Big Time Actors Who Got Their Start In Some Pretty Obscure Roles

Morgan Freeman on 'The Electric Company'
youtube | Jim Turner

Every actor got their start somewhere. In many cases, an actor's early career is full of fits and starts, with bit parts in random movies and TV shows.

Of course, many actors' careers don't advance past this stage. But for those who do go on to bigger and better things, seeing them in their earlier, unheralded roles makes for a fascinating time capsule.

You'd never guess the following actors were headed for superstardom based on some of the stuff they did early in their career.

Jason Momoa

Jason Momoa on 'Baywatch'

Baywatch was already an institution by the time Jason Momoa showed up on set to play Jason Ioane for 44 episodes between 1999 and 2001. The role didn't bring Momoa much immediate success, but his career did continue to grow. His biggest break, of course, was Game of Thrones.

Elisabeth Moss

Elizabeth Moss in 'Girl Interrupted'
IMDb | Columbia Pictures

Elisabeth Moss has been a big name in prestige TV thanks to her excellent work on Mad Men and A Handmaid's Tale. But long before prestige TV was a thing, she got a break with a small role in the critically acclaimed 1999 movie Girl, Interrupted.

Tom Hardy

Tom Hardy in 'Star Trek: Nemesis'
IMDb | Paramount Pictures

Star Trek: Nemesis might not be part of the great pantheon of Star Trek productions, despite the fact that it was a theatrical movie with many series regulars like Patrick Stewart. It also featured a young Tom Hardy in one of his first roles.

Chris Evans

Chris Evans in 'Not Another Teen Movie'

Not Another Teen Movie was a sendup of, unsurprisingly, the raunchy teen movies that were popular at the time. It was an unexpected success and helped launch the career of Chris Evans, who played the role of Jake Wyler.

Salma Hayek

Hayek went on to appear in some of the biggest blockbusters of the late '90s. She attracted mainstream attention for her role in Desperado (1995), a movie written and directed by Robert Rodriguez that starred Antonio Banderas.

Anne Heche

Soap operas run for years if not decades, and accrue a large cast — many of whom go on to become big stars. The late Anne Heche had a big role in the soap Another World, appearing in 71 episodes between 1987 and 1991.

Henry Cavill

Henry Cavill in period costume for 'The Count of Monte Cristo'
IMDb | Touchstone Pictures

The Count of Monte Cristo is a largely forgotten 2002 drama starring big names like Jim Caviezel and Guy Pearce. Few people likely would have guessed that Henry Cavill, the guy playing the lesser role of Albert Mondego, would go on to play Superman.

Selena Gomez

Many of us read Beverly Cleary books growing up, but the major release of a movie based on one of her book series, 2010's Ramona and Beezus, slipped under many radars. The movie stars not just Selena Gomez as Beezus, but also Joey King as Ramona.

Maisie Williams

Maisie Williams will probably forever be associated with the role of Arya Stark, but she can also be found in less mainstream fare. She starred in the 2014 period piece The Falling with Maxine Peake and Florence Pugh.

Kirsten Dunst

Kirsten Dunst in 'Interview with the Vampire' saying "I promise I'll get rid of the bodies"

Kirsten Dunst has been a reliable name in Hollywood for more than two decades now. Audiences likely saw her in a big role for the first time in 1994's Interview With the Vampire, back when she was just 12 years old.

Sebastian Stan

Even dedicated viewers of the long-running procedural Law & Order probably didn't notice that Sebastian Stan — who would go on to play Tommy Lee and star in the MCU — appeared on the show way back in 2003. He had a one-episode appearance as Justin Capshaw.

Juliette Lewis

Cape Fear is an excellent, almost forgotten 1991 thriller. If you haven't seen it, you've probably seen The Simpsons parody its main plotlines. Robert De Niro is spellbinding in the movie, but Juliette Lewis also does an excellent job playing Danielle Bowden.

Tom Hanks

Tom Hanks in 'Bosom Buddies

It's hard to imagine a time when Tom Hanks wasn't one of Hollywood's most beloved and ubiquitous stars. But in the early '80s, no one knew who he was. One of his earliest roles saw him star opposite Peter Scolari in the TV comedy Bosom Buddies.

Samuel L. Jackson

Sam Jackson had a bit of a late start in acting when it comes to Hollywood standards. Before he became a household name in the mid '90s, he was part of the ensemble cast of Spike Lee's critically acclaimed 1989 film Do the Right Thing.

Angelina Jolie

Angelina Jolie arching her eyebrows in 'Hackers'
Giphy | Filmin

Hackers is a '90s favorite that hasn't aged particularly well, but offers a fun piece of retro nostalgia. It was also one of the first times that moviegoers saw Angelina Jolie on the big screen. Her star would continue to rise throughout the rest of the decade and into the early 2000s.

Laura Dern

Mask is an excellent 1985 movie about a teenager with a skull deformity who's attempting to live a normal life. Eric Stoltz and Cher get top billing in the movie, but don't sleep on Laura Dern, who has a lesser role.

Courteney Cox

The cast of 'Misfits of Science'
IMDb | Universal Television

Cox will forever be associated with Friends, and for good reason. The series helped her become a household name, while syndication helped her and her castmates become filthy rich. Earlier in her career, Courteney Cox was a series regular on the TV program Misfits of Science.

Liv Tyler

It makes sense that Liv Tyler, whose dad is Aerosmith frontman Steven Tyler, would make a big splash in a movie that deals heavily with the music industry. Empire Records was the first time many audiences saw Tyler in a role, and it would catapult her to bigger successes in the years to come.

Chris Pratt

Chris Pratt at a keyboard, with blonde hair, in 'The Extreme Team'
IMDb | Mandalay Television

If you've seen Parks and Recreation, you may think you've seen one of Chris Pratt's earliest roles. It's true that he wasn't a megastar at this point, but you need to go way further back to see him in his early career. One such movie was 2003's forgettable The Extreme Team.

Morgan Freeman

The man who would become the voice of god to many had one of the more notable early-career roles. In the '70s, long before he became a household name, Freeman had a role on the educational TV program The Electric Company.