23 TV Shows Starring Actors Before They Were Super Famous


Michael B. Jordan on Friday Night Lights is a gift.

1.

Alias


ABC

If you immediately associate both Jennifer Garner and Bradley Cooper with their popular movies, it’s time to check out Alias. The series follows Sydney Bristow, a double agent for the CIA who begins to pose as a member of SD-6, a criminal organization. Jennifer starred as Sydney, while Bradley appeared as Will Tippin, a reporter and one of Sydney’s BFFs. Alias also starred Michael Vartan, Victor Garber, Ron Rifkin, and Carl Lumbly.

Where you can watch: Amazon Prime Video

2.

The Mis-Adventures of Awkward Black Girl


Issa Rae Presents / YouTube

If you know Issa Rae from Insecure, I cannot recommend enough going back and watching Awkward Black Girl. Created by and starring Issa, the web series follows J as she interacts with coworkers and her love interests, who often place her in uncomfortable situations. In 2013 the series earned Issa a Shorty Award for Best Web Show.

Where you can watch: YouTube

3.

United States of Tara


Showtime

Starring a pre–Room and Captain Marvel Brie Larson alongside Toni Collette, United States of Tara follows Tara, who struggles to find a balance between dealing with her dissociative identity disorder and raising her family. Toni starred as Tara, while Brie appeared as Kate, her daughter. Of course, although Toni was an Oscar-nominated actor before this series, she’s become even more popular recently thanks to Hereditary, Unbelievable, and Knives Out.

Where you can watch: Hulu

4.

Friday Night Lights


NBC

Before Creed, Black Panther, and Fruitvale Station, Michael B. Jordan appeared on numerous TV shows, including Friday Night Lights. The series follows a notable high school football team, the Dillon Panthers, as they struggle to stay on top under the leadership of new coach Eric Taylor. Michael joined the show during Season 4 as Vince Howard.

Where you can watch: Hulu

5.

Crashing


Channel 4

Just a few months before Fleabag premiered, Phoebe Waller-Bridge created Crashing and starred in it as Lulu. The series tells the story of six friends in their twenties who live together as property guardians in an abandoned hospital while they keep an eye on the building and pay cheaper rent. Of course, since Crashing, Phoebe has become a household name, especially after Season 2 of Fleabag, which earned her several Emmy and Golden Globe awards.

Where you can watch: Netflix

6.

Girlfriends


The CW / Getty Images

Before becoming a household name as Bow on Black-ish, Tracee Ellis Ross starred in Girlfriends. The series follows the lives of Toni, Maya, Lynn, and Joan, four BFFs who are dealing with their careers, relationships, and friendships. Also, the cast reunited on Black-ish last year.

Where you can watch: CW Seed

7.

Everwood


The CW

Starring a pre-Revenge Emily VanCamp, a pre–Parks and Rec Chris Pratt, and a pre–Grey’s Anatomy Sarah Drew, Everwood follows Andy and his two children, Ephram and Delia, as they relocate to Everwood, Colorado, from New York City. Emily was Amy, Ephram’s love interest; Chris played Bright, Amy’s brother; and Sarah was Hannah, Bright’s love interest. Also, there are a ton of guest stars who went on to have notable careers, like Kristen Bell, Justin Baldoni, and Paul Wesley.

Where you can watch: Amazon Prime Video

8.

My Mad Fat Diary


E4

Long before playing Villanelle in Killing Eve, Jodie Comer had her first major acting credit as Chloe in My Mad Fat Diary. This underrated British series tells the story of Rae, a teenager who has just been released from a psychiatric hospital after attempting suicide. After leaving the hospital, Rae begins to reconnect with her BFF, Chloe, and her friends, all of whom are unaware of Rae’s mental health.

Where you can watch: Hulu

9.

Freaks and Geeks


NBC / Getty Images

What can I say? This show launched so many notable acting careers, it deserves to be beloved by so many. Starring Linda Cardellini, Seth Rogen, James Franco, Jason Segel, Busy Philipps, John Francis Daley, Samm Levine, and Martin Starr, Freaks and Geeks follows Lindsay Weir, who befriends the “freaks” at her school. Meanwhile, her younger brother, Sam, and his “geek” friends try to navigate high school.

Where you can watch: So the show isn’t streaming anywhere, but you can find episodes online. I even *gasp* bought the DVDs.

10.

Undeclared


Larry Watson / Fox

Before Sons of Anarchy, Charlie Hunnam starred with Jay Baruchel in Undeclared. Created by Judd Apatow as his follow-up to Freaks and Geeks, the show follows a group of first-year college students at the fictional University of Northeastern California. The show also starred Seth Rogen and Jason Segel.

Where you can watch: So…the series isn’t streaming anywhere, but you can find episodes on YouTube.

11.

The Get Down


Netflix

Before becoming more popular after starring in Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom, Detective Pikachu, and All the Bright Places, Justice Smith starred as Zeke on The Get Down. Set in the Bronx in the ’70s, the show follows the rise of hip-hop and disco music through the lives of a group of teenagers.

Where you can watch: Netflix

12.

Looking


HBO

Alright, if you’re a Broadway or Glee fan, you definitely knew Jonathan Groff before, but if you think of him as Kristoff from Frozen or Holden from Mindhunter, it’s time to go back and watch Looking. The series follows Patrick and his friends as they navigate their careers, relationships, and more in San Francisco.

Where you can watch: HBO Max and HBO Now

13.

Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip


NBC / Getty Images

Starring a pre–American Horror Story Sarah Paulson and a pre–Nurse Jackie Merritt Wever as Harriet and Suzanne respectively, Studio 60 on the Sunset Strip follows the lives of a bunch of actors, writers, and producers who work on a live sketch comedy show. Alongside Sarah and Merritt, the series also starred Matthew Perry, Bradley Whitford, Amanda Peet, D.L. Hughley, and many more.

Where you can watch: It’s available to purchase on Amazon Prime Video.

14.

Army Wives


Lifetime

Before starring in American Crime Story: The People v. O.J. Simpson and This Is Us, Sterling K. Brown appeared as Dr. Roland Burton on Army Wives. The series follows the lives of four Army wives and one Army husband as they navigate raising their families and living their lives on a military base.

Where you can watch: ABC

15.

Party Down


Starz

Before Parks and Rec, Adam Scott starred in Party Down as Henry. The series follows a group of struggling actors in Los Angeles who end up becoming caterers. The series also starred Jane Lynch, Lizzy Caplan, Ken Marino, Martin Starr, Jennifer Coolidge, Megan Mullally, and a ton of other notables.

Where you can watch: Hulu

16.

My So-Called Life


ABC Photo Archives / Walt Disney Television via Getty, Mark Seliger / Walt Disney Television via Getty

The first notable acting credit for Claire Danes, Jared Leto, and Wilson Cruz, My So-Called Life has become a monumental “one-season wonder.” The series follows Angela and her friends as they navigate high school and everything that comes with it.

Where you can watch: Amazon Prime Video and ABC

17.

Veronica Mars


Hulu

Long before Kristen Bell played Anna in Frozen or Eleanor on The Good Place, she was Veronica on Veronica Mars. This underrated series tells the story of Veronica, an aspiring detective who helps solve crimes in her town of Neptune. Not only was Veronica Mars Kristen’s big break, but the show also had a ton of now-famous guest stars, like Tessa Thompson, Amanda Seyfried, Max Greenfield, Jessica Chastain, and many more.

Where you can watch: Hulu

18.

Lincoln Heights


ABC Family

Starring a pre–Black Panther Chadwick Boseman, Lincoln Heights follows Eddie Sutton, who moves his family back to his old neighborhood in an attempt to help his community. Chadwick appeared as Nate, Eddie’s son with his former girlfriend.

Where you can watch: Hulu

19.

Broadchurch


ITV

Before becoming a household name in the US after winning an Academy Award for The Favourite, Olivia Colman starred in Broadchurch as police detective Ellie Miller. The series focuses on Ellie and her colleague Alec Hardy, played by David Tennant. The first season follows Alec and Ellie as they investigate the death of a young boy in a small town. The series also starred Arthur Darvill and Jodie Whittaker.

Where you can watch: Netflix

20.

Roswell


Warner Bros.

Starring a pre–Grey’s Anatomy Katherine Heigl, a pre–Lost and Once Upon a Time Emilie de Ravin, Colin Hanks in his first acting role ever, and numerous others, Roswell follows the lives of three alien teenagers in Roswell, New Mexico.

Where you can watch: Hulu.

21.

12 Monkeys


Ben Mark Holzberg / SYFY

Emily Hampshire starred in this underrated sci-fi series while also playing Stevie in Schitt’s Creek. Based on the movie of the same name, 12 Monkeys follows a time traveler from the future who appears in the present day on a mission to eradicate the source of a deadly plague. Emily was Jennifer, a math genius and the daughter of Leland Goines.

Where you can watch: Hulu

22.

Misfits


E4

Alright, it’s pretty jarring to watch Iwan Rheon in anything after his role as Ramsay Bolton on Game of Thrones, but I swear Misfits is worth it. The series follows a group of young convicts who are sentenced to community service, but they end up getting supernatural powers after a strange electrical storm. Iwan played Simon Bellamy, who ends up gaining the power of invisibility.

Where you can watch: Hulu

23.

And finally, Enlightened


HBO

Okay, yes, Laura Dern was very well known and Oscar nominated before this role, but now that she is even more popular thanks to Big Little Lies and Marriage Story, this seems like the perfect time to sing the praises of Enlightened. The show follows Amy, a woman who has an awakening and becomes determined to live an enlightened life, but her new choices ultimately cause trouble.

Where you can watch: HBO Max and HBO Now

Are there more underrated TV shows starring actors before they were super famous that you love? Tell us in the comments below!

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