12 Interesting Stories About Sitcom Guest Stars We Hadn't Heard Before

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Vote up the most interesting stories about sitcom guest stars.

Television sitcoms are fond of casting famous people in guest roles. But not every guest appearance is equal - some may be "blink and you miss it" cameos, while others may start out as or turn into recurring roles, complete with a character or plot arc. 

Some guest stars, like Brad Pitt, might be romantically involved with a cast member. Others - like Prince and Britney Spears - might be a fan of the sitcom and reach out to the show about their interest in being on the series. And some actors might have inspired a particular plotline. Of course, not every guest appearance goes well - on or off screen.

Here are behind-the-scenes stories about notable guest star appearances on sitcoms over the past 30 years. Which are the most surprising or interesting?

  • James Earl Jones Said The First Time He Met Carrie Fisher In Person Was On The Set Of 'The Big Bang Theory'
    Photo: CBS

    In the original Star Wars film series, Carrie Fisher portrayed Princess Leia, while James Earl Jones provided the voice of Darth Vader. But Jones and Fisher did not actually work together while making those films; Jones never had to be on set because he only voiced the part, while actor David Prowse physically portrayed him. It wasn't until both were cast in guest roles for "The Convention Conundrum" episode during the seventh season of The Big Bang Theory that the two actors finally met.

    In the episode, Sheldon (Jim Parsons) meets Jones (playing himself) at a restaurant. The actor takes a liking to him and the two men hang out all night, at one point knocking on Fisher's door, then running away before she can answer it.

    TBBT executive producer Steven Molaro told IGN that the show's creators didn't know Jones and Fisher had never met in person before:

    As they were approaching each other [on the set], Carrie said, "Dad!" Which was hilarious because Darth was her father in Star Wars.

    Jones added, "It was sweet. It was finally good to meet her."

  • Stephen Hawking Told The Writers Of 'The Simpsons' That Everything Was Fair Game - Except For One Small Request
    Photo: Fox

    Renowned theoretical physicist Stephen Hawking made three guest appearances on the animated comedy The Simpsons. The first time was in May 1999, in the episode "They Saved Lisa's Brain." Portraying himself, Hawking goes to Springfield to fix things after the town is taken over by members of its newly created Mensa chapter.

    As The Simpsons showrunner Al Jean told The Hollywood Reporter shortly after Hawking's passing in 2018:

    What we would do is send him the script, and... he would record it through his machine. So it was his voice, his special audio program. He did come to studio when he was in America, but he didn’t ever go to the record.

    In the episode, after Hawking calls out the Mensa group's out-of-control egos, Homer Simpson yells, "Larry Flynt is right! You guys stink!" According to Jean, the scientist had no issue with that line:

    Mr. Hawking read it and allowed it. The joke is Homer is an idiot. In no way was it critical of Mr. Hawking.

    Jean added that Hawking made one request:

    He did say at one point that he did not want to be drunk on screen. That was the only note we got from him. He didn’t mind having a beer with Homer at Moe’s, but not more.

  • Mark Hamill Initially Had A 'Hey!' Reaction To His Portrayal On 'The Simpsons' But Grew To Appreciate The Jokes
    Photo: Fox

    Although Mark Hamill has had a long career as a character actor and voiceover artist, he remains best-known for playing Luke Skywalker in the Star Wars film series. 

    A fan of The Simpsons from its beginnings as a series of shorts on The Tracey Ullman Show, Hamill was eager to be part of the show after it became a series, telling AV Club:

    I said to my agent, "I want to be on The Simpsons. Just let them know that." And it took the longest time. I wasn’t on until Season 9 or 10 or something. But my agent called and she said, "I’ve got good news and bad news." 

    I said, "What’s the good news?" 

    She said, "They want you for The Simpsons." 

    I said, "Oh, boy! What’s the bad news?" 

    "They want you to play yourself."

    Hamill admitted he could be self-conscious playing himself. The creators of The Simpsons knew this and let him be the head of a bodyguard school. Still, the actor had problems when he first saw the script:

    Oh, I got up on my high horse! I said, "Oh, I’ve never done dinner theater, I’ve been on Broadway. I’ve never worn my costume in public for money. How dare they." 

    And my kids were like, "Dad, get over yourself. It’s The Simpsons, for God’s sake." Some of the jokes still really stand out, like, "Talk about Star Wars!" 

    "I’m happy to talk about Star Wars. But first, I’d like to talk about Sprint."

    And Homer screaming out, "Shut up, you nerds. He’s trying to save you money on long-distance phone calls."

    In the end, the actor enjoyed the experience:

    I just adored The Simpsons, and it was so fun to finally be able to meet them and be a part of their universe. I mean, Homer picked me up in his arms and carried me off, like an officer and a gentleman. You can’t get better than that. And if you go to my Twitter account, I’m still using my Simpsons rendering as my photo.

  • Prince's Manager Cold Emailed Zooey Deschanel To Say The Musician Wanted To Guest-Star On 'New Girl'
    Photo: Fox

    When Zooey Deschanel was contacted out of the blue from someone claiming to be Prince's manager, she didn't take it seriously. As she explained during an appearance on Jimmy Kimmel Live!:

    I got a cold email from his manager, and it was like the most on-brand Prince email ever - like too on-brand. It was like, "Hello, I am manager to legendary artist Prince. He is loving the show New Girl. He would like 2 B" - you know, like, 2 B - "on the show." And I’m like, "This has to be a prank. There’s no way!"

    But it was no prank. Deschanel told Kimmel:

    And randomly, Prince found the show, and he was watching it every week with his band, and they’d watch it on tour, and it was like he couldn’t miss it, and they were really invested in the Nick and Jess relationship.

    The famous musician appeared in an episode during New Girl's third season. While the show generally averaged a viewing audience of between 3 million and 4 million people, the episode with Prince pulled in an audience of more than 26 million.

    Deschanel admitted the cast and crew had worried if Prince would actually do the guest role: 

    We had no backup plan, but he showed up. He was awesome. He was such a pro... A good actor and very kind of chill all the time. Such a cool guy.

  • Bob Vila Was Invited Onto 'Home Improvement' Because ABC Wanted To Make Sure He Was Okay With The Network Basing A Show On Him
    Photo: ABC

    The characters of Tim and Al on the ABC sitcom Home Improvement were loosely based on Bob Vila and his sidekick on Vila's real home improvement television series This Old House. As Vila explained in an interview for the Television Academy Foundation:

    It's funny, because when Disney was getting ready to launch that show, somebody in the legal department must have sort of had a lightbulb moment and said, "Has anybody run this by Vila?" And my lawyers and my agents got approached, and I was invited to come out and see the show and do a guest spot.

    That was, I think, the very first season of Home Improvement. In that one, I was portrayed as being myself doing a guest appearance on Tim Allen's local show in Detroit, and that's where he accidentally knocks me out with a 4-by-6, or something like that.

    Vila said he spent a week filming that episode and had a blast:

    One of the great things about that whole episode is that it opened up a brand-new audience for me. Eight- to 10-year-old kids who had never heard of Bob Vila or This Old House, all of a sudden heard of Bob Vila... So it created a whole new audience instantly.

    Vila went on to appear on several other episodes of Home Improvement.

    334 votes
  • Brooke Shields Was Excited Producers Of 'The Middle' Wanted Her Character To Look Bad And Be Unappealing
    Photo: ABC

    Brooke Shields portrayed Rita Glossner in six episodes of the sitcom The Middle. Dressed in acid-washed denim and often holding a cigarette and/or a beer in her hand, the usually model-chic Shields was unrecognizable as the "neighbor from hell" who allowed her five children to run wild, antagonizing Frankie Heck (Patricia Clarkson) and her family. In one episode, Rita even tells Frankie she's going to "punch her boobs in" because she thinks Frankie stole her hose.

    Shields had previously worked with the executive producers of The Middle, and when they offered her the role, she had definite ideas on how to portray Rita:

    I said, "You know, she has to have a mullet. And she should have tattoos." And I got there and they had all that ready. Now, whether I actually originated that thought or they were just so happy that I’d suggested something that they’d already thought of, I don’t know. But I did say, "If I’m going to do this, it really should be all out." But not cartoonish.

    Oddly enough, there still had to be an element of believability to her... I was hoping, actually, that they would let me go as far as I did. Many times, I’ll get hired and then people sort of get scared and don’t want me to look bad or possibly be unappealing. So it was nice that they were very willing to have me both look bad and be unappealing!