It’s easy to forget that some of Hollywood’s biggest stars weren’t born famous. They had to get their start somewhere, and it usually wasn’t a box office hit, but something more along the lines of a commercial or sitcom appearance. See if you remember any of these now-iconic actors in their 1990s sitcom roles.
Dave Chappelle – Home Improvement
Dave Chappelle is considered to be one of the most well-known and successful comedians of his generation. He has been described as “poetically unfiltered and sociopolitically introspective, with an ability to illuminate and interrogate agonizing and poignant topics,” earning several Emmy and Grammy Awards over the years, including the Mark Twain Prize.
On top of his series The Chappelle Show, Dave Chapelle has also been featured in numerous films and even made a brief appearance as a guest in Tim’s show Tool Time in Home Improvement.
Don Cheadle – The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air
Don Cheadle’s acting career began in the 1980s, and today is internationally famous for his role as James Rhodes/War Machine in the Marvel Cinematic Universe. However, before this major role, Cheadle earned acclaim for his performances in films such as Devil in a Blue Dress, Boogie Nights, The Ocean’s Trilogy, and more.
In 2004, he was also nominated for an Academy Award for Best Actor in Hotel Rowanda. Yet, most people don’t know that Cheadle appeared as Will’s friend Ice Tray in the episode “Homeboy, Sweet Homeboy” of The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.
Linda Cardellini – 3rd Rock From The Sun
Linda Cardellini first made a splash starring in the teen drama series Freaks and Geeks before going out of the limelight for a while, only to come back onto the scene as Velma in the live-action Scooby-Doo films.
Today, she is also recognized for shows such as ER, Bloodline, and Dead to Me, as well as supporting roles in Brokeback Mountain, Legally Blonde, Green Book, and several Marvel movies. Yet, early in her career, she also played Lorna in an episode of 3rd Rock From the Sun.
Leonardo DiCaprio – Growing Pains
Long before Leonardo DiCaprio became one of the most beloved actors in Hollywood, he got his start in the business like most others in television. Along with acting in the show Parenthood, he also played Luke Bower for the final year that Growing Pains was on the air.
DiCaprio would later go on to star in films such as Titanic, Gangs of New York, The Wolf of Wall Street, and Shutter Island, finally winning the Academy Award for Best Actor for 2015’s The Revenant.
Jon Stewart – NewsRadio
A jack-of-all-trades, Jon Stewart is a comedian, political commentator, filmmaker, actor, and television host. After hosting The Jon Stewart Show and then You Wrote It, You Watch It on MTV, Stewart became the Daily Show host.
For his work on the show, Stewart received 22 Primetime Emmy Awards, two Grammy Awards, and was nominated for several journalism accolades. Yet, before becoming the ultra-successful entertainer we know today, Stewart had a small role as Andy Dick’s “Twin” brother on NewsRadio.
Joseph Gordon-Levitt – Roseanne
Today, Joesph Gordon-Levitt is considered to be an A-list actor, best known for his work on films including 500 Days of Summer, The Dark Knight Rises, Snowden, and The Trial of the Chicago Seven, including several others.
He began acting in made-for-television films at just six years old, and by the mid-1990s, was featured in a number of shows, including the role of D.J.’s friend George in Roseanne, Tony Solomon in Third Rock from the Sun, and a minor role in That 70’s Show.
Kerri Russell – Boy Meets World
Kerri Russell first made a name for herself in the role of Felicity Porter on the WB drama series Felicity and has been featured in a number of films that include Honey, I Blew Up the Kid, Mission: Impossible III, August Rush, Dawn of the Planet of the Apes, and more.
Few fans may have recognized her during a 1993 episode of Boy Meets World when she made a small appearance as Mr. Feeny’s niece, Jessica.
Michelle Williams – Home Improvement
After gaining independence from her parents when she was just 15, Michelle Williams gained popularity for her leading role in Dawson’s Creek drama series. Then, after some time working on smaller films, she had her breakout role in 2005 in Brokeback Mountain, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for Best Supporting Actress.
Known for playing troubled females, she has also starred in acclaimed films such as Blue Valentine and Manchester by the Sea. However, before few people had ever heard Michelle Williams’s name, she played brad’s girlfriend on Home Improvement.
Hilary Swank – Growing Pains
With her first role in the television series Camp Wilder, Hilary Swank jumped around in television and film before her breakout role as Brandon in Boys Don’t Cry and later starring in Clint Eastwood’s Million Dollar Baby.
Over the course of her career, Swank has earned two Academy Awards, two Golden Globe Awards, two Critics Choice Awards, and a Screen Actors Guild Award. Before all of these achievements, she was Sasha, one of Ben’s love interests in Growing Pains.
Aaron Paul – Third Rock From The Sun
Early in his career, Aaron Paul had roles in music videos, guest roles on television, and minor roles in films. Today, Paul is best known for his portrayal of Jesse Pinkman in AMC’s hit series Breaking Bad.
He received countless awards for his performance, becoming the second actor to win a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Actor on Television three different times. Nevertheless, a role he is not famous for is as a high school prom announcer on 3rd Rock from the Sun.
Toby Maguire – Roseanne
Toby Maguire is an actor and film producer that rose to fame as Peter Parker/Spider-Man in Sam Rami’s Spider-Man trilogy during the mid-2000s. Along with playing the superhero, Maguire has also starred in notable films such as Seabiscuit, Ride with the Devil, Brothers, and The Great Gatsby.
He then went on to start his own production company called Material Pictures in 2012. Before he was swinging from building to building, Maguire had a small role as Becky’s friend, Jeff, on Roseanne.
Alyson Hannigan – Roseanne
Alyson Hannigan is known for many different roles throughout her career, including Willow Rosenberg in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Michelle Flaherty in the American Pie films, and Lily Aldrin in How I Met Your Mother.
She has recently also provided the voice of Claire Clancy in the Disney Junior series Fancy Nancy. But before she was slaying vampires or playing the flute in her high school band, she had a minor role as one of Becky’s friends in Roseanne.
James Marsden – The Nanny
Widely known as primarily a TV actor early in his career, James Marsden was involved in a number of TV series such as Saved by the Bell: The New Class, Touched by an Angel, and Party of Five.
Then, in the 2000s, Marsden made the transition to the big screen, having roles in the X-Men films, The Notebook, The Alibi, Superman Returns, The Butler, and even returned to television shows such as Westworld. As a teenager, he also had a minor part as Margaret Sheffield’s boyfriend in The Nanny.
Craig Robinson – Friends
Comedian, actor, and musician Craig Robinson is best known to audiences as Darryl Philbin in The Office. Some of his other successful works are those in which he collaborated with Seth Rogan, including comedy films such as Pineapple Express and This Is the End and Sausage Party.
Yet, before becoming “that guy from the office,” Craig Robinson had a small role in the sitcom Friends, in which he played an office clerk, which marked the beginning of his comedic career.
Jessica Alba – The Secret World Of Alex Mack
Although Jessica Alba had been acting in television since she was 13 in the 1990s, she established herself as a Hollywood actress after her 2003 film Honey. Not long after, Alba then found herself in numerous box office hits over the years, such as Fantastic Four films, Good Luck Chuck, Valentine’s Day, Little Fockers, and more.
Before she became the actress she is today, she also had a recurring role as Jessica in the sitcom The Secret World of Alex Mack.
Kaley Cuoco – Ellen
Kaley Cuoco is an actress best known for her supporting film and television roles throughout the 1990s and into the 2000s. Today, some of her best-known TV performances include Bridget Hennessy on 8 Simple Rules and Penny in The Big Bang Theory.
Over the years, she has also been featured in a number of films and was awarded a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2014. However, even before she had her breakout role in 8 Simple Rules, she played the young Ellen Morgan on Ellen.
Ashley Tisdale – Smart Guy
Ashley Tisdale is best known for numerous appearances on shows and films for the Disney Channel, such as The Suite Life of Zack & Cody and the High School Musical films. She took a break from acting to pursue music, releasing her debut album Headstrong in 2007, which was certified gold.
Before she established herself as a Disney Channel star and singer, she had an incredibly small role as a trivia competitor on Smart Guy.
Adam Scott – Boy Meets World
In recent years, actor Adam Scott has exploded in popularity, mostly due to his role as Ben Wyatt in the NBC sitcom Parks and Recreation. However, some of his other notable roles include the comedy film Step Brothers, The Aviator, and other television shows such as Big Little Lies and Party Down.
Only real fans of Adam Scott may know that he played tough guy Derek Huff in Boy Meets World, quite the opposite of Ben Wyatt’s character.
Ryan Reynolds – Two Guys, A Girl, And A Pizza Place
Ryan Reynolds may be one of Hollywood’s biggest heartthrobs, known for his hit films like Just Friends, The Proposal, Deadpool, National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, and more.
Nevertheless, he had humble beginnings as a young actor with a lead role in the sitcom Two Guys, a Girl, and a Pizza Place from 1998 to 2001. This was his first comedy role which allowed him to demonstrate his comedic abilities, which helped him to get his future comedy roles.
Anne Hathaway – Get Real
Alongside Christian Olsen and Jesse Eisenberg, Anne Hathaway starred as one of the Green siblings in the sitcom Get Real. Although the show only ran for one season, it proved to be greatly helpful for the careers of the young actors.
Just one year after acting on the show, Hathaway made her film debut in The Princess Diaries. Since then, Hathaway’s films have grossed more than $6.8 billion worldwide and was named the world’s highest-paid actress in 2015.