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12 Pre-Fame Roles of Famous Stars You Probably Forgot About

Sony/USA/HBO/NBC
In the eyes of the audience, an actor’s career begins with his or her first major role. For Jack Gleeson and Jennifer Lawrence, at least, nobody paid them much attention until they transformed respectively into Joffrey for HBO’s ‘Game of Thrones’ and Katniss in 'The Hunger Games.' Barely anyone except the die-hard movie and TV buffs knew what these celebs did prior to getting their big breaks, let alone what their first roles were. And the same goes for most of the big-name actors.
But have you re-watched one of your favorite movies or TV shows lately, and realized that those minor characters you payed little attention to the first time around would grow up to be the breakout stars of the current decade? To honor some of the earlier roles our favorite celebs took on the road to fame and glory, here are some of the movie and TV show parts that made you go, “Wait, is that the guy from that thing?”


Jack Gleeson

'Batman Begins'
 
 

There's nothing more satisfying than watching King Joffrey getting an ol' fashioned slap across the face when he deserves it -- which is all the time -- but before Jack Gleeson became a household name in the 'Game of Thrones' universe, he had a part to play in the first movie in the Christopher Nolan 'Dark Knight' trilogy, 'Batman Begins.' You wouldn't have recognized him the first time watching it, but if you happen to catch it airing on USA or TNT, you'll probably be blown away to know that that young boy who meets Batman on his apartment balcony grows up to behead Eddard Stark.

 

Aaron Paul

'Beverly Hills, 90210'
 
 

Before Aaron Paul emerged onto the scene as a bad-ass meth cook and dealer, he used to be a total geek... or at least he played one on the original 'Beverly Hills, 90210' opposite series regulars Jason Priestly, Tori Spelling, Luke Perry and the rest of the gang. Nobody ever told us that getting bullied in high school by the popular kids could result in a downward spiral, ending with you pairing up with your ex-Chem teacher to bake a fresh batch of meth crystals. If only the anti-bullying movement was around back then.

 
AMC/Fox
AMC/Fox

Jennifer Lawrence

'Monk'
 
 

Jennifer Lawrence is one of, if not the most popular actress of the year. Her starring roles in 'X-Men: First Class' and 'The Hunger Games' is turning her into a highly sought-after movie star, but what on earth was doing when she first started out? Fans of 'Monk' will get a kick out of this one -- Lawrence's second TV gig came from the hit USA show where she played the part of a high school mascot. She doesn't appear a lot in her one episode, but it's hysterical to look back and think how a nobody in the acting world turned into one of the biggest pop culture stars of the decade.

 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt

‘Family Ties’
 
 

Joseph Gordon-Levitt will always be a cutie pie in the eyes of women everywhere, though, if you can believe it, he was much cuter as a toddler in 'Family Ties' back in the '80s. His claim to fame back then was playing Dougie, the little kid who teased the only deaf kid in his class with his partner in crime. Thankfully we couldn't stay mad at him, not with that little chipmunk voice of his.

 

Joe Manganiello

'Spider-Man'
 
 

We didn't realize it at the time, but though Joe Manganiello may be the giant werewolf with the hidden heart of gold on 'True Blood' and the hunky male stripper with an eight-pack in 'Magic Mike,' he used to be the biggest bully at Peter Parker's high school, Flash Gordon. Now that role was commandeered by former 'Secret Circle' star Chris Zylka, who would've been on the road to reaching Manganiello-level fame if he would have just agreed to shave his head for 'American Horror Story: Asylum.' Now his greatest achievement so far will be known as the guy from that 'Piranha 3DD' flick.

 

Mila Kunis

'Baywatch'
 
 

We probably should have realized that 'Ted' star Mila Kunis would grow up to be a bombshell. After all, she did appear on 'Baywatch' back in the day. She was real little then, just an 11-year-old who played a heroic kid in a 1994 episode and then later portrayed a blind girl in 1995. She was also the only actor in her group of schoolgirls who got any lines. Now look at her.

 
Getty Images/All-American Television
Getty Images/All-American Television

Tom Hardy

‘Band of Brothers'
 
 

We got a look a while ago at Tom Hardy back in his days as a male model, but the video only went viral after he starred as Bane in 'The Dark Knight Rises.' Now everyone wants to know as much as they can about him, and here's another little tidbit -- did you see him in the HBO miniseries 'Band of Brothers' alongside fellow actors Damian Lewis, Ron Livingston, Donnie Wahlberg and Matthew Settle? He plays a young soldier who, as you'll see in the below video, has a thing for the ladies.

 

Zac Efron

‘Firefly’
 
 

Ever wonder what Zac Efron looked like as a youngin'? And no, we're not talking about his 'High School Musical' years. He had quit the budding career any child actor would kill for. It wasn't as large as say Lindsay Lohan's 'Parent Trap'-launching career, but he did get roles on shows like 'CSI,' 'ER' and, the one kick started his career, 'Firefly.' His debut role was playing the younger self of Dr. Simon Tan, who fans will know as the physician of the Serenity spaceship.

 
Getty Images/Fox
Getty Images/Fox

Aubrey Plaza

'30 Rock'
 
 

Aubrey Plaza has such a vibrant personality. Maybe you can't always tell because of her hysterical role on 'Parks and Recreation,' which was mirrored in her performance for 'Safety Not Guaranteed.' That image of her as April Ludgate was probably why nobody recognized her in her cameo for '30 Rock.' She only popped up for a second as one of the NBC pages in the episode where "Tracy Does Conan" while deprived of his medication, but that marked her TV debut. It wasn't until three years later that she premiered on the pilot for 'Parks and Rec,' and the rest is history.

 

Channing Tatum

'Coach Carter'
 
 

Channing Tatum, the male stripper turned hunky actor turned star of a male stripper movie, got a few minor acting gigs in some big movies. 'War of the Worlds' was one, where he played an uncredited extra in that scene where the church is crumbling to the ground (note: it'll take a hawk's eye to catch a glimpse of him in that moment, but he's there); and another was in 'Coach Carter' as one of the basketball players.

 

James Van Der Beek

'Castle in the Sky'
 
 

Hayao Miyazaki has given us a number of fantastical animated classics, such as 'Princess Mononoke,' 'Spirited Away' and 'Howl's Moving Castle,' to feed our imaginations. A number of big-name actors and actresses have lent their voices to the English translations, but did you know James Van Der Beek was one of them? The 'Dawson's Creek' star made his film debut as the voice of the male lead, Pazu, when he was around the age of 9, and you know who voiced the female lead, Sheeta? 'True Blood' star Anna Paquin. Check out the trailer below and see if you can make out their voices.

 

Sean Penn

'Little House on the Prairie'
 
 

We all know Sean Penn for being the Oscar-winning actor and star of many noteworthy films. His performances in 'MILK' and 'Mystic River' are two of the most impressive moments in movie history, and if it wasn't for his start on 'Little House on the Prairie,' he may never have reached the level of stardom he has today. The show's episode "The Voice of Tinker Jones" marked his debut as a child actor with the role of an uncredited and line-less boy in the background. Check out segments of him below and see if you can figure out which one he is.

 

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