Since its launch in the late 1970s, Nickelodeon became the leader in children’s programming. Its unique characters and educational material were favorites among kids and parents everywhere. Over the years, the channel seemed to grow with its viewers. More programming was aimed at teenagers coping with high school and the stresses of college.
One of the most appealing aspects of the shows was the use of actors and actresses that were in the same age range as its viewers. Many of those very stars have grown up to become successful actors and actresses still working in show business.
Nickelodeon has been home to many stars in various points of their career. Some actors broke into acting on one of their shows while others turned to the network as a shift in their careers. Whether influenced by personal or professional reasons, Nickelodeon has been home to some of today’s most well-known Hollywood celebrities.
In this article, we will explore these Nickelodeon roles that you probably forgot even happened. Maybe you will even get a chance to reminisce on that Nickelodeon show you forgot you loved as a kid.
Here are the 15 Stars You Forgot Were In Nickelodeon Shows.
15 Julie Benz on Hi Honey, I'm Home!
Julie Benz’s career has included a wide spectrum of roles including vampire Darla on Buffy the Vampire Slayer and Angel and playing Kathleen Topolsky on Roswell. Perhaps her longest role to date took place on the serial killer drama Dexter playing the overly sweet wife of the title character. Audiences fell in love with Rita's naïve yet saccharine personality and grew to care about her character deeply.
Although Benz’s career has continued since then to include her current role on Hawaii Five-0, her start in show business came with the role of Babs Nielson on the Nick at Nite series Hi Honey, I’m Home! Originally an ABC show, Nickelodeon took over production after the sixth episode. Benz played the beautiful but vain daughter of the Nielson family for 14 episodes until the show was canceled in 1992.
14 Larisa Oleynik on The Secret World of Alex Mack
The Shakespeare-inspired movie 10 Things I Hate About You has become a classic teen flick since its release in 1999. The film launched the movie careers of many of its stars including Julia Stiles, Heath Ledger, and Joseph Gordon-Levitt. However, for actress Larisa Oleynik, the film helped her develop into a more mature actress. Since her role as Bianca Stratford, Oleynik went to on star in Mad Men, Hawaii Five-0, and Pretty Little Liars.
However, the role that '80s kids will forever associate with Oleynik is her lead role in the SNICK program The Secret World of Alex Mack. Alex was accidentally doused with the chemical GC-161 on her way home from school. This accident gave her strange (and random) powers including the ability to shoot electricity from her fingers and changing into a moving puddle of liquid. Her role on the sci-fi show also lead to another '80s classic movie (well, a classic for any '80s girls): her role as Dawn Schafer in The Babysitters Club movie.
13 Melissa Joan Hart on Clarissa Explains It All
In 1996, Melissa Joan Hart became well-known for playing the title role in Sabrina, The Teenage Witch. As the popular magical Archie's Comics character, Hart earned steady viewership on her TV series for seven seasons. Even after its conclusion in 2003, fans still connect the comic book character to her onscreen portrayal. Since then, Hart has starred in numerous movies, music videos and several sitcoms including her own show, Melissa & Joey.
Hart’s comedic roots truly began, however, as the know-it-all teenage character of Clarissa on Clarissa Explains It All. She tackled the typical teenager issues including dealing with her annoying brother Ferguson and the general banality of school. A few notable guest appearances on the show included Wayne Brady as a pizza man, James Van Der Beek as Paulie (a potential love interest), and Shannon Woodard as Missy, a young girl that lost her kitten.
Even after the show’s conclusion in 1994, Clarissa’s story continued well into her 20s. Show creator Mitchell Kriegman actually released a novel called Things I Can't Explain that followed the character into adulthood.
12 Kenan Thompson on All That, Kenan & Kel
Fans of Kenan Thompson have watched him grow as a comedian when he starred on several Nickelodeon shows. At the start of his career, Thompson was a part of the ensemble comedy show All That.
Seen as the SNL for kids, Thompson portrayed numerous hilarious characters and often partnered with fellow All That alum/close friend Kel Mitchell. Their "Good Burger" sketch became so popular that the idea was turned into a full-length movie. After five seasons, the duo moved on to their own show Kenan & Kel and continued to develop their comedic skills.
These days, Thompson has become a staple in the current Saturday Night Live cast with his hilarious impressions including Steve Harvey, Don King, and Serena Williams. Not only has Thompson become one of the senior members of the cast (after 14+ seasons) but he holds the record for most celebrity impression at over 122 so far.
11 Elisha Cuthbert on Are You Afraid of the Dark?
Actress Elisha Cuthbert gained a lot of popularity due to her stunning beauty. Her sex appeal was the focus of several of her early movies like The Girl Next Door, Old School, and Love Actually. However, as she grew as an actress, her roles became more focused around her blossoming talent than her looks.
Cuthbert became a household name after starring in the FOX series 24. Starting as the naïve daughter of Jack Bauer, Kim Bauer eventually pursued a career within the career at the Counter Terrorist Unit in Los Angeles alongside her father. After its conclusion, Cuthbert continued to receive starring roles in film and tv including her current Netflix comedy The Ranch.
Back in 1999, however, Cuthbert faced nightly terrors as a member of “The Midnight Society” on the kids’ horror show Are You Afraid of the Dark?. The show originally aired from 1990 – 1996 but was revived years later. In 1999, Cuthbert joined the new cast as Megan, the rich girl who eventually furnished the outdoor meeting place to suit her tastes better. However, the new cast and changes were not well-received. Cuthbert remained on the show until it ended just one year later.
10 Christine Taylor on Hey Dude
Nickelodeon’s original program Hey Dude followed the lives of several teenagers while they worked on the Bar None Dude Ranch in Tucson, Arizona. In her first major TV role, Christine Taylor starred as Melody, the sweet lifeguard and dance instructor. The show ended its run after five seasons in 1991.
Taylor has become quite a popular since her days on Hey Dude. Her resume included roles in The Wedding Singer, Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story, and Zoolander and its sequel. She frequently starred in movies with her now ex-husband, Ben Stiller.
However, Taylor came very popular after taking on the iconic role of Marcia Brady in The Brady Bunch Movie. Her spot-on looks and demeanor made her the perfect casting choice for the film. She then went on to reprise the role in A Very Brady Sequel. Taylor has also expanded her career into additional TV shows as well, including guest appearances on Friends and Arrested Development.
9 Pat Morita on The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, SpongeBob SquarePants
The late Noriyuki “Pat” Morita’s TV and movie career spanned an impressive 45 years. Starring in a variety of action, comedy, and fantasy projects, his legacy for most '80s fans will always be The Karate Kid movies. Premiering back in 1984, audiences were introduced to the stern but caring Mr. Kesuke Miyagi. His role continued through the next few sequels ending with The Next Karate Kid in 1994. Throughout his career, he was most fondly remembered for this enduring role.
After his appearance in The Karate Kid franchise, Morita took on the role that made him a different type of sensei: a grandfather. On the Nickelodeon show The Mystery Files of Shelby Woo, he played Michael "Mike" Woo, legal guardian of the title character. Morita continued to star in this role until for two years, creating another fond character for the next generation.
One of his last roles for Nickelodeon was on an episode of SpongeBob SquarePants, voicing the character of Master Udon in the episode “Karate Island”. The episode closed with a dedication to his memory.
8 Jessica Alba on The Secret World of Alex Mack
Comedy, romance, action, and superhero movies have all been in the repertoire of actress Jessica Alba. She made a name for herself in cute teen comedies like Never Been Kissed and Idle Hands.
After tackling the dance-centric film Honey, she eventually moved into comic book movies. She has starred in Sin City and Fantastic Four, reprising both roles in their subsequent sequels. However, her time in the role of Max Guevara on Dark Angel proved to be the breakout part of her career and led to a Golden Globe nomination for her portrayal.
Before the leather clad outfits and costumes, Alba started her career with guest appearances on the wacky sci-fi show The Secret World of Alex Mack. Starring in three episodes in the first season, Alba played Alex’s rival, Jessica. In the story, she was dating Scott, Alex’s crush, but subsequently (and randomly) moved away after season 1.
7 Michelle Trachtenberg on The Adventures of Pete & Pete
Michelle Trachtenberg was undeniably a Nickelodeon darling, appearing in several shows on the network. Her very first role was on one episode of Clarissa Explains It All, playing the character Elsie Soaperstein. However, her first memorable part was on the original program The Adventures of Pete & Pete in 1994. Playing the role of Nona F. Mecklenberg, Little Pete’s best friend, she went on to start in 21 episodes through Season 3.
She then starred in her first feature film, Harriet the Spy, alongside Rosie O’Donnell.
She continued to star in Nickelodeon programming including Space Cases, Blues Clues and Figure It Out. Her move to more adult roles came with her casting on Buffy the Vampire Slayer as Dawn Summers for 66 episodes. Her more mature roles also included parts in EuroTrip, Gossip Girl, and Weeds.
6 Alanis Morissette on You Can’t Do That On Television
The '90s brought with it the new love for grunge music, baggy clothing, and Alanis Morissette. Though her early career began back in 1991, her first hit in the United States wasn’t until 1995 with "You Oughta Know". The song and music video went into heavy rotation on MTV and helped launch the successful release of Jagged Little Pill. Morissette continued her musical career with additional successful albums through her release of the 2012 album Havoc and Bright Lights.
She then ventured into acting, starring in the HBO show Sex and the City and Showtime's Weeds. She also played God in the Kevin Smith comedy movies Dogma, and Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back.
However, before Morissette brought her divine presence to the big screen, she made her acting debut on the Canadian sketch comedy You Can't Do That on Television. Known for its parodies, hilarious sketche,s and iconic green slime (which soon became a Nickelodeon staple), Morissette starred in five episodes in 1986 while in elementary school.
5 George Takei on Space Cases, Supah Ninjas, Several Cartoons
George Takei has not shown any signs of slowing down in his 60+ years of performing. Prior to Star Trek, he starred in the shows Mission: Impossible, Perry Mason and one particular episode of The Twilight Zone that was so controversial that it had been banned after airing only one time.
Since starring in his career-defining role as Captain Hikaru Sulu throughout the Star Trek franchise, Takei continued to play various characters and roles beyond his infamous character. However, for the Nickelodeon show Space Cases, Takei was lured back into the realm of science fiction. On three episodes of the show, he played villain Warlord Shank and even starred in episodes with Star Wars alum Mark Hamill.
His additional Nickelodeon parts included voice work on Hey Arnold, Avatar The Last Airbender, and El Tigre: The Adventures of Manny Rivera. He returned for another live-action show appearance in the 2011 action-comedy Supah Ninjas as the deceased character Hattori "Hologramps" Fukanaga.
4 Steve Buscemi on The Adventures of Pete & Pete, Charlotte's Web
Steve Buscemi has had one hell of a career as a character actor extraordinaire. With a career dating back to 1983, his resume is an impressive catalog of unforgettable TV and movie roles. Including his directorial roles, it is doubtful that you have seen a movie or TV show that hasn’t included this outstanding comedic and dramatic actor.
Buscemi has received multiple nominations for Golden Globes, SAG, Primetime Emmys, and more. However, his role as Atlantic City gangster Nucky Thompson on Boardwalk Empire is what brought him his first wins for a Golden Globe and two Screen Actors Guild Awards.
Everyone has to start somewhere in his or her acting career, and Buscemi found his humble beginnings on the TV comedy The Adventures of Pete & Pete. Though hardly his first acting job, he did make a humorous impression as Phil Hickle. Known as the father of Big Pete’s best friend Ellen, he also served as the guidance counselor at their school… at least for three episodes.
Buscemi returned to Nickelodeon to also lend his voice to the character Templeton the Rat in the 2006 live-action version of Charlotte’s Web.
3 Adam West on Rugrats, The Adventures of Pete & Pete, SpongeBob SquarePants
Fans all over the world are still mourning the recent passing of Adam West. Known for his iconic role as Batman in the Batman TV series, he continued to work on numerous projects beyond his years as the Caped Crusader.
West has had several Nickelodeon roles over the years beginning with voicing Captain Blasto in the Rugrats episode “Superhero Chuckie”. Next, on The Adventures of Pete & Pete, he played Principal Ken Schwinger, Little Pete’s sworn enemy for two episodes. He also voiced a young Mermaid Man on SpongeBob SquarePants on the episode “Back to the Past”.
Moreover, in one of the best parodies of his iconic Batman role, he voiced the cat-obsessed version of himself that once played a character in his career named Catman on Fairly Odd Parents. His portrayal was so well-received that he returned to this role six times between 2003-2008.
2 Ryan Reynolds on Hillside (aka Fifteen)
Ryan Reynolds, known for being the profanity dropping, wisecracking smartass in many of his roles (though this seems just to be Reynolds playing himself), is currently living his lifelong dream of playing Deadpool. Exceeding everyone’s expectations in the first Deadpool movie, Reynolds will be returning to reprise his character in Deadpool 2 alongside Morena Baccarin, T. J. Miller, and new cast members including Zazie Beetz and Josh Brolin. There are also plans in place to extend his character into other Marvel projects including a future X-Force film.
However, at the start of his Hollywood career, Reynolds was considerably more reserved and peppered with much less sarcasm. His humble beginnings in acting were on the Canadian soap opera Hillside. Aired under the title Fifteen in the United States, Reynolds played teenager Billy Simpson for the entire run of the show until 1993.
1 Mark Hamill on Space Cases, Avatar: The Last Airbender, Danny Phantom, SpongeBob SquarePants
Star Wars legend Mark Hamill continues his dominance throughout the franchise including the latest upcoming movie Star Wars: Episode VIII – The Last Jedi. However, beyond his iconic role as Luke Skywalker, Hamill has become a voiceover legend.
Not only has he managed to cement his legacy in Star Wars fandom but also the comic book world as well. Hamill has played numerous roles in Marvel Comics and DC Comics animated series and films including his infamous 20+ career as the voice of the Joker.
Along with playing the character Pel on the Nickelodeon series Space Cases, he has lent his voice to several of their animated projects. His roles included characters on the shows Danny Phantom and SpongeBob SquarePants. However, his longest running role was as Fire Lord Ozai on the Emmy Award-winning animated series Avatar: The Last Airbender.
Are there any other big stars who got their start on Nickelodeon?