Many people agree the golden age of Nickelodeon was the ’90s. With classic shows like Ren and Stimpy, Doug, and Clarissa Explains It All, there was no shortage of entertainment. Nearly every ’90s kid has fond memories of waking up early on the weekends, ready to indulge in their favorite programs.
Are You Afraid of the Dark? was Nickelodeon’s attempt to send shivers down the spine of any kid brave enough to watch. What most people don’t remember, however, was just how many famous faces of today actually had roles throughout the show’s run — before Hollywood came calling, that is!
1. Ryan Gosling: After his stint with The Mickey Mouse Club came to an end, Gosling appeared on an episode titled “The Tale of Station 109.1.” Gosling played a young boy who tried to break his brother’s obsession with death by locking him inside a hearse!
2. Neve Campbell: In 1993, the future star of the Scream films starred in “The Tale of the Dangerous Soup.” In this frightening episode, a villain named Dr. Vink made soup using the fear of his employees.
3. Jay Baruchel: Nowadays, Baruchel keeps audiences laughing with his roles in Judd Apatow films and the show Man Seeking Woman, but when he was a young buck, he was cast in a few episodes. His first appearance was in “The Tale of Dead Man’s Float.”
4. Mia Kirshner: Long before the actress was in The L Word, she played a young girl who became possessed by the spirit of her deceased aunt in a 1991 episode titled, “The Tale of the Hungry Hounds.”
5. Daniel DeSanto: He had a role in Mean Girls, and he voiced one of the characters on The Magic Schoolbus, but before all that, he was a Midnight Society member. From 1992 to 2000 he was featured in 65 episodes of the show.
6. Eugene Byrd: If you watch shows like Bones and Arrow, then you definitely know Byrd’s work. But, before all that Hollywood jazz, he was in “The Tale of the Super Specs.” He played a boy who bought his girlfriend special glasses that accessed another dimension.
7. Christopher Heyerdahl: You might be familiar with the old black-and-white film Nosferatu featuring the blood-sucking title character. Well, this actor played the creature in “The Tale of the Midnight Madness”
8. Jewel Staite: This actress who starred in the shows Serenity and Firefly was featured in two episodes. She played a snooty camper in “The Tale of the Watcher’s Woods,” and then one season later she played the character of Cody in “The Tale of the Unfinished Painting.”
9. Hayden Christensen: Way before this actor portrayed Anakin Skywalker in the Star Wars prequels, he starred in “The Tale of Bigfoot Ridge.” The episode had it all: snowboarding, sick ’90s tunes, and a kidnapping ghost.
10. Laura Vandervoort: Years before her role as Supergirl in Smallville or her brief appearance in the hit comedy film Ted, she was cast as Ashley Fox in “The Tale of the Laser Maze” in 2000.
11. Eddie Kaye Thomas: You’ll recognize this young face as Finch from the American Pie movies he starred in years later. One of his first roles was the 1994 episode, “The Tale of the Curious Camera.”
12. Colin Ferguson: This actor who starred in the hit series Eureka on the Syfy channel got his start on Nickelodeon. He played a spirit summoned by an old jukebox in “The Tale of the C7.”
13. Emily VanCamp: If you’re a fan of Everwood or Revenge, then you definitely know this actress. Her very first onscreen role was in the show’s three-part finale, “The Tale of the Silver Light.”
14. Aaron Ashmore: Smallville fans will recognize this actor as the character Jimmy Olsen, but before he landed a major television gig, he played the lead in “The Tale of the Thirteenth Floor.”
15. Christopher Redman: This television actor had roles in shows like Stargate: SG1 and CSI: Miami, but before he was raking in paychecks from those roles, he was in “The Tale of the Renegade Virus.”
16. Elisa Cuthbert: The very first onscreen role this 24 actress ever had was in the episode “The Tale of the Night Shift.” She later returned as a full-fledged member of the Midnight Society when the show returned to the air.
17. Charlie Hofheimer: Fans of Mad Men will know this actor as Abe Drexler, but before he was clinking glasses with Don Draper, he was in two episodes of the show: “The Tale of the Water Demons” and “The Tale of the Unexpected Visitor.”
18. Vanessa Lengies: In 1999 this Glee actress became a member of the Midnight Society for the final two seasons of the show, sharing spooky stories with the rest.
At the time these episodes premiered, no one had any idea the actors they saw onscreen would go on to dazzle us in television and movie roles. The same can be said for certain commercials that launched the careers of today’s biggest stars.
1. Courteney Cox: Without really saying what they were used for, and while pulling on her socks in a locker room, Courtney Cox pushed Tampax tampons in 1985. Of course, this was long before she stepped on the set of Friends.
2. Steve Carell: When Brown’s Chicken switched to a cholesterol-free recipe in 1989, they needed the perfect spokesman to tell the world. In stepped a baby-faced Carell, who, in the ad, accidentally put up a sign that said “free chicken.” That goofball.
3. Britney Spears: Remember this little girl grinning like a maniac at the prospect of taking a bite of a Maull’s BBQ sauce-laden burger in the early ’90s? Well, you probably didn’t guess she’d end up being one of the most famous pop stars of all time.
4. Paul Rudd: Strangely, Rudd didn’t look too different from his current-day self when he starred in a 1991 Super Nintendo commercial, where he played video games in a windy parking lot amid a horde of zombie-like spectators.
5. Mila Kunis: Kunis stepped on the set of That ’70s Show at age 14 in 1998, but two years earlier, she praised the candy-colored world of Lisa Frank in a 30-second ad. In it, she read to a bunny and went crazy for stickers.
6. Leonardo DiCaprio: In 1995, while Hollywood’s biggest star slowly accumulated film work on his resumé, DiCaprio hawked Honda Civics in a Japanese commercial. With a $245 million net worth today, he doesn’t think about budget cars too often anymore.
7. Tina Fey: While working in the Chicago improvisation scene, Fey took her soccer mom cut to a strange, abandoned warehouse. There, she did a solo ad for Mutual Savings Bank in which she sort of flailed her limbs wildly.
8. Bryan Cranston: Walter White would’ve never become Albuquerque’s most feared drug kingpin had his adversaries seen Cranston’s early-’80s ads for Preparation H or Shield Soap…where he wore a skunk costume and took a shower.
9. Stephen Colbert: If you don’t skip every ad, you might’ve seen the late-night host star in a pistachio commercial with a bald eagle. But before he hit it big, Colbert appeared in an ad for the now-defunct FirsTier Bank in America’s Midwest.
10. Elisabeth Moss: Executives at Excedrin re-released Moss’s 2005 commercial—in which she spoke directly into the camera for 30 seconds—to capitalize on the actress’s success as Peggy in Mad Men.
11. Rob McElhenney: Who better to star in an anti-smoking PSA than the man who’d go on to become a poster boy for dysfunction and depravity in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia? As a youth, he was no jabroney.
12. Jason Bateman: Forget Golden Globes. It’s all about that crispy, crunchy cereal spiced with brown sugar and honey, Golden Grahams. Bateman knows it, which is why he attached his cheerful boyhood smile to the brand in the ’80s.
13. Jennifer Lawrence: She starred in a promotional ad for MTV’s My Super Sweet 16, but, as she noted, “I wasn’t on the show, because we weren’t rich and my parents aren’t awful…No offense!”
14. Elijah Wood: Destroying a powerful ring that controls the will of all who hold it is nothing once you’ve eaten broccoli covered in cheese that splattered on your plate like a meteor. Wood faced that in a 1990s National Dairy Board ad.
15. Brad Pitt: Need a guy to cruise through Southern California shirtless in a convertible while munching on Pringles? Call Brad Pitt. He’s got the experience. In fact, in the ad, he even did a strange little dance with his bros. That’s bonus content.
16. Wesley Snipes: Recently, the vampire hunter donned VR Goggles with Lil’ Wayne, going back, in a way, to his roots: early in his career, Snipes dominated the commercial scene, acting in a handful of ads, like Coke and Levi’s.
17. John Travolta: More recently, an established Travolta handed out shots of Brazilian rum for a paycheck. In a lesser-known 1973 Band-Aide commercial, he and a band of shirtless buds locked eyes with the camera and sang together, naked, in the shower. What that had to do with Band-Aide is a question that was never answered.
18. Matt LeBlanc: As a teenager, LeBlanc earned some cash in a Heinz commercial, chomping on a hot dog and giving viewers a subtle wink. Clearly, he drew on this experience to play Joey Tribbiani on Friends.
19. Keanu Reeves: He was no CGI polar bear, but Reeves played the part of Coca-Cola spokesman with some serious dedication: because he played a cyclist in the ad, he shaved his legs to be more convincing.
20. Mark Ruffalo: This young actor didn’t Hulk out when he spotted a nasty zit on his right cheek during a Clearasil Double Clear ad. Instead, he stopped screaming for a minute to somewhat seductively pat his pimple with a pad.