Ryan Reynolds and more stars you forgot were on TV sitcoms
Do you remember when Ryan Reynolds played Berg on the TV comedy “Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place” back in 1998? The hilarious show about three friends who lived and worked together at a pizza joint wasn’t the first TV series Ryan starred in, but it was his first sitcom, which gave him a chance to prove his comedic chops and launch an amazing movie career. The series lasted four seasons before it was canceled in 2001. In honor of the show’s 20th anniversary — it debuted on ABC on March 10, 1998 — Wonderwall.com is taking a look at all the movie stars who were once regulars on TV sitcoms.
Oscar-winning actor Leonardo DiCaprio joined the cast of “Growing Pains” in 1991 (when he was a baby-faced 17 year old) for its final year. On the show, Leo played Luke Brower, a homeless teenager who befriends the Seavers and ultimately joins their happy family. Interestingly, this wasn’t the first sitcom Leo starred on. From 1990 to 1991, he was a cast member on the comedy “Parenthood.”
The comedy-drama “Get Real” only ran for the 1999-2000 TV season but three of its cast members still turned into bonafide stars. The FOX sitcom, about two parents raising teenagers in the midst of a mid-life crisis, launched the careers of Anne Hathaway, Eric Christian Olsen and Jesse Eisenberg, who all starred as the Green siblings. The year after “Get Real” was canceled, Anne made her big-screen debut in 2001’s “The Princess Diaries.”
Today, two-time Oscar nominee Will Smith is one of Hollywood’s heavyweights, but back in 1990, he was a music and TV comedy star with the lead role on “The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air.” The show ran for six seasons before ending in 1996, and by then, Will was already making waves as a major movie star with films like “Six Degrees of Separation” and “Bad Boys.”
Everyone knows that George Clooney was once a series regular on “ER” but only his truest fans know he was also a cast member from 1988 to 1991 on “Roseanne.” George played Booker Brooks, Roseanne’s sister Jackie’s on-and-off again boyfriend. Fun fact: George was also on another ’80s sitcom, “The Facts of Life,” from 1985 to 1987, where he played George Burnett, a hunky handyman hired by Mrs. Garrett.
We forgot that “The Hunger Games” star Jennifer Lawrence was once cast on a sitcom. From 2007 to 2009, J.Law starred alongside Graham Patrick Martin, Skyler Gisondo, Nancy Travis and Bill Engvall on “The Bill Engvall Show” — a comedy about the life of a therapist (Bill) and his family. Jennifer played Lauren, the eldest daughter in the Pearson clan. The show ran for three seasons before getting the axe in 2009 — a year before Jennifer would star in the critically acclaimed drama “Winter’s Bone.”
Before “Guardians of the Galaxy” and “Jurassic World” turned him into a huge movie star, Chris Pratt spent some time flexing his funny bone on the hit comedy “Parks and Recreation.” Joining the series in 2009, Chris played Andy Dwyer, Ann Perkins’ (played by Rashida Jones) slacker ex-boyfriend. Chris’ character was originally scripted as a minor role for Season 1 but was so beloved by fans, the writers made him a permanent fixture.
In 1982, “Sex and the City” star Sarah Jessica Parker (left) was as far from her character Carrie Bradshaw as imaginable when she was cast as Patti Greene alongside Amy Linker (as Lauren Hutchinson) in “Square Pegs.” The comedy series about two super-nerdy high school girls determined to fit in and be popular with their classmates was canceled after just one season.
“La La Land” and “The Notebook” star Ryan Gosling has a way of making us feel like we’re falling hard, but back in 1997, he was the one holding on for dear life when he starred on the TV comedy “Breaker High.” The series, about kids who attend high school on a cruise ship (so weird), only lasted one season before getting canceled in 1998. Ryan went on to star on the adventure drama “Young Hercules” before landing one of his first big movie roles in “Remember the Titans.”
Although Oscar-winning actor Jamie Foxx‘s role on the series “Roc” from 1992 to 1993 alongside Charles S. Dutton (right) wasn’t his first foray into comedy, it was his first sitcom outside of the sketch comedy series “In Living Color.” On the show, Jamie played George, Roc’s mentally unstable neighbor.
“Freaks and Geeks” only lasted one season in 1999 but it was the launching pad for its stars who are all still in the spotlight today: James Franco, Jason Segel, Seth Rogen, Linda Cardellini, Martin Starr, Samm Levine and John Francis Daley (not pictured: Busy Philipps). The comedy series followed smart teen Lindsay, who starts hanging with a group of stoners. Two years after the show ended, James went on to star in “Spider-Man,” launching his career as one of Hollywood’s most versatile actors. Linda, Jason and Seth all followed suit, landing roles in their own blockbuster films. Martin is currently starring on HBO’s “Silicon Valley,” and John starred on “Bones” for years while carving out a successful screenwriting career. He’s the co-writer behind successful films including “Horrible Bosses,” “Vacation” and “Spider-Man: Homecoming.”
Talk about a blast from the past! Long before Oscar-winning actor, producer, writer and director Tom Hanksbecame one of the most iconic stars of our time, he was a fresh face on our TV screens on the hilarious sitcom “Bosom Buddies,” which ran from 1980 to 1982. Tom starred as Kip “Buffy” Wilson, a young guy who, along with his friend Henry (aka Hildegard), disguises himself as a woman in order to live in a more affordable apartment in a female-only building. After the series was canceled, Tom spent a year on another sitcom (“Family Ties”) before landing the role of Allen Bauer in the big-screen romantic comedy “Splash.”
In 1991, Jada Pinkett Smith (then just Jada Pinkett) joined the cast of “A Different World” as Lena James, a student at Hillman College where Whitney Gilbert (Jasmine Guy), Dwayne Wayne (Kadeem Hardison) and more of the show’s stars attended school. The sitcom was a spin-off of “The Cosby Show” and originally featured Lisa Bonet as Denise Huxtable during her college years.
Today, we know Woody Harrelson as the eccentric star of some of our favorite films and TV dramas, like “The Hunger Games” and “True Detective.” But back in 1985, Woody landed his first-ever recurring role playing Woody Boyd on the primetime sitcom “Cheers” opposite Ted Danson. Cheers was a feel-good comedy about the lives of the bartenders, staff and patrons at a popular Boston watering hole. Woody remained on the show until its final episode in 1993, but by then, he’d already starred in several hit films like “White Men Can’t Jump” and “Indecent Proposal.”
We’re positive that everyone who loves Steve Carell already knows he starred on the comedy “The Office” from 2005 to 2013. What fans may not know, however, is that Steve’s first foray into sitcom territory was back in 1997 as Yorgo Galfanikos, an obnoxious hotel chef, on “Over the Top” (which was canceled after one season). Prior to appearing on the show, Steve had a recurring role on the sketch comedy series “The Dana Carvey Show.”
From 1996 to 2001, modern hottie Joseph Gordon-Levitt was a total ’90s teen on the sitcom “3rd Rock From the Sun.” On the show, Joseph played Tommy Solomon, a member of an alien convoy sent to Earth in human disguise to see what life is like for a family on the strangest planet in the universe. The series wasn’t his first turn in the world of sitcoms. He’d previously had roles on “Roseanne” and “The Powers That Be.”
Most of us who are over 30 remember Jim Carrey on the 1990 sketch comedy series “In Living Color,” but in 1984, the Canadian comedian with a penchant for making funny faces had a starring role on the sitcom “The Duck Factory.” The series was about a young animator named Skip who has low self-esteem and is responsible for drawing a popular cartoon called “The Dippy Duck Show.” It only lasted one season before getting canceled.
Okay, we’re certain no one’s forgotten that Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher both starred on the beloved comedy series “That ’70s Show,” but we couldn’t leave them off our list. The duo starred as high school sweethearts Jackie and Kelso, who fall in and out of love throughout the show’s eight-year run. After wrapping the series in 2006, the two remained friends and six years later, began dating in real life. They married in 2015 and now share two kids. Fun fact: While “That ’70s Show” was Ashton’s first foray onto the small screen, Mila had previously starred on the sitcom “Nick Freno: Licensed Teacher” from 1996 to 1997.
We’re confident that just about no one will be surprised that “Ant-Man” star Paul Rudd was once the star of a sitcom (doesn’t he just have that kind of face?). In 1994, he landed the role of Brian Grant on “Wild Oats,” a comedy about two guy friends living in Chicago. Unfortunately, the series was canceled mid-season after just six episodes (ouch). While it probably stung at the time, Paul was clearly destined for bigger and better roles.
Academy Award-winning actress Sandra Bullock was once a sitcom star too! She landed the role of Tess McGill on 1990’s “Working Girl” (after making a string of appearances on TV shows and in low-budget movies). Based on the film of the same name, the show was a continuation of Tess’ storyline and offered a comedic look at life in an office setting. After just one season, the series was canceled, but two years later, Sandy starred in the big-screen romantic comedy “Love Potion No. 9,” which kick-started her career as a blockbuster film actress.
At the height of Queen Latifah’s hip-hop reign — and after she’d landed roles in several popular big-screen comedies — she transitioned to the small screen as Khadijah James on the sitcom “Living Single” in 1993. Before there was “Sex and the City” or even “Friends,” there was “Living Single,” which took a look at the lives of four friends living together in New York. Featuring a dynamic cast of African-American women, the series was hailed as groundbreaking for its depiction of educated, financially stable black women navigating their careers and love lives. The series ended in 1998 after five glorious seasons.
Once upon a time, troubled film star Shia LaBeouf was a young, earnest TV actor starring on the family comedy “Even Stevens.” On the sitcom about a family’s misadventures while living in Sacramento, Shia played Louis Stevens alongside Christy Carlson Romano, who played his sister, Ren. Although the show was canceled in 2003, Shia had already proven himself to be a talented performer, which led to his first starring film role in “Holes” that same year.
Known as one of America’s funniest stars, Oscar-winning actor Robin Williams only managed to land bit roles in TV and film before he was cast as quirky alien Mork on the hit sitcom “Mork & Mindy” in 1978. The show was about a woman named Mindy who befriends kooky Mork and allows him to live with her while he studies humankind. The series ended in 1982 but by then, Robin had already established himself as a top comedic actor with roles in films like “Popeye” and “The World According to Garp.”
That’s right, the man who made “Iron Man” a legend was once a TV actor. Years before Robert Downey Jr.would appear on the legal comedy-drama “Ally McBeal” alongside Calista Flockhart, he was already a major movie star. However, his struggles with addiction and incarceration landed him in hot water with film directors who didn’t want to give the troubled star a second chance. Part of Robert’s acting rebirth came from the two years he spent on the series. Unfortunately, in 2002, Robert was once again arrested on drug charges and left the show, though he later cleaned up his act.
We couldn’t leave these ladies off our list! Although all three of the lead actresses on “Friends” — Courteney Cox, Jennifer Aniston and Lisa Kudrow — wound up making movies, Jen is the one who became a major movie star. The hit series, which ran from 1994 to 2004, followed the lives of six friends in Manhattan struggling to navigate life, love and their careers. By the time the sitcom wound down, Jen had already starred in several hit films including “Bruce Almighty” and “Along Came Polly.”