What the cast of Mean Girls looked like before all the fame

Of the countless coming-of-age comedies, there is no denying that Mean Girls is one that has stood the test of time. The film came out in 2004, and yet it is still referenced and quoted to this day. The movie followed a group of, well… mean girls in high school, and one outsider who tried her hardest to break into the clique. The film was based on the book, Queen Bees and Wannabees by Rosalind Wiseman, and taught some great lessons about friendship and kindness.

Part of what made the film so iconic, aside from the outfits and many, many great jokes in the movie, were the actors behind the hilarious characters. From Lindsey Lohan to Tina Fey, the cast was splendid, even the lesser known cast members for whom Mean Girls served as a jumpstart for their careers. But what did all those gorgeous actors from Mean Girls look like before the fame? Honestly, looking back at the movie and the actors in it, it’s all totally fetch.

Lindsey Lohan was a child actor

Lindsey Lohan was probably the most well-known actor when Mean Girls premiered, which is probably why Lohan got the lead role of Cady Heron. Sure, Lohan definitely got even more famous after the success of Mean Girls, but with hugely-popular roles in films such as The Parent Trap, and Freaky Friday, Lohan was already well-known. Lohan was the definition of a child actor, and actually appeared in two episodes of Sesame Street in 1995, when she was less than 10 years old.

Of course, it really wasn’t until The Parent Trap that Lohan’s fame took off, on account of what Refinery 29 called her “gleaming, undeniable talent — the kind of talent that indicates, no matter what, a story will follow.” Before then, she was just a young kid, trying to make it in the entertainment industry. And as confused as you probably were as a kid watching The Parent Trap, no, Lohan doesn’t have a twin sister. But back in her child star days, Lohan wasn’t afraid to admit what she wanted out of life. In a 1997 interview with Entertainment Tonight, a young Lohan said she enjoyed acting because “it’s fun and I like the attention.” Hey, she got what she wanted, especially with the success of Mean Girls.

Rachel McAdams was relatively unknown before Mean Girls

These days, just about everyone knows who Rachel McAdams is, and for good reason. The actor has played quite a few iconic roles, and there really isn’t a hair color McAdams can’t rock. But looking back on her career, Mean Girls was a huge jumping-off point. In fact, the movie came out the same year as her other breakout role, The Notebook (McAdams’ audition tape for The Notebook pictured above right). Prior to 2004, McAdams had a few other credits that … let’s just say didn’t involve making out with Ryan Gosling in the rain in one of the most memorable film scenes of all time. But what about before she became the simultaneous envy and enemy of young women everywhere?

According to Hello!, before McAdams was an actor, she actually dabbled in figure skating. But after she went to a theater camp one summer, she realized acting was her passion. “I didn’t deal well with the pressure in skating the way I seem to in acting,” she said, adding, “The nerves got to me, and I’d get paralyzed. Whereas when I’m acting, the nerves propel me into action.” McAdams proved this with her performance as the combative Regina George, as the role definitely pushed her out of her comfort one. “It was hard,” she told Hello! of the breakout gig, adding, “I’m not a big fan of confrontation, and there are a lot of confrontational scenes in Mean Girls.”

Lacey Chabert had a few small roles before the movie

Gretchen Weiners certainly had some of the most iconic lines in Mean Girls, not to mention a totally memorable name. But the actor behind Gretchen Weiners wasn’t all that iconic before Mean Girls came out. Lacey Chabert is now a staple on The Hallmark Channel, but before all the fame, Chabert was just a kid from Purvis, Miss., who happened to have Hollywood dreams.

According to the Clarion Ledger, Chabert’s family apparently supported those dreams from a young age, as the entire clan packed up and moved to New York City when Lacey was 7, so she could pursue Broadway stardom. It all worked out two years later when she landed the role of Cosette in the landmark show Les Misérables, followed by a recurring role on the soap All My Children when she was 10. 

After Mean Girls, Chabert became somewhat of a Christmas-movie queen on Hallmark, which anyone who knew her as a kid probably could have seen coming. In a throwback post on Instagram, Chabert shared a sweet holiday photo of her and her sisters, captioned, “Christmas with my two besties.” In another throwback post, Chabert showed a photo of herself as a baby in front of a Christmas tree (above right). “Obsessed with Christmas since 1983,” she captioned it. Being famous might have changed Chabert’s life, but it clearly hasn’t changed who she is in her heart: a girl who loves family and Christmas.

Mean Girls put Amanda Seyfried 'on the map'

Though some child and teen stars are known throughout the world (think Mary-Kate and Ashley Olsen, Miley Cyrus, or Shirley Temple), most child stars aren’t all that famous, and even teenage actors don’t get to be well-known unless they star in something truly iconic. The same can be said for Amanda Seyfried. According to Biography, the beautiful blonde who played Karen Smith in Mean Girls, had actually been acting since she was 15, appearing on popular daytime soap operas like As The World Turns and All My Children

Even Seyfried recognizes that Mean Girls “put [her] on the map” as she described it to Allure (via MTV) in 2009. But that’s not all. The teen comedy also introduced her to the wonderful world of craft services. “Oh my god, I ate everything!” she told Entertainment Tonight of her fondness for the on-set catering, adding, “It was the first movie that I had ever done, so I just ate everything.” Seyfried went on the add that she was so young when she starred in Mean Girls, it was really formative experience for her. “I had the best time,” she explained. “It started [filming] in September, when I had graduated high school, so it was ‘college’ for me.” Clearly, Mean Girls was more than a meal ticket for Seyfried, but from the looks of the adorable throwback photo She posted of herself (above right), food has always been a pretty important part of her life.   

Lizzy Caplan really blossomed after Mean Girls

When you first watched Mean Girls, you might have thought Janis Ian, the alternative artsy girl who befriended Cady Heron, looked familiar. That’s because Lizzy Caplan, the actor who played Janis, had already landed roles on popular shows like Freaks and Geeks and Smallville (shown above right). It’s undeniable, however, that Mean Girls was Caplan’s big break.

But the reason Caplan got started in the entertainment industry is actually pretty bleak. In a 2014 Rolling Stone profile, the mag described her formative years like so: “The childhood of a typical Jewish L.A. kid, a bat mitzvah, a domineering piano teacher, a trip to Israel, and a liberal home.” But Caplan’s “typical” childhood was interrupted when her mom “fell ill and died when Caplan was 13.” Explaining how the tragedy somehow propelled her onto the Hollywood track, Caplan told the outlet, “Strangely, from that age on I thought the only reason why I could even attempt to be an actress was because this horrible thing happened to me.” 

Perhaps even stranger was the fact that Caplan hit it big in comedies after drawing on such a somber motivation for her career. But since Mean Girls, Caplan’s resume expanded into many genres, like horror for HBO’s True Blood and drama for Showtime’s Masters of Sex, the latter of which earned her an Emmy nomination in 2014.  

Jonathan Bennett wasn't really famous before Mean Girls

Just like Cady Heron, fans probably had a tough time taking their eyes off of Aaron Samuels, the certified hunk of Northshore High School and object of desire for both Cady and Regina George. Clearly, he had the looks, but Jonathan Bennett was actually just getting his feet wet as an actor when he landed his Mean Girls role. Before the big break, Bennet only had just 7 smaller credits in movies and shows, including Law and Order and All My Children. And while his film career didn’t exactly blow up after Mean Girls, he’s logged steady work ever since, most notably as the host of Food Network’s Cake Wars

Regardless of his status, the Ohio-born Bennett was always going to end up in front of a camera, at least, that’s what said during an interview with Resident. “There was never a time that I started acting. I knew when I was three or four that I was going to be an actor,” he told the outlet, which noted his first-ever performance “as a munchkin in a production of The Wizard of Oz.” Then it was on to The Big Apple and a brief stint on All My Children, after which Bennett made the big New York-to-LA move that any actor shooting for Hollywood stardom eventually makes. Along the way, he snagged the best actor honors at the 2003 Palm Beach International Film Festival for his role in an independent film, proving that even though he wasn’t well-known yet, he had the goods. 

Tina Fey knew about real-life mean girls firsthand

Part of what makes Mean Girls so iconic and relatable is that it isn’t just the teenagers who get involved in the drama, it’s the adults, too. Tina Fey’s character, Ms. Norbury, has moments when she feels bullied by the mean girls, and shows that teachers have to deal with a lot more than just lesson plans. But even though Fey wrote the screenplay for the movie, and starred in it, Mean Girls was far from her first big role.

Hailing from Pennsylvania, Fey headed to Chicago after graduating with a drama degree from the University of Virginia. The Windy City gave Fey her start in the world of comedy after she earned a spot in Second City’s “Mainstage company as an understudy,” according to her profile with the legendary comedy training organization. By the time Fey penned the screenplay forMean Girls, she was already SNL’s head writer.

Speaking with The New York Times the real-life inspiration behind the film, Fey said, “I revisited high school behaviors of my own — futile, poisonous, bitter behaviors that served no purpose. That thing of someone saying ‘You’re really pretty’ and then, when the other person thanks them, saying, ‘Oh, so you agree? You think you’re pretty?’ That happened in my school. That was a bear trap.” We have to wonder what those real-life mean girls think of Fey now. 

Amy Poehler had been acting long before Mean Girls

Another hilarious character from Mean Girls was Regina George’s mom, played by Amy Poehler. Like her friend and frequent collaborator, Tina Fey, Poehler also honed her comedy chops at Chicago’s Second City before moving on to Saturday Night Live. Prior to all that, according to Biography, Poehler was raised in Burlington, Mass, with two schoolteacher as parents. Shown above right is one of Poehler’s earliest acting gigs from the late 90’s, a recurring role as Stacy, Andy’s little sister on Late Night with Conan O’Brien. But when Poehler was cast in Mean Girls, she somehow still wasn’t well-known enough to garner some basic Hollywood star privilege, despite the fact that she was also already an SNL regular at the time.  

In her book Yes Please (via Boston Magazine), Poehler describes how she and Fey were flying first-class to shoot Mean Girls, and a man was rude to them and told them they didn’t belong in first class. “All of my lower-middle-class Boston issues rose to the surface,” Poehler writes, adding, “I don’t like it when bratty, privileged old white guys speak to me like I am their mouthy niece. I got that amazing feeling you get when you know you are going to lose it in the best, most self-righteous way. I just leaned back and yelled, “F************K YOU.” Then I chased him as he tried to get away from me.” 

Hilarious? Yes. Would her schoolteacher parents approve? Probably also yes. 

Daniel Franzese's Mean Girls character meant a lot to him

One of the most beloved characters from Mean Girls was definitely Damian. Not only was he Janis Ian’s best friend, but he also had some of the best lines (“She asked me how to spell ‘orange'”) in the movie, as well as some of the best facial expressions. While it would seem like the man who made Glen Coco a legend owes his career to Mean Girls, actor Daniel Franzese only partially sees it that way.

In fact, Franzese, who only had only a few years of little-known credits to his name before Mean Girls, told them that he hit “the gay glass ceiling” after his big break. What this mean, essentially, was that Hollywood casting agents were only offering him roles fitting the “gay best friend” trope. Franzese refused those roles to his own detriment. “I turned down a lot of money as my fame was rising,” he told them, adding, “It’s a very weird thing to be famous and not be able to pay your rent.” 

He eventually found roles that better suited his personal values, but the time between that and his breakout was particularly tough for Franzese. Before he started acting, he struggled with his sexuality, and had a hard time coming out. Franzese even wrote a touching letter to his character from Mean Girls for IndieWire, in which he confessed, “I wished I’d had you as a role model when I was younger. I might’ve been easier to be gay growing up.” 

Neil Flynn was 'Joe Dramatic Actor' before Mean Girls

Yes, Cady Heron was the new girl in Mean Girls. And yes, she was film’s the main character. But her father, played by Neil Flynn, was a total scene-stealer. By the time he signed on for the small movie role, the veteran comedic character actor was already a regular on Scrubs, as the iconic and ever-hilarious and sarcastic janitor.

In an interview with AV Club, Flynn explained his accidental start in comedy, as he initially considered himself “Joe Dramatic Actor” when he started out. “Then I came out [to Hollywood] and didn’t find any success for about five or six years, so I moved back to Chicago, more or less starting over,” he explained, adding that he randomly saw “this sign that said ‘ImprovOlympic,'” and signed up. Flynn said, “it was probably the single best professional decision I ever made.”

Over 70 screen credits to his name later, yeah, we tend to agree. 

Ana Gasteyer has always been hilarious

Mrs. Heron, played by Ana Gasteyer, had some great moments in Mean Girls, but looking at her life, that shouldn’t be too surprising. Gasteyer has a lot in common with Tina Fey, as she was also a Saturday Night Live star. Gasteyer even went on to star in other Fey projects, such as Netflix’s Wine Country, another hilarious comedy. 

The gorgeous and funny Gasteyer broke onto the scene in 1996 with her Saturday Night Live debut, but before that, her was still extremely interesting. In fact, she told Us Weekly that she is “legally blind in [her] right eye,” and had to wear “an eye patch for much of [her] early childhood,” which she used to her advantage to land “her first standout role in a play [as] Helen Keller in The Miracle Worker [in middle school].” We swear that’s not an SNL sketch.

While that all sounds kind of rough, Gasteyer also told The Washingtonian how grateful she was for her childhood in Washington, D.C. “It was incredibly diverse and incredibly beautiful in terms of the architecture,” she told the outlet, adding, “My mom was one of the founders of the Eastern Market, and helped renovate that area. She was very active in the community association.” Cleary, before Gasteyer was famous, she was aware of how lucky she is, and that likely remains true today.

Tim Meadows worked hard to make it in comedy

Another Saturday Night Live alumni who graced the screen in Mean Girls was Principal Duvall, played by Tim Meadows. Meadows appeared on Saturday Night Live from 1991 until 2000, so he was already pretty famous before Mean Girls, and in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, Meadows explained that he owed a lot of his success to his upbringing. 

“Probably the work ethic that was instilled in me in Detroit,” Meadows said of his childhood, adding “I like working, I work a lot. I feel guilty when I’m not working. It comes from my parents and the way my family was. We were always taught about education and working and living up to your potential and working harder than other people in order to be successful.” Additionally, according to ABC, the Michigan native “studied television and radio broadcasting at Wayne State University before performing improvisational comedy at the Soup Kitchen Saloon.”

Clearly, Meadows put in the work to achieve his stardom, but is it really any wonder that the Ladies Man himself had any trouble wrangling some catfighting high school girls?  

Mean Girls was Rajiv Surendra's last big role

There are few musical numbers in cinematic history more memorable than the rap Kevin Gnapoor (or Kevin G as he’s better known) performs at the Winter Talent Show in Mean Girls. It’s such an impressive moment as the mathlete turns into a total, certified rapper on stage in front of the entire school. But Mean Girls was definitely the biggest moment in actor Rajiv Surendra’s Hollywood career. In fact, he took just one role after Mean Girls in 2005, before handing in his Hollywood card for his current occupation, which actually goes back to his childhood. In addition to being an author, Surendra is also a calligrapher, something he was passionate about before all the fame. 

But the pursuit of that passion was the result of a pretty massive disappointment for the up-and-coming star. In an interview with HuffPost, Surendra explained how he learned about director Ang Lee’s Oscar-winning adaptation of the book Life of Pi while he was on-set for Mean Girls. Instantly gripped by the role, Surendra made it his singular goal to get cast. He even travelled to India to extensively research for the character, but his “dream was over in an instant” when Lee cast someone else. He ended up walking away from the business right then, or as he explained it in an Instagram post plugging his book about the whole experience, “Fate had a greater journey in store for me.”  

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