For the past decade and a half ABC's medical soap opera, Grey's Anatomy, has been one of the most successful and beloved shows on television. And while the show made stars out of its cast of relatively unknown actors, the staggering longevity of the series, in addition to its constant rotation of many guest stars, means that a lot of actors who had guest spots on Grey's Anatomy when they were still unknown have gone on to have some great success and recognition in the entertainment industry.
Undoubtedly, any working actor who hasn't gotten their big break yet would kill to have an appearance on a show like Grey's Anatomy, and the fact that so many of GA's former guest stars have gone on to bigger and better things just goes to show how good of an eye they have for casting. So here are 10 of the most recognizable faces who had guest roles on Grey's Anatomy before making it big.
10 Dean Norris
Actor Dean Norris has actually been working in television and film for quite a long time, his career began in the late 80s and he has been steadily working ever since. But this Yale-educated actor really hit it big when he scored the role of Hank Schrader on the incredible TV series Breaking Bad. And while Norris began acting on Breaking Bad in 2008, he actually had a guest appearance on two episodes of Grey's Anatomy in the year 2007. He played the role of Vince, a mechanic who was a part of the ferry crash and who was pinned down by a rolling car when he was helping other passengers escape.
9 Keke Palmer
Keke Palmer is yet another actress who has built up a really solid resume of guest spots on TV shows and bit parts in feature films before finally hitting it big. Keke's star seems to be continually on the rise, but her first really big break was probably when she scored the role of Zayday Williams on the short-lived Ryan Murphy series Scream Queens. She has gone on to have significant roles in TV shows like Star, Berlin Station, and Scream: The TV Series, but she also made an appearance on Grey's Anatomy a couple of years before she started to hit it big.
8 Mae Whitman
Mae Whitman is an actress who is most recognizable for her role in the NBC series Good Girls as well as her leading role in the teen comedy The Duff, but she has been working in the entertainment industry since she was literally a child.
By the time that Mae made her appearance on Grey's Anatomy she had actually already been working in TV and film for more than a decade, however, she wasn't the household name that she is today. She appeared in a two-episode arc as a character who was having dangerous spinal surgery to treat her severe scoliosis.
7 Leslie Odom Jr.
When it comes to a sudden burst of success in the entertainment industry, actor Leslie Odom Jr. had a pretty unusual meteoric rise. Odom was actually a working actor in TV and film, but the project that launched him into the national spotlight was a Broadway play of all things. By this point, everyone on earth has heard of Hamilton, and Odom's role in the unique play made him a near household name. But before he was hitting it big in the most successful musical in decades, Odom had a single appearance on the hit show Grey's Anatomy in the fifth episode of season 5.
6 Dylan Minnette
Dylan Minnette is most recognizable for his role as Clay Jensen in the hit Netflix TV series 13 Reasons Why, but he was a relatively successful child actor who consistently booked work for years before finally making it to the big leagues in television. Minnette appeared in the Grey's Anatomy episode titled "Haunt You Everyday".
The episode was a Halloween holiday episode, and Minnette played the role of Ryan. Ryan is a little boy who's mother works in the cafeteria and who also happens to need some ear reconstruction surgery, and after "trick or treating" for everything the surgery requires he ultimately gets what he was looking for.
5 Jesse Plemons
Jesse Plemons has reached the highest peaks of his career (so far anyway) relatively recently with the success of his appearances in TV shows like Fargo and films like Game Night, but he first became a more recognized actor when he scored the gig of Landry Clarke on the TV series Friday Night Lights. And around the time that Jesse was first getting the ball rolling on Friday Night Lights, he also made an appearance on Grey's Anatomy. Plemons was completely unrecognizable in the role though, he played the part of a boy named Jake Burton who suffered from lionitis, which required Plemons' face to be completely covered by prosthetics.
4 Sarah Paulson
You do not want to mess with the Supreme. Sarah Paulson is most recognizable for her role in the horror anthology series American Horror Story, but apparently she just has a certain don't mess with me vibe, because just prior to her debut in AHS Paulson appeared as a young Ellis Grey in an episode of Grey's Anatomy.
And if we may say so, that is some pretty brilliant casting. Paulson can easily and pretty perfectly encapsulate the intelligence, severity, and aggression that most Grey's Anatomy fans and viewers would expect to see from the young medical superstar that is Ellis Grey.
3 Millie Bobby Brown
Before Millie Bobby Brown was throwing vans with her mind and possibly single-handedly taking down the USSR she made a guest appearance on an episode of Grey's Anatomy. The Stranger Things star had a guest spot on the season 11 episode of Grey's Anatomy titled "I Feel The Earth Move", and she played a little girl named Ruby. Ruby finds herself in a cabin in the woods with her mom, and when a sudden earthquake hits Ruby's mom falls and injures herself. When Ruby calls into the hospital, Dr. Owen Hunt talks her through a series of treatments to help her mom before real medical help can arrive.
2 Elisabeth Moss
Elisabeth Moss is a critically acclaimed actress who is most well known for her role as June Osborne in the Hulu smash hit series The Handmaid's Tale, but her star has been consistently on the rise since she began playing the role of Peggy Olson on AMC's Mad Men. And Moss actually made a single episode appearance on Grey's Anatomy in the same year that she started on Mad Men. Elisabeth played a character named Nina Rogerson, the incredibly protective daughter of a woman who was consistently sick because of a rare bone disease and who sadly died in surgery at Seattle Grace Hospital.
1 Tessa Thompson
When Tessa Thompson made her debut on Grey's Anatomy as Richard Webber's niece and a survivor of ovarian cancer, she was undeniably charming and cute as a button, but it's doubtful that anyone watching her realized how much her career was going to take off in a few years. There are few roles more sought out and coveted in Hollywood than the roles in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, and it seems that Tessa Thompson's role in the MCU is only going to get bigger. Valkyrie was initially introduced into the MCU as one of Thor's many sidekicks, but she was recently promoted to the King of Asgard.