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The list of guest stars of the sitcom Roseanne includes a string of actors who would go on to be huge successes in Hollywood:

  • George Clooney
  • Leonardo DiCaprio
  • Bruce Willis*
  • Ellen Degeneres*
  • Neil Patrick Harris*
  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt
  • Tobey Maguire
  • Bill Maher*
  • Bob Odenkirk

Is there any particular reason why so many big names worked on Roseanne early in their careers?

*added in edit after noted by a commenter

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    Wasn't it the hottest thing on TV for a while? Bruce Willis didn't need a career boost at that time, IIRC, but maybe people wanted to guest on it because it was fun, popular, and meaningful? – Todd Wilcox Nov 11 '17 at 7:26
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    DiCaprio was in one ep., and he had done stuff before that; he's more linked to Growing Pains. Clooney has a massive list of jobs before Roseanne. I haven't checked all of them, but these people were starting in the business and so it is natural they'd do small jobs here and there, and I doubt Roseanne was even their first stop. Also, half a dozen isn't exactly "many". I bet there are soaps that have "produced" dozens of stars; it' simply a numbers game: lotsa free spots for cheap actors = increased chances some of them make it big later. – BCdotWEB Nov 11 '17 at 8:08
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    Confirmation bias. – OrangeDog Nov 11 '17 at 16:02
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    @steelersquirrel But this soap opera didn't produce these stars...they just appeared in it as working actors. What about the dozens/hundreds of actors who aren't stars. – Paulie_D Nov 11 '17 at 16:13
  • @OrangeDog - You should incorporate that into an answer! – BruceWayne Nov 12 '17 at 17:00
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I'm not convinced that this list of future stars from Roseanne is disproportionately high, considering the relative popularity of the show and the number of seasons it ran. Roseanne was a pretty big show back in the day, so of course it featured a number of people who were relatively unknown at the time, but went on to greater things.

By way of example, consider 3rd Rock from the Sun. If 5 "future stars" is your criteria for "so many" then this show featured:

  • Bob Odenkirk

  • Bryan Cranston (note this was before Malcolm in the Middle)

  • Megan Mullally (before Will & Grace)

  • John Maynard

  • Joseph Gordon-Levitt (in a starring role, arguably this was his break-out into stardom, but it could as easily have amounted to nothing.)

And that's not counting actors who were already sort of famous (like Bruce Willis, mentioned in the comments.) Some of those from 3rd Rock include John Lithgow (of course), Wayne Knight, and Phil Hartman.

This show was popular enough at the time it aired, but still nowhere near as big as Roseanne, so if it can even get close to the same number of "future stars," then I think that says something about how not unusual this number of future greats actually is. I'm sure if you picked any other sitcom that ran 5-ish years, you could find analogous quantities of actors who went on to become household names thereafter.

TLDR: Everybody who's famous now came from somewhere before.

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    Pretty sure I said the same thing in comments [flame fest now cleaned] however I had the misfortune to choose a British show as comparison... :/ I'm not going to do the work again, but if anyone wants to check out 'The Bill' for future stars, it shows a very similar tale. – Tetsujin Nov 12 '17 at 10:17
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    @Tetsujin I wouldn't really call that a flame fest. Just a misunderstanding :) I apologize for any miscommunication that we had. Sometimes I forget that not everyone knows my bantering and playful personality and it can be misconstrued at times. I sincerely apologize for coming across as "snobbish" (for lack of a better word) in regards to who is the bigger star in Hollywood. It certainly wasn't my intent :) – steelersquirrel Nov 13 '17 at 2:36

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