7 Times Movie Stars Got Their Start On Television

These Hollywood vets wouldn't be where they are today if it wasn't for the tv roles that made them famous.

By Robert Scucci | Published

ryan reynolds

Even the most prolific and successful movie stars come from humble beginnings when you take a close look at every role they’ve ever taken on. And by humble beginnings we mean they were TV stars before they were movie stars. Though it’s hard to think of some of our favorite actors making regular appearances on the small screen, starting out on television is pretty much par for the course. From sitcoms to the silver screen, we’re going to talk about seven times our favorite movie stars worked on TV before seeing their big break in Hollywood.

Chris Pratt

Long before earning the title of Star-Lord in the Guardians of the Galaxy franchise, Chris Pratt honed his comedic chops on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. Though Pratt has proven to us in recent years that he’s a capable lead actor on big-budget films, his supporting role as Andy Dwyer brought his breakthrough in the capacity of a supporting actor.

In Guardians of the Galaxy we’re clued into the fact that Peter Quill/Star-Lord has an affinity for pop music, and in a way, this type of characterization was born in Parks and Recreation, as Andy is a moderately successful musician in his own right. Unfortunately for Star-Lord, he’s never had the pleasure of popping an Andy and the D-Bags cassette into his trusty Walkman.

Mila Kunis

We’ve seen Mila Kunis grace the silver screen with movies like Bad Moms and Luckiest Girl Alive, but long before she became a household name, there was one house in particular where she always just kind of passed the doobie to the left. We’re talking about her portrayal of Jackie Burkhart from That ’70s show. Though we now know Mila Kunis to be a generous humanitarian, Jackie Burkhart was a spoiled brat who cared mostly about social status and being seen as desirable to her on-again-off-again boyfriend, Michael Kelso (Ashton Kutcher).

But That ’70s Show wasn’t Mila Kunis’ only early television role. Just a year after That ’70s Show began its eight-season run, she would go on to voice the character of Meg Griffin on Family Guy, a voice-acting role that she still has a lot of fun performing to this day.

Ryan Reynolds

These days, Ryan Reynolds is the man behind Deadpool, a successful entrepreneur, and one-half of the power couple consisting of himself and Blake Lively. But long before his silver screen success, Ryan Reynolds made a name for himself on the small screen on the Canadian teen drama Hillside. Though his troubled Billy Simpson character’s penchant for bullying was only portrayed in 13 episodes, it paved the way for more TV series in the United States.

Ryan Reynolds saw a lead role in ABC’s Two Guys and a Girl, which saw him taking on more comedic roles, which would gain him recognition as quite the funny guy. In this series, he portrayed Michael Eugene Leslie “Berg” Bergen, an aspiring doctor who not only lacked direction in his life, but also created chaos for those around them with his mischievous antics.

It wasn’t long after the series finale of Two Guys and a Girl in 2001 that we would see Reynolds take on the role of Van Wilder in National Lampoon’s Van Wilder, which gained him the reputation of the titular lovable collegiate slacker. Though he started out his career with humble beginnings, Ryan Reynolds has since catapulted his career into the stratosphere, and we just see him everywhere these days!

Steve Carell

Long before we knew Steve Carell as the 40-Year-Old-Virgin, we saw him enlighten us on a nightly basis as a correspondent on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart. Though we saw Carell cut his teeth on sketch comedy shows such as The Dana Carvey Show, as well as establish his abilities as a voice-actor on Saturday Night Live as Gary from the infamous “Ambiguously Gay Duo” skits, it was his contribution to The Daily Show that truly put his career on the map. Steve Carell went on to deliver the news for 277 episodes before moving on to bigger and better things.

But it’s worth noting that while Steve Carell was working on The Daily Show, he was also taking on supporting film roles in movies like Bruce Almighty, Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy, and Bewitched. So although Steve Carell saw his breakthrough lampooning political pundits alongside Jon Stewart, he was hard at work on both the television and cinematic front during these early stages of his career.

And this seems to be a recurring theme in Steve Carell’s career. While he was starring in films like Little Miss Sunshine, Evan Almighty, Date Night, and Despicable Me, he was also winning us over on our television sets portraying the dim-witted but well-meaning Michael Scott on NBC’s The Office.

Will Smith

Long before making headlines for slapping Chris Rock across the face at the Academy Awards, Will Smith saw early fame portraying a fictionalized version of himself in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. This series was a classic fish-out-of-water story involving Will Smith’s character being plucked off the mean streets of West Philadelphia and moved to Bel Air, Los Angeles, to live with his wealthy aunt and uncle. The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ran for 148 episodes over six seasons, and it didn’t take long after the series concluded for Will Smith to make a name for himself in Hollywood.

Early roles on the cinematic front include Bad Boys, Independence Day, and Men in Black. Being a man of many talents, it wasn’t just television and movies that turned Will Smith into the mega-star that we know today, but also his rap career that started during his Fresh Prince days.

Tom Hanks

Before splashing his way into our hearts with 1984’s Splash, Tom Hanks saw his early TV breakout with Bosom Buddies, which had a 37-episode run across two seasons. The premise of the series involves Tom Hanks’ Kip Amos Wilson character disguising himself as a woman so he could live for pennies on the dollar at the Susan B. Anthony Hotel. Though the series was short-lived, it was well-received enough to land him guest appearances on shows like Happy Days, which only helped to further solidify his career prospects.

These days, Tom Hanks is a household name, but like many other talents on this list, he came from humble beginnings before his epic run of movies that started in the mid-’80s and never seemed to lose momentum.

Jennifer Aniston

jennifer aniston

Though Jennifer Aniston‘s breakout role was on NBC’s Friends with her portrayal of Rachel Green, she actually had some experience with movies by the time the series debuted in 1994. Okay, so she starred in 1993’s Leprechaun, which was really more like a failed horror experiment that has since garnered a cult following. But it’s always a good thing to get the critical flops out of the way early in your career because you can only go up from there, right?

While working on Friends, Jennifer Aniston’s newly found fame landed her roles in movies like Office Space, Bruce Almighty, and Dream for an Insomniac. After Friends saw its series finale, Jennifer Aniston continued to pursue comedy on the cinematic front, and some of her more notable roles include Along Came Polly, We’re the Millers, and Horrible Bosses.