Sheldon, Leonard, Penny, Bernadette, Raj, and Howard… The list certainly goes on when it comes to the hilarious, wacky characters that are on the award winning hit show The Big Bang Theory we all know and love.
From the brilliant idiosyncrasies of Sheldon Cooper to the lovable yet sarcastic banter Penny has with the guys, each of the characters provide a crucial element to the show, and much of their success is due to the talents of the cast. There are a number of extremely talented people on the roster of The Big Bang Theory, and for most of them – The Big Bang Theory has been a highlight of their careers.
But that isn’t to say that the cast of The Big Bang Theory didn’t have a strong background of accolades to their name before they started on the show. Quite to the contrary, in fact. Actually, most of the characters on Big Bang found success in various places within the acting scene beforehand.
The Big Bang Theory is one of the most successful TV sitcoms of the 21st century, and for many of the actors and actresses on the show, their personas on the show were so iconic that it is how most people know them best. The grandiosity of the show’s magnitude allowed us to see the cast in a new light, and in some cases enabled us to forget where we originally know them from.
It’s not unlike seeing a brother after he’s come back from a life changing trip around the world, or seeing a friend getting married – because sometimes looking at a person in a new light can allow us to appreciate the moment – and not focus on the past.
The actors and actresses of the hit show The Big Bang Theory are no different. All of the main characters actually made their mark in many different places before they were stars on the show, and part of the reason we may not recognize them is because the vastness of the show they’re on now allows us to see them in a new light.
Luckily, we are fooled no longer. We know exactly where these actors and actresses were before The Big Bang Theory, and we’d like to share that with you. If you were wondering what Melissa Rauch (Bernadette) was doing before the show started, or what Johnny Galecki (Leonard) was up do prior to the hit series – today is your lucky day.
Johnny Galecki as Leonard Hofstadter – Before
One of the biggest stars on the Big Bang Theory, Galecki had a stellar career before the show even started. He made his acting debut in 1987 in the film Murder Ordained, with fellow actor John Goodman, whom he would play opposite in the iconic series Roseanne. Johnny would eventually go on the to star in movies such as National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, Suicide Kings, Bean, Vanilla Sky, and the summer hit I Know What You Did Last Summer.
His prominence in the world of Hollywood has continued to rise on a steady trajectile since he became a star on the Big Bang Theory. He appeared in the superhero movie Hancock starring Will Smith, as well as the sci-fi thriller In Time with Amanda Seyfried and Justin Timberlake. Interestingly enough, he even dated his fellow Big Bang Theory co-star Kaley Cuoco for a little while, whose character on the show (Penny) is the girlfriend-turned-wife of Johnny’s character (Leonard).
Mayim Bialik as Amy Farrah Fowler – Before
Before starring in the Big Bang Theory, Bialik actually started her career as actress very early on. Like, as early as childhood. From early roles on the 1988 film Pumpkinhead, to starring in American TV series Blossom and Beauty and the Beast, to showing up years later on Curb Your Enthusiasm, Bialik has certainly made her rounds on the acting scene. But being a talented actress is not all she’s got under her belt – she is also a neuroscientist, which served as the inspiration for her Big Bang character’s profession.
Mayim Bialik stars on the Big Bang Theory as Sheldon Cooper’s steady girlfriend, and like Sheldon – she is quite the character. After 2010, when she started playing the role of Dr. Amy Farrah Fowler, she was nominated fours times for a Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Although she didn’t win that award, she won a Critic’s Choice Television Award for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.
Riki Lindhome as Ramona Nowitzki – Before
Before she appeared on the Big Bang Theory, Riki Lindhome had made various appearances on screen, big and small. The first movie she starred in was the hit film “Million Dollar Baby”, with Hilary Swank and Clint Eastwood. She’s also had some success as a writer and as a director – her short film, “Life Is Short”, was an award winner. Since that time period, she has also appeared in other small screen gigs, such as a Garfunkel and Oates, where her and Kate Micucci perform as a comic duo.
Her role on The Big Bang Theory is that of Ramona Nowitzki, who serves as Sheldon Cooper’s eager assistant. They have an interesting relationship on the show – Ramona (Lindhome) has a schoolgirl crush on Sheldon (Jim Parsons), revering his work to be of the highest caliber. While she plays a minor role on the show, she is very active as an actress in many other projects. Recently she has starred in the horror comedy Hell Baby, and she’ll be in the upcoming 2018 film, Under Silver Lake.
Jim Parsons as Sheldon Cooper – Before
Arguably the main character on The Big Bang Theory, it’s hard to imagine Jim Parson doing anything other than starring as the role of Sheldon Cooper, but he exists elsewhere – we promise! In his early career, he did work in off-broadway productions and eventually had a consistent role on the TV shows Judging Amy, and Ed. Even more interesting were his minor appearances in the hit movies Garden State and School for Scoundrels.
Ah, Sheldon Cooper. Through the years, there have been many classic and zany television personas – such as Kramer from Seinfeld. In that regard, Sheldon simply takes the cake. Parsons’ work on Big Bang was enough to win him four Primetime Emmy Awards for Outstanding Lead Actor in a comedy series. The quirks, the neurotic tendencies, the impressions – all of them amount to a work of genius. His personal life has been just as gratifying, happily married to art director Todd Spiewak, whom he’s been with for 15 years.
Aarti Mann as Priya Koothrappali – Before
Born in Connecticut, Aarti Mann was around on the small screen for quite some time before starring on The Big Bang Theory. Do you remember that show Heroes? The one with all the Heroes (Hayden Panettiere was one of them)? Well, Aarti was on that show. She actually got into acting relatively late though – apparently, she didn’t start acting till she was in college. Attending New York University, she started practicing acting and obtained a degree in film writing and directing.
Mann is most well known for her role on The Big Bang Theory, where she portrays the character Priya Koothrappali, and is connected to various characters in different ways. For instance, she is the sister of the character Raj (Kunal Nayyar), and she also has a long distance romantic relationship with Leonard (Johnny Galecki). Since joining the hit show, she has starred on other shows such as drama series Suits, hospital drama Greys Anatomy, and crime show NCIS: New Orleans.
Kunal Nayyar as Raj Koothrappali – Before
Kunal Nayyar, the character who plays Raj Koothrappali – ahh good ol’ Raj – who could possibly dislike him? But before he was “good ol’ Raj” he was making his rounds as an actor in interesting places, such as the play Huck and Holden, portraying an exchange student from India, and he won a Garland Award from his performance in this production. It seems like before Raj was being seen on televisions across the world, he was gaining valuable experience acting in front of live audiences.
He is one of the main characters on Big Bang, and while he is staple amongst his group of friends on the show – many of the jokes are on him though they’re all in good fun!) After his “big” Big Bang break, Kunal Nayyar started appearing elsewhere. For instance, he was the voice actor for Gupta in 2012’s animated film Ice Age: Continental Drift. Later on, he appeared in another film called Dr. Cabbie, produced by Salman Khan, a Bollywood actor.
Analeigh Tipton as Vanessa Bennet – Before
Analeigh Tipton is most definitely an actress that is hard to forget when watching her on screen. This is quite apparent because she only appeared on The Big Bang Theory only briefly, and made a lasting impact. But she has certainly made her mark in other territories as well. She actually was a notable name on America’s Next Top Model, and ended up placing third. How about that! Not just a talented actress, but a model too.
Since America’s Next Top Model, she found her way onto many big screen films beyond the Big Bang Theory. She also was a big character in the fan favorite movie and critically acclaimed Crazy, Stupid, Love, acting alongside a star studded cast consisting of Steve Carell, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone, Julianne Moore, and Kevin Bacon. Her performance in the movie was so good that it got the New York Times to note that she was a “face to watch.”
Alessandra Torresani as Claire – Before
Alessandra Torresani, a love interest of Raj (Kunal Nayyar) on The Big Bang Theory, was breaking hearts with her performances years before she starred on the show. Like Bialik, she actually also started acting from childhood, debuting at age nine on Kids WB, and co-starring Disney Channels’ Going To The Mat. Since then, she has starred on screen in various productions such as hospital drama ER, Disney channel comedy series Even Stevens, and comedy series Arrested Development.
Closer to the time that she appeared on the Big Bang Theory, Torresani was actually chosen by Maxim to be one of their featured women. In addition to that, she also starred in Husbands, a web series comedy. Even more recently, she has made appearances in movies such as American Horror House, and drama comedy Car Dogs. Her role as Claire on the Big Bang Theory is a girlfriend of Raj, and although it is short lived, she is not forgotten quickly.
Laura Spencer as Emily Sweeney – Before
Laura Spencer was a very successful actress long before she came onto the Big Bang Theory as a love interest of Raj. She is very well known for her work on the 2012 series The Lizzie Bennet Diaries, a Price and Prejudice adaptation, where she plays the role of Jane Bennet. Another role she is very well known for is that of an intern on the show Bones. Some movie appearances she has made are drama films such as Barking Water and My Funny Valentine.
Laura Spencer – Today
Laura’s role on The Big Bang Theory is that of Emily, probably Raj’s most serious girlfriend that he ever had on the show. They date for quite a while, but he is forced to end it with her at one point due to her quirky (scary?) behavior. But this is all a testament to her great acting, of course. Indeed, her acting success has continued while working on the show, continuing to be a staple on the hit TV drama series Bones, as well as many other shows.
Simon Helberg as Howard Wolowitz – Before
Helberg is the kind of personality that adapts very well to the role he is playing, without sacrificing any of its potency. You could be watching him for five seasons on The Big Bang Theory, before realizing that he was also that hilarious guy from the cult classic Old School. He has a very distinct style of humor, and it reflects well in all of his works. Other than Old School, he appeared in other amazing films before Big Bang, such as Walk Hard and A Serious Man.
Simon Helberg – Today
Regardless of where he was before though, Simon Helberg is most definitely best known for his work on The Big Bang Theory. His portrait of Howard Wolowitz is just perfect, from the weird funny relationship that he has with his mom, to his confident yet awkward demeanor around girls, and finally – his ability to convey to us his sensitive side, as we watch him and Bernadette (Melissa Rauch) in the throws of a romantic, topsy turvy relationship.
Kate Micucci as Lucy – Before
Before Kate Micucci appeared on The Big Bang Theory, she was known in many other areas on screen, such as her role in Garfunkel Oates with Big Bang co-star Riki Lindhome. Her first big break on a major television network show was on Scrubs, where she portrayed the role of Stephanie Gooch. She then eventually got another role as Shelley on the TV show Raising Hope. She has also appeared on films such as the romantic comedy When In Rome, and the music drama Rudderless.
Yet another love interest of Raj on The Big Bang Theory (man, Raj sure does have a lot of girlfriends on the show, doesn’t he?), Kate Micucci’s Lucy is perhaps the most interesting. Or perhaps the most unique. Or strange. Or.. well, we’re not quite sure what it is, but Micucci’s persona on the stage of the Big Bang Theory is certainly something that you don’t forget. In fact, on her and Raj’s first date, she ditched him by hopping out the bathroom window – nice work.
Margo Harshman as Alex Jensen – Before
Margo Harshman has been in show business ever since her grandmother entered her in a beauty pageant when she was two. Since then, she’s appeared on The Big Bang Theory, though many still recognized her as Tawny, from Disney channel teen show Even Stevens, where she starred alongside Shia Labeouf. Due to her great performance on Even Stevens, she was actually nominated for a couple awards at the Young Artist Awards ceremony. Later on, she appeared in the cult classic young adult comedy Fired Up.
On The Big Bang Theory, her role is that of Alex Jansen, a scientist who works in the same building as the shows main characters. When we first see her, she is immediately attracted to Leonard (Galecki), and she constantly hints to him that fact. Leonard is slightly oblivious to her advances, which ultimately gets him into trouble with Penny (Kaley Cuoco), his girlfriend at the time. Harshman has provided a consistent comedic edge throughout her career, which is very recognized by folks that remembered her from her earlier roles.
Christine Baranski as Dr. Beverly Hofstadter – Before
Out of all the characters on the Big Bang Theory, Christine Baranski has probably the largest repertoire of accolades. Being that she is older than the main characters on the show, it makes sense that she has enjoyed the success of a much longer and more illustrious career. This 15-time Emmy nominee has certainly made her rounds as an actress in the Hollywood scene, and while her role on Big Bang is quite notable, she was already a household name long before.
Playing the role of Dr. Beverly Hofstadter, Leonard’s mom, on the show, she has ample opportunity to demonstrate her comedic prowess as well as her dramatic flair. She is constantly belittling him, but hey, at least she’s not mean about it. Recently, she also stars in the hit TV drama series The Good Wife, as well many other movies, including musicals such as Mamma Mia, Into The Woods, and Trolls. It doesn’t matter what movies you’ve seen – you’ve definitely seen her somewhere.
Sara Gilbert as Leslie Winkle – Before
Sara Gilbert’s role in The Big Bang Theory as Leonard’s coworker and former flame was not the first time she appeared on screen with Johnny Galecki. She co-starred with the future Leonard in the sitcom Roseanne as Darlene Conner from 1988 to 1997 where Johnny played David Healy, Sara’s on-screen boyfriend and later on husband. After Roseanne came to an end, she appeared as a recurring character in the series Welcome to New York followed by 24.
Since appearing in the first season of The Big Bang Theory, Sara’s career has made quite the comeback and she has taken on many roles from talk show co-host to executive producer. In 2010, Sara created the CBS daytime talk show called, The Talk, which she also is the co-host of. She is now set to produce the upcoming eight-episode Roseanne revival, where we will get to see her reprise her role of Darlene Conner.
Kevin Sussman as Stuart Bloom – Before
Although many of us know Kevin Sussman as Stuart Bloom, the slightly depressed and socially awkward owner of the guys’ favorite comic book store, Kevin actually had several roles prior. He started off in small parts in TV and film, and had minor roles in the films Almost Famous and Wet Hot American Summer. His first big break came in 2007, when he landed the role of Betty’s boyfriend in the hit ABC series Ugly Betty.
Kevin Sussman first appeared in The Big Bang Theory during the second season, and was added to the main cast as a series regular at the beginning of season six. However, by the 16th episode of the sixth season he was demoted back to his recurring status. Playing the loveable role of Stuart has gained Kevin celebrity status, and has been the actor’s longest-lasting role to date. Kevin has appeared in over 60 episodes since his debut, which is right behind series regular Mayim Bialik.
Sara Rue as Stephanie Barnett – Before
Sara Rue has been acting since the early ’90s, when she appeared in the short-lived NBC soap opera satire series, Grand. She had several recurring television roles throughout the ’90s in series like Phenom and Minor Adjustments. She even made an appearance in the sitcom Blossom with future Big Bang star Mayim Bialik. In 1999, Sara landed a breakthrough role as a regular in The WB’s teen drama series Popular, where she played Carmen Ferrara.
Sara Rue made a few memorable appearances during the show’s second season as the lovely Dr. Stephanie Barnett, a surgical resident who Howard had a crush on (and let drive the Mars Rover) until she fell for Leonard. Sara has since had recurring roles in several different series such as Rules of Engagement, Mom, Impastor, and Bones. Sara’s next role will be as a librarian in Netflix’s upcoming TV adaptation of A Series of Unfortunate Events.
Charlotte Newhouse as Joy – Before
Charlotte Newhouse began a career in acting during the early 2000s. In the beginning of her career, she landed minor roles in several different TV series such as Barbershop, Living with Fran, Free Ride, and Community. However, she was still struggling to land a recurring role. In 2009, she got the bigger part that she was looking for as a regular in a comedy series called Brainstorm. Unfortunately, the series did not receive great ratings and was canceled after one season.
One year after Brainstorm got canceled, Charlotte landed a guest role in the 4th season of The Big Bang Theory. She played Joy, a friend of Bernadette’s and the double date of Leonard, who showed up to the date late and sweaty after a spin class. Charlotte’s single-episode appearance helped her career lift-off the ground, and she ended up getting a leading role in the Comedy Central series Idiotsitter. Charlotte is also working as a voice actress, and has voiced characters in shows like Mike Tyson Mysteries and Adventure Time.
John Ross Bowie – Before
Before John Ross Bowie played the slightly unlikeable colleague of Sheldon and Leonard, he appeared in dozens of TV shows. His career began in the early 2000s, with his first recurring role as Walter “Wally” Berman in the NBC sitcom A.U.S.A. He also appeared in a few episodes of Comedy Central’s show, Reno 911! and on an episode of Larry David’s Curb Your Enthusiasm. In 2008, he gained a six-episode role as Dr. Max in the dark comedy series Childrens Hospital.
A year after gaining recognition for his part in Childrens Hospital, John got cast as Barry Kripke during The Big Bang Theory’s second season. Since then, he has appeared in 20 episodes, and has become a fan favorite on the show. With his Big Bang Theory success, John’s career was finally able to take off and he has since landed the lead role in the ABC sitcom, Speechless, as Jimmy DiMeo.
Alice Amter as Mrs. Kothrappali – Before
Before Alice Amter played Raj’s lovely (and slightly nagging) mother Mrs. Kothrappali, who is mostly seen video chatting her son, she played the part of Dr. Miriam Nagarvala in the series ER. Her two-episode appearance in the medical drama in 1998 marked the beginning of Alice’s acting career. The new actress later went on to appear in multiple TV shows throughout the early and mid-2000s including Judging Amy and the CBS medical drama series Presido Med.
After several years of playing primarily small, minor roles and guest appearances, Alice finally landed her biggest role yet in 2007, in the first season of The Big Bang Theory. Although Alice hasn’t appeared on the show since season eight, she is still most well-known as Raj’s dear mother. Alice has continued acting since leaving the Big Bang set behind her, and has appeared in series such as Rosewood, NCIS: Los Angeles, and Scandal.
Eliza Dushku – Before
Eliza Dushku certainly had a solid career before her guest appearance in The Big Bang Theory. In 1998, Eliza rose to fame with her portrayal of Faith in the show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer and its spin-off, Angel. In 2000, she landed a lead role in the cheerleading comedy classic, Bring It On, which paved the way for several more roles in film and TV to follow. In 2009, she got cast as the lead in Fox’s sci-fi drama series Dollhouse, which unfortunately only lasted two seasons.
Eliza joined the cast of The Big Bang Theory during the show’s fourth season as FBI Special Agent Angela Page, who intimidates Howard’s friends while performing a security clearance. Since then, Eliza has had several roles in TV series including recurring parts in Torchwood: Web of Lies and Leap Year. She also voiced She-Hulk in the animated series, Hulk and the Agents of S.M.A.S.H. Her most recent acting gig was in the made-for-TV action movie, The Saint.
April Bowlby as Rebecca – Before
If April Bowlby looked familiar to you when she made her guest appearance in the show’s 10th season, then it is probably because she has quite the long list of acting credentials behind her. She started off playing minor one-episode characters in series like CSI: NY and Stacked during the mid-2000s until she landed the memorable recurring role as Alan’s young ex-wife Kandi in Two and a Half Men and another as Meg in How I Met Your Mother. In 2009, she took on her first regular role in the Lifetime series Drop Dead Diva.
April stopped by the set of The Big Bang Theory in 2017 to play the surprising blonde bombshell girlfriend of nerdy Caltech employee and friend of the gang’s, Bert. Since her guest role, she has appeared in the romantic comedy film Love’s Last Resort and in the made-for-TV thriller movie, A Mother’s Crime. April’s next role will be as the lead, Ms. Hanson, in the upcoming 2018 comedy thriller titled Love me or Else.
Melissa Rauch as Bernadette Rostenkowski – Before
Before she was the sweet, loving, funny, but also kind of crazy Bernadette we’ve all come to love, Melissa Rauch actually appeared on screen in many places you may not realize. For instance, did you know she appeared on True Blood, as Summer, a girl with a crush on Hoyt? How about the The Office? We didn’t think so… She also appeared in the big screen comedy I Love You, Man starring Jason Segel and Paul Rudd.
Since she has been on The Big Bang Theory, she allowed her creative talents to spread out far and wide. In fact, she did more than act – she even showed us all that she has the ability to write and produce. The Bronze, a movie which Rauch co-wrote, co-produced, and acted in as well, received very good reviews. According to Variety, Rauch “delivers the best breakthrough comedic performance by an actress since Melissa McCarthy in Bridesmaids.” Well there you have it!
Kaley Cuoco as Penny – Before
Ah, Penny. Our darling sunshine within The Big Bang Theory world. The girl next door (or, in Leonard’s case, across the hall), the one that has college students around America opting for the co-ed dorms. Yeah, she is certainly something, but not only was she a great actress on The Big Bang Theory. You may not know this, but Cuoco got her big break on 8 Simple Rules, an ABC sitcom where she played John Ritter’s daughter, Bridget Hennessy. She also appeared on the hit series Charmed.
As one of the main characters on The Big Bang Theory, Cuoco’s role on the show extends far beyond just being a love interest of Leonard. Penny is a staple of the main character “friend group,” more part of the core than any of the other women on the show. In addition to her relationship with Leonard, over time she develops a strong friendship with Sheldon, as well. Since Big Bang, Cuoco has also appeared in feature films, such as big screen comedy The Wedding Ringer.