She's probably one of the most familiar faces to TV viewers, and has been for more than a decade, but "Stephanie Courtney" isn't exactly a household name. We all know the 53-year-old actor and comedian better as "Flo," the walking representation of Progressive Insurance in advertisements—just one of the many mascots in the "vigorous ... brand-character orgy" that helps firms sell the decidedly unsexy product of insurance (think the Geico Gecko, the Aflac Duck, Jake from State Farm, etc.), per the New York Times. In her deep dive into Courtney, Caity Weaver explores the "moderately whimsical employee-character" of Courtney's Flo, who made her debut in 2008 and has become "so inextricably linked with the brand that the two can no longer be separated for measurement."
Weaver takes a look at the background of Courtney, whose original plans included landing a starring role on Broadway, or plying her craft as a comedic actress. She even tried out for (and failed to get) the role of Joan on Mad Men. Instead, at the age of 38, Courtney landed the role of Flo, which she's now owned for 15 years and counting. If you're in Los Angeles, you can still catch Courtney keeping her comedy chops active in weekly improv shows by the Groundlings—the troupe constantly plumbed for fresh talent by Saturday Night Live, which never took an interest in Courtney. "I remember feeling so terrible. And just embarrassed," Courtney said of her rejection by the popular sketch show. Meanwhile, Groundlings colleague (and eventual SNL star Kristen Wiig) calls Courtney a "masterful improviser" and "one of the funniest people I've ever known in my life." Much more on Courtney, and her effect on insurance company advertising, here. (Or check out other longforms.)