Over the course of its seven-year run, Gilmore Girls introduced many future stars. Some even played multiple characters on the show before making it big.
1. Jon Hamm // "Peyton Sanders"
The future Don Draper's biggest role prior to Gilmore Girls was a recurring part in the TV series Providence (which apparently didn't pay very well—the actor has said in interviews that he kept his job as a waiter for the year he was on the show). In the season three episode “Eight O’Clock at the Oasis,” Hamm played Peyton Sanders; his character met Lorelai at an auction. They went on one date, but she had a miserable time (off camera).
2. Max Greenfield // "Lucas"
Max Greenfield had appeared on two TV shows before he played Lucas in the season four episode "Chicken or Beef?" He attended Dean’s bachelor party and tells Luke, “Hey, my name’s Luke, too. We should start a club or something.” After Gilmore Girls, Greenfield played a romantic interest for Veronica Mars for a couple of seasons, a role he reprised in the 2014 film. For four years, he has starred on New Girl as Schmidt.
3. Alex Borstein // "Drella," "Miss Celine," and "Doris"
Borstein, who at the time was appearing on MADtv, was originally cast as Gilmore Girls' Sookie. But when Melissa McCarthy took over that role, Borstein was given the opportunity to play three different characters. She was the Independence Inn’s sassy harpist, Drella, in four season one episodes, and played Emily’s stylist in the later seasons. She also provided the voice for Doris in the season three episode “Eight O’Clock at the Oasis.”
Since wrapping up MADtv in 2009, Borstein has starred in A Million Ways to Die in the West and Shameless. She also voices Lois on Family Guy.
4. Chad Michael Murray // "Tristan Dugray"
Chad Michael Murray had just a few roles under his belt when he played Rory’s rich Chilton classmate, who definitely had a thing for her, in the first season of Gilmore Girls. He left Gilmore Girls to do a season of Dawson’s Creek, then played Lucas Scott on One Tree Hill for six seasons. Now, he appears on Agent Carter as Jack Thompson.
5. Seth MacFarlane // "Zach" and "Bob Merriam"
MacFarlane had already created and premiered Family Guy when he took on his first live-action role as Zach, a business school student who graduated alongside Lorelai in the season two episode "Lorelai’s Graduation Day." Later, he played Emily’s lawyer, Bob Merriam, in the season three episode “I Solemnly Swear.” Since Gilmore Girls, MacFarlane has created American Dad and The Cleveland Show, and he wrote and starred in Ted and A Million Ways to Die in the West. He also somehow found time to host the 85th Academy Awards in 2013.
6. Jane Lynch // "Nurse"
The same year she appeared in the mockumentary Best in Show, Jane Lynch played an exasperated nurse who gets harassed by Emily when Richard is in the hospital in the season one episode "Forgiveness and Stuff." Since then, she has starred in many films, including The 40-Year-Old Virgin, Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, and A Mighty Wind. She has also had regular roles on shows Two and a Half Men, Party Down, and, of course, Glee. She currently hosts NBC’s Hollywood Game Night.
7. Masi Oka // "Unnamed philosophy student"
Masi Oka had just two roles under his belt when he played a student who gets into a debate with Rory when she sneaks into a Harvard class in the season two episode "The Road Trip to Harvard." These days, Oka is best known for playing Hiro on four seasons of Heroes; he can now be seen as Dr. Max Bergman in Hawaii Five-0.
8. Brandon Routh // "Jess"
Future Superman Brandon Routh had appeared in a couple of TV shows—including MTV's Undressed—before he played Jess, a handsome man who lured Madeline and Louise away from a Bangles concert, in the season one episode "Concert Interruptus." Currently, he stars on the TV show Arrow.
9. Adam Brody // "Dave Rygalski"
Adam Brody had a number of roles before he landed the role of Seth Cohen in The O.C. One of them was Dave Rygalski on Gilmore Girls. The character, who appeared in season three, played in Lane’s band and eventually became her boyfriend; after Brody booked The O.C., characters on Gilmore Girls said that Dave “moved to California.”
10. Riki Lindhome // "Girl #2" And "Juliet"
These days, Riki Lindhome is best known as one half of the popular singing duo Garfunkel and Oates, which now has a TV show of the same name on IFC. But in the early days of her career, she booked a couple of roles on Gilmore Girls: In the season three episode “One’s Got Class and the Other One Dyes,” she plays a girl in a Stars Hollow classroom where Lorelai is giving a speech. In seasons five and six, Lindhome plays Juliet, a member of the Life and Death Brigade secret society along with Logan. Since Gilmore Girls, she has appeared in the movies My Best Friend’s Girl, The Last House on the Left, and Million Dollar Baby.
11. Abigail Spencer // "Megan"
Soap fans might have recognized Abigail Spencer—who played Rebecca Tyree on a season of All My Children—when she popped up on Gilmore Girls as Megan, one of the bridesmaids of Honor Huntzberger, Logan’s sister, in the season six episode "Bridesmaids Revisited." Since the show, Spencer has had roles in Oz the Great and Powerful, This Means War, and Cowboys & Aliens. You can see her now playing Dana Scott on Suits.
12. Nasim Pedrad // "Waitress"
Future SNL player Nasim Pedrad had just two credits to her name when she played a waitress in "Bridesmaids Revisited"; she waited on a sad, drunk Rory in a bar. After Gilmore Girls, she played a nurse on ER and landed SNL in 2009, where she stayed for five seasons. Most recently, she appeared in the sitcom Mulaney.
13. Matt Jones // "Morgan"
In his first TV role ever, Matt Jones helped Jackson deep fry a Thanksgiving turkey in the season two episode “A Deep Fried Korean Thanksgiving.” He didn’t get another TV role until 2008, when his career really took off: He played Badger on five seasons of Breaking Bad and now stars as Baxter in the CBS sitcom Mom.
14. Arielle Kebbel // "Lindsay"
Arielle Kebbel had done just a couple of bit parts on TV shows before she played Lindsay, who dates, then marries, Rory’s ex-boyfriend Dean in seasons four and five of Gilmore Girls. Since then, she's starred in The Uninvited, John Tucker Must Die, and Think Like a Man. She frequently makes appearances as Lexi on The Vampire Diaries.
15. Ben Falcone // "Mr. Brink"
Ben Falcone played the executor of Fran’s will, who informs Lorelai that Fran’s family will be selling the Dragonfly Inn, in the season three episode "Say Goodnight, Gracie." Before that, he had just four on-screen credits. Since Gilmore Girls, Falcone has been in Bridesmaids, Enough Said, and What to Expect When You’re Expecting. He also wrote and directed the 2014 film Tammy, which starred his wife, Melissa McCarthy, who played Sookie on Gilmore Girls.
16. Colin Egglesfield // "Sean"
Colin Egglesfield had small parts on four TV shows—including Law & Order: SVU—before he played Sean in the season four episode “Girls in Bikinis, Boys Doin’ the Twist.” Rory meets Sean while she's on spring break in Florida. She falls for him, but he doesn’t reciprocate much—until he sees her kiss Paris. Since Gilmore Girls, Egglesfield has been a cast member in many TV series, including All My Children, The Client List, and Rizzoli & Isles. He also played Dex, the romantic interest of both Ginnifer Goodwin and Kate Hudson, in the film Something Borrowed.
17. Danny Pudi // "Raj"
Danny Pudi had appeared in one episode each of The West Wing and ER before playing Raj, a Yale Daily News writer, for four episodes in seasons six and seven of Gilmore Girls. Now, of course, he’s best known for playing Abed Nadir in Community.
18. Victoria Justice // "Jill #2"
In her first television appearance ever, Victoria Justice played Jill #2, a young girl at a party catered by Lorelai and Sookie, in the season four episode “The Hobbit, the Sofa, and Digger Stiles.” She claimed that Sookie’s cooking “tastes like diapers.” Since Gilmore Girls, Justice has starred in two wildly popular Nickelodeon shows: Zoey 101 and Victorious. She can now be seen in the new MTV series Eye Candy, where she plays a cyber sleuth.
19. Emily Bergl // "Francie Jarvis"
Emily Bergl had a few small roles before she played Rory’s intimidating, popular classmate at Chilton in the second and third seasons of Gilmore Girls. Since then, Bergl has appeared on Desperate Housewives and was a regular on Southland until 2013. She now stars as Sammi in Shameless.
20. KRYSTEN RITTER // "LUCY"
Fresh off her gig as Gia Goodman in Veronica Mars—but a few years before she played Jane Margolis, Jesse Pinkman's girlfriend, on Breaking Bad, or the titular superhero in Jessica Jones—Krysten Ritter played Lucy, one of Rory's college friends at Yale, in several episodes of the show's seventh (and final) season.
An earlier version of this post ran in 2015.