Future Iron Man Robert Downey Jr. kicked off his career reconnaissance with this FOX dramedy, playing Ally’s boyfriend Larry Paul and earning an Emmy nomination for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series in the process. (He lost to co-star Peter McNicol.)
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Who woulda thunk that Bradley Cooper — the actor behind Will Tippin, the hapless roommate of super spy Sydney Bristow on this Emmy-nominated ABC action-drama — would one day become even more famous than Jennifer Garner? But Brad has been on a roll lately, especially with his voice role as Rocket Racoon in the Marvel flicks.
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You can be forgiven for not recognizing this UPN cop drama. It only aired six episodes in 2000 before UPN gave it the ax. But it did star a young Mark Ruffalo, who played an NYPD officer and honed the acting chops that would land him a Hulking role years later.
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Sure, we all knew Chris Pratt — the Marvelverse’s resident Star-Lord — from his endearing role as happy-go-lucky Andy Dwyer on NBC’s Parks and Recreation. But we’re going even further back and spotlighting his role as high schooler Bright Abbott on this beloved WB teen drama.
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The Golden Palace
After The Golden Girls ended in 1992, three of the lead actresses moved on to this spin-off — which caught up with Sophia, Rose, and Blanche as they invested in a Miami hotel. Years before he became War Machine, Don Cheadle starred on the CBS sitcom as the hotel’s manager.
Home and Away
This Aussie drama — a soap opera about the residents of a fictional seaside town in New South Wales — just entered its fourth decade on television. And it’ll always have a special place in our hearts for casting Chris Hemsworth, Thor himself, as high school dropout Kim Hyde across 171 episodes.
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This 2000 FOX miniseries — a teen drama about teenage boys integrating into a newly-coed school — introduced TV viewers to future Captain America Chris Evans, future This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia, and (for better or worse) future Smallville star Allison Mack.
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This 2009 NBC drama reimagined the story of King David in an alternate reality in which North America is home to the vast Kingdom of Gilboa. Sebastian Stan, now known as Marvel’s Winter Soldier, took a supporting role as the closeted crown prince and heir apparent to the throne.
Carrie Coon, the actress behind Proxima Midnight, captivated TV audiences in Fargo and The Sinner. But we’re going with her role in this heady HBO drama, in which she played Nora Durst, a wife and mother whose entire family vanished in the Sudden Departure.
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No TV fan knew the name Evangeline Lilly before she delivered her Golden Globe-nominated performance as fugitive-turned-castaway Kate Austen on this hit ABC drama. Nowadays, however, Evie is better known as Hope van Dyne a.k.a. The Wasp.
Thought we were gonna suggest BBC’s Sherlock for Benedict Cumberbatch, didn’t ya? Instead, we’re going with this five-part miniseries, adapted for the screen by famed playwright Tom Stoppard, which places the future Doctor Strange at the center of a love triangle in WWI-era Britain’s upper class.
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In this short-lived NBC drama, seven strangers — including pre-Black Panther Chadwick Boseman — wake up in a deserted town with no idea how they got there or why they’re being surveilled by a network of security cameras.
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The United States of Tara
Toni Collette was the standout star of this Showtime dramedy, playing all the disparate personalities of a housewife with dissociative identity disorder. But future Captain Marvel Brie Larson made a name for herself, too, as Tara’s daughter, Kate.
Years before he joined the Avengers as Hawkeye, Jeremy Renner shared the screen with Amber Tamblyn and Harold Perrineau in this ABC cop drama and one-season-wonder, playing a detective with a traumatic past.
The Walking Dead
Of course, this list wouldn’t be complete without a mention of this AMC zombie drama and ratings juggernaut, in which Danai Gurira wowed fans as katana-wielding Michonne long before she became Black Panther’s Okoye.
Oscar winner Brie Larson’s world domination continues with her starring role in Captain Marvel, but we remember when she was just an ordinary teen with an extraordinary mother on the Showtime comedy The United States of Tara.
In fact, the Marvel Cinematic Universe is filled with television stars of seasons past — some of whom starred in massive small-screen hits, others of whom were out of a job midway through their shows’ first seasons.
Click through the gallery above to see the TV gigs of 15 actors from the MCU’s repertory.