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I Wish That I Knew Then What I Know Now: 10 Retroactively Awesome Cameos and Supporting Roles

By Rob Payne | Seriously Random Lists | April 16, 2013 | Comments ()


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Dustin has twice covered the territory of currently, or recently, famous people who just so happened to appear in movies nearly everyone has seen or heard about. You can find those lists here and here, but this isn't that and thankfully I didn't need to remove anybody to avoid potential crossovers. What I'm interested in is related, absolutely, but this is about watching an older movie or TV show - it doesn't matter how long ago - and not only seeing someone you now recognize, but someone you are pleasantly surprised to recognize. These are actors and actresses who were working nobodies with steely resolves to become somebodies, damn it. Now that they've found a way into our hearts, their present selves indelibly shade our appreciation and affection for their past roles. You may even have hated a character in the past, because you were supposed to, but realize later that they were played by someone you now cherish.

Think about it as the opposite reaction to finding out that Joffrey from "Game of Thrones" was the little boy from the Narrows of Gotham in Batman Begins:
pajibaretroactiveawesomeJoffrey.jpg
Apologies if you were blissfully unaware before now. Bet you never wanted to punch a nine year-old in the face more, right?

Instead, these are Past Cameos and Supporting Roles That Feature Some of Our Favorite Working Thespians Today. As such, they may induce fist pumping. You and your future arthritis have been warned:


Amy Poehler in "Undeclared"
She appeared as a major character in only two episodes, but Poehler was too perfect as the crazy head R.A. of the main cast's dorm. I hated her for a long time, not even realizing it was the same comedian from "Upright Citizen Brigade." Now that she's the beguilingly wonderful Leslie Knope, I can't help but think that crazy R.A. may just need the love of a good, nerdy young man. Speaking of which...


Adam Scott in Knocked Up
He was the impetus for this entire list, after I re-watched the movie a few weeks ago. I very clearly remember his sudden turnaround as the attractive male nurse, thinking at the time I originally saw Knocked Up in theaters that it was a brilliant joke to feature a nobody in what was clearly meant to be a cameo role. Now, though, I am actually delighted by the actual cameo from the star of "Parks and Rec" and "Party Down."


Michael Cera in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind
I recently re-watched George Clooney's directorial debut, too, and it was a good thing I did because I had completely forgotten that George Michael Bluth (or, Scott Pilgrim if you prefer, weirdo) played the young Chuck Barris, who was portrayed by Sam Rockwell as an adult and we'll get to him eventually. In case you don't remember, it was Cera who insisted that his pen tasted like a strawberry lollipop.
pajibaretroactiveawesomeMichaelCera.jpg


Judy Greer in Adaptation
Since we're on the topic of "Arrested Development" alums, did you know that Judy Greer (also from "Archer" and everything else) was in Spike Jonze's and Charlie Kaufman's best film collaboration? I actually remembered her right away the first time I watched "Arrested," because she eventually flashes Nicolas Cage and I always thought it was extra hilarious that Kitty's breasts were supposed to be horrifying. Nothing about Judy Greer is horrifying, except that she isn't a huge star.


Glenn Howerton in Serenity
Let's stick with beloved current TV actors for a little bit more, shall we? Howerton's Dennis on "It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia" might just be the best a-hole and possible date rapist in television history. But before that he was the poor bastard our Cap'n Mal shot and left to be mauled by dreaded space cannibals, the Reavers. To be fair, your sympathies for the guy may actually reverse in that early scene now. Because of the implication.


Rob McElhenney in "LOST"
Not to be outdone, Howerton's co-star and co-creator of "It's Always Sunny" was on ABC's mind-bending, time-traveling, divisive epic well before his FX sitcom became a hit. He was only in one episode until the last season, and got taken out by both Kate and Claire at different points in the series. Huh. Underappreciated and terrible with women? Aldo sounds exactly like Mac to me.


Sam Rockwell in Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles
Remember when I said we'd get to Sam Rockwell? Remember he was the main street-punk-turned-ninja-thief in Shredder's army? Well, he was and he has the best line in the movie. I nearly used Galaxy Quest here, because apparently most people didn't do what I did after that movie and track down the rest of the actor's oeuvre. But that Star Trek spoof/love letter had several people we now have affection fo: Enrico Colantoni, Missy Pyle, and even Ethan Raine from "Buffy" was the big bad. But, TMNT? Talk about being shell-shocked!


Jane Lynch in The Fugitive
Perhaps the most stunning part of this entry is that Jane Lynch is more or less supposed to be unmemorable as the doctor that helps Harrison Ford prove his innocence. She only has one scene, but it's one of the most important in the movie, and she's not abrasive, she's not a ball-buster and she's not ridiculous. I didn't even realize she'd been a working actor this long, but, yep, that's her.
pajibaretroactiveawesomeJaneLynch.jpg


Selma Blair in "The Adventures of Pete & Pete"
I don't recall exactly when Blair became one of my favorite actresses - between Cruel Intentions and Hellboy, most like - but I do recall getting more excited than was likely necessary when she popped up on an episode of "Pete & Pete" during a re-watch last year. It's possible her role as Big Pete's love interest is the entire reason I've been a fan. I just didn't know it at the time.


Donald Glover in "30 Rock"
At this point in time, we all probably know that the breakout "Community" star worked as a writer on the early (and best) seasons of Tina Fey's sitcom, so it's no surprise that he appeared in random bit roles throughout his tenure. But he also does a spot-on Tracy Morgan impression, and it's so good that Glover dubbed the entirety of the "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" song, despite Morgan starring in the video. Of course, now that he's Childish Gambino, it makes perfect sense.


BONUS: Doug Benson in Blade Runner
There's no way I'm searching through videos to find the King of the Stoners in Ridley Scott's sci-fi classic. He's in there, but just barely so. Truth to be told: I've never been able to spot Benson in the film, and I've tried at least once, but these two pictures tell the tale. And I just love knowing that.
pajibaretroactiveawesomeDougBenson.jpg
pajibaretroactiveawesomeDougBenson2.jpg


Rob Payne also writes the comic The Unstoppable Force, tweets on the Twitter, tumbls on the Tumblr, and his wares can be purchased here. He's pretty sure this list isn't even close to being exhaustive.



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Comments Are Welcome, Jerks Will Be Banned


  • naye in VA

    Lena Heady- Gossip

  • dizzylucy

    I remember watching that Lost episode a while back and thinking "Is that...MAC?!?" It made no sense in my brain.

  • Ho-lee shitballs! I've seen Serenity a thousand times and I've watched every episode of Sunny about ten thousand times, and I have never - NEVER - clocked that that was Dennis Reynolds getting shot by Mal. Oh well, at least the Reavers get a taste of the D.E.N.N.I.S. system. Which - to be fair - is a little bit more predatory than their current methods.

  • e jerry powell

    See, I never go to Knocked Up when thinking about Adam Scott; I always seem to go to the size of his penis on that show that nobody but me ever watched. (I completely blank on him in Six Feet Under, it should be noted.)

    I could certainly see, however, why that might not be a place that Rob might go as a reference.

  • knightofbob

    I feel that it should be mentioned that Charlie Kaufman also penned the screenplay for Confessions of a Dangerous Mind.

    And that Being John Malkovich is clearly superior to Adaptation.

  • kazoshay

    Fuck you, Adaptation is one of the best comedies period.

  • **I AM** NotTheOne

    Watching some episodes of "Lucky Louie" - Louis C.K.'s old HBO sitcom this weekend and found Emma Stone playing a bratty foul mouthed troubled teenager in one episode. So, basically she played Lindsay Lohan.

  • A. Smith

    Drive seemed more interesting to me then again I'm a sucker for Fillion.

  • Captain D

    I'll probably get shouted down, but loved Drive and was very disappointed that Fox tried their best to pretend it never happened. I never liked Emma Stone on the show, but will allow that only getting six episodes is probably not enough of a sample size to truly judge.

  • Amanda47

    Isn't the kid from Love Actually now a new character on Game of Thrones?

  • pumpkin

    Not a role, but one of my favorite little television tidbit:

    Danny John-Jules ("Cat") dancing in the Wham video for The Edge of Heaven.

    (Warning: 1986)

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v...

  • Stony Tony

    As a gigantic Red Dwarf fan, I find that interesting, but I would care more if Wham didn't blow. He was also in Blade 2, but I think you definitely know that.

  • pumpkin

    Glenn Howerton on That 80s show...not as good.

  • You just blew my mind with that Rockwell fact.

  • Palaeologos

    "Let's get out of here before one of those things kills Guy."

    Had to do it. [flees]

  • kevintw

    Judy Greer will always be Fern Mayo to me.

  • It's not a movie... but Jeremy Renner in this Pink video from 2003 http://youtu.be/mFu3YzRnyDU

  • Salieri2

    I haven't felt so bad for someone's boobs since Heart's video for "Alone." Who puts Nancy Wilson on a horse without a giving her a goddamn sports bra?

    Ow ow ow ow ow ow. Ow.

  • csb

    I wanted to punch the kid from Batman Begins even before Game of Thrones.

  • Lauren_Lauren

    To be fair, your sympathies for the guy may actually reverse in that early scene now. Because of the implication.

    Bravo.

  • bonnie

    Donald Glover has another bit part on 30 Rock--I forget the episode. Aubrey Plaza also appears as a page on Season 1 (I think it's Tracy's Blue Man hallucination episode).

  • Jo 'Mama' Besser

    He shows up for the second live episode playing young Tracy Jordan performing in a telethon. 'Ghetto mating call'.

  • Arran

    It's when Tracey speaks at his old high school. He plays the gay kid. "Who told?"

  • BWeaves

    Jim Carey in "Peggy Sue Got Married." He's one of the kids in the school.

  • BWeaves

    I didn't know who Nathan Fillion was when he was Caleb on Buffy. I hated him. Then I saw Firefly and various other things and loved him, and couldn't believe it was the same person.

    However, go back and watch "I, Claudius." Some of these people were nobodies, and just about everyone you know is in it -- Derek Jacobi, Patrick Stewart, John Hurt, Sian Phillips, Brian Blessed, Jonathan Rhys-Davies, Patricia Quinn (Magenta), Bernard Hill (Theoden), and others whose faces you'll recognize, if not their names.

  • manting

    Love the It's always sunny cast finds, you know, cause of the implication. Sam Rockwll in TMNT? Crazy. The best part would be the Narc game in the TMNT video because...Im a fan

  • Jill

    Yes, always the implication.
    I also saw Howerton a few weeks ago playing a Dr in the Statham crapfest Crank.

  • I really wish I discovered that TMNT thing myself. That's great. great great great Rockwell.

  • simplysarah

    Jane Lynch in the Fugitive IS on one of the other lists. The 17 (more) famous people...... so, you missed that crossover.

  • D'oh! I swear I thought I tripled check that, but I did trade out numerous spots on this list before I settled. But I should've stopped playing around and just made the Parks and Rec trifecta with Nick Offerman in The Men Who Stare at Goats...

    http://cli.ps/qDAi

  • dos vindanya

    "Werewolf Bar Mitzvah" is my absolute favorite song from 30 Rock. "Boys becoming men, men becoming wolves" will always make me giggle,

  • dizzylucy

    When that song first aired on the show, I had to pause the TV, stare at it in bewilderment for a moment, laugh my ass off, and then rewind and repeat.

  • sjfromsj

    Everyone ever in The West Wing. Every time I watch the series (finished my 5th time recently), I see at least 3 more people that I recognize from a current show or movie. My best and most recent discovery was Miriam Shor, aka Cricket Caruth-Reilly from GCB, as a staffer on Bingo Bob's campaign in the 7th season for 1 episode. She travels with Donna in Iowa to find district captains.

  • Arran

    Nick Offerman appears as one of the people who wants government money to build a wolf highway. About as un-Ron as can be.

  • hickoryduck

    He wanted to build the wolf or bear highway or something, right? Ron Swanson would kill that man.

  • ruby

    Also Danny Pudi is a junior staffer on the Santos campaign in season 7.

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