Things You Didn’t Know About 2000s Sitcom Stars

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Vote up the surprising stories about the stars of our favorite shows from the 2000s.

The first decade of the 21st century brought viewers a bunch of fresh sitcoms to watch, many of which produced new - or in at least a couple of cases (John Ritter, Neil Patrick Harris), not-so-new - television stars. 

All of the series mentioned below have completed their original runs. But that doesn't mean that the behind-the-scenes stories about the shows and the actors that made them successful have been forgotten. From an enduring friendship between actors who played father and son on Malcolm in the Middle to how a running gag on Modern Family was inspired by one of the cast members' interactions with his real father, here are some things you might not know about the stars of some of the best sitcoms of the 2000s.


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    John Ritter Was Responsible For One Of The ‘Three Times’ In Her Career Lucille Ball Cracked Up In A Scene And Had To Call ‘Cut’

    John Ritter Was Responsible For One Of The ‘Three Times’ In Her Career Lucille Ball Cracked Up In A Scene And Had To Call ‘Cut’
    Photo: Life with Lucy / ABC

    John Ritter is unique in that he was a sitcom star in both the 1970s (Three's Company) and in the 2000s (8 Simple Rules); he earned three Emmy nominations (winning once) for his work on the former show and received an additional nomination for the latter show in 2004. But it was in a long-forgotten failed sitcom that Ritter achieved something that few actors ever did.

    Lucille Ball was a huge fan of Ritter's (she had even narrated an anthology show about Three's Company) and asked him to appear on her 1986 sitcom Life with Lucy. In the episode called "Lucy Makes a Hit with John Ritter," the actor plays himself. He meets Ball when he drops into the hardware store she owns, and she ends up taking him home after he is injured. During the episode, Ball feeds Ritter a dish she called "health in a bowl" - a concoction made up of wheat germ, sauerkraut juice, and tofu. Ritter's reaction to the dish caused the legendary actor to laugh so hard that she had to call "cut." Ball later said it was just the third time in her long career that had happened to her.

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    Bryan Cranston Is Good Friends With Frankie Muniz And Promised To Help Him With His Memory Loss

    Bryan Cranston Is Good Friends With Frankie Muniz And Promised To Help Him With His Memory Loss
    Photo: Malcolm in the Middle / Fox

    Bryan Cranston and Frankie Muniz became good friends when the former played the latter's father on Malcolm in the Middle for seven seasons. On the series, Muniz played a young genius with a photographic memory. But during his 2017 appearance on Dancing with the Stars, Muniz revealed he was struggling with memory loss and remembered very little about his life, including his time on the Malcolm in the Middle set. 

    "I've gotten to really do anything I've wanted to do, but the truth is, I don't really remember much of that. It almost feels like it wasn't me. There's no negative feelings, I just don't necessarily remember." He added, "It makes me a little sad ... Things pop back into my mind I should have remembered."

    Muniz, who became a race car driver and played in a band after Malcolm in the Middle was canceled, revealed that he had suffered multiple mini-strokes and at least nine concussions in his life, but he didn't know if these health issues were related to his memory loss. 

    Cranston told the DWTS audience that he was very proud of his friend and former co-star:

    "Frankie was a TV star, then he became a race car driver, and a drummer in a rock band. I said to him once, ‘What are you going to be, an astronaut next? You are doing all the things professionally that everybody dreams about.'"

    As for Muniz's memory loss, "I told him not to worry about what you remember and what you don't remember. These are still your experiences," Cranston told Yahoo! News. "It'll be my job... I will tell him 'remember this or remember that on Malcolm? What a life for you.'"

    Despite his struggles with his memory, Muniz stated that he was happy with his life and didn't regret any of the decisions he had made.

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    Neil Patrick Harris’s Primary ‘Bro’ Inspirations For Barney Were Larry From ‘Three’s Company’ And Bob Saget

    Neil Patrick Harris’s Primary ‘Bro’ Inspirations For Barney Were Larry From ‘Three’s Company’ And Bob Saget
    Photo: How I Met Your Mother / CBS

    Neil Patrick Harris was a television star long before he was cast in How I Met Your Mother, having portrayed the title character in the medical drama Doogie Howser, M.D. for four seasons (1989-93). But the teenaged medical prodigy was a far different role than the womanizing Barney Stinson on HIMYM. Although he used to tell people that his inspiration for playing the role came from the character of Larry on Three's Company, in 2014, he admitted that his real inspiration came from an encounter he had with Bob Saget when Harris was still a teenager.

    In 1991, 18-year-old Harris was invited to a party at Saget's house - the first A-list party he had ever attended. Although he was known for playing clean-cut, dorky Danny Tanner on the sitcom Full House, Saget was far edgier in real life. So as Harris explained to TheBackLabel.com, when he walked into the house, he saw his host surrounded by topless women and wearing nothing but a pair of thong underwear on his head - and a giant smile.

    When Saget saw the stunned teenager, "he [Saget] turns toward me, and I’ll never forget this, he says, 'Harris, don’t just stand there. Suit up!' And he points to this blonde bombshell, and she immediately yanks off her underwear and hurls it at my face."

    And what did Harris do? "The only thing I could do. I wrapped those little panties around my face and joined the party."

    So that's how Saget (who coincidentally later ended up as the narrator on HIMYM), who Harris called "the ultimate bro," not only became his inspiration for portraying Barney Stinson, but also provided him with his character's "Suit up!" catchphrase.

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    Many Of Neil Flynn's Lines On 'Scrubs' Were Improvised

    Neil Flynn played the Janitor on Scrubs. Bill Lawrence, the show's creator, told NPR that Flynn originally wasn't going to be a series regular. "If the series had ended after one year, he was just going to be a figment of J.D.'s (Zach Braff) imagination." 

    When the series was renewed, it was an easy decision to bring Flynn back. One reason why it seemed like neither Braff nor any of the other actors could anticipate what the wacky janitor would say was because Flynn would improvise most of his lines.

    "Sometimes a script would show up, and when Neil enters it, would just say (Neil makes up something and then exits)," Braff revealed on Reddit.

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    The Fact That Jim Parsons's Father Died At A Relatively Young Age Affected His Decision To Quit 'The Big Bang Theory'

    The Fact That Jim Parsons's Father Died At A Relatively Young Age Affected His Decision To Quit 'The Big Bang Theory'
    Photo: CBS

    In a virtual interview on Ellen in early 2021, Jim Parsons stated that he had recently become more grateful about the basic things in life. The actor stated that he had been "profoundly affected" by the death of his father, who passed at the relatively young age of 52, and that as he himself has gotten older, he has come to understand how that tragedy changed his views on both life and death.

    When Parsons signed on to do the 11th and 12th seasons of The Big Bang Theory, he felt that it would be the last time he would play Sheldon Cooper. The realization that, at the end of Season 12, he'd be just a few years younger than his father was when he passed played a major part in his decision, as did the fact that he ended up having to put his elderly dog to sleep in between doing Seasons 11 and 12.

    "I realized I would be 46 when I finished Season 12 of The Big Bang Theory. It’s not that I’m superstitious or anything like that, but it was just a context thing," the actor revealed on David Tennant's podcast. When Parsons spoke to the showrunners, he told them he would not want to keep portraying Sheldon if he knew he only had six more years to live, and that there were other things that he wanted to do with his life. Although he admitted, "I didn’t even know what these things were, but I have to try them."

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    Kaley Cuoco Rides Horses Professionally Under An Alias So She Doesn’t Attract The Paparazzi

    Kaley Cuoco Rides Horses Professionally Under An Alias So She Doesn’t Attract The Paparazzi
    Photo: The Big Bang Theory / CBS

    In addition to acting, Kaley Cuoco has a passion for horses. So much so that during a 2016 appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!, she told the host that her competing in equestrian events had become "a very important part of my life, very serious. It kind of levels me out with this whole Hollywood thing."

    The actor has tried to keep a low profile while taking part in the equestrian world:

    "Bringing paparazzi to horse shows is just not a great idea," she stated. "It spooks the horses, so I've been trying... I've actually started showing under a secret name. I tried to make such a simple name, because if you do a crazy name, like, I don't know, Georgina Cheese or something, then they're going to see it on the board, and they're going to run to see who is Mrs. Cheese."

    One problem - while Cuoco might have used an assumed name while competing in these events, her horses did not. And in the equestrian world, horses often are better recognized than the riders.

    "...In the horse world, a lot of people know what horses you ride and the names of them, and my horses are becoming a little bit more famous than I am," Cuoco admitted. "I have a horse named Poker Face, and I feel like that’s not hiding anything."