27 Future Stars Who Appeared on ER

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Hollywood changed forever in 1994 when ER made its premiere on NBC and transformed George Clooney from Working Actor You Might Recognize from Roseanne, The Facts of Life, and/or Return of the Killer Tomatoes! to, well, George Clooney. And though The Cloons hung up his scrubs in order to pursue big-screen opportunities in 1999, the long-running medical drama—created by novelist Michael Crichton—did just fine without Dr. Doug Ross.

The series ran for an impressive 15 seasons, racking up 124 Emmy nominations in the process. While it maintained an impressive roster of super talented series regulars (including William H. Macy and Ving Rhames) and guest stars (including Ewan McGregor and Susan Sarandon) and even managed to get Quentin Tarantino to direct an episode, ER also gave a jump start to the careers of dozens of then-newbie actors who would go on to rise up the Hollywood ladder.

1. Christina Hendricks

Three years after landing her first role with a four-episode arc on MTV’s Undressed, Christina Hendricks starred in four episodes of ER, as Dr. Abby Lockhart’s (Maura Tierney) neighbor with bad taste in men. 

2. Matthew Settle

The object of Christina Hendricks’ affection? Matthew Settle, who’s best known as Rufus Humphrey, aka “The Dad,” on Gossip Girl.

3. Zac Efron

Not even one of those upbeat song-and-dance numbers from High School Musical could have changed the fate of Bobby Neville, the role Zac Efron played in ER’s 10th season (and his second-ever). He came in a gunshot victim and never went home. 

4. Eva Mendes

Long before she and Ryan Gosling became parents in real life, Eva Mendes got practice by playing one on television. Her first credited role (we’re not counting her role in Will Smith’s “Miami” video) came in ER’s fourth season, when she spelled her name with an “z” instead of an “s.”

5. Nick Offerman

Before he was whittling things and keeping order in Pawnee, Nick Offerman played a badass rocker in ER’s fourth season premiere, which was also his television debut. Appearing in the same episode was future Oscar nominee John Hawkes (who, while not a household name yet, was certainly a veteran actor, having landed his first role in 1985).

6. Adam Scott

Offerman’s Parks and Recreation co-star Adam Scott also found an early paycheck on the set of ER during its first season, as a pedestrian who was hit by a car. “It was the first season of ER, so it was a pretty big,” Scott recalled to TVLine. “Everyone was discovering it, and George Clooney was on the cover of TV Guide as this new star. I was sitting outside waiting to work and he was playing basketball with a bunch of dudes. I remember just thinking, 'God, this dude is on the cover of TV Guide! He just looks like he doesn't care.’ If I was on the cover of a magazine, I’d be celebrating.”

7. Amy Ryan

In the same year she landed a starring role on the short-lived series The Naked Truth, and 12 years before she scored an Oscar nomination for Gone Baby Gone, Amy Ryan played a nun from a nearby Catholic school in the midst of a meningitis outbreak. 

8. Emile Hirsch

Emile Hirsch made two appearances during ER’s sixth season as Chad Kottmeir, a teenaged alcoholic.

9. Chris Pine

Chris Pine’s ER gig didn’t require a whole lot of range—he played a drunk teenager recovering from a five-day bender of a Valentine’s Day party—but it did land him his first credited role.

10. Dakota Fanning

Dakota Fanning was just six years old when she made her onscreen debut as Delia Chandler, a little girl—and leukemia survivor—injured in a car accident who, it turns out, is not leukemia-free. Much of the episode revolves around Dr. Abby Lockhart’s (Maura Tierney) attempts to save Fanning’s life.

11. Shia LaBeouf

Before he was “not famous anymore,” Shia LaBeouf was not famous at all when he played Darnel Smith, a wheelchair-bound kid with muscular dystrophy, in a 2000 episode of ER.

12. Josh Radnor

After a couple of uncredited roles and the obligatory part on Law & Order, Josh Radnor played the syphilis-suffering gay lover of a Chicago alderman in ER’s ninth season. Two years later, he began filming How I Met Your Mother.

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13. Lucy Liu


Three years before her breakout role on Ally McBeal, Lucy Liu spent three episodes on ER as Mei-Sun Leow, the mother of a young boy with AIDS.

14. Aaron Paul

He may be just 35 years old, but Aaron Paul has gotten around with a series of one-off roles on shows like Beverly Hills, 90210, Melrose Place, 3rd Rock from the Sun, The X-Files, and NYPD Blue. In 2003, the future Golden Globe nominee added ER to his growing resume.

15. Josh Hutcherson

Josh Hutcherson was just 11 years old and already on his third professional gig in 2002, when he appeared in an episode titled “First Snowfall,” as part of a family run down by a drunk driver while building a snowman. Yes, a snowman.

16. Lake Bell

Lake Bell lucked out with her first credited role, which ended up being a two-episode deal during ER’s ninth season.

17. Wentworth Miller

Two years after making his on-screen debut in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but five years before Prison Break made him a star, Wentworth Miller played Mike Palmieri, a high school wide receiver who got caught up in a football game riot.

18. Eric Stonestreet

A year after landing his first credited role on Dharma & Greg, Eric Stonestreet found himself in the ER—and on ER—after a failed attempt to give his ears a Spock-like makeover.

19. Octavia Spencer

Fourteen years before winning an Oscar for The Help, and just two years after beginning her professional career, Octavia Spencer appeared in a single 1998 episode of ER

20. Anton Yelchin

Before he was starring in blockbusters like Star Trek, Anton Yelchin scored his first job—at the tender age of 11—as Robbie Edelstein, a kid who learns that his parents have been killed in a car accident.

21. Taraji P. Henson

More than a decade before she earned an Oscar nomination for The Curious Case of Benjamin Button, Taraji P. Henson impressed ER’s producers enough that they hired her for two episodes in 1998. As two different characters.

22. Jake Lloyd

Three years before he played Anakin Skywalker in The Phantom Menace, Jake Lloyd scored a four-episode run on ER (his first role) as Jimmy Sweet, the son of a prostitute.

23. Mena Suvari

Three years before she starred in American Pie and American Beauty, Mena Suvari played Laura-Lee Armitage, a reluctant teenage patient, in ER’s third season.

24. Gabrielle Union

In the same year that she starred in Bring It On, Gabrielle Union was beefing up her resume with an appearance on ER.

25. Kristin Davis

One month before moving into Melrose Place as the nutty Brooke Armstrong, Kristin Davis played the mom of an ER patient in 1995.

26. George Eads


Future CSI George Eads played paramedic Greg Powell in a few episodes between 1997 and 1998 (at the same time his future CSI co-star Jorja Fox played a doctor).

27. Janel Moloney


Four years before her star-making turn as Donna on The West Wing, Janel Moloney appeared in a 1995 episode, “The Birthday Party.” Her West Wing boss Bradley Whitford appeared in two episodes in the same year.

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All photos courtesy of Getty Images.

10 Reusable Gifts for Your Eco-Friendliest Friend

Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
Disposable tea bags can't compete with this pla-tea-pus and his friends.
DecorChic/Amazon

This article contains affiliate links to products selected by our editors. Mental Floss may receive a commission for purchases made through these links.

By this point, your eco-friendly pal probably has a reusable water bottle that accompanies them everywhere and some sturdy grocery totes that keep their plastic-bag count below par. Here are 10 other sustainable gift ideas that’ll help them in their conservation efforts.

1. Reusable Produce Bags; $13

No more staticky plastic bags.Naturally Sensible/Amazon

The complimentary plastic produce bags in grocery stores aren’t great, but neither is having all your spherical fruits and vegetables roll pell-mell down the checkout conveyor belt. Enter the perfect alternative: mesh bags that are nylon, lightweight, and even machine-washable.

Buy it: Amazon

2. Animal Tea Infusers; $16

Nothing like afternoon tea with your tiny animal friends.DecorChic/Amazon

Saying goodbye to disposable tea bags calls for a quality tea diffuser, and there’s really no reason why it shouldn’t be shaped like an adorable animal. This “ParTEA Pack” includes a hippo, platypus, otter, cat, and owl, which can all hang over the edge of a glass or mug. (In other words, you won’t have to fish them out with your fingers or dirty a spoon when your loose leaf is done steeping.)

Buy it: Amazon

3. Rocketbook Smart Notebook; $25

Typing your notes on a tablet or laptop might save trees, but it doesn’t quite capture the feeling of writing on paper with a regular pen. The Rocketbook, on the other hand, does. After you’re finished filling a page with sketches, musings, or whatever else, you scan it into the Rocketbook app with your smartphone, wipe it clean with the microfiber cloth, and start again. This one also comes with a compatible pen, but any PILOT FriXion pens will do.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Food Huggers; $13

"I'm a hugger!"Food Huggers/Amazon

It’s hard to compete with the convenience of plastic wrap or tin foil when it comes to covering the exposed end of a piece of produce or an open tin can—and keeping those leftovers in food storage containers can take up valuable space in the fridge. This set of five silicone Food Huggers stretch to fit over a wide range of circular goods, from a lidless jar to half a lemon.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Swiffer Mop Pads; $15

For floors that'll shine like the top of the Chrysler Building.Turbo Microfiber/Amazon

Swiffers may be much less unwieldy than regular mops, but the disposable pads present a problem to anyone who likes to keep their trash output to a minimum. These machine-washable pads fasten to the bottom of any Swiffer WetJet, and the thick microfiber will trap dirt and dust instead of pushing it into corners. Each pad lasts for at least 100 uses, so you’d be saving your eco-friendly friend quite a bit of money, too.

Buy it: Amazon

6. SodaStream for Sparkling Water; $69

A fondness for fizzy over flat water doesn’t have to mean buying it bottled. Not only does the SodaStream let you make seltzer at home, but it’s also small enough that it won’t take up too much precious counter space. SodaStream also sells flavor drops to give your home-brewed beverage even more flair—this pack from Amazon ($25) includes mango, orange, raspberry, lemon, and lime.

Buy it: Amazon

7. Washable Lint Roller; $13

Roller dirty.iLifeTech/Amazon

There’s a good chance that anyone with a pet (or just an intense dislike for lint) has lint-rolled their way through countless sticky sheets. iLifeTech’s reusable roller boasts “the power of glue,” which doesn’t wear off even after you’ve washed it. Each one also comes with a 3-inch travel-sized version, so you can stay fuzz-free on the go.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Countertop Compost Bin; $23

Like a tiny Tin Man for your table.Epica/Amazon

Even if you keep a compost pile in your own backyard, it doesn’t make sense to dash outside every time you need to dump a food scrap. A countertop compost bin can come in handy, especially if it kills odors and blends in with your decor. This 1.3-gallon pail does both. It’s made of stainless steel—which matches just about everything—and contains an activated-charcoal filter that prevents rancid peels and juices from stinking up your kitchen.

Buy it: Amazon

9. Fabric-Softening Dryer Balls; $17

Also great for learning how to juggle without breaking anything.Smart Sheep

Nobody likes starchy, scratchy clothes, but some people might like blowing through bottles of fabric softener and boxes of dryer sheets even less. Smart Sheep is here to offer a solution: wool dryer balls. Not only do they last for more than 1000 loads, they also dry your laundry faster. And since they don’t contain any chemicals, fragrances, or synthetic materials, they’re a doubly great option for people with allergies and/or sensitive skin.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Rechargeable Batteries; $40

Say goodbye to loose batteries in your junk drawer.eneloop/Amazon

While plenty of devices are rechargeable themselves, others still require batteries to buzz, whir, and change the TV channel—so it’s good to have some rechargeable batteries on hand. In addition to AA batteries, AAA batteries, and a charger, this case from Panasonic comes with tiny canisters that function as C and D batteries when you slip the smaller batteries into them.

Buy it: Amazon

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The 10 Best Holiday Gifts $25 and Under

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Whether you're shopping on a budget or looking for gifts for the person in your life who's halfway between acquaintance and friend, this list of great presents for small prices should do the trick. Fun and silly, thoughtful and serious, useful and frivolous, this group of gifts is filled with old favorites and new delights. Fair warning: You may end up buying two of whatever you pick.

1. Anker Power Bank; $22

Amazon

Need a little extra boost? Tired of looking down at the Low Power Mode warning? This incredibly light on-the-go charger is a tiny powerhouse that will keep your phone at 100 percent and keep you from scrambling to find a wall outlet at the airport. It also comes with its own travel pouch and an 18-month warranty, but the cable is sold separately. It's a solid one-for-me-one-for-them gift.

Buy it: Amazon

2. FYC Wool Socks; $13

Amazon

For the friend in your life with feet, consider these thick, stylish socks that evoke a vintage design while keeping toes toasty (and sweat-free). They're made of a blend of cotton, wool, and polyester, so you get the best of all worlds: comfortable, warm, and breathable. Plus, they're versatile enough to go with pajamas, your hiking gear, or Zoom-ready business casual.

Buy it: Amazon

3. Zulay Kitchen Stovetop Espresso Maker; $17

Amazon

This sturdy, classic brewer is perfect for the person in your life who is interested in upping their cup game. It's simple and sleek, but it also comes with a pressure valve (couldn't we all use one?) to boost caffeine extraction, and the design allows for espresso, crema, foam emulsions, and more. Best of all, clean up is easy, so you don't have to worry about grimy boiled bean build-up.

Buy it: Amazon

4. Meriwool Beanie; $21

Amazon

Need a great gift that everyone can appreciate? No sweat! Meriwool's wool beanie comes in nine different colors and will look great on anyone hoping for something soft to hug their cranium. Made with 100 percent all natural superfine 18.5-micron Merino wool, it's not a head-scratcher, and the material is naturally moisture-wicking.

Buy it: Amazon

5. Bob Ross Coloring Book; $7

Amazon

No one is going to judge you for using paintbrushes on this coloring book. Or crayons, markers, pencils, or your fingers. The beauty of this official coloring book celebrating the art of American icon Bob Ross is that it gives you a rough image to project your own designs on. It's far from paint-by-numbers, and it'll be a welcomed gift for anyone in your life who needs to destress with a little creativity.

Buy it: Amazon

6. Jim from The Office Funko; $9

Amazon

Six days since our last nonsense seems ambitious, but fans of the hit workplace comedy will appreciate having an adorable version of Jim Halpert to sardonically stare at them from behind their keyboard. Naturally, there's also figures of Michael, Pam, Dwight, and the whole Office gang in case you've got someone with a growing collection on your list. Plus, there's always the rabbit hole of Funkos that should satisfy fans of everything from Anime to Zombie flicks.

Buy it: Amazon

7. The Godfather Family Album; $25

Amazon

It's almost criminal that this book is so inexpensive. This 512-page hardcover gem showcases Steve Shapiro's iconic on-set photography of the immortalized mob film. Striking, unique images of Al Pacino, Marlon Brando, Robert De Niro, Diane Keaton, and the rest of the cast of The Godfather sit alongside the sharp film writing of historian Paul Duncan, making this a definitive tome that belongs on every fan's coffee table.

Buy it: Amazon

8. Star wars The Child Monopoly; $20

Amazon

There are hundreds of different versions of the classic game about buying rectangles and charging outrageous prices for landing on the wrong ones, but for those who are loving The Mandalorian, this version drops you right into the series' adventures. The only problem is that everyone will call dibs on the Hoverpram piece. This is the way.

Buy it: Amazon

9. British Chocolate Bar Selection; $20

Amazon

Give someone the ability to travel to Britain from the comfort of wherever they can unwrap a wrapper. Crunchie, Bounty, and Fry's Peppermint Cream are just a few of the offerings in this Global Treats pack that can remind someone of home or share a piece of the UK with your favorite anglophile. Don't worry—no fun size here. They're all full size and delicious.

Buy it: Amazon

10. Stanley travel mug; $25

Amazon

Stanley has over a hundred years of quality craftsmanship under its toolbelt. This sturdy, cup-holder-ready mug benefits from that experience and boasts double-wall vacuum insulation to keep piping coffee hot for seven hours and chilly lemonade cold for up to 10. Toss in some ice cubes, and whatever you're sipping stays cold for up to 30! It comes with a trigger action lid for one-handed, leak-proof use, making it perfect for the exercise bike or the office. Everyone could use another way of transporting their drink of choice, and this might just replace what they've already got.

Buy it: Amazon