10 Stars Who Appeared on The O.C. Before They Were Famous

Between 2003 and 2007, over four seasons and 92 episodes, The O.C. followed the soapy lives of a group of teens and adults living in tony Newport, California. The series turned actors Adam Brody, Ben McKenzie, Rachel Bilson, and Mischa Barton into stars, but several other future celebs stopped by to cause drama for either one episode or in recurring roles.

1. Chris Pratt // “Che Cook”

A post-Everwood and pre-Parks and Recreation/Guardians of the Galaxy Pratt sharpened his comic chops as a shaggy-haired Brown University activist named Che. He appeared in nine episodes during the show's fourth season, where he got Summer Roberts (Bilson) suspended from school, and later believed Seth Cohen (Brody) was his soulmate.

2. Shailene Woodley // “Kaitlin Cooper”

Woodley appeared as Kaitlin Cooper, Marissa Cooper’s (Barton) sister, in the pilot. At the end of the season, Kaitlin was shipped off to boarding school. The character didn’t resurface until season three, with Woodley having to audition to reclaim her role. But the casting department went in a different direction, choosing Willa Holland instead, who then played Kaitlin until the series ended. In 2011, Woodley reminisced to Moviefone about her prepubescent role, saying: “I didn't go through puberty until late—I was the 15-year-old who had no boobs. So, at 11, I was like a little mouse-child. I looked like an eight-year-old. That same year, I filmed a movie in which I was playing a 9-year-old. So, there was no weirdness when Willa Holland got it because she was so obviously right for the role, and I was so obviously not.”

3. Olivia Wilde // “Alex Kelly”

For 13 episodes during the 2004-2005 season, a then-unknown Wilde played Alex Kelly, the owner of a music venue, The Bait Shop, who briefly dates Seth before finding a more fitting paramour in Marissa. The two embark on a passionate lesbian affair only to have it fizzle a few episodes later. Showrunner Josh Schwartz made it clear in a 2011 interview with Out.com that the lesbian storyline wasn’t developed to garner ratings. "We cooked it up well before the show ever premiered this year," he said.

4. Emmanuelle Chriqui // “Jodie”

In the episode “The Ex-Factor,” Alex Kelly’s possessive ex-girlfriend Jodie shows up, which is why Alex breaks things off with Seth. Jodie stays with Alex for a week—it gives her another episode—before she goes back to L.A. Just a few months after her two-episode arc, Chriqui began playing Sloan McQuewick on Entourage.

5. Michael Schur // “Paul”

In 2007, Schur hadn’t yet co-created Parks and Recreation, but he was writing and producing for The Office, and occasionally guest starring as Dwight Schrute’s cousin, Mose, who runs a beet farm. In “The Case of the Franks,” Schur tries to recruit Summer to join his environmental agency, George. Schur’s wife, J.J Philbin (daughter of Regis) wrote the episode.

6. Amber Heard // “Salesgirl”

Mrs. Johnny Depp didn’t even get a proper name in her episode, she was only known as “Salesgirl,” but she did get to interact with Marissa and crew. “Somebody missed the sensitivity training seminar,” Seth quips behind Salesgirl’s back. The episode entails the gang hanging out at the mall only to get trapped there after it closes.

7. Morena Baccarin // “Maya Griffin”

For three episodes during the third season, the Firefly and Emmy-nominated Homeland actress played the daughter of Sandy Cohen’s (Peter Gallagher) rival, Henry Griffin. Drama ensues when Maya begins dating Matt Ramsey, who works for Sandy’s company, The Newport Group. Fun fact: Baccarin went on to act with Ben McKenzie on Gotham.

8. Max Greenfield // “Young Sandy Cohen”

At this point in Greenfield's career, he had guested on Gilmore Girls and Veronica Mars, but was still four years away from finding stardom as a regular cast member on New Girl. In his episode of The O.C., he plays a college-aged Sandy Cohen in a flashback scene where he meets and charms future wife Kirsten at Berkeley. Kevin Sorbo and Michael Schur also show up in the same episode.

9. Nikki Reed // “Sadie Campbell”

In 2003, Reed established herself as a writer and actor in the teen film Thirteen, then moved on to The O.C. in 2006. In her six-episode character arc, she briefly dates Ryan, which makes Marissa jealous. Reed’s character was developed to rival Marissa, but in the end she doesn’t succeed. After Reed left Newport, she starred as Rosalie Hale in all of the Twilight films. Cam Gigandet, who played Marissa’s killer ex-boyfriend Kevin Volchok for 15 episodes, appeared with Reed in two Twilight movies.

10. Jaime King // “Mary Sue”

The actress, model, and friend of Taylor Swift got messy in her O.C. role. While visiting their grandmother in Florida, Seth and Ryan meet Mary Sue, whose grandmother lives near their Nana. Mary Sue and Seth join forces in a televised dance contest where she covers herself with whipped cream and asks Seth to lick it off. King now stars on Hart of Dixie alongside Rachel Bilson, which Josh Schwartz produces.

... AND A FEW FAMOUS FACES WHO STOPPED BY:

Michael Nouri // "Dr. Neil Roberts"

Nouri, who played Jennifer Beals’ love interest in Flashdance, portrayed Summer Roberts’ dad, Dr. Neil Roberts, for four seasons. Even though he sporadically appears throughout the series, he didn’t receive more airtime and storylines until the third season, when he romances Julie Cooper. Eventually he moves to Seattle and doesn’t return to Newport, not even for Summer’s wedding.

Jeri Ryan // “Charlotte Morgan”

Jeri Ryan, of Star Trek: Voyager fame, had a juicy role on The O.C. as a woman who befriends Kirsten Cohen (Kelly Rowan) in rehab and then attempts to swindle her. When Charlotte’s unable to con Kirsten, she plans a fundraiser with Julie Cooper in order to steal the donations, but Julie spoils the plot. In 2007, Josh Schwartz revealed to Vulture that the Jeri Ryan storyline ruined the season for him. “We were told to add this Jeri Ryan character to the show that we had no idea what to do with,” he said. “We were just told we had to add an adult female character. It went nowhere, and we had no plan for it, and it just didn’t fit the show.”

Kevin Sorbo // “Frank Atwood”

The Hercules beefcake played Ryan Atwood’s (McKenzie) criminal dad but didn’t arrive in Newport until the series' final season. For seven episodes during season four, Frank Atwood slowly reveals to a dismayed Ryan that he’s his biological father. Frank finally redeems himself by hooking up with Julie Cooper (Melinda Clarke) and fathering a son with her.

Marguerite Moreau // “Reed Carlson”

After starring in Wet Hot American Summer, Moreau played Reed Carlson, VP of comic book company Bad Science, on The O.C. She helps set up Seth's meeting with George Lucas and eventually publishes his book. The TV vet later had guest roles on Grey’s Anatomy, Shameless, and Parenthood, and is reprising her Wet Hot American Summer role in the upcoming Netflix series.

George Lucas // “George Lucas” 

Seth Cohen co-writes a graphic novel entitled Atomic Country, and George Lucas takes notice. Seth gets a meeting with Lucas but is torn between attending the meeting and taking Summer to the prom. He asks Lucas for advice, in which Lucas tells Seth he regretted not attending his own prom. Lucas appeared on the episode as a way to promote Star Wars: Episode III – Revenge of the Sith, which was released a week after the episode aired.

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Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
12 Surprising Facts About Robin Williams
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA
Kevork Djansezian/Getty Images for PCA

Robin Williams had a larger-than-life personality. On screen and on stage, he embodied what he referred to as “hyper-comedy.” Offscreen, he was involved in humanitarian causes and raised three children—Zak, Zelda, and Cody. On July 16, HBO debuts the documentary Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind, directed by Marina Zenovich. The film chronicles his rise on the L.A. and San Francisco stand-up comedy scenes during the 1970s, to his more dramatic roles in the 1980s and '90s in award-winning films like Dead Poets Society; Good Morning, Vietnam; Awakenings; The Fisher King; and Good Will Hunting. The film also focuses on August 11, 2014, the date of his untimely death. Here are 12 surprising facts about the beloved entertainer.

1. ROBIN WILLIAMS GOT HIS START AT A COMEDY WORKSHOP INSIDE A CHURCH.

A still from 'Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind' (2018)
HBO

After leaving Juilliard, Robin Williams found himself back in his hometown of San Francisco, but he couldn’t find work as an actor. Then he saw something for a comedy workshop in a church and decided to give it a shot. “So I went to this workshop in the basement of a Lutheran church, and it was stand-up comedy, so you don’t get to improvise with others, but I started off doing, ostensibly, it was just like improvising but solo," he told NPR. "And then I started to realize, ‘Oh.’ [I started] building an act from there."

2. HE FORMED A FRIENDSHIP WITH KOKO THE GORILLA.

In 2001, Williams visited Koko the gorilla, who passed away in June, at The Gorilla Foundation in Northern California. Her caregivers had shown her one of his movies, and she seemed to recognize him. Koko repeatedly signed for Williams to tickle her. “We shared something extraordinary: laughter,” Williams said of the encounter. On the day Williams died, The Foundation shared the news with Koko and reported that she fell into sadness.

3. FOR A TIME, HE WAS A MIME IN CENTRAL PARK.

In 1974, photographer Daniel Sorine captured photos of two mimes in New York's Central Park. As it turned out, one of the mimes was Williams, who was attending Juilliard at the time. “What attracted me to Robin Williams and his fellow mime, Todd Oppenheimer, was an unusual amount of intensity, personality, and physical fluidity,” Sorine said. In 1991, Williams revisited the craft by playing Mime Jerry in Bobcat Goldthwait’s film Shakes the Clown. In the movie, Williams hilariously leads a how-to class in mime.

4. HE TRIED TO GET LYDIA FROM MRS. DOUBTFIRE BACK IN SCHOOL.

As a teen, Lisa Jakub played Robin Williams’s daughter Lydia Hillard in Mrs. Doubtfire. “When I was 14 years old, I went on location to film Mrs. Doubtfire for five months, and my high school was not happy,” Jakub wrote on her blog. “My job meant an increased workload for teachers, and they were not equipped to handle a ‘non-traditional’ student. So, during filming, they kicked me out.”

Sensing Jakub’s distress over the situation, Williams typed a letter and sent it to her school. “A student of her caliber and talent should be encouraged to go out in the world and learn through her work,” he wrote. “She should also be encouraged to return to the classroom when she’s done to share those experiences and motivate her classmates to soar to their own higher achievements … she is an asset to any classroom.”

Apparently, the school framed the letter but didn’t allow Jakub to return. “But here’s what matters from that story—Robin stood up for me,” Jakub wrote. “I was only 14, but I had already seen that I was in an industry that was full of back-stabbing. And it was entirely clear that Robin had my back.”

5. HE WASN’T PRODUCERS' FIRST CHOICE TO PLAY MORK ON MORK & MINDY.

Anson Williams, Marion Ross, and Don Most told The Hallmark Channel that a different actor was originally hired to play Mork for the February 1978 Happy Days episode “My Favorite Orkan,” which introduced the alien character to the world. “Mork & Mindy was like the worst script in the history of Happy Days. It was unreadable, it was so bad,” Anson Williams said. “So they hire some guy for Mork—bad actor, bad part.” The actor quit, and producer Garry Marshall came to the set and asked: “Does anyone know a funny Martian?” They hired Williams to play Mork, and from September 1978 to May 1982, Williams co-headlined the spinoff Mork & Mindy for four seasons.

6. HE “RISKED” A ROLE IN AN OFF-BROADWAY PLAY.

Actor Robin Williams poses for a portrait during the 35th Annual People's Choice Awards held at the Shrine Auditorium on January 7, 2009 in Los Angeles, California
Michael Caulfield, Getty Images for PCA

In 1988, Williams made his professional stage debut as Estragon in the Mike Nichols-directed Waiting for Godot, which also starred Steve Martin and F. Murray Abraham. The play was held off-Broadway at Mitzi E. Newhouse Theater at Lincoln Center. The New York Times asked Williams if he felt the show was a career risk, and he responded with: “Risk! Of never working on the stage again! Oh, no! You’re ruined! It’s like you're ruined socially in Tustin,” a town in Orange County, California. “If there’s risk, you can’t think about it,” he said, “or you’ll never be able to do the play.”

Williams had to restrain himself and not improvise during his performance. “You can do physical things,” he said, “but you don’t ad lib [Samuel] Beckett, just like you don’t riff Beethoven.” In 1996, Nichols and Williams once again worked together, this time in the movie The Birdcage.

7. HE USHERED IN THE ERA OF CELEBRITY VOICE ACTING.

The 1992 success of Aladdin, in which Williams voiced Genie, led to more celebrities voicing animated characters. According to a 2011 article in The Atlantic, “Less than 20 years ago, voice acting was almost exclusively the realm of voice actors—people specifically trained to provide voices for animated characters. As it turns out, the rise of the celebrity voice actor can be traced to a single film: Disney’s 1992 breakout animated hit Aladdin.” Since then, big names have attached themselves to animated films, from The Lion King to Toy Story to Shrek. Williams continued to do voice acting in animated films, including Aladdin and the King of Thieves, Happy Feet, and Happy Feet 2.

8. HE FORGOT TO THANK HIS MOTHER DURING HIS 1998 OSCAR SPEECH.

In March 1998, Williams won a Best Supporting Actor Oscar for his performance as Sean Maguire in Good Will Hunting. In 2011, Williams appeared on The Graham Norton Show, and Norton asked him what it was like to win the award. “For a week it was like, ‘Hey congratulations! Good Will Hunting, way to go,'” Williams said. “Two weeks later: ‘Hey, Mork.’”

Then Williams mentioned how his speech accidentally left out one of the most important people in his life. “I forgot to thank my mother and she was in the audience,” he said. “Even the therapist went, ‘Get out!’ That was rough for the next few years. [Mom voice] ‘You came through here [points to his pants]! How’s the award?’”

9. HE COMFORTED STEVEN SPIELBERG DURING THE FILMING OF SCHINDLER’S LIST.

At this year’s 25th anniversary screening of Schindler’s List, held at the Tribeca Film Festival, director Steven Spielberg shared that Williams—who played Peter Pan in Spielberg’s Hook—would call him and make him laugh. “Robin knew what I was going through, and once a week, Robin would call me on schedule and he would do 15 minutes of stand-up on the phone,” Spielberg said. “I would laugh hysterically, because I had to release so much.”

10. HE HELPED ETHAN HAWKE GET HIS AGENT.

During a June 2018 appearance on The Graham Norton Show, Ethan Hawke recalled how, while working on Dead Poets Society, Williams was hard on him. “I really wanted to be a serious actor,” Hawke said. “I really wanted to be in character, and I really didn’t want to laugh. The more I didn’t laugh, the more insane [Williams] got. He would make fun of me. ‘Oh this one doesn't want to laugh.’ And the more smoke would come out of my ears. He didn’t understand I was trying to do a good job.” Hawke had assumed Williams hated him during filming.

After filming ended, Hawke went back to school, but he received a surprising phone call. It was from Williams’s agent, who—at Williams's suggestion—wanted to sign Hawke. Hawke said he still has the same agent today.

11. HE WAS ALMOST CAST IN MIDNIGHT RUN.

In February 1988, Williams told Rolling Stone how he sometimes still had to audition for roles. “I read for a movie with [Robert] De Niro, [Midnight Run], to be directed by Marty Brest,” Williams said. “I met with them three or four times, and it got real close, it was almost there, and then they went with somebody else. The character was supposed to be an accountant for the Mafia. Charles Grodin got the part. I was craving it. I thought, ‘I can be as funny,’ but they wanted someone obviously more in type. And in the end, he was better for it. But it was rough for me. I had to remind myself, ‘Okay, come on, you’ve got other things.’”

In July 1988, Universal released Midnight Run. Just two years later, Williams finally worked with De Niro, on Awakenings.

12. BILLY CRYSTAL AND WILLIAMS USED TO TALK ON THE PHONE FOR HOURS.

Actors Robin Williams (L) and Billy Crystal pose at the afterparty for the premiere of Columbia Picture's 'RV' on April 23, 2006 in Los Angeles, California
Kevin Winter, Getty Images

Starting in 1986, Williams, Billy Crystal, and Whoopi Goldberg co-hosted HBO’s Comic Relief to raise money for the homeless. Soon after Williams’s death, Crystal went on The View and spoke with Goldberg about his friendship with Williams. “We were like two jazz musicians,” Crystal said. “Late at night I get these calls and we’d go for hours. And we never spoke as ourselves. When it was announced I was coming to Broadway, I had 50 phone messages, in one day, from somebody named Gary, who wanted to be my backstage dresser.”

“Gary” turned out to be Williams.

Robin Williams: Come Inside My Mind premieres on Monday, July 16 at 8 p.m. ET on HBO.

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Walt Disney Pictures
10 Facts About Hocus Pocus
Walt Disney Pictures
Walt Disney Pictures

In a 2014 Reddit AMA, Bette Midler said she'd be interested in doing a Hocus Pocus sequel. "You have to go to send in your cards to the Walt Disney company," she said. "The ball's in their court." While you get those cards ready, here are some facts about the original, which arrived in theaters 25 years ago today.

1. THE STORY ORIGINATED AS A BEDTIME STORY.

The story for Hocus Pocus came about after writer David Kirschner invented a bedtime story for his kids. He later wrote the story up and submitted it to Muppet Magazine (why does this not still exist?), where it gained recognition.

2. THE WRITERS USED PROPS TO PITCH IT TO STUDIO EXECUTIVES.

Bette Midler in 'Hocus Pocus' (1993)
Walt Disney Pictures

To pitch the story to Disney, the writers had execs enter a dark room with broomsticks and a vacuum cleaner hanging from the ceiling. They also scattered 15 pounds of candy corn throughout the room in an effort to invoke Halloween nostalgia. It obviously worked!

3. IT WAS NOT AN IMMEDIATE HIT.

Though it’s a cult classic now, Hocus Pocus didn’t do that well when it first came out in 1993, perhaps because it was released in July instead of September or October. Though it didn’t have a terrible opening—$8,125,471, putting it in fourth place at the box office that weekend—it fell to $2,017,688 a few weeks later, and bad reviews from the critics didn’t help matters.

Entertainment Weekly was particularly put off by the movie, calling it a “piece of corny slapstick trash” and saying that “It’s acceptable scary-silly kid fodder that adults will find only mildly insulting. Unless they’re Bette Midler fans. In which case it’s depressing as hell.”

4. BETTE MIDLER LOVES IT.

Bette Midler, by the way, has said that Hocus Pocus is her favorite film out of all of the films she’s ever done. (At least as of 2008.) Thora Birch agreed, recently saying, “The most fun I ever had on a film was Hocus Pocus.”

5. KATHY NAJIMY LOVES IT, TOO.

Midler isn't the only star of the film who isn't immune to its allure: Kathy Najimy has said she watches the movie with her family every year on August 15.

6. IT COULD HAVE STARRED LEONARDO DICAPRIO.

The role of Max was originally offered to Leonardo DiCaprio. He turned it down to do What’s Eating Gilbert Grape.

7. SARAH JESSICA PARKER IS RELATED TO A WOMAN FAMOUSLY ACCUSED OF BEING A WITCH.

Had Sarah Jessica Parker known then what she knows now, she might have approached the role of Sarah Sanderson a little differently. When the actress went on the show Who Do You Think You Are to trace her family history, Parker discovered that one of her ancestors was Esther Elwell, one of the women accused of being a witch during the Salem Witch Trials. After a young girl said she saw Esther’s “spectre” strangling neighbor Mary Fitch, Elwell was arrested, but escaped going to trial.

8. THORA BIRCH REVISITED THE NEIGHBORHOOD IN AMERICAN BEAUTY.

While the kids are prematurely celebrating victory against the Sanderson sisters after locking them in the kiln, they’re shown talking in front of a house as they walk to a park. The house was later used as the house Thora Birch’s character lived in for American Beauty.

9. THE KIDS WEREN'T HUGE FANS OF THE CATS.

The kids all hated working with the cats. Many different cats were used to represent Binx, and each one served a different purpose—one was good at cuddling with the kids, one would jump on command, etc. Every time a new cat was used, the children would have to coerce the kitty to trust them by using treats and a clicker. They got sick of it.

10. MUCH OF THE ORIGINAL CAST REUNITED FOR A 20TH REUNION.

Most of the cast participated in a 20th anniversary event for D23 (the Disney fan club) members. Sarah Jessica Parker and Bette Midler were not in attendance, but pretty much everyone else was, including Kathy Najimy (Mary Sanderson), Vinessa Shaw (Allison), Omri Katz (Max), Thora Birch (Dani), and Doug Jones (Billy Butcherson). You can watch some of that reunion above.

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