12 celebrities who were 'Touched by an Angel' before they were stars
Jack Black, Shia LeBeouf and Brie Larson landed early roles on this tender TV drama.
When you watch Touched by an Angel, there is no doubt you are witnessing a story set in the 1990s. This observation goes beyond loose-fitting flannel clothing and frosted hair. Even with the picture turned off, off dialogue alone, you would know the TV series takes place around the turn of the millennium. There is a plot about dangers of the newfangled, photo-heavy world wide web. Earlier that season, Monica (series star Roma Downey) sings along with *NSYNC's "(God Must Have Spent) A Little More Time on You." In another episode, two grunge punks try to coerce a young record store employee into stealing "five CDs a day for three months."
In other words, Touched by an Angel was topical. To tell these moral tales, the feel-good drama relied on guest stars both old and young. Familiar faces regularly turned up, as well as faces who would soon become famous.
Here are a dozen actors whom you probably never realized got an early career boost on Touched by an Angel.
1. Jack Black
"Angels on the Air"
The comedian and movie star was that greasy thug mentioned above, the one trying to strong-arm poor Melissa Joan Hart into stealing CDs from her work. In some ways, Black's minor tough was a more serious, darker take on his character in High Fidelity.
2. James Marsden
"Angels on the Air"
Jack Black's partner in crime in "Angels on the Air" is Marsden, who would go on to play the mutant Cyclops in the X-Men movies, not to mention countless romantic comedies.
3. Kirsten Dunst
"Into the Light"
Dunst had already scored her breakout role in Jumanji a year before landing a sizeable role in this episode about a young teen girl with cystic fibrosis.
4. Brie Larson
"Into the Fire"
In this episode, Cynthia Nixon enters a religious cult run by Montel Williams. Keep an eye on the kids on the grounds of the secured cult compound — one of them is a very young Brie Larson, in her first primetime role. She would win an Academy Award a sweet 16 years later, for her stunning performance in Room, a movie about a woman and child held captive.
5. Paul Walker
"Statute of Limitations"
The late Fast and Furious leading man sports a baby blue tuxedo and his best William Katt haircut in a flashback scene to a high school dance.
6. Evan Rachel Wood
Wood, who now headlines HBO's sensational Westworld, is hard to recognize in braces and youth. Her character is the one who discovers the dark side of the internet, when she searches for "Hawaii" and lands on a porn page.
7. Mary Elizabeth Winstead
"A Delicate Balance"
The 10 Cloverfield Lane and Fargo star was hardly the biggest guest star in a sporty episode featuring Olympic medalists Nadia Comaneci and the scrappy Kerri Strug. In fact, she wasn't even credited. She (on the left) is just one of the gymnasts and friend to the principle character, Rebecca Browner (right).
8. Shia LaBeouf
The talented, troubled actor gets an early chance to show off his intensity in a Halloween scene. He's a mummy who bullies a kid, mocking his costume.
9. Justin Timberlake
"Voice of An Angel"
As we mentioned in the intro, all off *NSYNC can be found crooning on a Manhattan street at the open of this episode. The quintet were teen idols by this point, late 1999. Of course, it would be Timberlake who gained the most stardom (sorry, Joey Fatone) and mainstream acting roles. Even then he was in the foreground.
10. Alyson Hannigan
In this very early episode from 1994, the fifth overall, Hannigan plays a pregnant teen. She would later land significant roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, the American Pie movies and How I Met Your Mother. There's a strange link to her dorky American Pie character you might have already noticed — they both play the flute. Of course, the context is much different.
11. Bryan Cranston
A handful of episodes after "Cassie's Choice," Breaking Bad main man Cranston pops up as a doctor.
12. America Ferrera
In 2002, the same year she made her breakthrough big screen role in Real Women Have Curves, the future Ugly Betty star, then 18, played a girl with OCD.