You Won't Believe All the Stars Who Got Their Start on Law & Order

From Julia Roberts to Samuel L. Jackson, see all the A-list Hollywood actors whose careers began with guest-starring roles on NBC's Law & Order.

By Brett Malec Sep 20, 2022 1:00 PMTags
Watch: Mariska Hargitay & Sam Waterson Talk "Law & Order" Reboot Differences

Law & Order has helped launch the careers of some of Hollywood's biggest stars.

And no, we're not talking about longtime veterans of the hit NBC crime drama like Anthony Anderson, Sam Waterson or Benjamin Bratt. You won't believe some of the TV and film actors who have appeared on the procedural over the past few decades before becoming household names.

Did you know that long before she was winning Emmys and starring on television's most talked-about series, Sarah Paulson landed her very first acting role in 1994 playing a teen who claimed that she was having an affair with her murdered mother's new husband? And nearly two decades before playing Tommy Lee on Hulu's recent hit Pam & Tommy, a young Sebastian Stan portrayed a boy abducted and raised by his abuser.

A-listers like Julia Roberts, Ellen Pompeo, Samuel L. Jackson and Jennifer Garner have also appeared on Law & Order early in their blockbuster careers.

30 Secrets About Law & Order

In honor of all three Law & Order series returning on Thursday, Sept. 22, we're revisiting all the celebs you forgot guest-starred over the years. Take a trip down memory lane by scrolling through the photo gallery below.

Law & Order season 22 premieres Sept. 22 at 8 p.m. on NBC.

Jennifer Garner

The actress played a graduate student who has a romantic encounter with Benjamin Bratt's character in a 1996 episode.

Adam Driver

Before his breakout role on Girls, Driver appeared on Law & Order's final 2010 season and played a lab technician accused of murdering an escort.

Julia Roberts

In 1999, while she was dating series star Benjamin Bratt, the actress made a rare TV appearance as a party planner involved in the death of powerful businessman.

Sebastian Stan

Nearly 20 years ago, the Pam & Tommy star played a boy abducted and raised by his abuser in 2003.

Allison Janney

Early in her career, the Oscar winner popped up on Law & Order twice in 1992 and 1994. The first time, she played a character scared to testify about a murder. She returned two years later to portray someone interviewed about the murder of soap opera actress.

Sam Rockwell

The Oscar winner has portrayed two different characters on seasons two and three, playing a police officer and a member of a family accused of murdering a Chinese-American student respectively.

Emmy Rossum

Rossum's very first acting gig was on a 1997 episode playing a preteen who was the target of a female circumcision.

Sarah Paulson

In her very first TV role, the Emmy winner played a teen who claimed that she was having an affair with her murdered mother's new husband in 1994.

Samuel L. Jackson

The actor appeared in a 1991 episode as the lawyer for a drug dealer accused of rape. Who played the drug dealer? Read on...

Philip Seymour Hoffman

In his first television role, the future Oscar winner played a drug dealer betrayed by another crook. Samuel L. Jackson is his lawyer.

Claire Danes

Even before her starring role on My So-Called Life, the actress played a troubled teen in a 1992 episode that also featured future Six Feet Under star Lauren Ambrose.

Leighton Meester

In a 1999 episode, she plays the daughter of a battered woman who helps detectives Briscoe and Curtis with a case.

Vera Farmiga

The Up In the Air star had a part in a 1998 episode about a shooting.

Ellen Pompeo

The Grey's Anatomy actress actually appeared on Law & Order twice, in 1996 and 2000. (Fellow Grey's stars Kate Walsh and Chandra Wilson also got work on the series.)

Cynthia Nixon

During the show's first season, the actress played a woman who shoots two men in a subway.

Amanda Peet

In 1995, Peet played a woman involved in a mysterious case.

Chandra Wilson

Decades before Grey's Anatomy, Wilson played Serena Price for one 1992 episode.

(E! and NBC are both part of the NBCUniversal family)

(Originally published Feb. 24, 2022 at 6 a.m. PT)

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