18 Marvel Stars and Their Previous TV Roles, From ‘Friends’ to ‘The Walking Dead’

Marvel Stars Tom Hiddleston Danai Gurira Paul Rudd
Des Willie/©AMC/courtesy Everett Collection; Jackson Lee Davis/AMC; NBC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

The Marvel Cinematic Universe is dominating TV this year with hot titles like WandaVision, The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, and Disney+’s latest release, Loki.

But while it’s fun to see many film favorites on the small screen, many of them have been there before, whether it was decades ago or more recently. So we’re breaking down the TV résumés of Marvel’s most recognizable talents, and the titles range from Friends to The Walking Dead and Sherlock.

Below, see what roles MCU talents like Tom Hiddleston have played on the small screen.

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tom hiddleston the night manager
Des Willie/©AMC/courtesy Everett Collection

Tom Hiddleston

Before he brought the blockbuster character Loki to TV, Hiddleston portrayed Jonathan Pine in the AMC drama The Night Manager alongside Hugh Laurie and Elizabeth Debicki. (Hiddleston won a Golden Globe.) He’s currently slated to appear in The Essex Serpent alongside Claire Danes. And, of course, Marvel enthusiasts can catch him in Loki on Disney+.

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Zendaya’s role in the MCU comes from the Spider-Man films with Tom Holland, but she’s been pulling double duty as she works on HBO’s A24 hit Euphoria. In 2020, the actress—who plays drug addict Rue—earned an Emmy for the role. Longtime Zendaya fans might remember her runs on Disney Channel’s K.C. Undercover and Shake It Up or ABC’s Dancing With the Stars. She also made a brief appearance in the Netflix cult favorite The OA.

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Diyah Pera / ©Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

Anthony Mackie

Before he became the next Captain America in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Anthony Mackie was the lead in Season 2 of Netflix’s Altered Carbon. Besides these two TV titles, Mackie’s résumé comprises mostly film roles.

Sherlock Benedict Cumberbatch Martin Freeman
Colin Hutton / ©BBC/Hartswood Filmas / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Benedict Cumberbatch

This British star fills the role of Dr. Strange in the MCU, but he previously played an even more recognizable figure. From 2010 to 2017, Cumberbatch headlined the fan-favorite series Sherlock alongside Martin Freeman. Most recently, the actor starred in Showtime’s 2018 limited series Patrick Melrose. He’s lent his vocals to The Simpsons a few times.

Chris Evans Michelle Dockery Defending Jacob
©Apple TV+ / Courtesy Everett Collection

Chris Evans

The MCU’s original Captain America made a splash in the Apple TV+ drama Defending Jacob, costarring Michelle Dockery and Jaeden Martell. Evans previously played a role in the short-lived 2000 series Opposite Sex.

chris pratt parks and recreation
Bank/NBCUniversal via Getty Images via Getty Images

Chris Pratt

Prior to playing Peter Quill (aka Star-Lord) in Guardians of the Galaxy, Chris Pratt was lovable Andy Dwyer on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. Years before his seven seasons on the Mike Schur-created comedy, though, Pratt tackled the part of football player Bright Abbott on Everwood and even had a stint on The O.C.

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Jackson Lee Davis/AMC

Danai Gurira

Before she played Wakanda’s general of the Dora Milaje, Okoye, in 2018’s Oscar-nominated Black Panther, Gurira was kicking butt as Michonne on AMC’s The Walking Dead. She has since exited the postapocalyptic series to tackle new projects. Gurira also featured in six episodes of HBO’s Treme.

House of Lies Kristen Bell Don Cheadle
Jordin Althaus / © Showtime / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Don Cheadle

While Marvel fans might know him as James Rhodes, Don Cheadle boasts a rather expansive TV career that includes roles in Don’t Look Deeper, House of Lies (above), ER, Picket Fences, and The Golden Palace. Apart from his recent appearance in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier, Cheadle currently stars in Showtime’s comedy Black Monday alongside Rebecca Hall and Andrew Rannells.

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Facebook Watch / Courtesy Everett Collection

Elizabeth Olsen

Before WandaVision kicked off the Marvel mania on Disney+, Olsen got critical raves in the Facebook Watch scripted series Sorry for Your Loss, as young widow Leigh Shaw. Perhaps the role helped her prepare for Wanda Maximoff’s rollercoaster of emotions in WandaVision?

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Courtesy of Everett Collection

Jon Favreau

The director and showrunner extraordinaire has popped up in several Marvel titles as Happy Hogan, Tony Stark’s best friend and chauffeur, but before he was playing the role or helming Disney+’s other hit series, The Mandalorian, Favreau was acting on TV. He had a lengthy stint on Friends in 1997 and also made a memorable appearance on HBO’s The Sopranos. Favreau can currently be seen on Netflix’s unscripted series The Chef Show.

2 Broke Girls Kat Dennings Beth Behrs
Richard Cartwright / © CBS / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Kat Dennings

Prior to reprising her role as Darcy from the Thor films in WandaVision, Kat Dennings was making people laugh via CBS’s 2 Broke Girls. She played waitress Max Black on the sitcom, which ran from 2011 to 2017. Among Denning’s other TV titles are Hulu’s Dollface, Big Mouth, Drunk History, and ER.

i know this much is true mark ruffalo
Atsushi Nishijima / ©HBO / Courtesy Everett Collection

Mark Ruffalo

The Hulk might let his emotions run wild, but Mark Ruffalo is a master of his craft when it comes to his defining TV role as twins Dominick and Thomas in HBO’s I Know This Much Is True. His showstopping performance earned him an Emmy. Prior to the limited series, he also starred in 2000’s The Beat.

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Tina Rowden / ©Discovery Channel / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Paul Bettany

While Bettany enchanted viewers with his comedic chops in WandaVision, the actor took on a darker role—Unabomber Ted Kaczynski—in Discovery’s 2017 season of Manhunt. Among Bettany’s other TV gigs are parts in Coming Home, Killer Net, and Every Woman Knows a Secret. The actor will appear alongside Claire Foy in the forthcoming series A Very British Scandal.

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NBC / Courtesy: Everett Collection

Paul Rudd

The ageless actor who plays Scott Lang (aka Ant-Man) in the MCU stole the show as Phoebe’s beau on the sitcom Friends. Over the years, Rudd has appeared on several TV titles including Sisters, Wild Oats, Reno 911!, Burning Love, Parks and Recreation, and the Wet Hot American Summer spinoffs First Day of Camp and Ten Years Later. He’s set to star with Kathryn Hahn and Will Ferrell in Apple TV+’s upcoming series The Shrink Next Door.

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Eric McCandless/©ABC/courtesy Everett Collection

Randall Park

The star who plays Jimmy Woo in the Ant-Man movies and more recently in WandaVision has had a long career in television. Among Park’s most recognizable titles are Fresh Off the Boat, Medical Police, Veep, Community, and The Mindy Project. He had a memorable guest appearance on The Office and has recently featured in NBC’s Young Rock.

Ally McBeal Calista Flockhart Robert Downey Jr
20th Century Fox Film Corp. All rights reserved. Courtesy: Everett Collection

Robert Downey Jr.

The OG MCU hero Iron Man may no longer be with fans of Marvel following Avengers: Endgame, but the actor’s career spanned years prior to his 2008 debut as Tony Stark. Along with appearing in several installments of Saturday Night Live, Robert Downey Jr. played Larry Paul alongside Calista Flockhart’s titular Ally McBeal.

Saturday Night Live Scarlett Johansson
Dana Edelson / © NBC / courtesy Everett Collection

Scarlett Johansson

The actress who plays Black Widow in the MCU has made some brief TV appearances with voice roles in Robot Chicken and some guest-hosting stints on Saturday Night Live, and Johansson may take on other TV projects in the future.

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Giovanni Rufino / © The CW / Courtesy Everett Collection

Sebastian Stan

Before he played the broody Bucky Barnes in the MCU, Sebastian Stan nabbed roles in shows like Gossip Girl and Once Upon a Time. His other TV gigs include Kings, Political Animals, and Labyrinth. Stan is set to portray Tommy Lee in Hulu’s upcoming series Pam & Tommy alongside Lily James as Pamela Anderson.

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