Are Jan, Lily, And Flo Real People? The People Behind Iconic TV Commercial Characters

Over the years, consumers have been introduced to various TV spokesperson characters for products like the Green Giant and Mr. Clean. The characters help us identify and differentiate one brand from another. Over time, some TV commercial characters become bigger than the actors who are playing them. You are probably familiar with Flo from Progressive, but are you familiar with Stephanie Courtney, the actress who plays her? We didn’t think so.

Here are six well-known TV commercial characters and the talent people behind them:

Hawaiian Bruddahs

Kona Brewing Co. began airing local commercials featuring two “Bruddahs” in 2014, but in May of this year, the new “Dear Mainland” campaign began with the pair showing up in the San Diego, Sacramento, Seattle, and Orlando markets. The two have taught us that we only have “one life, so don’t blow it” and the value of “teeny, tiny Friday” celebrations.

The Bruddahs are played by Dave Bell, a Kona resident, and Blake “Brutus” La Benz, the ukulele player from Honolulu. Bell has a day job working for Hilo International Airport while La Benz has appeared in other local commercials and one episode of Hawaii Five-O. In addition to acting, La Benz is an official wedding minister and has a day job at the Office of Hawaiian Affairs.


Standup Comic Stephanie Courtney has played the role of Flo for Progressive Insurance since 2008 and has appeared in over 50 commercials. Before taking on the role, she was part of the improv troupe, The Groundlings, in Los Angeles. Some other big name comics, including Will Ferrell, Melissa McCarthy, Kristin Wiig and Lisa Kudrow, were a part of the group at one time as well.

According to Business Insider, Courtney’s big break into commercials was for a Super Bowl ad featuring Bud Light. Since then, she has appeared in ads for Skittles, General Mills, and Wienerschnitzel. But what will surprise many is that she has also appeared in numerous roles in both movies and TV, including Blades of Glory, The Heartbreak Kid, and House. She appeared in the short-lived Geico commercial-turned TV sitcom, Caveman and appeared numerous times as Madge, a telephone operator in Mad Men.


Like Courtney, Laurel Coppock was also a member of The Groundlings before she took on the role of Jan for the current Toyota commercials. In addition to playing the perky Jan, Coppock has appeared in many guest star roles for Modern Family, Two Broke Girls, The Office, and Workaholics. Coppock also has one movie credit to her name. She played “Sophia” in the movie Crazy, Stupid, Love in 2011.

In 2014, “Jan,” just like Courtney, was pregnant. Instead of removing Jan from the Toyota commercials or trying to hide the fact that the actress was pregnant, Toyota just included the life event in the scripts.

Voice of Reason

While the character doesn’t have a name, former Saturday Night Live comedian Nora Dunn plays the intrusive “no-nonsense bleach ambassador” or “voice of reason” for Clorox claiming that “bleach means clean.” The commercials are sort of a throwback to earlier TV commercials where random spokespeople seemed to appear in people’s home to chastise their cleaning efforts and then show them a better way. Today’s Clorox commercials have a tongue-in-cheek tone that still gets the message across that people can use cleaners made with bleach for everyday use.


According to Uproxx, there is much more to AT&T’s “Lily” than meets the eye. While Lily may appear to be the all-American girl next door, the actress, Milana Vayntrub, is from Uzbekistan. Before making a name for herself for AT&T, Vayntrub appeared in College Humor videos and bit roles for E.R., Silicon Valley, House of Lies, The League, and Key and Peele. She is also the founder of Can’t Do Nothing, a service that helps support organizations that aim to help refugees as she is a refugee herself.

In a recent documentary, Vayntrub says, “I don’t really know what I’m going to do but I can’t do nothing. I’m not going to be a passive citizen anymore. I want to be a force for good.”

Maytag Repairman

After 46 years being portrayed as a bored repairman because of Maytag’s near flawless reputation for not breaking down, the Maytag Repairman got a makeover in 2014 in the form of Colin Ferguson. In the newer commercials, Ferguson plays the part of each Maytag appliance than an actual repairman. If he looks familiar, that might be because he has played many roles in TV movies and TV series including the sitcom Then Came You, Coupling, Line of Fire, Eureka, The Vampire Diaries, Cedar Cove, and Haven.

[Photo by Hulton Archive/ Getty Images]