Blast From the Past

The Most Random Old TV Stars to Appear on ‘Mad Men’

Is that Rory Gilmore having sex with Pete Campbell? Mr. Belding, why are you hawking Cool Whip? A look at the forgotten TV veterans to guest star on Mad Men.


We’ve all had the experience. You channel-surf through that spate of cable channels—TNT, TBS, USA—that show reruns of old (or, rather, old-ish) TV shows—ER, Party of Five, Gilmore Girls—and watch one of those series’ stars in a memorable scene and think, “I wonder whatever happened to them?” Well, increasingly, the answer seems to be, “They’ve been cast on Mad Men.”

AMC’s hit cable drama seems to be a refuge of sorts for TV stars that Hollywood, and, in turn, we seem to have forgotten about: “Is that…Alex Mack?” “Oh my god, I think that’s Mr. Belding!” “Wasn’t he on Married…With Children?” Whoever’s doing the casting for Mad Men has a penchant for digging up some of TV’s treasures from the past and putting them on screen for us to see in new and unexpected ways—like in ’60s garb having sex with Pete Campbell. (Rory Gilmore, who knew you had it in you?)

On Sunday night’s mid-season finale of Mad Men, yet another blast from TV’s past appeared in a seemingly random role. Kellie Martin, star of ER and Life Goes On (and countless Lifetime TV movies), played one of Betty’s college girlfriends. Where does she rank among the series’ most pleasantly surprising castings? Here’s a look back.

Kellie Martin

What you remember her from: She played the gifted, but socially awkward, teenage daughter Becca on the ’90s family drama Life Goes On and is responsible for a million tears for her part in one of the saddest, most shocking character deaths in TV history as Dr. Lucy Knight on ER.

Who she played on Mad Men: Martin popped up in this Sunday’s mid-season episode in a role that was simultaneously fairly innocuous and a tragic reminder of how old we’ve all gotten. A college pal of Betty’s who shows up with her family for a visit, Martin, who we fell in love with as one of Hollywood’s most talented teenage actors, played the mother of a teenager herself.

Neve Campbell

What you remember her from: Were you even around in the ’90s? Campbell was the ’90s actress, starring in a spate of the decade’s buzziest TV and film projects: the nighttime soap Party of Five, the definitive horror series Scream, the cult hit The Craft, and the impetus for every ’90s boy’s journey into manhood in Wild Things.

Who she played on Mad Men: Campbell showed up in a pivotal role in the most recent season premiere of Mad Men as Don Draper’s seatmate, on whom he unloads about his life with surprising honesty and candor. Of all the women that Don’s been seduced by, she may have been the most surprising—he spurns her advances.

Linda Cardellini

What you remember her from: Campbell wasn’t the first ’90s icon to tangle with Don. Cardellini, who, like Kellie Martin, is an ER alum, is probably best known to TV fans (or, at least, good TV fans) for her role in the short-lived classic Freaks and Geeks. (Plus, if you have kids, you may recognize her as Velma in the live-action Scooby-Doo movies.)

Who she played on Mad Men: Cardellini earned a Guest Actress Emmy nomination for her turn last season as the neighbor Don had an affair with. Cardellini’s character still lives in Don’s building—maybe there’s time yet for the two to have another elevator run-in before the series wraps up.

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Harry Hamlin

What you know him from: People’s Sexiest Man Alive of 1987 played attorney Michael Kuzak in the ’80s legal drama L.A. Law. Before finding resurging relevance on Mad Men, he competed on Dancing with the Stars, as did his wife, Lisa Rinna.

Who he plays on Mad Men: Hamlin plays Jim Cutler, who was once SCDP’s nemesis and is now a partner seemingly hell-bent on ruining Don’s life. Also, he’s the man we all can thank for this classic GIF.

Alexis Bledel

What you know her from: Talking a mile a minute for seven seasons as Rory Gilmore on Gilmore Girls. She also traveled with pants.

Who she played on Mad Men: She had an affair with Pete Campbell. We all saw her side boob. Then she got her brain fried. (Also, now she and Vincent Kartheiser are engaged IRL!)

David James Elliott

What you remember him from: Elliott played the lead in the military court procedural JAG for 10 seasons on CBS. Also, JAG was on for 10 seasons!?

Who he played on Mad Men: In the second episode of this season of Mad Men, Elliott played a rival ad man looking to woo Don away from SCDP during Don’s suspension from the agency.

Ted McGinley

What you know him from: Lovingly (we think) called “the patron saint of shark-jumping, McGinley is famous for appearing on TV series right before they were canceled—Dynasty, Sports Night, and Charlie Lawrence among them. But you probably know him best as Marcy’s dashing doof of a husband on Married…With Children. Like Hamlin, McGinley is also no stranger to bedazzled spandex, having also competed on a season of Dancing with the Stars.

Who he played on Mad Men: McGinley played a writer on the soap opera that Megan acted on for a spell. He also propositioned Don and Megan into having a foursome.

Joanna Going

What you know her from: Going starred in the ill-fated attempt to revive the cult TV show Dark Shadows in the ’90s (prior to the ill-fated attempt to revive the series as a 2012 Johnny Depp movie). She also played the First Lady in the first two seasons of Netflix’s House of Cards.

Who she played on Mad Men: She would’ve been No. 4 in the foursome with Don, Megan, and McGinley’s Mel. Going played Arlene, the star of the soap opera that Mel writes for, who mentors Megan.

Charles Shaughnessy

What you know him from: Perhaps harder to place with Fran Drescher honking his name, he was Mr. Sheffield on The Nanny.

Who he played on Mad Men: Saint John Powell, head honcho of the British firm that takes over Sterling Cooper.

Larisa Oleynik

What you know her from: This Mad Men sighting was very exciting for millennials. Oleynik was the heroine in Nickelodeon’s The Secret World of Alex Mack and the too-cool-for-school younger sister opposite Julia Stiles and Heath Ledger in 1999’s 10 Things I Hate About You.

Who she played on Mad Men: Oleynik proved deft at giggling while holding cocktails, playing Ken Cosgrove’s wife, who largely showed up at dinners, lunches, and parties as his arm candy.

Yeardley Smith

What you know her from: More like “what you know her voice from.” Smith voices Lisa Simpson on Fox’s long-running animated series—though she’s also appeared in human form in numerous scene-stealing roles on shows including The Big Bang Theory and Dharma and Greg.

Who she played on Mad Men: In the season 3 episode “The Fog,” Smith plays a nurse at the hospital where Betty gives birth.

Dan Byrd

What you remember him from: He plays Courteney Cox’s nerdy son on Cougar Town.

Who he played on Mad Men: In the most recent season premiere, he played Joan’s new footwear client, a marketing executive who’s as in over his head as he is eager.

Dennis Haskins

What you remember him from: He’s Mr. Belding! Haskins will perennially be attached to the indelible Saved By the Bell principal.

Who he played on Mad Men: In what may be one of the most exciting “hold on, is that….?” Mad Men moments, Haskins played a test-kitchen scientist in the Cool Whip laboratory.

Stephanie Courtney

What you remember her from: Her name might not be instantly recognizable, but she absolutely is: she’s Flo, the Progressive Insurance Lady.

Who she played on Mad Men: In the show’s first season, she was switchboard operator Marge. She was not impressed by the drunken debauchery at the election-return party.

Kip Pardue

What you remember him from: Playing Sunshine, the new guy with long hair in Remember the Titans. He’s also had arcs on ER and House.

Who he played on Mad Men: A Heinz ketchup executive.

Joe O’Connor

What you remember him from: More ’90s nostalgia! He was Mr. Darling, Melissa Joan Hart’s father on Clarissa Explains It All.

Who he played on Mad Men: He’s played Pete’s father-in-law, Tom Vogel, since Mad Men’s first season, who never thought Pete was good enough for his daughter, Trudy (played by another “isn’t that…?” actress, Community star Allison Brie).

Bess Armstrong

What you remember her from: She was Angela Chases’s mom on My So-Called Life.

Who she played on Mad Men: She was last spotted dropping acid with Roger and Jane Sterling.