The Gilmore Girls series dominated television screens as one of the early hits of the new millennium from 2000 to 2007. Lauren Graham and Alexis Bledel played the sharp-witted Lorelai and Rory, a mother and sister duo that enjoyed life in the charming Stars Hollow town. Viewers couldn’t get enough of the witty repertoire and heart-wrenching stories in the series. They knew how to make you laugh, smile and cry to the fullest extent of the entertainment world. The series lived on years after the final episode in 2007 through the power of the internet and syndication.
Things progressed to the point where Netflix has actually picked up the show for a four episode mini-series scheduled to premiere in November. This has led to even more fans giving the show a try, by binge watching all of the old seasons on Netflix, before the new season is released. Viewers are shocked to realize just how many familiar faces are in the show. In fact, fans that enjoyed the series on television weren’t aware of some of the names that were cast. Between the future stars, underrated actors and odd cameos, the show gave us many celebrity memories. We’ll look at some of the shocking ones with fifteen actors you didn’t realize actually appeared on Gilmore Girls.
15 Seth MacFarlane
Everyone knows Seth MacFarlane for creating Family Guy and various other successful projects. The majority of MacFarlane’s success has come from work behind the scenes, but he is an actor as well. We have seen him in quite a few movies and television shows with Gilmore Girls being one of them. MacFarlane played the character Zach in the episode “Lorelai’s Graduation Day” as a fellow graduate of Lorelai at her business school. Naturally, the character was a complete jerk to her.
Most Gilmore Girls fanatics were aware of this fact, but MacFarlane appeared in yet another episode as a completely different character with less fanfare. MacFarlane did voice over work as the voice of Emily Gilmore’s lawyer in the season three episode “I Solemnly Swear.” The connection to the show made sense, with Gilmore Girls creator Amy Sherman Palladino being married to one of the producers of Family Guy. It led to MacFarlane being a rare celebrity to have two cameos on the hit show.
14 Krysten Ritter
Krysten Ritter has become a huge star in recent years thanks to her work in the Netflix hit Marvel show Jessica Jones. Before she was the lead superhero, Ritter held a thriving career in Hollywood for many years. One of her less heralded roles was playing the recurring character of Lucy in season seven of Gilmore Girls. Lucy was a friend of Rory at Yale and appeared in quite a few episodes in the show’s final season.
The main story for Lucy featured her dating Marty until he lied about knowing Rory. Despite the drama between them due to Marty, Lucy and Rory became good friends. Ritter received great experience on such a high profile show. Her career took off years later with frequent and varying work making her successful at her job. The Jessica Jones role has made her yet another cast member of Gilmore Girls to take over the acting world.
13 Masi Oka
The career of Masi Oka is defined by his role as Hiro on the cult hit series Heroes. Before he landed the dream role, the acting career was a struggling to find work on any project people would actually get to see him in. Gilmore Girls gave Oka a pretty good opportunity in the season two episode “The Road Trip to Harvard.” Lorelai and Rory crash the Harvard campus to get a glimpse into Rory’s hopeful future.
Rory found herself into a classroom, because the security guys at Harvard are apparently awful at their jobs. Oka played one of the students in the class and actually gets into a debate with Rory over the class discussion. It was just the third acting job for Oka in his career, but everyone needed to start somewhere. Getting a spot on a show as popular as Gilmore Girls has to add confidence and get word out there for an actor to find more work in the future, and Oka did that.
12 Billy Burke
Another successful actor to land a role on Gilmore Girls was Billy Burke. Most fans know Burke for his work as Charlie Swan in the Twilight series or, currently, for his role on CBS’ Zoo. The talented actor found a recurring role on the WB series in season two as Lorelai’s love interest. As the character of Alex Lesman, Burke had a pivotal role on the show before the relationship ended - much like any story with someone dating Lorelai.
The chemistry was there for fun scenes involving Burke, but Lorelai’s more interesting love stories revolved around other characters. Most fans wanted her to end up with Luke, there was the feel-good story of reuniting with Rory’s dad Christopher, and Max Medina was still in play. Alex weakly tapered off as Lorelai gravitated towards Max and quietly broke up with the former. Burke fit in well with the show, but the timing wasn’t the best to become a regular.
11 Melora Hardin
The career of Melora Hardin is quite underrated, with various roles showing her great talent. Hardin had standout performances specifically in television series like Monk and The Office. We saw her in Gilmore Girls as a date of Christopher at the Gilmore family Friday night dinner. The awkward moments were aplenty and Hardin’s acting chops provided fun to add to the scenes. It is funny to realize the details of the scene of Hardin in Gilmore Girls, considering that one of her best performances on The Office also came in an episode about an awkward dinner party.
Many of these talented actors who made cameos or had short-term roles on Gilmore Girls were good enough to become regulars. Hardin would have been outstanding on the show in a long-term capacity, but the cards weren’t aligned for her to land it. Her legacy on Gilmore Girls is making viewers do a double take to realize she actually appeared on the series.
10 Danny Pudi
Danny Pudi’s career didn’t take off until he landed the role of Abed on Community and did excellent work. The pivotal role on the hit show allowed him to showcase his comedic skills. Pudi never had the chance to do that in his previous roles, as he struggled to get relevancy in Hollywood. Gilmore Girls were one of the shows to find him endearing enough to have on in a guest spot.
If you blink during Pudi’s scenes, you could easily miss him during his spots in seasons six and seven. Pudi plays Raj, a member of the Yale newspaper staff working alongside Rory and Paris. The character was quite minor and basically glorified extra work. Still, you could see the charm in Pudi during his small spurts of television time. Knowing what we know now, Pudi probably should have had a bigger role on the show and added some more humor to the storylines involving Paris and Rory trying to get their journalism careers going.
9 Paul Anka
Paul Anka had one of the best guest roles in Gilmore Girls history. Naturally, Lorelai names a dog she adopts after the legendary singer and the dog becomes a beloved figure in the Gilmore household. The real Paul Anka fittingly appears in the episode titled “The Real Paul Anka” in a dream sequence of Lorelai. Anka makes a hilarious cameo in the dream, playing the role of the dog named after him and acts like the canine every step of the way.
This was one of the more meta episodes of a television show at the time. Anka showed great humor by accepting the role and committing to the silliness of it all. Many musicians don’t have such a sense of humor that would acknowledge the joke of the television dog being named after them, let alone agree to make the cameo. The dog Paul Anka will return on the Netflix reunion series, but the musician likely won’t appear in any more dreams.
8 Chauncey Leopardi
The name Chauncey Leopardi won’t stand out to most readers, but the actor is one of those faces that you recognize once you see him. Leopardi is still most famous for his childhood role of the nerdy character Squints in The Sandlot. His movie-stealing scenes in the film followed him into adulthood and have earned a respectable career. Leopardi had a funny role in Gilmore Girls as Dean’s high school friend Kyle.
The ups and downs for Kyle ranged from throwing parties in college that saw Dean and Jess fight, to losing a hand in the Navy, to becoming a chick magnet to the ladies of Stars Hollow. Leopardi’s comedic timing always stood out in his appearances and he added some humorous moments to the show. Once you realize he is Squints, it actually all makes more sense. We can pretend Squints changed his name to Kyle and found a new life in the canon of Gilmore Girls.
7 Madeleine Albright
The power of Gilmore Girls somehow attracted the first ever female United States Secretary of State, Madeleine Albright, to make an appearance playing herself on the show. Rory had a dream featuring Albright as her mother. The show reached out to Albright asking, out of respect, if she would be okay with them casting someone to play her. Shockingly enough, Albright was a fan of Gilmore Girls and said she would make the appearance herself if they wanted her.
The scene humorously featured Albright talking about the pain that she experienced while giving birth to Rory. Albright tweeted out excitement last year about the show getting a new season when rumors were circulating about the Netflix reunion. A silly cameo with such an important person was the perfect call by the writers of Gilmore Girls. If there were only a few cameos on the new episodes, Albright would be high in the pecking order.
6 Max Greenfield
Max Greenfield has become one of the more popular comedic actors in the acting world these days. The role of Schmidt in New Girl earned him notoriety and he is widely viewed as the most entertaining part of that sitcom. One of the earlier roles in Greenfield’s acting career came on Gilmore Girls. You have to be a big fan of Greenfield to even spot him in his surprising appearance as one of Dean’s friends attending his bachelor party.
As the character of Lucas, Greenfield played one of Dean’s buds as the drunken pals entered Luke’s for more banter. The big smile of Greenfield that’s become associated with his work as Schmidt is shown during his scene on Gilmore Girls. There are only so few spots available on booming shows like Gilmore Girls, but you have to wonder how he would have done with a bigger role. Let’s be honest; Greenfield has way more charm than any of the three long-term love interests of Rory.
5 Victoria Justice
One of the most successful child actors in recent memory actually had her acting debut take place on Gilmore Girls. Victoria Justice became a massive star for Nickelodeon during her teen years and still holds a great bit of fame today. Not many are aware the future star saw her first credited actor role come as a young child attending one of Sookie’s catered parties. Sookie makes an over-the-top menu in the theme of Lord of the Rings.
Justice plays one of the children who is unhappy with the dining choices as she rocks the LotR Legolas’ ears. The casting team of Gilmore Girls somehow always had the magic to pick the best actors for the small roles. If you have a time machine and want to become an acting superstar, go back to the early 2000s and get a gig on Gilmore Girls. Justice’s work with Nickelodeon gave her the opportunity to take off into superstardom, but we now know her first true role in the business.
4 Adam Brody
Gilmore Girls saw the brilliance of Adam Brody early on in his acting career, but unfortunate luck cut his time on the show short. Brody played the hilarious Dave Rygalski as the first love interest of Rory’s BFF Lane. The endearing nerd added a great presence and seemed perfect for the long run as Lane’s boyfriend. Sadly for Gilmore Girl fans, Brody would leave the show to join Fox’s The OC.
You can’t fault Brody and his management for making that wise business choice. The OC offered him a bigger role as one of the lead stars rather than being a recurring character with less job security on Gilmore Girls. It still remains one of the sadder turns of luck, as Dave could have given us many more entertaining moments after a successful season three on the show. We would love to see him return in the Netflix episodes, but there’s no real story for him that wouldn’t seem contrived.
3 Jon Hamm
The role of Don Draper on Mad Men has made Jon Hamm among the most popular television actors of the past decade. Hamm appears in various roles in many projects these days, but one of his forgotten cameos came on Gilmore Girls. His appearance came in the most fitting way possible, as he flirted with Lorelai at an auction. The romance didn’t match his Mad Men love life, as the date with Lorelai turned out to flop.
Emily getting involved in Lorelai’s love life is a recipe for disaster and it even caused Hamm’s character to strike out. Hamm is frequently viewed as the most surprising actor to notice in older episodes, due to the fact that no one knew of him back then. It just goes to show how one or two noteworthy roles can change an actor’s career today. Gilmore Girls gave him an opportunity in his struggling days and he did impress enough to show the potential.
2 Jane Lynch
Jane Lynch is one of the feel good stories of an actress reaching her peak later in her career. The comedic work of Lynch always delivers and she's had a good career to date, but she didn’t hit her full potential until recent years. Lynch was a breakout star on Glee and in various films like The 40 Year Old Virgin and Role Models. Gilmore Girls fans can find her playing a nurse having to deal with the wrath of Emily Gilmore.
Richard Gilmore is taken to the hospital after a health scare and things get wild for the innocent nurse who's just trying to do her job. Lynch perfectly played the role of the nurse trying to deal with the insanity of Emily, while keeping it respectful to a wife fearing for her husband. You can clearly see the talent of Lynch in her sole Gilmore Girls appearance and there’s no doubting why she went on to deservedly become a huge star.
1 Nick Offerman
The most shocking celebrity to appear on Gilmore Girls has to be Nick Offerman. Today, Offerman is an internet meme legend for his work on Parks & Recreation as the iconic Ron Swanson. Before getting his big break, Offerman had small roles on many television shows. The role on Gilmore Girls saw him play Beau Belleville, the brother of Jackson and brother-in-law of Sookie. Offerman showed his comedic chops on the show in two episodes.
Beau arrived to Stars Hollow to help Jackson and Sookie prepare for the birth of their first child. He would return again in another episode for the baptizing of the kids. The role wasn’t anything special, but Offerman stood out. As a talented actor, he did that many times on various shows before landing the dream role of Ron Swanson. The work on Gilmore Girls provided laughs but, more importantly, helped add another notch on his resume to help him make it big in the future.