It’s fair to say that The Big Bang Theory has taken the modern sitcom world by storm. After all, not only is it arguably one of the most successful shows currently on television, but it even has a Brazilian species of bee named in its honor – and how many comedy series can boast that?
Naturally, then, it’s made stars of its cast – even if Big Bang hasn’t been the start of many of their careers. In fact, Johnny Galecki, Jim Parsons, Kaley Cuoco and the others have all been acting away for ages – and they have the terrible headshots to prove it, too…
20. Kate Micucci
Kate Micucci may be most familiar to Big Bang Theory fans as Raj’s awkward ex-girlfriend Lucy, but she’s actually been on our screens since the mid noughties through appearances in shows such as Malcolm in the Middle and Scrubs. Since bowing out of Big Bang in 2013, though, Micucci has cracked countless people up as part of comedy duo Garfunkel and Oates. In between gigs, meanwhile, she builds stunningly elaborate sandcastles on the beaches of LA.
19. Sara Gilbert
Inspired by the success of her older sister Melissa, better known as Laura from The Little House on the Prairie, Sara Gilbert got her start on Roseanne in the late ’80s. And her turn as whip-smart tomboy Darlene Connor remained her most enduring role until she joined the Big Bang cast as Leslie Winkle back in 2007. Gilbert continues to appear on the show through guest appearances, although she’s also kept busy by producing CBS’ weekday women’s show The Talk.
18. Ian Scott Rudolph
Ian Scott Rudolph was relatively unknown before gaining recognition for his role in The Big Bang Theory as comic book store devotee Captain Sweatpants. And even then, his character’s lack of lines meant that he was uncredited until he finally spoke in his 11th appearance on the show. Any new devotees of the Captain, then, can search out Rudolph’s previous bit parts in the likes of The Middle and Shameless.
17. Alice Amter
If, after Mrs. Koothrappali first appeared in The Big Bang Theory, you were scratching your head as to where you’d seen her before, then it may have been in ER. It may also have been in The Mentalist, in which Alice Amter, who plays Raj’s overbearing mom, was cast as Marta. And after her time in Big Bang, you may very well have seen her in an episode of NCIS: Los Angeles, too.
16. Christine Baranski
Christine Baranski was quite the veteran screen and theater actress before her role as Dr. Beverly Hofstadter on The Big Bang Theory, having played main roles in late ’90s sitcom Cybil and Christmas classic How The Grinch Stole Christmas among others. And she’s kept herself busy since then, too. As well as appearing as Leonard’s rather cold mother in Big Bang, she took on a seven-year stint as Diane Lockhart in The Good Wife – a role that has earned her an incredible six consecutive Primetime Emmy nominations.
15. Laurie Metcalf
Like her Big Bang co-star Sara Gilbert, Laurie Metcalf also shot to fame in Roseanne, where she played the eponymous character’s over-anxious sister. And she also has a penchant for portraying moms, it seems, as not only does she star as Sheldon’s Texan mother Mary in Big Bang, but she has had voice roles as Andy’s mother in all the Toy Story movies to date.
14. Aarti Mann
Aarti Mann is perhaps best known for her role as Priya in The Big Bang Theory, but that stint as Raj’s little sister wasn’t her first time on the small screen. Indeed, Mann might also be recognizable from her previous roles in Heroes and The Young and the Restless. And since her time in the sitcom, she’s gone on to star in the likes of Suits and Scandal. Her short film Siempre, which she has written and directed, is also currently in post-production.
13. Brian George
Brian George cut his teeth with legendary improv troupe The Second City, where he worked alongside none other than John Candy. Perhaps unsurprisingly, then, he’s gone on to great things since: as well as portraying Raj’s dad Dr. V.M. Koothrappali in Big Bang, he’s likely to be instantly recognizable to Seinfeld fans as Dream Café proprietor Babu.
12. Wil Wheaton
If you grew up in the ’80s or ’90s, you’ll have probably seen Wil Wheaton on screen way before his dastardly alter ego showed up on Big Bang. Indeed, Wheaton first came to prominence in 1986 as Stand By Me’s Gordie, following that up with roles in Toy Soldiers, Flubber and Star Trek: The Next Generation. And nowadays he’s quite the Renaissance man, with books, an improv comedy group and an indie publishing company all on his resume.
11. Laura Spencer
After a few minor roles in film and television, Laura Spencer was cast as Jane in The Lizzie Bennet Diaries – the first YouTube series to be honored with a Primetime Emmy. Given that success, then, it’s perhaps no wonder that she was tapped to join The Big Bang Theory cast in 2014 as Raj’s love interest Emily Sweeney. What’s more, she’s since gone from strength to strength as Bones’ outspoken Jessica Warren.
10. John Ross Bowie
John Ross Bowie started off with bit parts in shows like Arrested Development and Curb Your Enthusiasm before bagging the role of plasma physicist Barry Kripke in The Big Bang Theory in 2009. And Bowie has continued to run in comedy circles since – not least as patriarch Jimmy DiMeo in ABC’s Speechless.
9. Carol Ann Susi
Carol Ann Susi was a mainstay of ’90s TV, with roles in Seinfeld, Cheers and even, alongside her future co-star Mayim Bialik, in Blossom. It’s perhaps her role as Big Bang’s rarely seen Mrs. Wolowitz, however, that brought her to her biggest audience. Unfortunately, though, Susi’s time in the sitcom came to an end after her death from cancer in 2014, aged 62.
8. Kevin Sussman
You may have come across Kevin Sussman playing minor roles in Wet Hot American Summer, Almost Famous, The Sopranos and the Spielberg hit A.I. Artificial Intelligence. Big Bang fans, though, will know him best as unlucky in love comic store owner Stuart Bloom – a role in which he has excelled since 2009.
7. Mayim Bialik
Mayim Bialik was virtually a shoo-in to play Amy Farrah Fowler on The Big Bang Theory. After all, not only did she perfect her acting chops as the lead of ’90s teen series Blossom, but she also has a Ph.D in neuroscience. Fortunately for all of us, though, Balik didn’t need to draw on her floppy hat-wearing experience to play Sheldon’s on-off girlfriend.
6. Melissa Rauch
Melissa Rauch’s comedy training has served her well in The Big Bang Theory, where she appears as Dr. Bernadette Rostenkowski-Wolowitz. And the path to playing the microbiologist also saw her take on roles in the likes of prestigious shows such as True Blood and The Office. During her time in Big Bang, however, she’s since branched out into movies – having rather impressively both written and starred in sports comedy film The Bronze.
5. Kunal Nayyar
Like his The Big Bang Theory character Raj Koothrappali, Kunal Nayyar has quite the impressive academic background. Unlike Raj, though, Nayyar has a master’s in fine arts – something he’s barely had a chance to use, as he was cast in Big Bang a mere 12 months after graduation. Since then, he has had roles in Ice Age: Continental Drift, The Mindy Project and the 2016 movie Trolls. He’s also appeared alongside Wil Wheaton in Fantasy Hospital, playing Dr. Pakij.
4. Simon Helberg
Simon Helberg grew up watching his dad Sandy star in comedy classics like Spaceballs and This Is Spinal Tap. And the young Helberg obviously took up his father’s mantle, given his pre-Big Bang roles in Sabrina the Teenage Witch, MADtv and Arrested Development. Since 2007, though, his role as engineer Howard Wolowitz has definitely seen him eclipse his dad’s fame. Here’s hoping, then, that there’s no awkwardness around the dinner table at Thanksgiving…
3. Kaley Cuoco
Only viewers with really good memories will remember Kaley Cuoco as a younger Ellen DeGeneres in the talk show host’s ’90s sitcom Ellen. That small role was the springboard to a glittering career, though, as Cuoco would eventually leap to a lead role as 8 Simple Rules’ Bridget Hennessy. After that show ended in 2005, meanwhile, Cuoco joined the cast of Charmed as Billie Jenkins. Still, it’s as Penny Hofstadter that she’s arguably most beloved and best known today.
2. Jim Parsons
After studying theater at the University of Houston, Jim Parsons relocated to New York and started working as an actor. And that move did pay dividends, to say the least. Indeed, after gaining the minor role of Tim in Garden State and playing Rob Holbrook in Judging Amy, Parsons was cast in the part of a lifetime as nerd’s nerd Sheldon Cooper. Perhaps thankfully for the audience at the 2015 Tony Awards, though, Parsons is definitely a more affable host than his Big Bang alter ego.
1. Johnny Galecki
Unless you’ve been living under a rock for the past 25 years, you’re likely to know Johnny Galecki from his time as a child actor. Indeed, he’s barely been off screens big or small since the early ’90s, with parts in the likes of National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Blossom, American Dreamer and Roseanne all garlanding his resume. But, of course, Galecki became an even bigger name when cast as Leonard Hofstadter in The Big Bang Theory in 2006. Big Bang fans may be a little surprised, though, to see him turn up in upcoming horror movie Rings – and let’s just hope he makes it through to the end…