably bespectacled, smart, and compassionate, Dot is probably the most responsible and sensible character Girls has ever seen. She lasted exactly one scene.
41. Maude Apatow
Oh, to be a student of Hannah Horvath. Apatow’s Cleo, a 15-year-old at the high school where Hannah works in Season 4, has this immense privilege, which comes with its drawbacks — like when she convinces Cleo to get a her frenulum pierced and then backs out when she sees (or, rather, hears) how painful it is.
40. Amy Schumer
Haven’t we all at some point felt tempted to call Adam a “slice of dogshit?” Schumer’s character, the friend of an ex-girlfriend of Adam’s who angrily confronts him in Ray’s coffee shop on her behalf, could totally be a character on Inside Amy Schumer.
39. Bridget Everett
The New York comedian plays Bebe, the makeup artist responsible for Marnie’s trainwreck look on her wedding day, which the girls fix at the last minute — a look Bebe dubs “Selena Gomez meets Jesus.”
38. Natalie Morales
Clementine, girl, consider yourself lucky that Marnie swooped in and snatched up your man Desi.
37. Chris Eigeman
Nobody plays a charming asshole quite like Chris Eigeman, a.k.a. Digger from Gilmore Girls, who appears in the pilot episode as Hannah’s boss, whose response when she tells him she can no longer work as an unpaid intern is not ideal: “I am really gonna miss your energy.”
36. Bob Balaban
Who else would you want to play your therapist but the kindly old Bob Balaban? I feel calmer just looking at him.
35. Natasha Lyonne
As the daughter of an artist whom Jessa briefly works for, Lyonne’s appearance is probably most memorable for her inability to pronounce the word “unconscionable.”
34. Ana Gasteyer
The SNL alum is an ideal choice to play Shoshanna’s mother, Melanie, who’s a little abrasive, fast-talking, and neurotic. Sound familiar?
33. Deirdre Lovejoy
Lovejoy — a.k.a. Rhonda from The Wire — is hilarious as Hannah’s high-strung aunt in the episode where Hannah’s grandmother dies.
32. Danielle Brooks
Oh, sweet, sweet Laura, you weren’t prepared for your first sexual encounter, were you? In all fairness, she couldn’t have expected her first experience with oral sex to take place in a rehab facility, at the hands, er, mouth of Jessa Johansson.
31. Danny Strong
Oh Elijah, why must you always seek out the meanest boys? Strong, who played Doyle on Gilmore Girls and Danny on Mad Men, is devastating as the snide, sarcastic boyfriend who clearly doesn’t feel as strongly about Elijah as he feels for him.
30. Mike Birbiglia
Birbiglia is hilarious as Hannah’s potential boss, who gets along swimmingly with her during a job interview — until she botches it by making an ill-timed joke about date rape. “It’s not office-ok,” he informs her.
29. Lisa Bonet
Bonet has the special honor of playing the character with the funniest name, in my opinion, which is no easy feat on Girls. It’s not a shock that after Marnie dumps him, Desi runs right into the arms of a spiritual life coach named Tandice Moncrief. Good luck with that one, Tandy.
28. Marin Ireland
The Tony nominee plays Hannah’s classmate, Logan, at the MFA program in Iowa — the kind of passive aggressive, nice-but-not-really-that-nice “friend” that will be familiar to most writers.
27. Jenna Lyons
The president and creative director of J. Crew is maybe a little too convincing as Hannah’s sardonic boss at GQ, Lyons’s one and only acting credit to date. I love that she keeps her trademark giant glasses.
26. Louise Lasser
The star of the legendary Norman Lear sitcom Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman appears here as Beadie, an artist who hires Jessa as her assistant — and one of the few characters with whom Jessa has a true connection. “You’re so beautiful,” Beadie tells Jessa when they part, “and then you’re so ugly.” Lasser and Jemima Kirke have amazing chemistry.
25. Shiri Appleby
Before she landed her starring role in UnREAL, Appleby had a notable guest spot as the beautiful Natalia, who dates Adam briefly until he goes back to Hannah at the end of the second season. Appleby appears in one of the show’s most controversial sex scenes, in which it becomes clear that while Adam’s sexual aggression may be a turn-on for Hannah, for other women, it’s a deal breaker.
24. Kathryn Hahn
Hahn plays Katherine, the mother of the two children whom Jessa babysits in the first season, who gives Jessa some much-needed advice despite the fact that she almost hooked up with Katherine’s husband. Cool woman.
23. Ben Mendelsohn
You know when you finally meet a friend’s parents and everything suddenly makes sense? That’s the feeling I got when Mendelsohn appears in the second season as Jessa’s douche of a dad, who’s basically an older male version of the worst, most self-destructive parts of Jessa.
22. Richard E. Grant
Speaking of Jessa’s daddy issues, Grant plays another bad-influence older man whom Jessa befriends in rehab — he’s even got her father’s British accent. And he can cut right to her core, too, remarking on her wild-child years, “It wasn’t always fun, was it?”
21. Jake Lacy
Oh, Fran. You were always a little too square for Hannah. Lacy plays a totally recognizable character — a seemingly nice guy who is far more controlling than he appears. The scene in which he can’t believe that Hannah would dump him is a standout of Season 5.
20. Carole Kane
Kane always plays the best old-school New Yorkers. After hearing Adam pour his heart out at an AA meeting, Kane’s Cloris gives him her daughter’s phone number, declaring, “Goddammit if you’re not cuter than a dimple on a bug’s ass!”
19. June Squibb
Aw, poor Grandma Flo. We didn’t know you for long but, well, you were played by June Squibb, so we were bound to like you.
18. John Cameron Mitchell
The motivator Hannah didn’t know she needed, Mitchell plays the amazingly named David Pressler-Goings, the editor who assigns Hannah her first e-book, which leads to her downward spiral of anxiety and OCD. I don’t think either of them knew what they were getting themselves into.
17. Donald Glover
Glover’s Sandy lasts just two episodes as Hannah’s Republican boyfriend before she puts her giant foot in her mouth. All it takes is for Sandy to criticize Hannah’s writing for her to start attacking his political beliefs: “I would also love to know how you feel about the fact that two out of three people on death row are black men.” Oof.
16. Gillian Jacobs
As Adam’s artist girlfriend, Mimi-Rose Howard, Jacobs expertly walks the line between fantasy dream girl and obnoxiously confrontational button-pusher. But she does help bring Adam and Jessa together, so credit where credit is due.
15. Patti LuPone
With Elijah tagging along, Hannah pays a visit to the legendary singer and actress, who plays herself, to get a quote for an advertorial she’s writing — and ends up hanging out and getting drunk with LuPone and her husband. I totally believe LuPone is this cool in real life.
14. Greta Lee
Lee, a.k.a. Homeless Heidi on High Maintenance, is hysterical as Soojin, a former assistant to art douche Booth Jonathan who winds up opening her own gallery at the age of 24 — driving Marnie, who’s living on her mom’s couch in New Jersey, crazy with jealousy.
13. Skylar Astin
Matt Kornstein had the chance to take Shoshanna’s virginity — and decided to pass. As Shosh’s former camp counsellor, Astin is another classic Girls douchebag, who’s all over Shosh until he finds out she’s never had sex, because “virgins aren’t my thing.”
12. Riz Ahmed
The father of Hannah’s unborn child, you guys! Ahmed is great as the slacker surf instructor Paul-Louis, who unwittingly impregnates Hannah while she’s on a reporting trip in Montauk. He’s the kind of guy who seems to say something profound without really saying anything at all.
11. Aidy Bryant
Bryant was comic relief when she first appeared as Shoshanna’s boss, Abigail, the one who sends her to Japan in Season 5 — and then fires her, or, as she prefers to put it, “We’re managing you out.” In a surprise twist in last week’s episode, Abigail and Ray hit it off, much to Shoshanna’s dismay.
10. Colin Quinn
The veteran New York comedian is spot-on as Hermie, Ray’s boss and begrudging mentor who’s softer than his crusty shell indicates and whose sudden death forces Ray to rethink his own crusty tendencies.
9. Gaby Hoffmann
Hoffmann is terrific as the slightly terrifying Caroline Sackler, Adam’s unhinged sister who ends up giving birth in Hannah’s apartment — and leaving Baby Sample (!!!) with the father, Hannah’s junkie neighbor, Laird.
8. Jenny Slate
Slate first appears as Hannah’s college frenemy Tally Schifrin in the first season, driving Hannah crazy with jealousy at her book launch party. But she reappears in a great episode at the end of Season 5 in which she and Hannah bond — and Hannah realizes that Tally’s life isn’t as perfect as it seems.
7. Jon Glaser
Maybe it’s the knit hat, but I can’t stop laughing anytime Glaser appears as Laird Schlesinger, Hannah’s downstairs neighbor who makes the surprising transition from junkie to single father when his baby’s mother, Caroline, bolts.
6. Patrick Wilson
When Wilson first appeared in the second season, in the fantastic bottle episode “One Man’s Trash,” some viewers speculated that it was all a dream — why would a wealthy, good-looking guy like Wilson’s Joshua want to spend a day playing house with a girl like Hannah? Thankfully, Wilson’s surprising appearance in the current season as the doctor who informs Hannah she’s pregnant puts that blatantly misogynist theory to rest.
5. Jorma Taccone
It’s got stiff competition, but Booth Jonathan may be my favorite name this show has produced. When Marnie meets Booth, a conceptual artist, at a gallery opening, he’s sexy and mysterious and cool; but, like so many men on Girls, his true asshole nature reveals itself after they sleep together. Don’t even think of taking a bite of his rosewater ice cream.
4. Rita Wilson
Rita Wilson is pitch perfect as Evie, Marnie’s divorced mother who brags about sleeping with a hot young cater waiter and insists that she join her daughter onstage for a duet when Desi backs out of a gig. Like Jessa’s dad, when we meet Evie, Marnie makes a whole lot more sense.
3. Chris O’Dowd
I still miss Thomas-John (what is it with Girls and hyphenated names?), a venture capitalist who meets Marnie and Jessa in a bar in Season 1 and kicks them out after they spill wine on his carpet — and refuse to let him join their little make-out session. But he soon becomes the first man to make the mistake of marrying one of the leading ladies when he weds Jessa in what has to be the most ill-advised pairing in the show’s history.
2. Corey Stoll
I was so glad to see Stoll reappear this season as Dill, the hot-shot newscaster who’s crazy about Elijah — but not so crazy that he’ll actually commit to him and stop seeing other people. “What can I say, Elijah,” he says in a devastating Season 5 scene in which Elijah pours his heart out only to be rejected. “Love is so mysterious.” It was more than a little satisfying to see Dill return as a drug-addled mess who tried and failed to illegally adopt a white baby in the current season.
1. Matthew Rhys
Although he only appears in one episode, this season’s “American Bitch,” Rhys’s turn as a successful author who takes advantage of his young female fans is outstanding. As Chuck Palmer, Rhys is at once charming and miserable, flattering and insulting, sweet and salty. He summons Hannah to his fancy Manhattan apartment after she writes an article about accusations of his sexual conduct with college students on his book tour, and manages to make the viewer both loathe and sympathize with the character. By the end of the episode, he’s charmed Hannah into joining him on his bed, where he lies down, pulls out his penis, and lays it gently on her leg. Rhys’s facial expression when she jumps off the bed in shock — a true “gotcha!” look — is priceless.