CLOSE
Original image
fanpop

27 Future Stars Who Appeared on ER

Original image
fanpop

Hollywood changed forever in 1994 when ER made its premiere on NBC and transformed George Clooney from Working Actor You Might Recognize from Roseanne, The Facts of Life, and/or Return of the Killer Tomatoes! to, well, George Clooney. And though The Cloons hung up his scrubs in order to pursue big-screen opportunities in 1999, the long-running medical drama—created by novelist Michael Crichton—did just fine without Dr. Doug Ross.

The series ran for an impressive 15 seasons, racking up 124 Emmy nominations in the process. While it maintained an impressive roster of super talented series regulars (including William H. Macy and Ving Rhames) and guest stars (including Ewan McGregor and Susan Sarandon) and even managed to get Quentin Tarantino to direct an episode, ER also gave a jump start to the careers of dozens of then-newbie actors who would go on to rise up the Hollywood ladder.

1. Christina Hendricks

Three years after landing her first role with a four-episode arc on MTV’s Undressed, Christina Hendricks starred in four episodes of ER, as Dr. Abby Lockhart’s (Maura Tierney) neighbor with bad taste in men. 

2. Matthew Settle

The object of Christina Hendricks’ affection? Matthew Settle, who’s best known as Rufus Humphrey, aka “The Dad,” on Gossip Girl.

3. Zac Efron

Not even one of those upbeat song-and-dance numbers from High School Musical could have changed the fate of Bobby Neville, the role Zac Efron played in ER’s 10th season (and his second-ever). He came in a gunshot victim and never went home. 

4. Eva Mendes

Long before she and Ryan Gosling became parents in real life, Eva Mendes got practice by playing one on television. Her first credited role (we’re not counting her role in Will Smith’s “Miami” video) came in ER’s fourth season, when she spelled her name with an “z” instead of an “s.”

5. Nick Offerman

Before he was whittling things and keeping order in Pawnee, Nick Offerman played a badass rocker in ER’s fourth season premiere, which was also his television debut. Appearing in the same episode was future Oscar nominee John Hawkes (who, while not a household name yet, was certainly a veteran actor, having landed his first role in 1985).

6. Adam Scott

Offerman’s Parks and Recreation co-star Adam Scott also found an early paycheck on the set of ER during its first season, as a pedestrian who was hit by a car. “It was the first season of ER, so it was a pretty big,” Scott recalled to TVLine. “Everyone was discovering it, and George Clooney was on the cover of TV Guide as this new star. I was sitting outside waiting to work and he was playing basketball with a bunch of dudes. I remember just thinking, 'God, this dude is on the cover of TV Guide! He just looks like he doesn't care.’ If I was on the cover of a magazine, I’d be celebrating.”

7. Amy Ryan

In the same year she landed a starring role on the short-lived series The Naked Truth, and 12 years before she scored an Oscar nomination for Gone Baby Gone, Amy Ryan played a nun from a nearby Catholic school in the midst of a meningitis outbreak. 

8. Emile Hirsch

Emile Hirsch made two appearances during ER’s sixth season as Chad Kottmeir, a teenaged alcoholic.

9. Chris Pine

Chris Pine’s ER gig didn’t require a whole lot of range—he played a drunk teenager recovering from a five-day bender of a Valentine’s Day party—but it did land him his first credited role.

10. Dakota Fanning

Dakota Fanning was just six years old when she made her onscreen debut as Delia Chandler, a little girl—and leukemia survivor—injured in a car accident who, it turns out, is not leukemia-free. Much of the episode revolves around Dr. Abby Lockhart’s (Maura Tierney) attempts to save Fanning’s life.

11. Shia LaBeouf

Before he was “not famous anymore,” Shia LaBeouf was not famous at all when he played Darnel Smith, a wheelchair-bound kid with muscular dystrophy, in a 2000 episode of ER.

12. Josh Radnor

After a couple of uncredited roles and the obligatory part on Law & Order, Josh Radnor played the syphilis-suffering gay lover of a Chicago alderman in ER’s ninth season. Two years later, he began filming How I Met Your Mother.

*

25 Future Stars Who Appeared on Seinfeld

*

13. Lucy Liu

Three years before her breakout role on Ally McBeal, Lucy Liu spent three episodes on ER as Mei-Sun Leow, the mother of a young boy with AIDS.

14. Aaron Paul

He may be just 35 years old, but Aaron Paul has gotten around with a series of one-off roles on shows like Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, 3rd Rock from the Sun, The X-Files, and NYPD Blue. In 2003, the future Golden Globe nominee added ER to his growing resume.

15. Josh Hutcherson

Josh Hutcherson was just 11 years old and already on his third professional gig in 2002, when he appeared in an episode titled “First Snowfall,” as part of a family run down by a drunk driver while building a snowman. Yes, a snowman.

16. Lake Bell

Lake Bell lucked out with her first credited role, which ended up being a two-episode deal during ER’s ninth season.

17. Wentworth Miller

Two years after making his on-screen debut in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but five years before Prison Break made him a star, Wentworth Miller played Mike Palmieri, a high school wide receiver who got caught up in a football game riot.

18. Eric Stonestreet

A year after landing his first credited role on Dharma & Greg, Eric Stonestreet found himself in the ER—and on ER—after a failed attempt to give his ears a Spock-like makeover.

19. Octavia Spencer

Fourteen years before winning an Oscar for The Help, and just two years after beginning her professional career, Octavia Spencer appeared in a single 1998 episode of ER

20. Anton Yelchin

Before he was starring in blockbusters like Star Trek, Anton Yelchin scored his first job—at the tender age of 11—as Robbie Edelstein, a kid who learns that his parents have been killed in a car accident.

21. Taraji P. Henson

More than a decade before she earned an Oscar nomination for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Taraji P. Henson impressed ER’s producers enough that they hired her for two episodes in 1998. As two different characters.

22. Jake Lloyd

Three years before he played Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, Jake Lloyd scored a four-episode run on ER (his first role) as Jimmy Sweet, the son of a prostitute.

23. Mena Suvari

Three years before she starred in American Pie and American Beauty, Mena Suvari played Laura-Lee Armitage, a reluctant teenage patient, in ER’s third season.

24. Gabrielle Union

In the same year that she starred in Bring It On, Gabrielle Union was beefing up her resume with an appearance on ER.

25. Kristin Davis

One month before moving into Melrose Place as the nutty Brooke Armstrong, Kristin Davis played the mom of an ER patient in 1995.

26. George Eads

Future CSI George Eads played paramedic Greg Powell in a few episodes between 1997 and 1998 (at the same time his future CSI co-star Jorja Fox played a doctor).

27. Janel Moloney

Four years before her star-making turn as Donna on The West Wing, Janel Moloney appeared in a 1995 episode, “The Birthday Party.” Her West Wing boss Bradley Whitford appeared in two episodes in the same year.

*

35 Future Stars Who Appeared on The West Wing

All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

Original image
Warner Home Video
arrow
#TBT
Man-Eating Space Lizards: When V Was a TV Smash
Original image
Warner Home Video

American broadcast television in the 1980s didn’t leave a lot of room for subtlety. Shows like Hill Street Blues were outliers, crowded off the schedule by head-hammering episodic series featuring mercenaries (The A-Team), car chases (The Dukes of Hazzard), or soapy melodrama (Dynasty).

On its surface, V appeared to be no different. A two-part miniseries airing on consecutive evenings in May 1983, it told the story of the “Visitors,” gregarious aliens who arrive on Earth in three-mile-long spaceships and greet humans with a bargain: Let the Visitors harvest a chemical needed for their continued survival and receive advanced medical knowledge in return.

As the humanoid aliens reveal themselves to be malevolent lizard-like creatures who prefer to dine on humans rather than prolong their lives, V took on the look and feel of a pulpy sci-fi epic—the kind of thing that could be easily summarized in one Amazing Stories cover image from the 1940s. But writer Kenneth Johnson had something far more subversive in mind. The Visitors were stand-ins for fascists, and V was a cautionary tale about the perils of complacency.

Jason Bernard and Robert Englund star in the NBC miniseries 'V' (1983).
Warner Home Video

A Carnegie Mellon graduate, Johnson had broken into television with a writing stint on The Six Million Dollar Man, for which he conceived a female counterpart in the form of Jamie Sommers (Lindsay Wagner). Sommers got her own series, The Bionic Woman, which Johnson produced until he was tasked with adapting The Incredible Hulk as a live-action drama.

It was around this time that Johnson became fascinated with a 1935 novel by Sinclair Lewis, It Can’t Happen Here, about a fascist group that rises to power in the United States. Johnson reworked the concept into Storm Warnings, a feature-length screenplay; that work landed on the desk of NBC president Brandon Tartikoff, who encouraged Johnson to adapt it into a television miniseries by casting Soviets or the Chinese as the antagonists.

Tartikoff’s request made sense. The miniseries format, which took off in the 1970s with Roots and Rich Man, Poor Man, was drawing record numbers of viewers. The Thorn Birds, about a priest who is tempted to break his vow of celibacy by a younger woman, was a hit; so was Shogun, about a 17th century man who shipwrecks in Japan and becomes a pawn in a war between samurai. (Both starred Richard Chamberlain.) Storm Warnings had an appropriately sprawling narrative with multiple characters, a feat of creative engineering Johnson was encouraged to use after reading War and Peace.

But the writer was less enthused about casting a foreign superpower as a rival. Tartikoff then suggested aliens, the allegorical turf of Rod Serling that had fueled many a socially-conscious episode of The Twilight Zone. Johnson later told Starlog he “ran screaming from the room” at the suggestion, but eventually warmed to it. Storm Warnings became V: NBC committed $13 million to produce the four-hour drama.

A scene from the NBC miniseries 'V' (1983).
Warner Home Video

While a generous budget for television, the scope of Johnson’s idea taxed every available dollar. A 60-foot-long model of one of the Visitor ships was built; a giant hangar intended to depict the inside was made to scale, albeit cut in half; matte effects, with the ships laid over a background painting, depicted their unsettling arrival over Earth’s major cities. A feature with those same ambitions might take months of pre-production planning: Johnson got three weeks.

Whatever was lacking in the special effects and costumes—Johnson opted for a regal, military-inspired garb for his aliens that hasn’t aged well—never diluted the real attraction of V. Following a television cameraman (Marc Singer) and a botanist (Faye Grant) as they grow suspicious of the true intentions of the Visitors, the series quickly turns into an examination of what happens when a population is seduced by the promise of a helping hand. Celebrities and world leaders endorse the Visitors; scientists questioning their motives are corralled and delivered to ships for “re-education.” By the time their foot soldier Diana (Jane Badler) is seen devouring a guinea pig, Singer and his cohorts have decided to form a resistance to push back against being turned into alien kibble. For viewers who didn’t care for the subtext, there was still the birth of a lizard baby to talk about with coworkers and friends the next morning.

In a departure from conventional advertising, NBC decided to take a conservative approach with V. Posters in subway stations and bus stops depicted illustrations of the Visitors in propaganda-style posters; later, a “V” would be spray-painted over the ads. There was never any mention of the series.

The premiere of V drew a 40 share, which meant 40 percent of all households watching television at that hour were watching the lizard people establish their dominance on Earth. Tartikoff even granted Johnson the ability to run 15 minutes past the allotted two-hour time slot, cutting into local newscasts. On night two, V maintained much of that audience.

What might have turned out to be a lucrative franchise for NBC quickly lost its way. Tartikoff wanted Johnson to oversee a weekly drama continuing the story of the resistance while ramping up their licensing efforts; Johnson argued that the premise would be too expensive for the format and suggested a two-hour movie air every month or two instead.

A licensed action figure from the 'V' miniseries
Amazon

In the end, neither quite got their wish. Another miniseries, V: The Final Battle, aired in 1984, but Johnson disowned it after extensive rewrites. V: The Series followed, but lasted just one season. Johnson lamented that the network had taken his cautionary tale and turned it into a spectacle, with gunfights and lizard people eating small animals taking the place of the allegory.

V was revived by ABC in 2009, but low ratings led to a quick demise after two seasons. Other shows and movies like 1996’s Independence Day had borrowed heavily from Johnson, wearing out the premise. In 2007, Johnson published V: The Second Generation, a novel based on one of his follow-up scripts.

The miniseries format would continue throughout the 1980s and 1990s before serialized dramas with shortened seasons edged them off television schedules. Like The Thorn Birds, V remains one of the most well-remembered entries in the medium, due in no small part to Johnson’s nods to levity. When the aliens arrive, a high school band plays the Star Wars theme.

Original image
Family Communications Inc./Getty Images
arrow
Pop Culture
The Sweet Surprise Reunion Mr. Rogers Never Saw Coming
Original image
Family Communications Inc./Getty Images

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 he was 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 original poignant scene “authentic” and “unscripted,” and said 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.”

SECTIONS

arrow
LIVE SMARTER
More from mental floss studios