Famous Actors Who Starred In Afterschool Specials
Most of Generation X is familiar with ABC Afterschool Specials, the anthology series started in 1972 and ran for 25 years. The low-budget educational programs handed out important lessons in sensitive areas like sex and drugs but in an easy-to-digest relatable dramatic story. Several future big-time Hollywood actors appeared in these melodramatic episodes from the ‘70s, ’80s, and '90s.
Teen actors of the era often got their professional breaks from being in the series, which led to much greater opportunity and recognition in the rest of their career. Vote up the actors you didn't know got their start in an afternoon special.
- 143 VOTES
Ben Affleck, alongside his best pal Matt Damon, won an Academy Award for writing the 1997 dramedy Good Will Hunting. As an actor, writer, and director, Affleck has enjoyed a long career in show business ranging from biographical dramas like Argo to playing Batman in the DCEU.
One of Affleck's first roles came in the 1986 Afterschool Special “Wanted: The Perfect Guy.” He plays the precocious teen Danny Coleman, who wants to help his lonely single mom (Madeline Kahn) find the right romantic partner. The 13-year-old places a personal ad for his mother in search of “the perfect guy.”
- 211 VOTES
In the 1990s, Lauryn Hill showed that females could rule the rap world. She served as the frontwoman for the R&B/hip-hop group The Fugees. Then, Hill went solo with her 1998 album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which earned her five Grammy Awards and eventually sold over 20 million records worldwide.
Before Hill broke down the gender barriers in hip hop, she tried her hand at acting. Her first professional part came in the Afterschool Special titled “Daddy's Girl.” Hill appeared as the best friend of a teen (Elise Neal) who reconnects with her father after he walked out on the family years earlier.
- 319 VOTES
Viggo Mortensen, three-time Academy Award nominee, is perhaps most known for his performances as Aragorn in The Lord of the Rings trilogy as well as his role in David Cronenberg's A History Of Violence.
Before his massive big-screen success, Mortensen starred as a high school stoner and dealer who gets busted by an undercover cop (Michael E. Knight) in 1985's “High School Narc.” At the time, Mortensen was 27 years old, demonstrating his skill at still pulling off the role of a teenager.
- 418 VOTES
Marisa Tomei got her showbiz start in The Cosby Show spin-off A Different World. Just a few years later, Tomei won the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress for her biological clock-ticking performance as Mona Lisa Vito in the 1992 comedy My Cousin Vinny.
Between her first role and Oscar gold, Tomei starred as Noelle in the 1987 Afterschool Special “Supermom's Daughter.” Noelle is an intelligent high school senior who gets into MIT, but would rather attend a local state college and become a nursery school teacher. Her career goals cause a major rift with her ambitious news anchor single mom (Barbara Bosson).
In the 1980s, Rob Lowe became the ultimate pinup teen idol and Brat Pack member. Since then, Lowe has shown off both an incredible dramatic range in The West Wing and impeccable comic timing in Parks & Recreation.
Before he became the blue-eyed dreamboat of Generation X, he starred in two ABC Afterschool Specials. In 1980s's “Schoolboy Father,” he plays a 16-year-old named Charles who discovers that a summer camp fling has given birth to their son. The mother wants to put the baby up for adoption; however, Charles wants to take custody of the child, until he discovers that balancing high school life and being a single dad is a lot harder than he imagined. In 1981, Lowe also had a supporting role in another special, “A Matter of Time,” which focuses on a teenage girl whose mother is dying of cancer.
It didn't take long for Val Kilmer to become an '80s movie star. The Juilliard-trained actor started off in the comedies Top Secret! and Real Genius. Then, his career felt the need for speed after playing Maverick's (Tom Cruise) rival turned co-pilot Ice in 1986's Top Gun.
Right before his Hollywood career took off, Kilmer starred in the 1985 anti-drunk driving Afterschool Special “One Too Many.” Kilmer plays a teenager named Eric who makes the fatal decision to drive after having too much to drink. Future stars Michelle Pfeiffer and Mare Winningham also appear.