Here’s every character Greg Grunberg has played in a J.J. Abrams project. Making his name on the small screen with Alias and Lost, J.J. Abrams rapidly became Hollywood’s go-to guy whenever an iconic franchise needed a modern update. As well as being trusted with the reins of both Star Wars and Star Trek, Abrams has reinvented the monster movie, helped bring cinematic production values to television, and will soon enjoy his first foray into superhero territory with Superman and Justice League Dark. Renowned for bold concepts, mystery box storytelling, and copious amounts of lens flare, J.J. Abrams has produced, directed and/or written his way through some of the biggest film and TV hits of the past 15 years – and he’s had some frequent co-conspirators along the way.
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Despite a respectable showing from Simon Pegg, the actor Abrams most frequently associates with is undoubtedly Greg Grunberg. Genuine friends behind the camera, Grunberg has been a lucky charm for Abrams since the beginning, and continues to pop up today. Indeed, spotting Greg Grunberg has become somewhat of a movie mini-game for Abrams fans, and if you’re ever in a theater when someone from the back randomly shouts ” there’s Grunberg!” while pointing at a newly-appeared on-screen character, you can be sure isn’t their first J.J. Abrams rodeo.
From minor cameos to major roles, the careers of J.J. Abrams and Greg Grunberg are deeply interwoven, but how many times have the pair crossed paths on both the big and small screen?
Felicity – Sean Blumberg
Marking the first proper occasion where J.J. Abrams produced, directed, wrote, and even did the theme tune, Felicity also jump-started the acting career of Greg Grunberg, who played Sean throughout the show’s 4-season run. Following the New York college escapades of Keri Russell’s Felicity (another frequent Abrams collaborator), Sean Blumberg began as a recurring presence before being bumped to main cast status. A roommate of Ben’s, Sean is older than the rest of the university-based gang, but his madcap inventions serve as a reliable source of comedy nonetheless. Among his many unlikely entrepreneurial ideas, Sean comes up with restaurants that exclusively serve starters and dessert, Smoothaise, and flavored pen caps (that last one’s not bad actually). In Felicity‘s final season, Sean gets married to Meghan, and while that’s the last we see of Blumberg, it’s only the beginning of J.J. Abrams’ adventures with Grunberg.
Alias – Eric Weiss
A stark departure from teenagers earnestly making their way through college, Alias stars Jennifer Garner as CIA double agent Sydney Bristow, running for a total of 5 well-received seasons. J.J. Abrams cast Greg Grunberg in the supporting role of Eric Weiss – a friendly CIA agent and ally to Sydney, always ready to lend a comforting word or play a round of bowling. After making regular appearances throughout the first two seasons, Grunberg was once again promoted to the main cast before long. Also mirroring his time on Felicity, Eric lent a lighter presence to the more serious goings-on at CIA HQ, and eventually found happiness with Nadia, Sydney’s sister.
Lost – The Pilot
Although later seasons would be left in the capable hands of Damon Lindelof and Carlton Cuse, J.J. Abrams was heavily involved in getting Lost off the ground, even directing the ambitious pilot episode. Speaking of pilots, there’s Greg Grunberg again, this time hanging from a tree and covered in blood. Following Lost‘s fateful opening plane crash, Jack and Kate wisely decide to locate the cockpit, which went careering into the jungle. Charlie goes too, but he’s just hunting for second breakfast which, in this case, is cocaine. When the trio finally reach the torn-off nose of Oceanic 815, they discover their pilot, Captain Seth Norris, still barely alive. Norris proffers some helpful exposition, hands over the plane’s transceiver, then promptly gets killed in an early display of Smoke Monster ferocity. Grunberg briefly reprises this role in Lost season 6’s flash-sideways, where the plane never crashed.
Mission: Impossible III – Kevin The Party-Goer
Mission: Impossible III marked the feature film directorial debut of J.J. Abrams, and Greg Grunberg was damned if he wasn’t joining the party. Literally, as it turns out, since he plays a guest at Ethan Hunt’s house shindig. Credited as Kevin, Grunberg’s Mission: Impossible III character mocks Ethan’s love of traffic patterns (his cover occupation is a Department of Transport employee) to the women nearby, who are too busy swooning to care.
Heroes – Matt Parkman
Perhaps Greg Grunberg’s most recognizable character is Heroes‘ psychic police officer, Matt Parkman – a role he held for the show’s entire run, as well as the Heroes Reborn revival. Discovering his newfound abilities while performing his mundane duties, Parkman is quickly given a promotion once his telepathic talents come to light, but this well-meaning cop experiences more downs than ups on his Heroes rollercoaster. Matt’s wife and best friend are hooking up, his dad turns out to be a supervillain, and everyone keeps trying to kill him. No wonder he becomes a baddie himself in Heroes Reborn. Still, Grunberg plays the honorable family man role perfectly.
While J.J. Abrams’ name isn’t officially attached to Heroes, the two are connected through Slusho!, the fictional drink that appears repeatedly throughout Abrams’ back catalog, and that several Heroes characters are spotted slurping. Maybe Grunberg pulled some strings?
Fringe – The Pilot (Again)
Another strange connection between Greg Grunberg and J.J. Abrams comes via Fringe, which the actor doesn’t appear in – officially, at least. The story goes that Grunberg filmed a deleted Lost scene with Emilie de Ravin, who plays Claire, set at the airport before Oceanic 815 takes off. Though the sequence was cut from Lost season 1, it showed up as an alternate universe TV broadcast in Fringe season 2’s “The Man From The Other Side.” Trippy.
Star Trek – Kirk’s Step-Dad
Greg Grunberg did his old mate J.J. a favor during production of 2009’s Star Trek reboot. In a flashback sequence, a young James T. Kirk steals his abusive step-father’s car and goes joyriding, only for the vehicle’s irate owner to chastise Kirk through the built-in phone system. Brad William Henke was originally cast for this part, and would’ve appeared on-screen as “Uncle Frank,” but when the scene was cut, Grunberg rerecorded the lines and the character switched to being Kirk’s step-dad.
Star Wars – Snap Wexley
From step-dad in one famous sci-fi franchise to step-son in another, Temmin “Snap” Wexley debuts in Chuck Wendig’s 2015 Star Wars Aftermath novel as a pilot for the New Republic, although the character served the Rebellion beforehand, and the Resistance afterward. Snap Wexley makes his live-action bow in J.J. Abrams’ The Force Awakens, contributing at the Starkiller base briefing, then flying an X-Wing during the battle itself. Although Wexley returns in The Rise of Skywalker‘s Battle of Exegol, those flimsy X-Wings prove no match against the Last Order’s long-hidden forces. Although Grunberg personally only makes two Star Wars credits as Snap, the character has been fleshed out in comic books, video games, and more, and is actually the step-son of Wedge Antilles.
Star Trek Beyond – Finnegan
If you thought Greg Grunberg wasn’t going to appear in the flesh during J.J. Abrams’ Star Trek series, you’d be gravely mistaken. Although Abrams had since turned his attention toward the galaxy far, far away, the Kelvin timeline Star Trek movies still fell under his Bad Robot jurisdiction, and Grunberg gets a small role as a Starfleet officer in 2016’s Star Trek Beyond. When Krall’s forces are assaulting the Yorktown Starbase, Grunberg’s Commander Finnegan is the poor soul in charge of halting the oncoming swarm. With help from Kirk’s crew aboard the repaired USS Franklin, Finnegan protects Yorktown by blaring Beastie Boys’ “Sabotage” and disrupting the enemy advance.
The Cloverfield Paradox – Joe
The ever-versatile Grunberg and fellow Abra-friend Simon Pegg both provide their voices for 2018’s controversial The Cloverfield Paradox. Coming across the space station radio, Grunberg is NASA’s Joe, who gives remote assistance to the stranded crew and helps guide them safely (sort of) back to Earth.
The Simpsons – Bad Robot Security
The Boys season 2 ribs Greg Grunberg’s affinity for blockbuster cameos in light-hearted fashion, casting him in the “Agent Coulson” role for Vought’s fictional “Dawn of the Seven” spoof. However, this isn’t the actor’s only time being subjected to meta, self-referential humor. In The Simpsons‘ “Do Pizza Bots Dream of Electric Guitars,” the titular yellow family try reuniting an animatronic band Homer loved as a child, only to find one of the characters (Wakkety Yak) has been snapped up by J.J. Abrams. Bart and Lisa visit Bad Robot headquarters to liberate the Yak, but are foiled by the building’s security – the head of which is voiced by none other than Greg Grunberg. J.J. Abrams lends his own performance to the episode, marking a rare occasion where both he and Grunberg act in the same project.
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