Before They Were Famous… They Were in The X-Files

Gary Collinson with a selection of star names who made an early ‘before they were famous’ appearance in The X-Files…

Over the past few months I’ve been revisiting Chris Carter’s classic science fiction TV series The X-Files on DVD and besides jogging my memory as to just how good of a pairing David Duchovny’s Fox Mulder and Gillian Anderson’s Dana Scully made, I’ve found myself surprised at the number of famous faces who’ve cropped up across the series’ nine-season run.

Now I’m not talking about those guest stars who were already firmly established (or pretty much on their way) by the time they made an appearance – the likes of Bruce Campbell (The Evil Dead), Brad Dourif (One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest), R. Lee Ermey (Full Metal Jacket), David Faustino (Married… with Children), Terry O’Quinn (The Stepfather), Burt Reynolds (Deliverance), Kurtwood Smith (RoboCop) and Danny Trejo (From Dusk Till Dawn) – but rather, those actors who wouldn’t have received a second glance during the series’ initial run, but have since went on to climb the Hollywood ladder of fame, carving a path from ‘no name’ to ‘household name’ (or thereabouts, at least)…

Seth Green

Early in his career, Seth Green enjoyed a number of roles in films such as Radio Days and My Stepmother Is an Alien, but was probably best known as the burger-flipping star of this 1991 Rally’s commercial. After appearing in ‘Deep Throat’, the second ever episode of The X-Files in 1993, Green went on to establish himself in Joss Whedon’s Buffy the Vampire Slayer and starred in the likes of the Austin Powers series and Idle Hands before lending his vocal talents to Chris Griffin in Family Guy, whilst serving as co-creator, executive producer and voice artist on another animated comedy series, Robot Chicken.

Felicity Huffman

Prior to her appearance as Dr. Nancy Da Silva in The X-Files’ season one rip-off of The Thing, ‘Ice’, Felicity Huffman’s biggest role had come in 1991’s Stephen King miniseries Golden Years. Huffman has since went on to enjoy an enormous amount of success on the small screen, earning a Golden Globe nomination for Sports Night and a further three Golden Globe nominations and an Emmy Award for her role as Lynette Scavo in Desperate Housewives. Huffman also bagged a Golden Globe Award and an Oscar nomination for her turn as a pre-op male-to-female transsexual in the 2005 feature Transamerica, while her other film credits include The Spanish Prisoner, Magnolia and Christmas with the Kranks.

Jack Black

By the time of his appearance in The X-Files’ third season episode ‘D.P.O.’, Jack Black’s C.V. was limited to bit part roles in films such as Bob Roberts, Demolition Man and The NeverEnding Story III. After a well-received supporting turn alongside John Cusack in 2000’s High Fidelity, Black has went on to enjoy starring roles in a host of popular comedies including Shallow Hal, School of Rock, Nacho Libre, Kung Fu Panda and Tropic Thunder, while he’s also carved himself a successful music career as one half of the comedy rock duo Tenacious D (which also spawned the feature Tenacious D in The Pick of Destiny).

Giovanni Ribisi

Also appearing in ‘D.P.O.’ alongside Black was Giovanni Ribisi, whose previous credits were again limited to bit part roles in series such as Married… with Children, My Two Dads, Blossom and The Wonder Years. Ribisi followed up The X-Files with a recurring role as Frank Buffay, Jr. in Friends before shifting his attention to the big screen, where his subsequent credits include Saving Private Ryan, Boiler Room, Gone in Sixty Seconds, The Gift, Lost in Translation, Public Enemies and Avatar. He also appeared in numerous episodes of My Name is Earl, receiving an Emmy nomination for his efforts.

Here’s a shot of Messrs. Black and Ribisi hanging out and suppin’ beers…

Ryan Reynolds

After appearing in the Canadian teen drama Hillside and a few made-for-TV movies during the early 90s, a fresh-faced Ryan Reynolds popped up briefly in The X-Files in 1996 for the season three episode ‘Syzygy’, where he was promptly dispatched by two murderous teenage girls. Reynolds has of course went on to become arguably the biggest name on this list, with starring roles in Two Guys, a Girl and a Pizza Place and Van Wilder: Party Liaison paving the way for roles in films such as Blade: Trinity, The Amityville Horror, Smokin’ Aces, X-Men Origins: Wolverine, The Proposal, Buried, Green Lantern and Safe House, along with access to the pants of Scarlett Johansson and Blake Lively.

Lucy Liu

Another guest star from the third season to go on to enjoy much bigger things was Lucy Liu, who followed up her appearance as Kim Hsin in the ‘body parts lottery’ episode ‘Hell Money’ by nabbing a supporting role in Ally McBeal, which saw her nominated for an Emmy Award in 1999. Liu then successfully made the jump to feature films with roles in the likes of Shanghai Noon, Charlie’s Angels, Chicago and Kill Bill: Vol. 1, not to mention a host of voice acting credits that includes the Kung Fu Panda and Tinker Bell franchises, along with the children’s animated series Maya & Miguel.

Luke Wilson

Having made his feature debut alongside brother Owen in Wes Anderson’s Bottle Rocket in 1996, Luke Wilson added a few credits in the likes of Telling Lies in America and Scream 2 before guest starring The X-Files’ Rashomon-style fifth season ‘monster of the week’ episode ‘Bad Blood’, where he played a buck-toothed small town Sheriff assisting Mulder and Scully in a potential vampire-related series of murders. Although he hasn’t quite reached the heights of his older sibling, Wilson has still carved a successful movie career with roles in films such as Rushmore, Legally Blonde, The Royal Tenenbaums, Old School, My Super Ex-Girlfriend, Vacancy and Middle Men.

Bryan Cranston

While he’d racked up a host of bit parts and a recurring role in the soap opera Loving during the 80s, it wasn’t until after his appearance in the season six episode ‘Drive’ in 1998 that Bryan Cranston really started to establish his acting credentials. Cast as Hal in the hit comedy series Malcolm in the Middle, Cranston found himself nominated for a Golden Globe and three Emmy Awards, before winning three consecutive Emmys (not to mention two more Golden Globe nominations) for his work in Breaking Bad, created by X-Files writer Vince Gilligan Meanwhile, recent feature film credits include The Lincoln Lawyer, Drive, Larry Crowne, Contagion, John Carter, Red Tails and the upcoming Total Recall remake, along with lending his voice to Jim Gordon for the animated adaptation of Batman: Year One.

Shia LaBeouf

Shia LaBeouf enjoyed one of his earliest credits when he was cast as Richie Lupone in the season seven episode ‘The Goldberg Variation’ in 1998, before gaining fame (and a Daytime Emmy) in the lead role of Louis Stevens in Disney’s Even Stevens. Since then, LaBeouf has went on to amass up a host of feature film credits, with early roles in the likes of Charlie’s Angels: Full Throttle, Holes and I, Robot and Disturbia leading to a subsequent run of blockbusters that includes Transformers, Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, Eagle Eye, Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen, Wall Street: Money Never Sleeps and Transformers: Dark of the Moon.

The Entire Cast of Saw (except Danny Glover)

This one is probably a bit of a cheat, given that Cary Elwes (The Princess Bride, Glory, Hot Shots!, Robin Hood: Men in Tights) was firmly on the slide by the time he appeared in The X-Files in 2001, while Shawnee Smith (The Blob, Who’s Harry Crumb?) and Tobin Bell (Mississippi Burning, The Firm) both had a few credits under their belts and Michael Emerson was also coming off the back of an Emmy Award win for a guest role in The Practice. Still, the casting director of 2004’s Saw must have been a mighty big fan of The X-Files… I wonder if they also worked on Lost??

Gary Collinson

Around the Internet…

  • Megan V

    I've been watching re-runs on Investigation Discovery, haven't seen any of these yet, but I have seen recently Tony Shaloub and Dean Norris (Hank from Breaking Bad),

  • Ohmsweetohm

    ummmmm…..the show was on for 9 seasons…

  • HolyFranchiseBatman!

    My mistake… the last one just felt like two seasons.

  • Who dat ninja

    That's nice but look up Miami Vice one day. Julia Roberts, Bruce Willis, Bill Paxton, Wesley Snipes, Ving Rhames, Larry Fishburne, Helena Bonham Carter, Chris Rock, Viggo Morternsen and on and on.

  • HolyFranchiseBatman!

    That's some list, will have to take a look!

  • Simoncolumb

    What a great post! We have the complete boxset and managed to get to mid-season-two and haven't gone back. We hope to soon, but its tough! Exciting to imagine all these young actors will crop up during the future episodes!

  • Macaspooky

    falto lucy lawless

  • Jen

    Hey, you forgot Jewel Staite!!! She was in XFiles, too. Though I cannot recall which episode. I just remember she played a girl who was kidnapped by a killer/pedophile and there was another woman (unrelated to her) who had survived the killer and identified with Staite's character.

  • Glasscat26

    I wonder when there will be a "Before they were famous" the Xena edition. Lots of big names there too. And on Hercules, for that matter. Any old show lends itself to rather big names eventually.

  • Glasscat26

    Jewel Staite!! Yes, amazing in Firefly. What a great actress

  • HolyFranchiseBatman!

    Yes, I've heard that Xena had quite a few, only watched a handful of the shows myself but I'll be looking into it for sure!

  • Capitanr

    Aaron Paul appears en "Lord of the Flies" in the Ninth Season.

  • Jonny Vee

    The evil T-1000, Robert Patrick from T-2 and one of the Die Hard movies was agent John Dogget for the last 2 seasons. He was great, loved that character. Adam Baldwin, "animal mother" from Full Metal Jacket and "Jane" in Firefly, was the super soldier Knowle in seasons 8 and 9.

  • Jonny Vee

    Also a number of X-Actors have been in eps of Fringe- most recently the wife of the colonel from the 2nd ever x-isode "deep throat" was an FBI shrink in s4e16 of Fringe. Also in s3e2 of Fringe. The woman who played the grown up Samantha Mulder "clone" was in one Fringe Ep. Mostly, it's the actors from Canada because Fringe is filmed in the same areas where x-files s1-5

  • Amy Sullivan

    Also John Hawkes!