Thursday’s Oscar nominations consisted almost exclusively of familiar faces from the film world. Before several of these actors broke out on the big screen, though, they found their way into the spotlight on television.
Among these class acts is a comic actress turned serious dramatist who’s actually a reality veteran, a sharp-tongued supporting actor whose first recurring gig was on an NSFW HBO series and a threepeat nominee who learned his craft from asking other Oscar go-to guys for their advice – over and over again.
Check out these Academy Award nominees:
In Search of the New Partridge Family (2004)
Then known as Emily Stone (her birth name), Birdman‘s Best Supporting Actress contender, 26, showed off her singing and acting chops in front of America in order to land the role of Laurie Partridge in 2005’s The New Partridge Family. Fortunately for Stone, the ’70s reboot was never picked up, freeing her to pursue roles in film and beyond (she’s currently using those triple-threat skills in Broadway’s Cabaret).
The Daily Show with Jon Stewart (1999 2005)
Of course Carell’s most defining pre-Foxcatcher role was the endearingly inept corporate drone Michael Scott on The Office from 2005 13. He earned that star-making turn as one of The Daily Show‘s most knee-slapping correspondents, especially in his rapport with Stephen Colbert. Since The Office, Carell, 52, has mostly played to his strengths as a comedian on the big screen, but his for-old-time’s-sake cameo on the series finale was punctuated by a heartbreaking yet hilarious line read of Scott’s signature phrase: "That’s what she said." Carell no doubt earned his entry to the Best Actor race thanks to the same tightrope balance he brought to his performance as John du Pont in Foxcatcher.
The Best Actor contender, 38, has worked consistently in British theater, film and television since he was in his twenties. In the U.K. dramedy starring Hugh Laurie, 55, Cumberbatch showed early signs of the tart delivery and imposing presence he brought to a skin-crawlingly creepy ensemble role in 2007’s Atonement (alongside his Imitation Game costar and Best Actress nominee Keira Knightley, 29), as well as in his current role as Internet obsession thanks to a canon-busting take on Sherlock Holmes in the BBC’s 2010 reboot Sherlock.
As the World Turns (1985-87)
Moore won a daytime Emmy for playing identical half-sisters Frannie and Sabrina Hughes on the CBS soap opera. In fact, she remained so appreciative of the job that kick-started her acting career that, as the series wound down its 54-year run in 2010, the multiple Oscar nominee returned for an episode to reprise the role. (UPDATE: She even mentioned the show in her 2015 Screen Actors Guild acceptance speech.)
Oz (1997 2003)
As a lifelong character actor, Simmons has blipped on the household-name radar only occasionally (most notably as a no-nonsense yet loving father in 2007’s Juno). It may have taken a while for Simmons, 60, to get A-list awards recognition – thanks to his violently compelling supporting turn in Whiplash – but his deadpan intensity has been on display for years. Witness a few scenes featuring Vern Schillinger, the sinister Aryan Brotherhood leader he played for six seasons on HBO’s prison drama.
The Worst Witch and Weirdsister College (1998-2002)
Brash, witchy bully Ethel Hallow has very little in common with Jones’s Best Actress-nominated velvet hammer performance in The Theory of Everything. Still, the actress, 31, managed to steal every scene from Worst Witch heroine Mildred Hubble (Georgina Sherrington). This same ability to command attention allowed Jones to earn rightful praise for her Theory performance, which could have easily been overshadowed by Best Actor nominee Eddie Redmayne‘s tour de force performance as disabled genius Stephen Hawking.
Honorable Mention: Bradley Cooper
Inside the Actors Studio (1998 99)
Cooper, 40, was a struggling student when he (now) famously asked Robert De Niro, Sean Penn and many for advice on James Lipton‘s talk show. Clearly Cooper put their suggestions to use – this year’s Best Actor nomination is his third consecutive Oscar acting nod. (If only he’d asked one of them for a good barber recommendation, he might have reached Sexiest Man Alive status sooner, too!)
The Lonely Island (Musical Performers)
Saturday Night Live (2005 12)
Before rapping on The Lego Movie‘s Best Original Song nominee, “Everything Is Awesome,” Andy Samberg, 36, Akiva Schaffer and Jorma Taccone, both 37, created musical digital shorts for the weekly sketch show. From “D— in a Box” to the Dolby Theatre? Not too bad, boys.
The 87th annual Academy Awards air Sunday, Feb. 22, on ABC.