19 Facts About My So-Called Life
By Rudie Obias
On August 25, 1994, teenagers across the country were introduced to Angela Chase, Claire Danes's character in the beloved, albeit short-lived, teen drama My So-Called Life. On the 25th anniversary of the series' debut, we're taking a look back at the groundbreaking series.
1. Alicia Silverstone almost played Angela Chase.
While Claire Danes ended up playing Angela Chase in My So-Called Life, then-unknown Alicia Silverstone was considered for the role. The 16-year-old Silverstone was ultimately declared "too pretty" to play such a confused character by series co-executive producer Marshall Herskovitz, and 13-year-old Danes—who better fit the awkward teenager role—was chosen instead. Silverstone would get her breakout role one year later, in the form of Clueless's Cher Horowitz.
2. A.J. Langer also auditioned for the role of Angela.
Silverstone wasn't Danes' only competition for the role of Angela Chase. A.J. Langer also auditioned for the part before Danes landed the role. Instead, Langer got the role of Rayanne Graff, a troubled teen and Angela’s new best friend.
3. Rickie Vasquez was the first openly gay teenager on American network TV.
Wilson Cruz played the character of Enrique “Rickie” Vasquez on My So-Called Life. Although there were gay characters on TV before 1994 (Billy Crystal played the 20-something gay son Jodie Dallas on Soap back in 1977), Rickie Vasquez was the first openly gay teenage character on American network TV.
4. Jared Leto almost turned down the role of Jordan Catalano.
Jordan Catalano was only supposed to appear in the pilot episode of My So-Called Life. "But as soon as we got Jared on film, we knew he had to be a continuing character," series creator Winnie Holzman said. Leto was also very hesitant to take the role because he was less interested in acting at the time and was flirting with the idea of going to art school instead. "I remember not being positive that he wanted to do it," Holzman said. "I was a little worried that he didn’t want the part that much. He seemed to have ambivalent feelings. Maybe I am projecting.”
5. The character of tino was never seen.
During the entire series run, the character of Tino was mentioned, but never seen.
6. The SERIES WAS Filmed at a Real High School.
The Pittsburgh-based Liberty High School is fictional. My So-Called Life was shot on location at University High School in Los Angeles. Filming took place during the school year, so students, teachers, and classes had to be shifted to other parts of the school that weren’t being used for production. The school was also used in 7th Heaven, Joan of Arcadia, and Arrested Development.
7. Series Creator Winnie Holzman MADE a cameo.
She played teacher Mrs. Krzyzanowski in the episode “Father Figures.” Holzman only appeared in one episode during the series run.
8. Jared Leto's Brother Also had a Role on the Show.
Jared Leto’s older brother Shannon appeared on My So-Called Life as Jordan Catalano’s bandmate (Frozen Embryo’s drummer) Shane. A few years later, in 1998, the brothers started the real-life rock band 30 Seconds To Mars. Jared Leto is the band's lead singer/guitarist and Shannon Leto plays drums.
9. Bess Armstrong had an Interesting Nickname.
Bess Armstrong, who played Angela’s mother Patty Chase, was nicknamed “Precious Poodle” while filming My So-Called Life. Actress Mary Kay Place, who played Sharon’s mother Camille Cherski, gave her the nickname.
10. Only two episodes don't have an Angela Chase Voiceover.
Angela Chase provides the voiceover in all the episodes except two: “Weekend,” which Danielle Chase narrated, and “Life of Brian,” which Brian Krakow narrated. Todd Holland directed both episodes.
11. My So-Called Life Faced Stiff Competition.
Though it was critically acclaimed, My So-Called Life had a difficult time finding new viewers thanks to its highly competitive time slot: The show aired on Thursday nights at 8 p.m. EST against Mad About You and Friends on NBC and Martin and Living Single on Fox.
12. It aired on MTV.
Before ABC officially canceled My So-Called Life in 1995, episodes aired during MTV’s Buzz Bin programming block—which usually featured music videos from up-and-coming alternative bands of the mid-'90s—in an attempt to build an audience for the struggling teen drama.
13. Fans Tried to Save the Show.
In 1995, Operation Life Support was a short-lived fan campaign to save My So-Called Life when it was on the verge of cancellation—the first online fan campaign undertaken to save a beloved TV show. Fans sent ABC thousands of letters that pleaded with network executives to renew the show for a second season and posted on AOL in an attempt to revive the teen drama from cancellation.
Ultimately, ABC canceled My So-Called Life after one 19-episode season due to its very low ratings and Danes’ reluctance to reprise her role as Angela Chase for another year. In 1996, she co-starred with Leonard DiCaprio in Baz Luhrmann’s Romeo + Juliet.
14. CLaire Danes won a Golden Globe for the role.
In 1994, when she was just 15, Danes won a Golden Globe for Best Actress – Television Series Drama for playing Angela Chase in My So-Called Life, beating out Jane Seymour, Heather Locklear, and Angela Lansbury. Danes would later win three more Golden Globe Awards—one in 2011 for Best Performance by an Actress in a Miniseries or a Motion Picture Made for Television for Temple Grandin and two for Best Performance by an Actress in a Television Series - Drama (one in 2012 and one in 2013) for playing Carrie Mathison on Showtime’s Homeland.
15. claire Danes Wasn't the Only Award Winner Among the Cast.
In 1995, My So-Called Life won three Youth In Film Awards for Best New Family Television Series and Best Performance by a Youth Ensemble in a Television Series. Lisa Wilhoit, who played Danielle Chase, tied with Earth 2’s J. Madison Wright for the Best Performance by a Youth Actress in a Drama Series award. Devon Gummersall, who played Brian Krakow, was nominated for Best Performance by a Youth Actor in a Drama Series, but lost to Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman’s Shawn Toovey.
16. There was a follow-up book.
In 1999, a novelization titled My So-Called Life Goes On continued the story of Angela Chase and her friends. Author Catherine Clark wrote the book, which goes for upwards of $80 on Amazon.
17. Graham Chase Was a Great Dad—According to TIME.
Tom Irwin’s Graham Chase was named one of TV Guide’s Top 50 TV Dads of All Time. The list also included the likes of Philip Banks from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air and Mike Brady on The Brady Bunch.
18. The Show is Referenced in Juno.
In 2007, screenwriter Diablo Cody referenced My So-Called Life in her Academy Award winning movie Juno. The character of Paulie Bleeker, played by Michael Cera, makes a comment about getting the band back together and Juno MacGuff replies, “Once Tino gets a new drumhead, we're just like ready to rock.”
19. The Ataris were influenced by the show.
Indiana Pop Punk/Emo band The Ataris wrote a song called “My So-Called Life.” The song chronicles The Ataris’ singer/songwriter Kristopher Roe’s obsession with Claire Danes.
This story has been updated for 2019.