My So-Called Life can be found on just about any list of TV shows canceled before their time, including our own. The series perfectly encapsulated all of the heartbreak, confusion, and angst that sare painfully recognizable to anyone who has waded through the treacherous waters of adolescence.
Creator Winnie Holzman imbued her characters with an authenticity that was undeniable. The series managed to take on abuse, addiction, and sexuality with tremendous depth, and it somehow never felt like an after school special. MSCL ran for a mere nineteen episodes and has still become one of the most influential series ever to air on television.
The show ran for a single season in an impossible time slot on ABC from 1994-1995. MSCL was a critical darling with a loyal fan base, but not enough people were watching. ABC even allowed the repeats to air on MTV in attempt to boost the show’s paltry viewership. MTV did indeed cause the series to rise in popularity, but ABC never renewed it. Apparently, Claire Danes didn’t actually want to return and this also led to the show’s cancellation.
MSCL has left an unforgettable legacy, speaking to one generation after another, and finding new life on DVD and streaming services. Several of these actors went on to become household names, while others disappeared from the spotlight. Either way, they will forever be a part of one of the most groundbreaking shows ever created. So, Where Are They Now? The Cast of My So-Called Life?
15. Claire Danes – Angela Chase
“You know how sometimes the last sentence you said, like, echoes in your brain? And it just keeps sounding stupider? And you have to say something else just to make it stop?” It was thoughts like this that made Angela Chase the voice of a generation. She wasn’t as pretty, popular or confident as she wanted to be. Her home life was relatively normal, but – like any proper teen – she was completely mortified by her family. Almost everyone could relate to Angela Chase.
Just fifteen when she starred in MSCL, Claire Catherine Danes earned praise for the early film roles she took on such as Beth in Little Women and Juliet in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet. Danes has continued to work ever since, starring in both major movies and indie darlings, and appearing on several TV shows.
Of course, the role that has come to define Danes in recent years is that of CIA officer Carrie Mathison on Showtime’s Homeland. Homeland just wrapped its sixth season and has already been renewed for a seventh and eighth, so we won’t be saying goodbye to Agent Mathison any time soon. Danes is married to Hannibal’s Hugh Dancy and they have a son named Cyrus.
14. Devon Odessa – Sharon Cherski
Sharon Cherski and Angela were best friends, but grew apart in high school, when they each went in different directions. Sharon got straight As and planned dances, while Angela died her hair and started hanging out with a couple of lovable outcasts. However, Sharon wasn’t perfect and she hated that everyone seemed to think that she was. There was more to her than the “good girl” image ascribed by her classmates. Although Sharon and Angela did reconnect, it was her secret friendship with Rayanne that became one of the best relationships on the show.
Devon Odessa steadily worked in film and television before and after MSCL. She was best known for appearing in Uncle Buck and Pumpkinhead. Along with many of her fellow cast members, she has guest starred on Private Practice. Odessa has no acting credits beyond 2011.
13. Lisa Wilhoit – Danielle Chase
Danielle Chase was Angela’s younger sister and her “life is totally edited.” Although Danielle was annoying, as younger siblings tend to be, she was also often overlooked. Danielle may have been the baby, but she simply couldn’t compete with Angela’s angsty antics and thus became the kid that the Chases could afford to pay a little less attention to. Danielle simultaneously resented and wanted to be her big sister. Everyone remember how awesome her Angela Halloween costume turned out?
Since MSCL, Lisa Marie Wilhoit has continued to act primarily in television, with her most well known role being Tina in Greek. For the past seven years, Wilhoit has lent her voice to Family Guy. She has played several characters, but most often voiced the much-maligned Connie D’Amico.
12. Mary Kay Place – Camille Cherski
Aside from incredible insight into the existence of teenagers, MSCL also delved into the lives of its adult characters, exploring their flaws not just as parents, but also as people. The grownups had problems too and those problems didn’t necessarily revolve around their children.
Camille Cherski was Sharon’s mom and Patty’s best friend. Despite the fact that their daughters had grown apart, Camille and Patty were still besties. They told each other everything, from their marital insecurities to the issues they were having with their kids.
Of everyone on this list, Mary Kay Place is perhaps the least defined by her role on My So-Called Life. She was a fairly well known actress before the series, having won an Emmy for her work on Mary Hartman, Mary Hartman in the ’70s, as well as her numerous appearances in much beloved films, such as Private Benjamin and The Big Chill.
She has continued to act in film and television ever since, even embarking on a career in music. Interestingly, Place has shared films – if not specific scenes – with her former MSCL costars: Claire Danes in The Rainmaker, Bess Armstrong in Pecker, and Jared Leto in Girl, Interrupted.
11. Patti D’Arbanville – Amber Vallon
Rayanne’s mother, Amber Vallon, was the epitome of the cool mom. She was also basically the polar opposite of Angela’s mother, Patty. The only thing that these two women had in common was how much they loved their daughters. The way that they showed that love, however, was vastly different.
Amber was a Deadhead who read Tarot cards and used words like karass – a term coined by Kurt Vonnegut in Cat’s Cradle, meaning a network of people who are somehow spiritually linked.
Patty wasn’t the world’s strictest mother, but she stood in stark contrast to Amber. Without Patty’s level head, though, Rayanne probably would’ve died of the overdose that her own mother failed to recognize.
Patti D’Arbanville had quite an interesting life before she ever appeared on MSCL. She was a model in London, a part of Warhol’s Factory scene, and inspired not one, but two Cat Stevens songs. Since the series ended, D’Arbanville has continued acting in both film and television, appearing in shows such as Rescue Me and Entourage.
10. Senta Moses Mikan – Delia Fisher
Delia Fisher transferred to Liberty High just in time to be pursued and then brutally rejected by Brian Krakow. It is soul-crushing to witness, but Delia rebounds in the most awesome possible way: by dancing it out with Rickie. It’s a beautiful moment and not the only one that these two shared. Although it originally seemed like Delia would be a large part of Brian’s story, she was actually much more integral to Rickie’s. It was Delia’s interest in him and his affectionate feelings towards her that enabled him to come out to her.
Many remember Senta Moses Mikan as Tracy McCallister from Home Alone. After MSCL, she continued acting in television, but is perhaps most well known for playing Phoebe in Beakman’s World. She returned to high school, albeit now as an administrator, in Faking It.
9. Roger Reese – Vic Racine
Despite the fact that he was only in a single episode of MSCL, Vic Racine had a huge and unexpected impact on our core characters. On its surface, “The Substitute” was about an inspirational teacher, à la Dead Poet’s Society, and how he changed the lives of his students. This somewhat precious premise is then brilliantly undercut by a deeper message: people aren’t always who they purport to be. They are deeply flawed, even the ones that we look up to.
In large part, what made Mr. Racine unforgettable in the minds of MSCL fans was Roger Rees. Even when it’s revealed not only that Racine isn’t his real name, but also that he can’t remember Angela’s, most of us still wished that we could’ve had a writing teacher like him. That was a testament to Rees’s acting.
Roger Rees has a considerable resume in film, television and stage. He has acted in films such as Frida and The Prestige, as well as a slew of TV shows from Grey’s Anatomy to The West Wing. Rees tragically died of brain cancer in 2015. He was posthumously inducted into the American Theater Hall of Fame.
8. Lisa Waltz – Hallie Lowenthal
When Hallie Lowenthal became Graham’s business partner, fans were nervous to say the least. Graham had a shaky history in terms of being faithful to his wife and it was obvious that Hallie was writing his name all over her spiral notebook. Graham and Patty had been married a long time and Hallie represented everything that Patty wasn’t. Namely, she believed in Graham as a chef and pragmatic Patty struggled to support her husband’s dream. Graham never acted on these feelings, but had the show continued, he most likely would have. Winnie Holzman has stated more than once that had the series not been canceled, Graham and Patti would’ve gotten a divorce.
Lisa Waltz played Hallie and seriously, if you name a TV show, she’s probably been in it. Waltz has appeared in everything from Nip/Tuck to Everwood to Castle. Most recently, she played Suzanne in the web series Fear the Walking Dead: Flight 462.
7. Tom Irwin – Graham Chase
Much of the series explored the idea that growing up doesn’t mean that you always know exactly where you’re going. Angela’s dad was a perfect example of this. Graham Chase was a middle-aged man who suddenly decided to follow his dream, a pursuit his wife was not a hundred percent onboard with. He was a good father to Angela – although her adolescence had made things awkward between them – and Danielle. Although he wasn’t necessarily a bad husband to Patty, he certainly wasn’t entirely faithful to her.
Tom Irwin has quite an extensive resume. If he looks like he’s got “one of those faces”, it’s probably because you’ve seen him in just about everything. He has appeared in Angel, Lost, and 24, to name a few. In a role appropriate for the guy who played Graham, he was also in a made-for-TV movie called When Husbands Cheat. His most recent role was Adrian Powell on the Lifetime series, Devious Maids.
6. Bess Armstrong – Patty Chase
Rayanne’s mother may have been the one that you thought that you wanted in high school, but the mom that you needed was Patty Chase. Sure, she was uptight, but she was also literally a lifesaver. Angela may have felt humiliated by Patty’s mere existence, but she knew deep down that she was lucky to have her. Times were kind of tough for Patty. Having been adopted, she had some deep-seated abandonment issues, which were made no better by the behavior of both her eldest daughter and her husband. However, Patty always persevered.
Following MSCL, Elizabeth Key “Bess” Armstrong continued acting on both the big and small screen. She has gone on to play several other much loved mothers, the most well-known being Lydia James on One Tree Hill. She was last seen playing Professor Beth Marillo on Switched at Birth.
5. Jeff Perry – Richard Katimski
Vic Racine may have appeared to be the teacher that we all wished we had in high school, but Mr. Katimski was the real deal. He taught Rickie not to be ashamed of who he was and made Jordan realize his feelings for Angela via Shakespeare. He also gave Rickie a real home when no one else would. It was Mr. Katimski who delivered the line that preceded the much beloved hallway scene: “Nobody should hate who they are” – cue Buffalo Tom and prepare to swoon.
Jeff Perry has played so many different characters over the years. He has continued his career in television since MSCL ended and had some particularly memorable roles as a guest star on major TV shows. Many will recall him as Frank “Sawyer” Duckett from Lost. Not long after, he became known for playing Thatcher Grey, Meredith’s unreliable dad, on Grey’s Anatomy.
However, these days, Scandal fans know Perry best as Cyrus Beene, the ruthless White House Chief of Staff. We’ll have to wait and see what’s next for him when that series wraps after its upcoming final season.
4. A. J. Langer – Rayanne Graff
With Rayanne Graff, MSCL managed to not only explore addiction, but also recovery. Rayanne’s story was beautifully rendered and completely realistic. Rather than focus solely on the more dramatic aspects of being an addict, the series provided real insight into Rayanne’s struggle. Hers was a battle fought and lost by many teens; few shows have managed to explore it with as much finesse. Those who couldn’t relate to Angela’s somewhat squeaky clean problems could see themselves in Rayanne.
Allison Joy Langer – who originally auditioned for Angela – has continued acting since MSCL ended as well. She appeared in films such as The People Under The Stairs and has had multi-episode arcs in several series, like Private Practice.
Langer has battled Fibromyalgia since her teen years. She has become a huge advocate for awareness of the disease and has regularly spoken out about her struggles. Langer has also helped to raise money for research and treatment.
In 2005, she married Lord Charles Courtenay, so when he became the 19th Earl of Devon, she became a Countess. The couple has two children. According to Langer, “We met in a bar in Vegas. He didn’t know I was an actress. I didn’t know he had a castle.”
3. Wilson Cruz – Rickie Vasquez
None of the characters on My So-Called Life were stereotypes or clichés. The reason why they were so engaging is because no matter who you were or what problems you had, there was someone in the series who spoke for you. Rickie Vasquez was perhaps the most important example of this. He was the first openly gay character with a lead role in an American television show. Aside from that, while our core characters could be a bit self-absorbed – they were teenagers after all – Rickie was the kindest and most thoughtful counted among them.
Since the series ended, Wilson Cruz has continued to act in film, television, and even on Broadway. Most notably, he played Angel in Rent. Cruz has appeared in everything from The West Wing to Pushing Daisies. His most recent role was Dennis in Netflix’s 13 Reasons Why.
Cruz is an incredible advocate for the LGBT community. He has been a much-needed voice for LGBT youth, particularly those of color. Cruz has volunteered his time with several youth organizations and has not only been a keynote speaker at Chicago’s Lavender Graduation, but also the Grand Marshal of not one, but two Pride Parades. He is currently a National Spokesperson for GLADD.
2. Devon Gummersall – Brian Krakow
Brian Krakow was the yearbook photographer who was “like, never in the picture.” Rickie was branded an outcast because he was different. Brian, on the other hand, was an outcast of his own making. He was brilliant, but crippled by shyness. Brian was incredibly perceptive, but he could also be completely oblivious. He destroyed any chance at a real relationship with Delia, because he couldn’t stop obsessing over someone who would never return his feelings. The letter that he ghostwrote for Jordan to give Angela was particularly heartbreaking.
Devon Gummersall has appeared on countless TV shows, including The L Word, iZombie, and Mad Men. He also grew increasingly interested in working behind the camera and has written and directed several films. Gummersall’s most recent TV role was Jacob Barnes on TNT’s The Last Ship.
1. Jared Leto – Jordan Catalano
In the ‘90s, there was probably no other character crushed on quite as much as Jordan Catalano. It wasn’t just because he was dreamy – but was he ever. Jordan was taciturn, but charming. Just because he didn’t say much, didn’t mean that he never had anything important on his mind. It also made it easy for Angela to read into every single thing he said or more likely, didn’t say. Unfortunately, he had to lose Angela in order to realize everything that he wanted to tell her.
Jared Joseph Leto’s career has been on the rise ever since he left Jordan Catalano behind. He had supporting roles in films such as Fight Club and American Psycho, and earned praise for his portrayal of junkie Harry Goldfarb in Requiem for a Dream. He’s earned an Oscar, a Screen Actor’s Guild Award, and a Golden Globe for his performance as Rayon in Dallas Buyers Club.
In 1998 Leto formed the band 30 Seconds to Mars with his brother, Shannon (who briefly appeared in MSCL as Jordan’s pal). He has also directed several of the band’s music videos, as well as a documentary called Artifact.
Most recently, Leto played his most polarizing part to date when he appeared as the Joker in Suicide Squad last year.
Who was your favorite cast member of My So-Called Life? Let us know in the comments!
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