Saturday, March 8, 2014

Movie Stars That Had Early Career Bit Parts on TV

Starting out, most actors will take any sort of assignment. Commercials, info-mercials, dinner theatre, whatever. For an up and comer then, a small part in a popular TV show is a comparatively prestigious gig, bringing with it immediate exposure to a large audience. These early credits are then often forgotten, if and when the actor makes it to the big time.

Here are 5 Hollywood stars who took an early bow on the small screen:


Fremmer in Moonlighting

When I was in primary school, this romantic-comedy-detective show was my favourite thing on TV, although it's nowadays best remembered as the vehicle that set Bruce Willis on the road to mega stardom. But it also provided an early career moment for another young actor. In the first episode of Season 1, Gunfight at the So-So Corral, the first character onscreen is Fremmer, a young wannabe hitman played by a fluffy haired, 27 year old Tim Robbins. Something of a TV veteran, there were bit parts in The Love Boat and Hill Street Blues before Moonlighting came along, Robbins tackles his part with gusto and his role here is memorably... goofy. His fight with an aging, top shelf hitman is a masterpiece of unintentionally silly slapstick, and the look on his face as he tries to get away is gormless enough to have come out of The Hudsucker Proxy. You can watch it here.


Mascot in Monk

Oscar winner, arthouse darling and tentpole franchise mainstay, Jennifer Lawrence is the girl that can do no wrong. With legions of fans and a queue of well credentialed directors lining up to sing her praises, it's almost hard to believe that her first credit on IMDB dates only from 2006. And, even more astounding, is such a minor part that her character doesn't even have a name! Who could treat J-Law in such a way? Unthinkable!! But there it is; in this episode from Season 5 of Tony Shalhoub's quirky detective series, Mr Monk and The Big Game, the girl wonder dons a bear suit and jumps around on the sidelines of a high school basketball game, before briefly pulling her head off to talk to the coach. Will wonders never cease? The scene is here.


Fast Eddie Felcher in Miami Vice

For me, Ben Stiller seems like such a product of the 90's that it's sometimes difficult to imagine his existence prior to Reality Bites. And yet, here he is in one of the previous decades most iconic shows, giving a high octane speed rap to a white suited Detective Crockett in Miami Vice. But, in this, Stiller definitely wasn't alone, as MV gave an early credit to a staggering number of Hollywood's biggest names, including Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis, Liam Neeson and (very hard to imagine)... Helena Bonham Carter? Find a full list of the Vice's prominent guest stars here, and Stiller's motor-mouthed effort here.


Cynthia McAllister on Medium

And now for something... a bit icky. Rising star Emma Stone has made a name for herself playing a series of smart, hip, sassy young women in popular movies like Easy A and The Amazing Spider Man. But her first prominent role was on TV in the suburban psychic drama Medium, playing an altogether different sort of character. She even had a different name; born Emily Stone, she decided to take a stage name as the Screen Actor's Guild already had someone with this handle. She initially chose Riley Stone, which is how she is credited on Medium, before settling on Emma, a nickname her mother had for her when she was a child. As for the ickiness? Riley Stone plays Cynthia McAllister, a troubled young woman who has been bullied into an incestuous relationship with her father, a disturbing plot that you can get a snapshot of here.


Beach Patrol Cop in The Mod Squad

As a movie star, Harrison Ford has been in some of the biggest, most successful films ever made. And, before that, he served a lengthy apprenticeship playing bit parts in B movies and TV serials, of varying quality. One of the bigger TV shows he was in (a list that includes Ironside, Gunsmoke and Kung Fu), he played a cop in the very first episode of this time capsule action drama, a role so tiny that he wasn't even credited. But there he is: Han Solo, Indiana Jones, Deckard, learning his chops on the beach patrol. And while I couldn't find an actual clip of this moment from the show, for a giddy Harrison Ford experience check out his even earlier cameo in The Great Escape here.

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