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Top 10 TV Stars Who Outgrew Their Show

VO: Rebecca Brayton
Written by Mark Sammut Here today, gone tomorrow. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 TV Stars Who Outgrew Their Show. For this list, we’re looking at small screen actors who transcended their humble beginnings. The main thing is they led successful careers outside of the show; so, whether they left the series or stayed is not important.
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Here today, gone tomorrow. Welcome to WatchMojo.com and today we’ll be counting down our picks for the Top 10 TV Stars Who Outgrew Their Show.

For this list, we’re looking at small screen actors who transcended their humble beginnings. The main thing is they led successful careers outside of the show; so, whether they left the series or stayed is not important.

#10: Will Smith
“The Fresh Prince Of Bel-Air” (1990-96)

Music, TV, and film – there is nothing Big Willie cannot do. By the time The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air hit the scene, DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince had already released three full-length albums. Born and raised in Philadelphia, Smith's larger-than-life personality and charisma survived the transition to the small screen, transforming the rapper into a household name. After conquering music and TV, the film industry was the next logical step, with “Independence Day” and “Men in Black” cementing Will Smith as an A-list celebrity.

#9: Jason Segel
“How I Met Your Mother” (2005-14)

Neil Patrick Harris' Barney Stinson might get most of the love, but Marshall knocked it out of the park. “How I Met Your Mother” managed to last for nine seasons without someone from the main cast dropping out. Three years into the show's run, however, Jason Segel wrote and starred in “Forgetting Sarah Marshall”, a raunchy comedy that earned 85% on Rotten Tomatoes and established Marshall as a bankable actor. Proving to be a hit on the small and big screen, Jason landed roles in “Despicable Me”, The Muppets revival, and “The Five-Year Engagement”.

#8: Chris Pratt
“Parks and Recreation” (2009-15)
Nothing can replace Mouse Rat, but Guardians of the Galaxy is a close second. Chris Pratt started off as a sidekick on the TV drama “Everwood”, before landing a part on “Parks and Recreation”. While Andy always brought the laughs, many were taken by surprise when Pratt was cast as Star-Lord in James Gunn's superhero blockbuster. “Guardians of the Galaxy” and Pratt's performance received near universal praise, instantly turning the TV actor into one of Hollywood's biggest stars. Pratt appears in the Jurassic World trilogy as well as in Marvel's Infinity War; so, Andy – and Pratt – is here to stay.

#7: Dan Stevens
“Downton Abbey” (2010-15)

From Yorkshire to 18th century France, this English actor's talent is timeless. “Downton Abbey” captured the hearts of viewers from around the world, partially due to Dan Stevens' captivating performance as Matthew Crawley. Previously known for his stage work, Stevens gave the historical period drama three seasons before leaving to try something new. At first, the gamble did not pay off, with 2014's “The Guest” being the actor's biggest film; but, Stevens reached superstardom with Disney's live-action “Beauty and the Beast”.

#6: Jennifer Aniston
“Friends” (1994-2004)

As the faces of one of the most successful shows of all time, the sitcom's entire cast is pretty much set for life. While all six “Friends” landed roles outside of television, Jennifer Aniston is the only one to completely outshine the series that made her famous. Due to a string of lucrative romantic comedies, including “Office Space” and “The Break-Up”, Aniston established herself as a reliable comedic actress capable of holding her own alongside any other celebrity. Putting aside Aniston's film career, the media has always kept tabs on her private life, ensuring the actress is known for more than just Rachel.

#5: Donald Glover
“Community” (2009-15)

Writer, actor, and rapper – Childish Gambino is the full package. Prior to landing the role of Troy Barnes on “Community”, Donald Glover paid his dues as a writer on “30 Rock”. While no stranger to the camera, Troy was Glover's first big acting role, which lasted for the next five years. In the meantime, the actor released two albums under the pseudonym of Childish Gambino. Preferring to focus on his own work, Glover created and starred in “Atlanta”, a highly acclaimed comedy-drama that won multiple Emmys. As Childish Gambino, he also took home a Grammy for “Redbone”, dialing up his fame factor another notch.

#4: George Clooney
“ER” (1994-2009)

A bankable movie star and proven producer today, George Clooney got his big break when he was cast as “ER”'s Dr. Doug Ross. The role led to a couple of Emmy and Golden Globe nominations, and for five years, Clooney juggled a busy television and film schedule, including the films “Out of Sight” and “From Dusk till Dawn”. In 1999, Clooney made his final appearance as a full-time cast member and set his sights on Hollywood. Within a couple of years, the charismatic actor was sharing the silver screen with Brad Pitt, Matt Damon, and Julia Roberts in “Ocean's Eleven”.

#3: Michael J. Fox
“Family Ties” (1982-89)

Who else can say they became a werewolf and a time-traveler in the same year? Michael J. Fox is synonymous with the '80s, and worked on multiple TV series before landing the role of Alex P. Keaton on “Family Ties”. Soon thereafter, Steven Spielberg and “Back to the Future” came knocking, propelling Fox into the big leagues. The sci-fi classic proved an instant hit and spawned two sequels, although Michael J. continued to appear on “Family Ties”. Once Alex P. Keaton's days were done, for a while, Fox focused on film before returning with acclaim to the small screen in “Spin City”.

#2: Melissa McCarthy
“Mike & Molly” (2010-16)

The energetic actress had been in the business for over a decade when Mike & Molly started its run. Within three years, Melissa McCarthy went from a relatively unknown actress to one of TV and film's leading comedic talents. After her star-making performance in “Bridesmaids”, McCarthy would go on to work repeatedly with director Paul Feig, with leading roles in “The Heat”, “Spy”, and the 2016 “Ghostbusters” remake. Despite being one of the most in-demand talents in Hollywood, McCarthy remained committed to “Mike & Molly”, lasting a full six-seasons before the sitcom called it a day.

Before we unveil our top pick, here are a few honorable mentions.

Bruce Willis
“Moonlighting” (1985-89)

Ashton Kutcher
“That '70s Show” (1998-2006)

Adam Driver
“Girls” (2012-17)

#1: Steve Carell
“The Office” [US] (2005-13)

The Dana Carvey Show lasted for seven short episodes but managed to gift the world two future stars. Alongside Stephen Colbert, Steve Carell went on to perform on “The Daily Show” before securing the beloved role of Michael Scott on the US version of “The Office”. While the mockumentary struggled through its first season, Carell's performance in “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” drew more attention to the series. For around seven years, Carell balanced a film and TV career, before finally retiring the character of Michael Scott. Since then, the comedian has branched out into different genres, including an Academy nominated turn in “Foxcatcher”.

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