Surprising Early Roles for Big Actors


Everyone must start somewhere. The exact location of that place is often of questionable quality or, at the very least, quite surprising for some of the most prominent names in today’s film industry. For example, we all know Jennifer Aniston had her start with Leprechaun, a film she’d probably rather forget (although we think it’s a lot of fun). With streaming services now pulling in all sorts of older films and television shows, fans can see some of the questionable choices that were most likely made to pay the bills. These are our top picks:

Elisabeth Moss in Surburban Commando (1991).

Surprising Early Career Moves of Big Name Actors: Elisabeth Moss suburban commando

While this is not her first film, it is the Mad Man and Handmaid’s Tale stars first feature film. It’s a swashbuckling good time. It’s an action comedy that stars Hulk Hogan as an alien who crashes-lands on Earth, and ends up living in a backyard shed with his suburban family. This is the kinda movie that’s so bad it’s good. Shelley Duvall and Christopher Lloyd star as Hogan’s parents. Moss is only given a brief part as “Little Girl”, and she gets some screen time with Hogan. She manages to get lines and is able to handle the absurdity of the whole film. This 1991 film doesn’t take itself seriously, and neither should you.

Sarah Paulson, American Gothic (1995-1998)

Sarah Paulson American gothic

Paulson, now the queen of horror series and reigning under Ryan Murphy, was actually her first TV show. Her work is outstanding, both then and now. Many horror fans seem not to remember that one of her previous credits was on the short-lived American Horror. She played a teenage girl who is hiding a secret (that won’t be spoilt here, just in case you are interested in the series). The series ran from 1995-1998, and was re-aired on late night TV into the early 2000s. The series was created by Shaun Cassidy and featured the talents of Sam Raimi, Rob Tapert, and young stars Lucas Black, Gary Cole, Paige Turco. Paulson is Black’s sister. Although she is not the lead, her role is significant. Paulson’s creepy work is very well-respected.

Neve Camp in Catwalk (1992-1993).

neve campbell catwalk, early roles

Neve Campbell only appeared in 24 episodes of the series’ run from 1992 to 1993. She had a small role in The Kids in the Halland an uncredited part on My Secret Identity. Campbell had yet to hit it big with Party of Five or The Craft and Scream in 1996. In Catwalk, she played Daisy McKenzie, one of the young adults in the series who try to make it big as a pop group. Although this Canadian series is more well-known to Canadian teens in the 1990s, it’s worth checking out if you are a fan of Campbell but only know her work from Party on Five. She was charming, vulnerable and added something to the cast. This made her departure from the series a bittersweet one for viewers and cast alike. The series is distinctly 1990s, with music and fashion that shout Toronto-of-the Era. It is a strange series that was criticized for its content. However, in 1992, the series was pushing the boundaries of YTV’s original programming station.

Courteney Cox in Masters of the Universe (1987)

Courtney Cox masters of the universe, early roles

Like her fellow Scream castmate above, Cox already had a career before joining the franchise that would make her a huge name with horror fans (while at the same time becoming a megastar on TV with Friends). Her early work included many television series, including Family Tys and one Bruce Springsteen music video (“Dancing in the Dark”), and in 1987, she began her feature film work with two movies, Down Twisted (from the late Albert Pyun), and Masters of the Universe. MotU was second, but it’s the one that is most interesting. This film is worth remembering for her work. The film is not great and quickly falls into the category of so-bad it’s-good (much as Suburban Commandero10 above). Some could say this is her Leprechaun, the movie she might want to forget, but for fans, it’s proof that she was open to trying almost anything and that she gave her all no matter the content of the film. Given the scenes she was involved in, it is clear that her professionalism and acting abilities are evident. Although it isn’t her best work, it is still entertaining to watch.

Keanu Reeves in Rush Rush (1991)

Reeves was on already well on his way to a well-established career in 1991 with credits in the first two Bill & Ted movies, Point Break, My Own Private Idaho, River’s Edge, Best Movie You Never Saw faveYoungblood, and so many more, but his presence in a music video this far in career seems like an odd choice. It is possible that his participation was due to the time period and the definitive James Dean tribute his character was to be seen in. The video was modified for the song’s requirements. Although it was long believed that the music video was directed by George Lucas, those rumors were unfounded as Lucasfilm Commercial Productions was involved in its production. What were your favorite roles as a young star? We’d love to hear from you in the comments.

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