7 Current TV Actors Who Got Their Start on Reality Shows

Around ten years ago when reality TV first became the omnipresent subgenre it is today, appearing on a reality show was almost as disastrous for an aspiring actor's careers as appearing in a porn film. Participation in a reality show tended to relegate its participants into a kind of ghetto of uncastability. In retrospect, this probably had less to do with their possibly poor behavior in a national spotlight and more to do with casting directors' (and our!) inherent snobbiness in not wanting to mix reality show guilty pleasures with actual, respectable television. But since then we've either softened our opinions of reality shows OR there have just been so many of them that it's a statistical guarantee that working actors may have once appeared on one. Either way, it's never been more apparent that reality shows are no longer the scarlet letter on actors' resumes they used to be!

Here are at least seven actors working in TV today with surprising (and not-so-surprising) origins on reality TV shows:



DAVID GIUNTOLI


PREVIOUSLY: Road Rules: South Pacific / CURRENTLY: Grimm

When NBC's Grimm first premiered last year, I found its lead character immediately likable. Not only was Detective Nick Burkhardt a compelling (and handsome!) leading man, there was just something SO familiar about him. It would be months before I'd put my finger on it: David Giuntoli used to be DAVE from Road Rules: South Pacific! Because I was a child of the '90s, man did I LOVE Road Rules. One could be forgiven for overlooking good ol' Dave's legacy, however, since that particular season was the one in which Donnell and Abram's slap-fights took center stage. But still: I do remember Dave seemed like a good guy, and it appears that reputation certainly didn't hurt his future aspirations which would come to include bit parts on Veronica Mars, Nip/Tuck, and Privileged.



NENE LEAKES


PREVIOUSLY: The Real Housewives of Atlanta / CURRENTLY: The New Normal, Glee

This one's much less surprising, mostly because of how recently NeNe Leakes appeared on The Real Housewives of Atlanta (and then Celebrity Apprentice). But NeNe's conversion from reality star to likable sitcom presence (in Ryan Murphy's Glee and The New Normal) is most significant in how modern it is. Unlike Giuntoli, she didn't have to go away for ten years only to re-emerge as a serious actress. People liked NeNe so much that her immediate conversion to actress was basically applauded. While it's still not 100 percent clear that NeNe will ever be as funny in a scripted setting as she was on reality TV, she definitely brings something new to the mix that the scripted world needed. We approve.



JAMIE CHUNG


PREVIOUSLY: The Real World San Diego / CURRENTLY: Once Upon a Time

She may not be a household name just yet, but Jamie Chung is definitely on the cusp of stardom in the scripted TV world, mostly owing to her gig as Mulan in Once Upon a Time. But ever since appearing on MTV's booze-and-drama-soaked first San Diego season of The Real World, Chung's been quietly making a career for herself with bit parts in movies (Sucker Punch, Sorority Row, The Hangover Part II) and TV (Greek, Days of Our Lives, Castle). Congratulations, Jamie Chung! (The conversation about whether it was appropriate for ABC to cast a Korean woman as one of China's most legendary heroines is one that we can have another day.)



DEAN GEYER


PREVIOUSLY: Australian Idol / CURRENTLY: Glee

Terra Nova was one of the more divisive shows Fox has ever aired, but if there's one thing I hope we can all agree upon, it's that Dean Geyer was A LOOKER on it. I think I know why: He was secretly AUSTRALIAN the whole time! That explains it. He first came to people's attention on Australian Idol, where—get this—he got even more attention when it was revealed he'd posed for a beefcake calendar of some kind prior to the competition. (Those are the best kinds of scandals, obviously.) Anyway, yeah. He won third place on Australian Idol, released an album, appeared on Neighbours (as all Australian actors are legally obligated to do), and now he's walking around in towels and flirting with Rachel on Glee.



JAI RODRIGUEZ


PREVIOUSLY: Queer Eye for the Straight Guy / CURRENTLY: Malibu Country

So in love was the world with the short-lived watercooler reality hit Queer Eye for the Straight Guy that many of its titular Fab Five consultants made as-themselves appearances in tons of movies, ads, and TV shows. But while being Jai Rodriguez on reality shows and red carpets is still a major part of what Rodriguez does, he's been quietly amassing a resume of scripted work as well, including gigs on Nip/Tuck, Harry's Law, How I Met Your Mother, and Bones. But it's his supporting role in the upcoming Reba McEntire sitcom Malibu Country that would seem to cement his status as Jai Rodriguez, ACTOR. Who knows if the show is even good (J/K I know it isn't), but still, it's an impressive career arc for sure.



MATT LANTER


PREVIOUSLY: Manhunt / CURRENTLY: 90210

If you can believe it, there was a time when Bravo was even GAYER than it is today. In those days the network not only made a cottage industry out of gay-fronted makeover shows, it once tried to compete with America's Next Top Model by airing a male-model-centered version called Manhunt: The Search for America's Most Gorgeous Male Model. Hosted by Carmen Electra, the show did not exactly set the world on fire, but it did introduce us to a sweet-faced kid named Matt who'd quickly put the series behind him and go on to score a series of big-deal roles in scripted dramas, first as the president's son in Commander in Chief (or the name I will always remember it by, Lady President), then in Heroes and Shark. After playing a bunch of lead roles in direct-to-video movies, Lanter finally scored the bad-boy role of Liam on the then-bad-boy-deficient 90210. As it turned out, if you are attractive enough to appear on a reality show about male models, then you are probably also attractive enough to be a hunky teen actor! Hollywood is funny that way.



HILARIE BURTON


PREVIOUSLY: MTV VJ / CURRENTLY: White Collar

All right, she may not have been in a reality cast per se, but Hilarie Burton spent more than enough time in front of cameras as an MTV VJ that it's basically the same deal. Generally people who interview Real World cast members and scream MTV Spring Breakers into and out of commercials don't go on to do anything, let alone appear on a respected USA series like White Collar. Yet here we are! In between MTV and USA, Burton appeared (as herself!) on Dawson's Creek, and later was an integral part of One Tree Hill. See, dreams come true! (Note: It helps to be as talented/attractive as Hilarie Burton for dreams to come true.)


Which reality stars would YOU like to see on a scripted series?

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Kristin Wiig was Dr. Pat in The Joe Schmo Show.
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Don't forget to add Jennifer Hudson, who started out on American Idol. Her songs are really great. She's the one I remembered when talking about Hollywood celebrities who started out on reality TV shows.
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JAI RODRIGUEZ looks different from when he was in "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy" and now when he is "Malibu County"

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I don't know ANY of these people, but the females (besides the repugnant, pig looking, "NENE") are all hot. Duh. That's why they're famous.
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Nuts about Jamie Chung being on OUAT. Never noticed that was her...I actually enjoyed that season of TRW. The dude from Grimm is surprising, too.
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I have no idea who any of those people are.
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While maybe not on TV per se, you did forget the Miz from WWE who came from The Real World.
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I love that you not only know what Neighbours is, but also about the legal obligation of all Aussie actors to appear on it!
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Don't forget Yaya DaCosta who went from ANTM onto Ugly Betty, In Time and other stuff
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Always knew Jamie Chung was from the Real World San Diego because it's my favorite season of all time...have also been following her acting career!
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Lucy Hale (Aria from Pretty Little Liars) is another television actress that got her start in reality TV. She won the (only) season of American Juniors.
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Although it's a news entertainment show, Elizabeth Hasselback is well know for Survivor.



And Cote de Pablo from NCIS started by co-hosting a talk show.

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The only three I knew of before reading this were David Giuntoli, Hannah Simone (from New Girl), and of course, Katherine McPhee.

I didn't know that Jamie Chung and Hilarie Burton started off on TV with non-acting roles. Cool.

I have no idea who the other four people on this list are.
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I knew about Hilarie Burton but I couldn't put my finger on Jamie Chung before, thank you, Price. I knew I've seen her before but I'd never guessed The Real World.
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Price, you forgot about Katherine McPhee. I hate her basically but she comes to mind first when you think about reality-stars-to-scripted-TV.
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The Boston Real World people.
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Movie-wise, Bradley Cooper (Hangover and more) was once a travel host on Globe Trekker.



Now I know why Guintoli has awful acting traits. He's always looking around like he's mot sure if he is saying or doing the right thing and wanting confirmation from a director or someone that he is or not. He has no real believable depth either. Despite its flaws, I like Grimm, but they could have done better casting here.
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The Miz!
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Hannah Simone, who plays Cece on New Girl, was a MuchMusic VJ (the Canadian version of MTV) for several years so I guess you can say she got her start on reality TV as well
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jessica sanchez from americal idol to glee
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jeremy renner on the bravo show The It Factor
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Since we all know it's scripted, I can't believe The Miz isn't on here.
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Jacinda Barrett even managed to do movies after doing Real World on MTV.
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the Beautiful Hannah Simone! She was a VJ as well.
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I only recognize two of these people. I didn't know that any actors actually got started on reality tv, I know lots try to but most don't succeed.
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David Giuntoli might be likeable but I think "he has big areas of opportunity" with his acting...
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OH, boy, I almost lost all respect for detective Nick Burkhardt after this one... Definitely a reality show is not the best acting reference one can present.
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No but it does give a chance for exposure and getting a foot in the door of the business. Instead of having to go on countless auditions and maybe getting a few commercials, he was able to get his face on TV in what is basically a season long audition reel.
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Lucy hale from American juniors to pretty little liars

Katherine McPhee from American idol to smash

Josh Henderson from popstars to Dallas

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David Guintoli on the Gauntlet is blowing my mind! Glass shattering (HIMYM reference).
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No one wonder why Matt Lanter is such a bad actor. He sure is cute though!
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I love Nene Leakes in The New Normal, she steals almost every scene she's in.
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Lest we forget former So You Think You Can Dance contestant/current Glee star Heather Morris.
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Was she ever in the top 20? I don't remember her, now I'm going to go back and research.
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she wasn't in the top 20. she was the last girl cut before they got to the top 20.
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