10 Famous Movie Actors Who Starred In Forgotten TV Shows

Many famous movie stars in Hollywood got their start on TV shows that have long since been forgotten. While television is currently enjoying a critical golden age, the medium has not always been seen as a prestige venue. For decades, television was often viewed as a stepping stone to bigger and better things for emerging actors.



While stars could become A-list household names via a popular TV show, it was broadly accepted that movies were a more glamorous and esteemed path to screen fame. As a result, making the move from TV shows to movies was a big deal for young actors. This is still the case, but critically acclaimed, cinematic television shows like Stranger Things and Game of Thrones mean that many contemporary actors regularly move between television and film. In the 1990s and 2000s, however, moving from television to movie stardom was evidence that an actor’s career was on the rise. For that reason, there’s a number of shows that were largely forgotten, save for the part they played in providing an early starring role for future movie actors.

10 Ryan Gosling—Breaker High

Breaker High was a teen comedy-drama that focused on the antics of a group of kids educated aboard a cruise ship. Lasting one season, Breaker High aired from 1997 to 1998. The Canadian comedy series was akin to a late clone of Saved By The Bell, albeit with a maritime setting. The show is notable for very little, aside from its inclusion of future superstar Ryan Gosling, who played the class clown Sean Hanlon. A lovable slacker, Hanlon was the comedic relief of Breaker High’s lineup years before the likes of Drive, La La Land, and the underrated Shane Black action-comedy The Nice Guys made Gosling an A-list actor.

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9 Brie Larson and Kat Dennings—Raising Dad

Raising Dad was a short-lived sitcom that aired for one season between 2001 to 2002. Starring Full House’s Bob Saget, Raising Dad was a schmaltzy series that saw Saget’s widower Matt trying to raise his two teenage daughters while working as a teacher in their school. What stood out about this sentimental sitcom is that Matt’s two daughters were played by Kat Dennings and Brie Larson. In the years after the series ended, Dennings became a movie star via Thor, The House Bunny, and Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, while Larson went on to become the MCU’s Captain Marvel.

8 Zac Efron—Summerland


The drama series Summerland lasted two seasons from 2004 to 2005. Not unlike Raising Dad, Summerland had a maudlin premise wherein a designer raised her niece and nephews after the tragic death of their parents. In Summerland season 1, Zac Efron played the best friend of one of the children. By season 2, Efron had become a series regular on Summerland. A few years later, superstardom came calling as Efron booked starring roles in blockbusters like Baywatch, The Greatest Showman, and the comedy franchise Neighbors.

7 Ryan Reynolds—Two Guys and a Girl (And a Pizza Place)

The cast of the sitcom Two Guys and a Girl, all leaning back on one another on a white background.

Two Guys and a Girl (And a Pizza Place) was one of many early 2000s sitcoms that focused on a couple of slackers and their attempts to juggle work, love, and socializing. The series lasted four seasons, although its unwieldy title was shortened to Two Guys and a Girl when the pizza place setting was eventually abandoned. There is not a lot notable about the sitcom, except that one of its main characters was played by Ryan Reynolds. Before Reynolds became the scarred superhero Deadpool, he was the charming everyman antihero of this relatively unknown show.

6 Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg—Get Real

The Cast of Get Real

Get Real was a short-lived comedy-drama that attempted to set itself apart from a sea of competitors with meta-humor. However, outside of a few direct-to-camera asides from the heroes, Get Real had nothing to offer that wasn’t done before (and better) by Dawson’s Creek and My So-Called Life. What Get Real could boast was early roles for both Anne Hathaway and Jesse Eisenberg. Hathaway played the family’s overachieving eldest daughter before The Princess Diaries made her a star, while Eisenberg played the nerdy Kenny before The Social Network led to his A-list status.

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5 Mae Whitman and Alia Shawkat—State of Grace

Alia Shawkat and Mae Whitman in State of Grace

In 2003, Mae Whitman and Alia Shawkat both appeared in a comedy series about a dysfunctional family before The Duff and The To-Do List made them movie stars a decade later. That show was the massively influential sitcom Arrested Development. However, two years before Arrested Development, Whitman and Shawkat worked together in another, much less memorable comedy series about their dysfunctional families. State of Grace was a sentimental series about two young girls becoming friends despite their religious differences. Unfortunately, the show never garnered much praise (in spite of its two leads.)

4 Brittany Snow—American Dreams

American Dreams

While State of Grace could be a little cloying in its misty nostalgia for the 1950s, the show couldn’t compare in that regard to American Dreams. Lasting three seasons, American Dreams ran from 2002 to 2005. The series retold a sanitized version of American history from the perspective of a Catholic family whose daughter, Meg, danced on American Bandstand. Meg was played by future Pitch Perfect star Brittany Snow, whose killer villainous turn in Hairspray hilariously subverted her sugary sweet persona on American Dreams.

3 Corey Stoll—Law And Order: LA

Corey Stoll in Law and Order LA

Before Midnight in Paris made Corey Stoll a star, the actor was handed what seemed like the role of a lifetime when he landed the lead in Law and Order: LA. One of the most heavily hyped Law and Order spinoffs, Law and Order: LA proved a disastrous failure. The series was canceled after one season due to dwindling ratings and negative reviews. Stoll bounced back, though, eventually even becoming part of the MCU in 2015’s Ant-Man.

2 Jennifer Aniston—Molloy

Jenifer Aniston in Molloy

Jennifer Aniston’s most infamous pre-Friends role was in 1993’s Leprechaun, but that corny horror comedy is at least memorable. The same can’t be said for Molloy, a short-lived family sitcom intended as a star vehicle for Mayim Bialik. Molloy debuted around the same time as Blossom and was swiftly canceled when Blossom proved a bigger hit. As the mean stepsister of Bialik’s character, Aniston didn’t get to flex much of the comedic muscles she’d later show in blockbusters like Marley and Me, Bruce Almighty, Murder Mystery, and Just Go With It.

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1 Jackie Earle Haley—Wait Till Your Father Gets Home

A controversial hit from the 1970s, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home was the first animated comedy series to feature a subversive parody of sitcom schmaltz, making it a predecessor of The Simpsons and Family Guy. However, Wait Till Your Father Gets Home didn’t ultimately leave a lasting legacy. That said, it did at least serve as a stepping stone for Jackie Earle Haley. The actor played one of the show’s child characters decades before Watchmen and Nightmare On Elm Street‘s 2010 remake made him a movie star.

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