12 Future Stars Who Appeared on Roseanne

Roseanne, a sitcom about a working-class family living in Lanford, Illinois, aired on ABC from October 18, 1988 until May 20, 1997. Following the trend of classic TV shows being rebooted, Roseanne Barr and company will return to ABC on March 27, for a 10th season of the show. The revival will ignore the fact that Dan Conner (John Goodman) died, and it’ll also resurrect the original Becky, played by Lecy Goranson. (The second Becky, Sarah Chalke, will also have a role.)

Throughout the series’s original 222 episodes, scores of actors guest starred before they were famous (and/or Oscar winners), including regular cast member Johnny Galecki, who became even a bigger name while starring on The Big Bang Theory. Galecki will make an appearance on the new Roseanne. Here are 12 Roseanne actors who eventually found stardom. 

George Clooney had been in and out of sitcom purgatory by the time he spent 11 episodes on Roseanne, as Booker Brooks, Roseanne and Jackie’s (Laurie Metcalf) supervisor (and Jackie’s love interest) at Wellman Plastics. He made those appearances from 1988 to 1989, soon after he had done shows like Baby Talk, The Facts of Life, and the B-movie Return of the Killer Tomatoes!

While at the Telluride Film Festival, Clooney shared a story about a time Barr hit on him. “The first season of Roseanne was pretty fun,” he said. “The first time I met her she’s like, ‘You’re really good looking. Why don’t you take me behind the stage and make me stink?’” Insane fame wasn’t far off for the former lothario; in 1994 he became of star of ER, which made him a household name.

On the February 5, 1991 episode entitled “Home-Ec,” Leonardo DiCaprio played a classmate of Darlene’s. Much to her daughter’s chagrin, Roseanne visits the class and explains to them what a housewife does. DiCaprio doesn’t have any lines, but he can be clearly seen in the classroom, sitting near Darlene. He also had a recurring role on Growing Pains, and in 1993 he landed a star-turning role in What’s Eating Gilbert Grape?, which garnered him a Best Supporting Actor Oscar nod. Of course the rest is history: In 1997 he hit Titanic-sized success. Besides Clooney, DiCaprio is the only before-they-were-famous Roseanne guest star to win an Oscar.

One week after DiCaprio’s episode aired, his longtime friend Tobey Maguire made a quick guest appearance on the show—albeit with a couple of lines.

Multi-hyphenate Joseph Gordon-Levitt was just a pre-teen when he appeared as George, D.J.’s (Michael Fishman) weird and intolerable friend, for four episodes between 1993 and 1995. Before Roseanne he had small roles on Family Ties and in the movie A River Runs Through It. A year after his last appearance on Roseanne, Gordon-Levitt got cast as one of the leads on the NBC show 3rd Rock from the Sun. He eventually transitioned to film, making a name for himself in the 2009 rom-com 500 Days of Summer, and starring alongside fellow Roseanne guest star DiCaprio in 2010’s Inception.

Though Ellen DeGeneres already had her namesake sitcom in 1994, she wasn’t quite on a first-name basis with the world. On a May 1995 Roseanne episode called “The Blaming of the Shrew,” Ellen played a therapist named Dr. Whitman, who comically counsels Jackie and her husband Fred (Michael O’Keefe). Dr. Whitman’s advice didn’t work, as the couple divorced.

Since beginning his career in the 1980s, Bob Odenkirk has racked up more than 100 acting credits. In a 1993 season five episode called “Tooth or Consequences,” he played Jim, a friend of Dan’s who pretends to be a health inspector. At this point in his career, Odenkirk had already written for SNL and starred on the short-lived The Ben Stiller Show. Although in 1995 he and David Cross became well known for their HBO sketch show Mr. Show, it wasn’t until 2009 that Odenkirk became a household name by playing Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad. This led to him headlining the Emmy-nominated spinoff Better Call Saul.

Tommaso Boddi, Getty Images for Samsung

Actor and stand-up comedian Brad Garrett played a guy named Doug on a May 1991 episode entitled “The Pied Piper of Lanford.” Garrett had mainly worked behind the scenes, providing silly voices for animated movies and shows. But in 1996 he was cast as Robert Barone on the blockbuster show Everybody Loves Raymond; he won three Emmys for the role.

Frederick M. Brown, Getty Images

On the season three episode “Like, A New Job” in 1990, Alyson Hannigan portrayed Becky’s friend, Jan. Becky, Jan, and their other friend (who didn’t become famous) visit Roseanne at her new waitressing job, and Roseanne makes a point to embarrass them. The future How I Met Your Mother celebrity wasn’t new to acting—she had a role in 1988’s My Stepmother is an Alien, and had started acting in commercials at the age of four. Seven years after the Roseanne cameo, Hannigan landed the role of Willow on Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Two years later she became infamous for her quotable “this one time at band camp” American Pie performance.

Ben Gabbe, Getty Images

Character actor Stephen Root played Roseanne’s lawyer, Peter, in a March 1990 episode. (The episode also featured Melora Walters, who would go on to star in Boogie Nights and Magnolia.) According to IMDb.com, this was Root’s seventh TV/film role. He became a ubiquitous TV actor, popping up in everything from Night Court to Seinfeld. In 1995, he finally became a series regular, on NewsRadio. In 1999 he reached cult status when he played the stapler-loving Milton in Office Space.

Rich Fury, Getty Images

The effusive actress played a hitchhiker named Garland in the November 14, 1995 episode “The Getaway, Almost.” The description of the episode reads: “Roseanne and Jackie’s shopping trip turns into a road trip when they pick up a hitchhiking teenage girl.” At that time Elfman was just two years away from starring on another ABC show, Dharma & Greg, which put her on the map.

Christopher Polk, Getty Images for People’s Choice Awards

Between 1990 and 1996, James Pickens Jr. appeared on 19 episodes of Roseanne, playing Dan’s pal Chuck Mitchell (and one of the show’s only minority characters). It was Pickens’s first major part, but throughout those six years he also starred on Beverly Hills, 90210 and L.A. Law, and in 1998 he began a stint on the X-Files. He didn’t become famous until 2005, though, when Shonda Rhimes cast him as Dr. Webber on the long-running (300 episodes and counting!) Grey’s Anatomy. Pickens supposedly will reprise Chuck on the reboot.

Speaking of Grey’s Anatomy: When Eric Dane played a bellhop on a season eight episode in 1996—in which the Disney-owned ABC mandated that the Connor family visit Disney World—he was a decade away from playing Dr. Mark “McSteamy” Sloan on Grey’s. Previously, he had guest starred on The Wonder Years and Saved by the Bell.

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