18 Major Movie Stars Started Out As TV Actors

Even some of the most famous movie stars in the world had to start out somewhere. And many of those celebs actually got their start on TV. Yep, before they were winning Oscars and seeing their names in every tabloid imaginable, they were starring on shows like The Bill Engvall Show and St. Elsewhere. Who knew?

It is kind of weird to go back and see some uber-famous actors and actresses and see them as they got their start. Some of their first TV gigs aren’t exactly equivalent to their Titanic or Deadpool turns, that’s for sure. But, in case you want to get a bit nostalgic about these famous stars, click through to see some of their origins.

18. Jennifer Lawrence

Only a few short years before Jennifer Lawrence became Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games, she actually appeared on a TBS sitcom. Lawrence starred in The Bill Engvall Show for three seasons from 2007-2009. The actress got to show off her comedic chops during her run on the TV show, where she acted alongside comedy veteran, the titular Bill Engvall himself.

Nowadays, Lawrence has appeared in movies that are a bit more serious than her sitcom roots. She’s been in a couple of high-profile film franchises (the aforementioned Hunger Games series and the X-Men films). She’s also won one Oscar (in 2013 for Silver Linings Playbook) and was nominated for three others. Seeing as though she’s one of the highest paid actresses in the world right now, she’s definitely made a seamless jump into the film industry.

17. George Clooney

So, a lot of people probably know that George Clooney once appeared in the NBC drama, ER from 1994-1999. But, the actor got his start on TV even earlier than that. Before he was a major movie star, he was on a bunch of different television shows during the ’80s and ’90s. He was on The Facts of Life, Roseanne, and the short-lived series Bodies of Evidence.

Of course, Clooney is much more famous now for not only being one of the dreamiest actors in the world, but also for producing and acting in Oscar-winning movies. To date, he’s won two Oscars, one for his supporting role in Syriana and one for producing Argo, and was nominated for four others. Definitely not too shabby.

16. Megan Fox

Like Jennifer Lawrence, Megan Fox got to show off her comedic chops in her TV debut. In one of her first roles as an actress, she appeared alongside Kelly Ripa on Hope & Faith. She also appeared on a TV show called Ocean Ave., on which she starred in over a hundred episodes.

Fox left the TV-world behind when she starred in the Transformers series and the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles films. However, the film actress couldn’t stay away from TV for too long. In 2016, she started a stint on the comedy series New Girl. So, viewers got to see the actress put those comedic roots to use.

15. Dakota Johnson

Dakota Johnson has had a very interesting career so far. Towards the beginning of her career, she had some bit parts in movies (like in 21 Jump Street). But, nothing quite brought her into the zeitgeist like the Fox comedy series, Ben and Kate. In the short-lived series, Johnson starred as the reliable Kate who dealt with her brother Ben (who acted as a sort-of nanny to Kate’s daughter Maddie) and his crazy antics.

Obviously, Johnson is much better known today for portraying Anastasia Steele in the Fifty Shades of Grey series. Those films are definitely a far cry from the actress’s more wholesome FOX comedy past.

14. Michael B. Jordan

Before Michael B. Jordan was impressing viewers in films (and capturing everyone’s hearts in the process), he got his start on a variety of TV programs. He appeared on The Assistants, Friday Night Lights, and even the classic daytime soap All My Children.

He’s left his soap past behind him and turned instead towards some major blockbusters. Most recently, Jordan appeared in Black Panther as the Killmonger. He also appeared in another superhero flick, 2015’s Fantastic Four, and the Oscar-nominated film Creed as Adonis Johnson. He’s set to reprise his Creed role for the film’s sequel, which is set for a 2018 release.

13. Katie Holmes

If you didn’t watch the iconic WB drama, Dawson’s Creekyou seriously missed out. Not only was it kind of like the OG One Tree Hill in that there was a tight-knit group of friends who seemingly played musical chairs with their romantic entanglements, but it also introduced the world to Katie Holmes. Yep, before Holmes shot to worldwide fame when she married Tom Cruise (which is still crazy to think happened at all, tbh), she appeared on the show as Joey Potter.

The actress went on to appear in a couple of different films, such as the 2005 flick Batman Begins. And while she’s since returned to starring in TV shows (like Ray Donovan), it’s always interesting to look back at where she stated.

12. Tom Hanks

This might be one of the most surprising career beginnings for any of the other actors on this list. Tom Hanks got his career start on the ABC sitcom, Bosom Buddies. The premise for the show is truly wild. Tom’s character, Kip Wilson, and his roommate pretended to be women in order to be able to live in an affordable apartment together. Like, what? Regardless of that crazy premise, hijinks naturally ensued and Hanks got to show off his funny side on the show.

Hanks is obviously one of the most popular actors in the world right now. So, Bosom Buddies is probably in the rearview mirror for him right now. Other than starring roles in the likes of Philadelphia and The Green Mile, he most recently co-starred with fellow icon Meryl Streep in the Oscar-nominated The Post.

11. Amy Adams

OK, honestly, it’s a tad weird to see Amy Adams on a WB drama. But, it happened. Adams appeared in a couple of TV shows at the start of her career. She was Jim’s girlfriend on The Office all the way back in season two of the show. She also guest-starred on an episode of Smallville (pictured above), where she got the ability to eat anything (including whole, live animals) using her new kryptonite-infused… “power.”

The actress has been nominated five times for an Oscar but has never won (but really should have by now… but I digress). She’s given astounding performances in Doubt (holding her own alongside Meryl Streep), American Hustle, and The Master. When she finally gets some, much-deserved, Academy Awards love, maybe she’ll have some of her TV stints to thank.

10. Ryan Reynolds

Ryan Reynolds has always had a little cheekiness about him throughout all of his many movie roles. It turns out that humor may have been developed on a 1998 ABC TV series. The Deadpool actor starred on the (unfortunately-named) Two Guys, A Girl and a Pizza Place. Honestly, it sounds like the perfect kind of show for the funny guy actor to get his start on. The show lasted for three seasons and helped to kickstart Reynolds’a now astounding film career.

Reynolds has made a name for himself in the comedy sphere, as he’s starred in flicks such as The Proposal and The Hitman’s Bodyguard. He’s also become increasingly popular over the last few years for his turn in the comedy/superhero vehicle Deadpool, of which he’s also set to star in its 2018 sequel.

9. Michelle Williams

Like Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams also got her start on the series Dawson’s Creek. Williams’s character, Jen Lindley, was the new girl in town when the show first began. But, she quickly became a prominent character on the popular series. After her stint on the show (which she was on throughout its 1998-2003 run), the actress made the inevitable movie jump.

Ever since she did, she’s appeared in a number of award-nominated films. She’s been nominated for four Academy Awards, for her performances in My Week with Marilyn and Manchester by the Sea. Williams has surely had a very successful career in films, but she shouldn’t forget where she came from!

8. Halle Berry

Yes, one of the most famous actresses in the world actually started out on television. You almost never hear anything about one of Halle Berry’s first roles on the small screen, though. In 1989, and in what was her first role as an actress, she appeared on the ABC series Living Dolls as Emily Franklin. The show, which lasted for less than a season, was a spin-off of Who’s the Boss? It followed the lives of teens who were a part of an NYC modeling agency. For the always-gorgeous and talented Berry, it was a feat of perfect casting.

As everyone knows, she moved on from TV and eventually starred in high-profile roles in movies like Monster’s Ball (for which she won an Academy Award), Catwoman, and Gothika.

7. Leonardo DiCaprio

Before Leonardo DiCaprio became a worldwide heartthrob by way of Titanic, he appeared on a popular ABC sitcom in the ’90s. DiCaprio starred as Luke Brower on Growing Pains in one of the series’ later seasons. The actor was not afraid to go toe-to-toe with the show’s seasoned comedy veterans Robin Thicke and Joanna Kerns.

While the actor hasn’t exactly gotten back to his comedy roots in any of his recent roles, his time on the show probably helped prepare him for some of his major movie jobs. He’s been nominated for a ton of his roles and only recently won an Academy Award for his starring role in the 2015 film The Revenant.

6. Sandra Bullock

Before Sandra Bullock starred in popular romantic comedies and dramas alike, she started her career like all the others on this list: on TV! She appeared in the NBC sitcom Working Girl as the main character Tess McGill. The show only lasted for less than a full season, but maybe that was for the best as Bullock has made a transition into major motion picture roles seamlessly.

Bullock is a queen of the comedy genre, appearing in movies like The Proposal and Miss Congeniality. She also received an Academy Award in 2010 for her role in The Blind Side.

5. Denzel Washington

Denzel Washington is another uber-popular actor who you may not have realized was originally on a television series. He starred in St. Elsewhere, a medical drama, from 1982-1988 where he played Dr. Philip Chandler for its entire run. After his long stint on the NBC series, the award-winning actor decided to take his acting chops to the silver screen.

Washington is an American cinema icon at this point. He’s appeared in everything from The Equilizer to The Manchurian Candidate. And, of course, he’s received gold from the Academy Awards for his performances in Glory and Training Day. As of late, he’s even gone beyond his acting talent and directed numerous features, including 2017’s Fences.

4. Robert Downey Jr.

Anyone who watched Iron Man, or any of the rest of the Marvel Cinematic Universe fare, knows that Robert Downey Jr. has a humorous side to him. But, did you know that those comedy skills may have been developed during his (short) stint on Saturday Night Live? The actor was a cast member on the sketch show for about a season in 1985. Can you even imagine how hilarious the Tony Stark portrayer must have been on the series?

His career now is a far cry from his Saturday Night Live days. He’s mostly busy in his role as Iron Man a.k.a. Tony Stark in all of Marvel’s films, from The Avengers to Spider-Man: Homecoming. But, you know, if he ever wanted to get back in the sketch comedy game, we’d be down.

3. Julianne Moore

Before Julianne Moore became a queen of the silver screen, she started out on a popular daytime soap opera. The actress showed off her tremendous acting chops in a starring role on CBS’s As the World Turns from 1985 to 1987. And, as one of the best actors in the world right now, she undoubtedly made her Frannie Hughes role her own, even though she only appeared in 20 episodes of the show.

Moore since turned her sights to films in a myriad of genres. She’s done the more classic Oscar-fare like Still Alice (which earned her the gold statuette) and popular films like The Hunger Games: Mockingjay. She even made a triumphant return to the television world when she did a guest starring stint on NBC comedy 30 Rock, which she was straight up hilarious in.

2. Bradley Cooper

Bradley Cooper only recently made the movie jump, if his extensive IMDb page is any indication. Before he started starring alongside Jennifer Lawrence in Academy Award-nominated films or Zach Galifianakis in adored comedy flicks, he got one of his first major roles on the ABC drama Alias. Over the span of five years (from 2001-2006), Cooper starred as Will Tippin, who romanced Jennifer Garner‘s Sydney Bristow at one point.

Now, besides a brief stint on Limitless, which he produced, Cooper’s best know for films. He first came to prominence after a starring turn in 2009’s The Hangover and appeared in the movie’s subsequent sequels. He’s also lent his voice to the popular Marvel film The Guardians of the Galaxy as Rocket Raccoon, and starred in American Hustle and Silver-Linings Playbook, which recieved major love during major award ceremonies. So, it looks like that movie jump from the small to the big screen is definitely working for him.

1. Morgan Freeman

Color us surprised, but the iconic Morgan Freeman originally appeared on a PBS program. Say what? His appearance on the program may be the most interesting career start for any of the other actors on this list. From 1971 to 1977, Freeman appeared on PBS’s The Electric Comedy, which was a comedy variety show that helped kids learn basic grammar skills. Actually, the actor’s turn on the show makes total sense. His commanding presence and voice was probably a great fit for this type of programming.

Of course, Freeman is best known for his many film appearances over the years. In particular, he may be best know for either The Shawshank Redemption or Bruce Almighty (depending on your movie sensibilities). And Freeman isn’t stopping anytime soon as he’s set to appear in the upcoming film The Nutcracker and the Four Realms in late 2018.

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