BySam Plank, writer at
"You have to be what you are. Whatever you are, you gotta be it." -Johnny Cash. Tweet a tweeter at my twitty twitter, @tw1tterintw1t
Sam Plank

I'll be up front with you...the inspiration for this list is the first entry on it, Johnny Galecki. Reading the news that Kaley Cuoco is truly madly deeply in love with that horse riding Karl Cook got me seeing the words "big," "bang," and "theory." That got me thinking about the show Roseanne, and Galecki's time playing David (or was it Kevin?) Healy on the show.

Looking back at Roseanne, did you ever once think that Johnny would be making over $1 million per episode, starring in a show about a bunch of nerds and a hot girl?

No, you didn't. Stop that.

He's #1 on this list for that very reason, but there are 13 more actors and actresses who, if you were lucky enough to see them appear on TV shows from the '80s and '90s, you really didn't expect to make it as big as they have. Or big at all, in some cases!

1. Johnny Galecki

Never in a million years would you think Darlene's crazy-haired boyfriend from Roseanne would be where he is today, but just look at him now! Fun fact: He also played Russ in National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.

10 seasons in with Big Bang Theory. Now making $1 million per episode. Dated Kaley Cuoco in real life and married her onscreen. Take all that in.

2. John Goodman

Another Roseanne regular, while Goodman had landed some solid movie roles before the sitcom, it was his gig as Dan Conner that helped pave the way for hits like Arachnophobia, The Babe, O Brother, Where Art Thou?, Monsters, Inc. and 10 Cloverfield Lane and the voice of Hound in the Transformers franchise more recently. If you were to go back in time and tell John that he was going to voice an alien robot 25 years from then, he might...well...

Nope, sorry, still too soon.

3. Leonardo DiCaprio

Leo's guest starring role as “Darlene's Classmate” on Roseanne in 1991 was just a small blip on his role radar, before he started hitting it big. It would be the role of Luke Brower from Growing Pains that would help get him gigs in What's Eating Gilbert Grape, The Basketball Diaries, and an absolute crapload of other Oscar-less (but still, awesome performances, man) roles in blockbusting movies. The Revenant was the end of that streak, and the beginning of what hopes to be another streak that is filled with many more Oscars.

4. Will Smith

Honestly, if you saw The Fresh Prince of Bel Air, it was pretty obvious Will was going to go big — in TV, that is; he was already a star in the music industry. But Bad Boys big? Independence Day big? Men in Black big? Almost-every-movie-he-makes-is-awesome big? I sure didn't see that much coming. Once in a while, Will will star in a dud (M. Night, I'm lookin' at you), but even those movies just seem awesome with Big Willy at the helm. He even got to star as The Fresh Prince himself in an episode of Blossom back in '91. *dramatic transition music*

5. Mayim Bialik

In a career absolutely chock-full of TV series, everyone's favorite nerd in real life and onscreen got her big break in 1990 with a starring role in Blossom, alongside the was-just-as-big-but-isn't-quite-as-famous-now Joey Lawrence. Besides Blossom, and her huge role as Amy in Big Bang Theory, she's appeared in MacGyver, 7th Heaven, Curb Your Enthusiasm, and...wait for it...Doogie Howser, M.D.!

6. Neil Patrick Harris

I'll admit, Neil playing a teenage doctor could have gone extremely good or very, very bad for his future. Fortunately for him, the stardom netted him a guest spot on an episode of Roseanne as Dr. Doogie Howser, and roles in Will & Grace, Starship Troopers, Sweeney Todd, and even the voice of Spider-Man in the short-lived 2003 animated show. Of course, seeing how everyone guest-starred on everyone else's show back in the days of Doogie, he also played Derek Slade in an episode of Blossom. Fast forward to now, and he's got two Smurf movies under his belt, along with being forever known as Barney Stinson in How I Met Your Mother. The dude even hosted The 87th Annual Academy Awards!

7. Katie Sagal

The first of two Married With Children alums to make this list (still waiting on you, David Faustino!), Katie blew me away in Sons of Anarchy, and I didn't even watch the show regularly. Everyone else I know who watched it said her performance was incredible, but just the look of her character was enough to drop my jaw. But some fans will know her even more for her role voicing Leela on Futurama. Peggy Bundy, you a badass!

8. Christina Applegate

In what I thought for sure would be a classic case of pigeonholing after her breakout role of ditzy, easy Kelly Bundy on Married with Children, Christina Applegate overcame that with relative ease. After Married with Children, she played Rachel's sister on Friends, and starred in Don't Tell Mom the Babysitter's Dead, Samantha Who?, and 2015's Vacation. She's not super mega star, but she's definitely no Kelly Bundy anymore.

9. Raven Symone

While The Cosby Show will forever be what I think of when I hear her name, millions of people in 2016 know her as one of the co-hostesses of The View. She was Raven Baxter in That's So Raven from 2003-2007, and was also little Nicole Lee in Hangin' With Mr. Cooper, if you want to talk about shows that you remember watching every episode of as a kid, but can't remember a blooming thing about.

10. Tony Shalhoub

This makes me feel like I'm really showing my age (even though it ended only 19 years ago), but I loved this guy in Wings! In 1997 when Wings went off the air, Men In Black hit the big screen and really made this guy recognizable. Gobs of movies and TV show appearances later, including Thir13en Ghosts, Monk, and the voice of Splinter in the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles franchise reboot, and he's still looking like one of the busiest guys in Hollywood. Not bad for (a guy who played) an airport taxi driver!

11. Ashton Kutcher

That '70s Show got him his big break in acting, after modeling for Calvin Klein got him his break in professional underwear wearing. While he was playing, and after he got done playing Michael Kelso, he went on to star in hits like Dude, Where's My Car?, Cheaper By The Dozen, and one of yours truly's favorite all-time movies, The Butterfly Effect!

12. Ron Howard

While acting hasn't taken up too much of his time lately, telling actors what to do and making hundreds of millions of dollars off his movies certainly has. From little Opie Taylor on The Andy Griffith Show and Richie on Happy Days to directing Apollo 13, The Da Vinci Code, A Beautiful Mind (among others) and the upcoming documentary The Beatles: Eight Days a Week – The Touring Years, and now, producing the upcoming The Dark Tower movie adaptation, Ron Howard has become a legend!

13. Chris Pratt

One of the newer breakouts to be added to the list, Chris Pratt got his start playing the bully-turned-friend Bright Abbott on Everwood, then onto The O.C., but what would probably be considered his true break-out role was Andy Dwyer from Parks and Recreation. That helped him nab a series of roles between 2009 and 2014, when he got the Holy Grail of roles, at least for the superhero-loving crowd when he landed the role of Peter Quill/Star-Lord in Guardians of the Galaxy. Did anyone really see him going from Andy Dwyer to the hilariously badass Peter Quill in Guardians of the Galaxy, and later, Owen in Jurassic World?

He'll be starring alongside Jennifer Lawrence in Passengers, due out this December, and if being the star of Marvel movies isn't enough to cement a guy's superstardom status, being in a movie with J-Law sure as hell is. Just ask this guy...

14. Woody Harrelson

Woody pretty much got his start on one of the best shows ever made, Cheers, by playing the dorky, lovable, goofball Woody Boyd. But that didn't stop him from taking on some pretty crazy roles during and after his eight year run in the bar where everybody knows your name. Indecent Proposal, White Men Can't Jump, Kingpin, and the unforgettable Natural Born Killers. His performance in that last one probably shed any doubt about him becoming a household name. Throw in every Hunger Games movie and Zombieland, and you have a star about whom, in the very beginning, you never had a clue what huge things were in store for him.

See Also:

There you have it, 14 of my favorite actors and actresses from (sort of ) old TV shows, who not only made it big, but made it BIG! If I left anybody out, let me know who you think should have made the list in the comments!


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