For most of the Glee cast, the Fox show was their first big role — but not their first role ever. Starting with bit parts and working as extras and starring in short films, some actors like Lea Michele and Matthew Morrison even paid their dues finding Broadway fame. But Naya Rivera‘s story is a little different — she actually landed her breakout role at just four years old, playing little Hillary Winston on The Royal Family. Want to know where all the Glee cast members got their start? Check out the video above to see all your Glee faves in their first ever on-screen roles.
If you don’t remember The Royal Family, that might be because the show only ran for one season, and it premiered in 1991. Starring Redd Foxx, famous for his starring role in Sanford and Son in the ’70s, the show followed a family that including Redd as the patriarch and Naya as one of his young grandchildren. Despite the show’s short run — it was canceled not long after Redd passed away from a heart attack in real life — it landed Naya a nomination for the Exceptional Performance by a Young Actress Under Ten award at the 1992 Young Artist Awards. Talk about star power.
Darren Criss also had a huge role before he played Blaine on Glee. Though it wasn’t on TV or in movies, he did star as Harry Potter himself in A Very Potter Musical, a parody that took the Internet by storm in the summer of 2009. Fun fact for you, that was the time between the Glee pilot hitting TV in May and officially starting its first season in September. He also co-wrote the music and lyrics for the original show, and, with the other creators of the musical, founded StarKid Productions, a musical theater company now based out of Chicago. It wasn’t until a year later that he joined the Glee cast. And now, he’s a huge star, alternating between performing on Broadway and starring in Ryan Murphy‘s new show, American Crime Story.
Plenty of the other stars also had previous notable gigs, too. Heather Morris danced on tour with Beyoncé before landing her role as Brittany S. Pierce. Jayma Mays starred in the spoof flick Epic Movie on the big screen. Blake Jenner and Alex Newell landed major roles after competing on The Glee Project, a competition reality show that ending up getting them a spot on Glee. But no matter where they started, they all found their way to one of our favorite TV shows, one we’ll be rewatching for years to come. And we can’t wait to see what they all get up to next.