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20 Future Stars Who Appeared on Friends

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Friends launched the careers of its six stars—who were each making $1 million an episode by the final seasons—and welcomed a slew of A-list guests. But there were also a bunch of now-familiar faces who appeared in small roles before making it big.

1. Craig Robinson – Clerk in “The One With Princess Consuela”  (February 26, 2004)

On Friends: He plays a store clerk in a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it moment from Friends’ final season.

Since Friends: After a string of similarly small parts, Robinson got his big break as warehouse foreman Darryl Philbin on The Office. He’s also been a hit in Hollywood where he’s starred in a string of comedies including Hot Tub Time Machine and Pineapple Express.

2. Jim Rash – Nervous Airplane passenger in “The Last One”  (May 6, 2004)

On Friends: He sat next to Rachel in the very last episode and got increasingly agitated about the left phalange. Who wouldn’t?

Since Friends: A familiar face on the small screen, Rash has really come into his own since he landed the role as the fancy-dress obsessed Dean in kooky comedy Community. He also has achieved success behind the camera, taking home the Academy Award for Best Adapted Screenplay for The Descendants.

3. Mae Whitman – Sarah Tuttle in “The One Where Rachel Quits”  (December 12, 1996)

On Friends: Whitman plays Brown Bird Sarah Tuttle who enlists the help of Ross to sell cookies after the hapless paleontologist accidentally breaks her leg.

Since Friends: Whitman has continued to make couch potatoes chortle with her turn as the anodyne Ann Veal on Arrested Development and most recently as Amber Holt on NBC’s Parenthood.

4. Ellen Pompeo – Missy Goldberg in “The One Where The Stripper Cries”  (February 5, 2004)

On Friends: She plays Missy Goldberg, the object of Chandler and Ross’ affections in a flashback to their college years.

Since Friends: Friends was one of Pompeo’s first ever roles. These days the actress is a familiar face thanks to her Golden Globe-winning turn on another broadcast behemoth, Grey’s Anatomy.

5. Scott Adsit – The Director in “The One With Ross and Monica’s Cousin” (April 19, 2001)

On Friends: He plays an up and coming director who auditions Joey for his new film. The audition predictably goes awry, however, thanks to some Silly Putty and a scene that calls for full frontal nudity. 

Since Friends: He stayed on at NBC where he played executive producer Pete Hornberger on 30 Rock.

6. Anna Faris – Erica in “The One With The Birth Mother” (January 8, 2004)

On Friends: She was the mother who decided to give Monica and Chandler her baby during Friends’ final season.

Since Friends: Faris was already something of a big deal when she popped up on Friends, having made appearances in Scary Movie and White Chicks. But it was post-Friends that her career really flourished. She's currently starring in Mom on CBS.

7. Dan Bucatinsky – The Waiter in “The One With Phoebe’s Birthday Dinner” (October 31, 2002)

On Friends: He plays a disgruntled waiter who’s forced to work around Phoebe’s predictably chaotic birthday dinner.

Since Friends: Bucantinsky has gone from strength to strength since his bit part on the smash hit sitcom. He’s perhaps most famous for his Emmy Award-winning performance as James Novak on Scandal. But did you know he’s kept the Friends connection alive by working alongside fellow alumnus Lisa Kudrow as a producer on the improv web series Web Therapy?

8. Dakota Fanning – Mackenzie in “The One With Princess Consuela” (February 26, 2004)

On Friends: She hands out advice to Joey who’s struggling to come to terms with Monica and Chandler moving to the burbs.

Since Friends: Fanning has had quite the film career. She worked with Spielberg and Cruise on War of the Worlds, Neil Gaiman on Coraline, and even found time to pop up in the Twilight Saga.

25 Future Stars Who Appeared on Seinfeld

9. Mark Consuelos – Policeman in “The One With Chandler’s Dad” (May 10, 2001)

On Friends: He plays the officer who pulls Rachel over after she’s caught speeding in Monica’s Porsche.

Since Friends: Though he was best known for his recurring role on All My Children, Consuelos’ Friends cameo led him to new pastures including movie roles in films like Cop Out and My Super Ex-Girlfriend.

10. T.J. Thyne – Dr. Oberman in “The One Hundredth”  (October 8, 1998)

On Friends: He plays Dr. Oberman, a first year medical resident with no strong feelings towards the Fonzie or any of the Happy Days gang.

Since Friends: He’s appeared on a smorgasbord of small screen hits from 24 to The O.C., but Thyne is perhaps most recognizable as Bones’ sardonic Dr. Jack Hodgins.

11. Willie Garson – Steve in “The One Where The Girl Hits Joey”  (February 18, 1999)

On Friends: He plays the President of the tenants committee who falls out with Ross after he refuses to chip in $100 for the retiring handyman at his new apartment complex.

Since Friends: Garson is best known for playing Carrie’s friend in Sex and the City.

12. Cole Sprouse – Ben Geller in “The One With The Holiday Armadillo” (December 14, 2000)

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On Friends: Several actors played Ross’s son Ben, but Cole Sprouse is perhaps the most memorable—if only for showcasing why Rachel should never be left alone with children.

Since Friends: Cole has a twin named Dylan (who didn’t appear on Friends) and the duo went on to become a big deal in Disney’s smash hit series The Suite Life of Zack and Cody and its subsequent spinoffs.

13. Melora Hardin – Celia in “The One With The Stoned Guy”  (February 16, 1995)

On Friends: Hardin played one of Ross’ many exes, a colleague who gets attacked by Marcel but still wants the prudish paleontologist to talk dirty to her.

Since Friends: Recurring roles on Monk and The Office have helped make Hardin a familiar face. She’s also a talented musician and sang the national anthem before two NHL games in 2010.

14. Emily Osment – Lelani Mayolanofavich in “The One with the Halloween Party” (November 1, 2001)

On Friends: She plays a trick or treater who gets a check from Rachel in lieu of candy.

Since Friends: Osment found fame after appearing in two of the hit Spy Kids sequels before landing a recurring role alongside Miley Cyrus in Disney’s Hannah Montana. She’s currently the star of ABC comedy Young and Hungry.

15. Paget Brewster – Kathy in “The One With Joey’s New Girlfriend” (October 30, 1997)

On Friends: She played Kathy, the woman at the point of a love triangle between Joey and Chandler.

Since Friends: Brewster stayed on the schedules, clocking in her most on-screen hours as Supervisory Special Agent Emily Prentiss on CBS’ Criminal Minds. She’s also continued to make guest appearances on comedies like Modern Family and Community.

16. Christine Taylor – Bonnie in “The One With The Jellyfish”  (September 25, 1997)

On Friends: She was Phoebe’s friend who was supposed to be bald and crazy but turned out to be blonde and hot. She dated Ross until Rachel’s meddling led to their split.

Since Friends: She’s starred in hits including Zoolander and Dodgeball. In 2000 she married Ben Stiller.

17. Leah Remini – Lydia in “The One With The Birth” (May 11, 1995)

On Friends: A few years after playing Stacey Carosi on the Malibu Sands episodes of Saved by the Bell, Remini was a sassy mother-to-be who argues about sports with Joey—who steps in as an impromptu birth-coach when she goes into labor.

Since Friends: She starred on The King of Queens and has appeared on Dancing with the Stars, The Talk, and a TLC reality show about her family.

18. Kristin Davis – Erin in “The One With Ross's Library Book”  (November 16, 2000)

On Friends: She breaks Joey’s heart.

Since Friends: By the time this episode aired, she was making a name for herself as Sex and the City’s resident prude, Charlotte.

19. Rebecca Romijn – Cheryl in “The One With The Dirty Girl”  (November 6, 1997)

On Friends: She’s the titular “dirty girl” in this episode in which her relationship with Ross is doomed after he objects to the cleanliness of her apartment.

Since Friends: She’s most famous for her role as shape-shifting siren Mystique in the X-Men movies, though you probably wouldn’t be able to recognize her under all of the blue make up.

20. Steve Zahn – Duncan in “The One With Phoebe’s Husband”  (October 12, 1995)

On Friends: He plays Duncan, a gay Canadian ice dancer that Phoebe married in order to get him a green card.

Since Friends: After finding fame on Friends, Zahn went on to star in a string of mid-nineties hits such as That Thing You Do and You’ve Got Mail. Most recently, however, Zahn’s been plying his trade back on the small screen with a character role in Treme and a starring turn alongside Christian Slater in ABC’s Mind Games.  

See Also...

25 Things You Might Not Know About Friends (and Look What Monica's Reading!)
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25 Future Stars Who Appeared on Seinfeld

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The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
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For more than 30 years, legendary children’s show host Fred Rogers used his PBS series Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood to educate his young viewers on concepts like empathy, sharing, and grief. As a result, he won just about every television award he was eligible for, some of them many times over.

Rogers was gracious in accepting each, but according to those who were close to the host, one honor in particular stood out. It was March 11, 1999, and Rogers was being inducted into the Television Academy Hall of Fame, an offshoot of the Emmy Awards. Just before being called to the stage, out came a surprise.

The man responsible for the elation on Rogers’s face was Jeff Erlanger, a 29-year-old from Madison, Wisconsin who became a quadriplegic at a young age after undergoing spinal surgery to remove a tumor. Rogers was surprised because Erlanger had appeared on his show nearly 20 years prior in 1980 to help kids understand how people with physical challenges adapt to life’s challenges. Here's his first encounter with the host:

Reunited on stage after two decades, Erlanger referred to the song, “It’s You I Like,” which the two sang during their initial meeting. “On behalf of millions of children and grown-ups,” Erlanger said, “it’s you I like.” The audience, including a visibly moved Candice Bergen, rose to their feet to give both men a standing ovation.

Following Erlanger’s death in 2007, Hedda Sharapan, an employee with Rogers’s production company, called their poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and that Rogers often pointed to it as his favorite moment from the series.

Near the end of the original segment in 1980, as Erlanger drives his wheelchair off-camera, Rogers waves goodbye and offers a departing message: “I hope you’ll come back to visit again.”

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20 Things You Might Not Have Known About Firefly
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© 2002 Twentieth Century Fox

As any diehard fan will be quick to tell you, Firefly's run was far, far too short. Despite its truncated run, the show still offers a wealth of fun facts and hidden Easter eggs. On the 15th anniversary of the series' premiere, we're looking back at the sci-fi series that kickstarted a Browncoat revolution.

1. A CIVIL WAR NOVEL INSPIRED THE FIREFLY UNIVERSE.

The Pulitzer Prize-winning novel The Killer Angels from author Michael Shaara was Joss Whedon’s inspiration for creating Firefly. It follows Union and Confederate soldiers during four days at the Battle of Gettysburg during the American Civil War. Whedon modeled the series and world on the Reconstruction Era, but set in the future.

2. ORIGINALLY, THE SERENITY CREW INCLUDED JUST FIVE MEMBERS.

When Whedon first developed Firefly, he wanted Serenity to only have five crew members. However, throughout development and casting, Whedon increased the cast from five to nine.

3. REBECCA GAYHEART WAS ORIGINALLY CAST TO PLAY INARA.

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Before Morena Baccarin was cast as Inara Serra, Rebecca Gayheart landed the role—but she was fired after one day of shooting because she lacked chemistry with the rest of the cast. Baccarin was cast two days later and started shooting that day.

4. NEIL PATRICK HARRIS WAS ALMOST DR. SIMON TAM.

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Before it went to Sean Maher, Neil Patrick Harris auditioned for the role of Dr. Simon Tam.

5. JOSS WHEDON WROTE THE THEME SONG.

Whedon wrote the lyrics and music for Firefly’s opening theme song, “The Ballad of Serenity.”

6. STAR WARS SPACECRAFT APPEAR IN FIREFLY.

Star Wars was a big influence on Whedon. Captain Malcolm Reynolds somewhat resembles Han Solo, while Whedon used the Millennium Falcon as inspiration to create Serenity. In fact, you can spot a few spacecraft from George Lucas's magnum opus on the show.

When Inara’s shuttle docks with Serenity in the pilot episode, an Imperial Shuttle can be found flying in the background. In the episode “Shindig,” you can see a Starlight Intruder as the crew lands on the planet Persephone.

7. HAN SOLO FROZEN IN CARBONITE POPS UP THROUGHOUT FIREFLY.

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Nathan Fillion is a big Han Solo fan, so the Firefly prop department made a 12-inch replica of Han Solo encased in Carbonite for the Canadian-born actor. You can see the prop in the background in a number of scenes.

8. ALIEN'S WEYLAND-YUTANI CORPORATION MADE AN APPEARANCE.

In Firefly’s pilot episode, the opening scene features the legendary Battle of Serenity Valley between the Browncoats and The Union of Allied Planets. Captain Malcolm Reynolds takes control of a cannon with a Weyland-Yutani logo inside of its display. Weyland-Yutani is the large conglomerate corporation in the Alien film franchise. (Whedon wrote Alien: Resurrection in 1997.)

9. ZAC EFRON'S ACTING DEBUT WAS ON FIREFLY.

A 13-year-old Zac Efron made his acting debut in the episode “Safe” in 2002. He played Young Simon in a flashback.

10. CAPTAIN MALCOLM REYNOLDS'S HORSE IS A WESTERN TROPE.

At its core, Firefly is a sci-fi western—and Malcolm Reynolds rides the same horse on every planet (it's named Fred).

11. FOX AIRED FIREFLY'S EPISODES OUT OF ORDER.

Fox didn’t feel Firefly’s two-hour pilot episode was strong enough to air as its first episode. Instead, “The Train Job” was broadcast first because it featured more action and excitement. The network continued to cherry-pick episodes based on broad appeal rather than story consistency, and eventually aired the pilot as the show’s final episode.

12. THE ALLIANCE'S ORIGINS ARE AMERICAN AND CHINESE.

The full name of The Alliance is The Anglo-Sino Alliance. Whedon envisioned The Alliance as a merger of American and Chinese government and corporate superpowers. The Union of Allied Planets’ flag is a blending of the American and Chinese national flags.

13. THE SERENITY LOUNGE SERVED AS AN ACTUAL LOUNGE.

Between set-ups and shots, the cast would hang out in the lounge on the Serenity set rather than trailers or green rooms.

14. INARA SERRA'S NAME IS MESOPOTAMIAN.

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Inara Serra is named after the Mesopotamian Hittite goddess, the protector of all wild animals.

15. THE CHARACTERS SWORE (JUST NOT IN ENGLISH).

The Firefly universe is a mixture of American and Chinese culture, which made it easy for writers to get around censors by having characters swear in Chinese.

16. THE UNIFORMS ARE RECYCLED FROM STARSHIP TROOPERS.

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The uniforms for Alliance officers and soldiers were the costumes from the 1997 science fiction film Starship Troopers. The same costumes were repurposed again for the Starship Troopers sequel.

17. "SUMMER!" MEANS SOMEONE MESSED UP.

Every time a cast member flubbed one of his or her lines, they would yell Summer Glau’s name. This was a running gag among the cast after Glau forgot her lines in the episode “Objects In Space.”

18. THE SERENITY SPACESHIP WAS BUILT TO SCALE.

The interior of Serenity was built entirely to scale; rooms and sections were completely contiguous. The ship’s interior was split into two stages, one for the upper deck and one for the lower. Whedon showed off the Firefly set in one long take to open the Serenity movie.

19. "THE MESSAGE" SHOULD HAVE BEEN THE SHOW'S FAREWELL.

Although “The Message” was the twelfth episode, it was the last episode filmed during Firefly’s short run. Composer Greg Edmonson wrote a piece of music for a funeral scene in the episode, which served as a final farewell to the show. Sadly, it was one of three episodes (the other two were “Trash” and “Heart of Gold”) that didn’t air during Firefly’s original broadcast run on Fox.

20. FIREFLY AND SERENITY WERE SENT TO THE INTERNATIONAL SPACE STATION.

American Astronaut Steven Ray Swanson is a big fan of Firefly, so when he was sent to the International Space Station for his first mission (STS-117) in 2007, he brought DVD copies of Firefly and its feature film Serenity aboard with him. The DVDs are now a permanent part of the space station’s library.

This post originally appeared in 2014.

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