Ranked: The Post–Twilight Zone Careers of the Aughts Cast

You are now entering the Twilight Zone, where rising stars of the early aughts got their shine.

2018 Outstanding Mother Awards
Jim Spellman

The Twilight Zone is a cult classic that has been reimagined and revived multiple times: once as a CBS series in the late 1980s, once as a made-for-TV movie in 1994, and again as a series in 2002 (on the now-defunct network UPN), hosted by Forest Whitaker. Looking back, it does seem like the short-lived early-aughts revival of the midcentury classic took on the air of an after-school special, but given that the horror-comedy auteur Jordan Peele will be the host, narrator, and executive producer of the highly anticipated upcoming CBS All Access reboot of the anthology series, the new Twilight Zone may actually live up to its predecessor.

The original series—which aired its first episode in 1958—is revered for its showcase of witty, dark social commentary from classic writers of the ’50s and ’60s, including the series creator Rod Serling, as well as Ray Bradbury and Ambrose Bierce, but also for its introduction of actors on their way to stardom, such as Carol Burnett, Robert Redford, Burt Reynolds, William Shatner, and George Takei. Similarly, the cast of the 2002 revival featured a solid cluster of celebrities who were just beginning their careers in Hollywood, many of whom you may not have realized were on the series (hopefully, Jordan Peele’s take on the series makes space for an equal amount of familiar faces and blossoming talent). You are now entering The Twilight Zone, where early-aughts rising stars from Jessica Simpson to Amber Tamblyn got their shine. Here, a ranking of the post–Twilight Zone careers of the alumni from the 2002 reboot.

9. Lukas Haas

Lukas Haas in The Twilight Zone.


After his Pussy Posse heyday with Leonardo DiCaprio and David Blaine in the ’90s, Haas joined The Twilight Zone in an episode called “Harsh Mistress,” in which his struggling musician character purchases and plays a magical guitar that makes him famous. His character in this episode might have actually ended up being more famous than the real Lukas Haas is today.

8. Rory Culkin

TWILIGHT ZONE, ‘Azoth The Avenger Is A Friend Of Mine’, Rory Culkin, 2002-2003. Season 1, (c) UPN/ Courtesy: Everett Collection.

©UPN/Courtesy Everett Collection

Right around the time the youngest member of the Culkin crew was cast alongside Abigail Breslin and Joaquin Phoenix in M. Night Shyamalan’s Signs, a young Rory Culkin brought his Conan the Barbarian–esque action figure to life in order to beat up the bullies who abuse him in his neighborhood in “Azoth the Avenger Is a Friend of Mine.” But in the year 2018, it’s brothers Macaulay and Kieran who rule the headlines, not Rory.

7. Katherine Heigl

Katherine Heigl in The Twilight Zone.


In a truly bonkers take on the Grandfather Paradox, Katherine Heigl’s character in the “Cradle of Darkness” episode of The Twilight Zone is tasked with traveling back in time to… kill Hitler? That’s almost as bizarre as when Heigl refused to accept an Emmy nomination for her performance as Izzy on Grey’s Anatomy, thus effectively blacklisting her from the show.

6. Portia de Rossi

Fresh off the heels of her Ally McBeal success, and before jumping right into the Arrested Development cultural phenomenon as Lindsay Bluth, Portia de Rossi starred in “Dead Man’s Eyes,” an episode that follows a widow who, after putting on her dead husband’s glasses, realizes she can see what he saw while he was alive, and might be able to solve the mystery of his murder. In real life, de Rossi has since announced that she quit acting, so we probably won’t be seeing her in the Jordan Peele adaptation of this series next year.

5. Penn Badgley

Penn Badgley in The Twilight Zone.


Before he was Dan Humphrey on Gossip Girl, Penn Badgley was busy playing your emo boyfriend in the “Homecoming” episode of The Twilight Zone. The state of Badgley’s career gains extra points for marrying a Kirke sister and starring a in a Lifetime series that was renewed for season two before the first episode of season one even premiered.

4. Linda Cardellini

Linda Cardellini in The Twilight Zone.


After she appeared in American living rooms as the existentially agitated Lindsay Weir on Freaks and Geeks and took on the classic role of Velma Dinkley in the live-action reimagining of Scooby Doo, Linda Cardellini played a journalist who visits a fortune-teller (played by Method Man, no less) who gives her celebrity scoops in a season two episode of The Twilight Zone called “The Path.” Jinkies. Still, Cardellini remains a bit of a cult icon (her arc in season six of Mad Men will go down as one of the more tragic plot lines of that show), and even scored a small role in the Avengers movies, so she remains relevant.

3. Usher

Usher in The Twilight Zone.


Usher (remember when the R&B crooner was an actor?) plays a police officer who received mysterious phone calls from beyond this mortal realm in “To Protect and Serve,” which brings a whole new meaning to his 2002 single, “U Don’t Have to Call.” Usher may not be an actor anymore, but he does still make the occasional club banger.

2. Jessica Simpson


At the height of her ascent to becoming an aughts pop starlet, Jessica Simpson took on a role in an episode of The Twilight Zone that involves possessed dolls. In “The Collection,” Simpson stars as a suburban babysitter who may or may not mysteriously turn into one of the dolls in question. Simpson is currently having a bit of a career resurgence: She’s stepping out in trendy labels like Off-White and prepping for her third kid. That’s called containing multitudes!

1. Amber Tamblyn

Amber Tamblyn in The Twilight Zone.


The first season of The Twilight Zone reboot had some very suitable ambitions for the time. Beloved character actors? Check. Original takes on classic material? Check. Amber Tamblyn playing a rebellious teen? Check. In “Evergreen,” Tamblyn tackles the devious side of suburban ennui after her family moves to a gated community, and the actress has seriously grown up in the 15 years since the premiere of this episode; she’s married, raising a daughter, writing books and poetry, and, most important, is still tight with her Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants costars, the ultimate mark of success.

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