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Top 10 Stars Who Appeared on ER Before They Were Famous

VO: Rebecca Brayton WRITTEN BY: Nathan Sharp

Jeez, has everyone been on this show? For this list, we’re looking at celebrities who appeared on “ER” in small or minor roles - so no mains or leads like good ol’ Clooney - before getting their big break and becoming household names. Our list includes Jessica Chastain, Zac Efron, Eva Mendes, Nick Offerman, and more! Join MsMojo as we count down our picks for the Top 10 Stars Who Appeared on ER Before They Were Famous.

Check out the voting page for this list and add your picks: https://www.WatchMojo.comsuggest/Top%2010%20Stars%20Who%20Appeared%20on%20ER%20Before%20They%20Were%20Famous Special thanks to our user MikeMJPMUNCH suggesting this idea!


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Script written by Nathan Sharp

Top 10 Stars Who Appeared on ER Before They Were Famous

Jeez, has everyone been on this show? Welcome to MsMojo, and today we’re counting down our picks for the Top 10 Stars Who Appeared on ER Before They Were Famous.

For this list, we’ll be looking at celebrities who appeared on “ER” in small or minor roles - so no mains or leads like good ol’ Clooney - before getting their big break and becoming household names.

#10: Julie Bowen

“ER” was by no means Julie Bowen’s first role. She had appeared in numerous TV shows and movies, including “Happy Gilmore,” before landing the role of Roxanne Please in 1998. That said, hers wasn’t exactly a household name. Luckily, her career took off after her nine-episode stint on “ER.” She landed the role of Carol Vessey on “Ed” and later played Denise Bauer on “Boston Legal.” She truly became a mainstream star in 2009 when she landed the role of Claire on “Modern Family.” (xref) Her “Modern Family” co-star, Eric Stonestreet, also appeared on “ER”, playing Willie in the episode “Mars Attacks”.

#9: Lucy Liu

Before she was a ferocious lawyer, an ass-kicking angel, Queen of Tokyo’s underworld, and a brilliant eccentric’s assistant, she was the mother of a young boy afflicted with AIDS. Liu appeared for three episodes in 1995 playing Mei-Sun Leow, a substantial role after the likes of “co-worker” in “Hotel Malibu” and “Woman #3” in “Home Improvement.” Three years later she landed the role of Ling Woo on “Ally McBeal” and was nominated for both an Emmy and a Screen Actors Guild award for her performance. She then played Alex in “Charlie’s Angels” and soon became one of Hollywood’s leading ladies.

#8: Jessica Chastain

Jessica Chastain has certainly come a long way in such a short time. “ER” was Chastain’s first significant role, following a TV pilot called “Dark Shadows” that was never picked up. She played Dahlia Taslitz in the episode “Forgive and Forget”, which aired in February of 2004. In 2012, she was nominated for her first Academy Award for playing Celia Foote in “The Help.” This was immediately followed by another Oscar-nominated performance as Maya in “Zero Dark Thirty.” She is now one of the most acclaimed actresses working in Hollywood.

#7: Anton Yelchin

The late Anton Yelchin may not have been as big as some of the other actors on this list, but he showed great promise and potential and was quickly working his way up the ladder before his tragic death in June 2016. He starred as Pavel Chekov in the three early 21st century “Star Trek” films and received critical acclaim for his work in “Green Room” and “Thoroughbreds,” among others. And it all started with “ER.” Yelchin was just a kid when he played Robbie Edelstein in the season 6 episode “Be Still My Heart”. Just nine years later he was in “Star Trek.” Now that is what we call career trajectory.

#6: Zac Efron

Zac Efron is easily one of the biggest actors currently working in Hollywood. His big break came in 2006 when he played Troy Bolton in Disney’s “High School Musical,” and he has followed this up with roles in “Neighbors,” “Baywatch,” and “The Greatest Showman,” among many, many others. Three years before “High School Musical,” he played unfortunate gunshot victim Bobby Neville in an episode of “ER” titled “Dear Abby”. Although Bobby Neville didn’t make it, Zac Efron continued on to become one of the decade’s biggest stars.

#5: Eva Mendes

Mendes’s very first credited role was on “ER.” She played Donna, a babysitter who appeared in the fourth season episode “Exodus”. She spent a few years on roles in minor productions like “Children of the Corn V” and “Urban Legends: Final Cut.” Luckily, she got another break in 2001 playing Sara in “Training Day,” a role that earned her an ALMA Award nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actress. She followed this up with roles in blockbusters “2 Fast 2 Furious” and “Once Upon a Time in Mexico,” which firmly established Mendes as strong leading lady material.

#4: Octavia Spencer

Jessica Chastain’s “The Help” co-star, Octavia Spencer, also had minor roles on television before making it big. After credits like Job Counselor #1 in “413 Hope St.” and Clerk in “To Have & to Hold,” she landed on “ER,” playing Maria Jones in the fifth season episode “Hazed and Confused”. And, like Chastain, she finally earned notice and acclaim with “The Help,” winning the accolade trifecta - an Academy Award, a Golden Globe, and a BAFTA. She followed this up with two more Oscar-nominated performances in “Hidden Figures” and “The Shape of Water,” making her the most-nominated black actress in Academy history - alongside Viola Davis.

#3: Nick Offerman

It’s weird to think of funnyman Nick Offerman being on a drama like “ER,” but there you have it. “ER” was Offerman’s first credited appearance on television, playing the oddly-named Rog in the fourth season premiere, Ambush. And despite continuing to work in both film and TV, it wouldn’t be until 2009 that he would earn his big break on “Parks and Recreation.” His “Parks and Rec” co-star, Adam Scott, also had one of his first roles on “ER,” playing David Kerstetter way back in the first season episode “Full Moon, Saturday Night”.

#2: Taraji P. Henson

Taraji P. Henson is a notable actress who has found success in both film and television. She received acclaim and an Academy Award nomination for her performance in “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” and has received two Emmy nominations for her work as Cookie Lyon in “Empire.” Before earning her big break and critical acclaim, she starred in two episodes of “ER.” She portrayed Patrice Robbins in season four episode “Of Past Regret and Future Fear” and Elan in season five’s “Split Second”.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Shia LaBeouf

Aaron Paul

Jared Padalecki

#1: Chris Pine

Chris Pine is now popular and respected enough that he can do just about anything. He can play a classic science fiction character in “Star Trek.” He can play a fairy tale prince in “Into the Woods.” He can play a down-on-his-luck redneck criminal in “Hell or High Water.” And he can play a good old-fashioned American hero in “Wonder Woman.” However, that wasn’t the case back in 2003 when he played Levine in “ER’s” ninth season episode “A Thousand Cranes”. Yep, this was Pine’s very first credited performance!

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