With all the death, family drama, and heartbreaking storylines, it’s easy to overlook that Six Feet Under (available to stream anytime on HBO Now) had a pretty impressive roster of actors that popped up in guest-starring roles. It’s also interesting to see that some of them gravitated toward each other in their later, more iconic work. Here’s a rundown of a few of Six Feet Under‘s forgotten guest stars and a chance to gaze upon some of today’s biggest stars when they had early-aughts hair.
Zachary Quinto – Hip Student
While he’s now one of Hollywood’s most ubiquitous faces, early on in his career Zachary Quinto starred as a classmate of Claire’s (Lauren Ambrose) in a studio class taught by the eccentric Olivier Castro-Straal (Peter Macdissi). Credited as “hip student,” Quinto’s role may be brief, but it is long enough for us to find out his favorite artist is Kandinsky. This gives Olivier an opportunity to teach the class about the value of their own artistic vision, a lesson that clearly resonates with Claire, and stays with her throughout the rest of the series.
Anna Gunn – Madeline
While Nate (Peter Krause) was still struggling with the death of Lisa (Lili Taylor), he meets Madeline, a divorcée played by Anna Gunn who meets Nate at a “mommy and me” group, sparking a brief affair between the two. Once Nate gets a little too ready to settle into a relationship, however, things go from passionate to awkward rather quickly.
Fun side note: Andy Forrest, who played the long-suffering Kyle on NBC’s Parks and Recreation pops up here in the episode’s opening sequence as, you guessed it, some poor, put-open schlub who ends up catching hell when his house is pranked by a group of teenage girls.
Chris Pine – (Young) Sam Hoviak
Like his Star Trek co-star Zachary Quinto did before him, Chris Pine also showed up for a brief, but memorable, appearance as Nate’s old high school buddy Sam Hoviak. After accidentally running himself over one morning, Sam appears to Nate exactly the way he remembered him, right down to the Pretenders song playing in the background. While the two joke about how fat Sam had gotten later in life, Nate’s able to use his friend’s death to help put his own life into better perspective. Chris Pine’s father, Robert, plays the corpse of present-day Sam, so as to more realistically capture how Sam would have aged. Sure that wasn’t creepy at all on set.
Dean Norris – Detective Shea
Before he was DEA Agent Hank Schrader on Breaking Bad, Dean Norris was sporting the badge as Detective Shea, one of the cops investigating the Fisher family after a fire burns down a proposed space for a Kroehner funeral home that was designed to bankrupt the Fisher’s business. He plays the role with the same kind of gritty, cop show swagger, though gets a little creepy when he starts asking Nate and Brenda (Rachel Griffiths) for specifics about their little exhibition inside the Kroehner space prior to it burning down.
Michael Cudlitz – Dennis
When Claire is sent off on a group camping trip with an organization known as Crossroads, they’re led through the wilderness by Dennis, played by Michael Cudlitz, best known for playing Abraham on AMC’s The Walking Dead. After sparring with Claire during most of the retreat, and eventually kicking her out and sending her home early, Dennis shows a little bit of his compassionate side at the last second. Will Negan do the same on The Walking Dead?
Josh Radnor – Will Jaffe
Sporting one hell of a mustache, How I Met Your Mother’s Josh Radnor stars as Will Jaffe, a man who had gone missing more than two decades earlier, only to be discovered long-dead in his car by a couple out on a hike. During his funeral, which is filled with people struggling to remember details about his life, Will gives a bizarro It’s A Wonderful Life- style speech about how everyone in his life was better off without him. This little pep talk comes at a time when Nate is struggling to adapt to the challenges of becoming a family man. Though Nate tempts fate on a high-speed, beer-fueled drive through the Southern California backroads, he comes home to Lisa, knowing the direction he wants his life to go.
Sandra Oh – Porn Starlet
When adult film star Vivica St. John (Veronica Hart) dies by electrocution in her bathtub (thanks to her wholly remorseless house cat), her funeral is packed full of her co-workers who are there to share their memories. One of those guests is Sandra Oh, who’s credited as “Porn Starlet,” but comes off as one of Vivica’s closest friends who is beside herself with grief over her death. Although she does make it a point to compliment David (Michael C. Hall) on the work they did making her breasts look better than they had in years.
Jenna Fischer – Sharon Kinney
When Rico (Freddy Rodriguez) was separated from his wife Vanessa (Justina Machado), he has a brief fling with a girl named Sharon, played by Jenna Fischer, best known as Pam from The Office. While things seem to be going well between the two (at least from Rico’s perspective), Sharon ghosts him, hoping he will simply take the hint. Instead, Rico gets her landlord to let him into her apartment, which does not go over very well. In order to save face, he just tells Vanessa that she died.
Adam Scott – Ben Cooper
We’ve mentioned this before, but after Keith (Matthew St. Patrick) dumped David for not coming out of the closet, David tries to get over his ex-boyfriend by dating a sensitive lawyer, Ben Cooper, who is played by Adam Scott. Despite their chemistry, David eventually admits to Ben that he was still in love with Keith — who was himself in another relationship at the time. During the show’s initial casting process, Scott was one of three finalists up for the role of David (Jeremy Sisto was another, though he ended up playing Brenda’s brother, Billy). It’s because of Scott’s audition that he was given the role of Ben as a kind of consolation prize.
Bobby Cannavale – Javier
While Keith makes ends meet as a security guard for the pop star Celeste (Michelle Trachtenberg), he works alongside a smarmy, obnoxious guy named Javier, played by fellow HBO alum Bobby Cannavale, who went on to star in both Boardwalk Empire and the short-lived Vinyl. After making wisecracks about them having to follow Celeste to a gay club, Keith outs himself to Javier, and word quickly spreads to the rest of the security team — and to the pop star herself.
Kathy Bates – Bettina
The only real friend Ruth Fisher (Frances Conroy) had was Bettina, played by Kathy Bates, and she was everything that Ruth wasn’t. Brash and unapologetic, Bettina lived each day to the fullest despite a lifetime of tragedies that seemed to dwarf what anyone in the Fisher family had contended with at that point. She shows Ruth the importance of getting massages, the thrill of shoplifting, and most of all, how to be okay with the decisions she’s made in her life. Kathy Bates would end up winning an Emmy for Outstanding Guest Actress for her performance back in 2003.
Rainn Wilson – Arthur Martin
After he was a wayward youth getting killed in House Of 1,000 Corpses but before he was Dwight in The Office, Rainn Wilson played Arthur, a live-in apprentice at the Fisher & Sons Funeral Home. He also carried on a short, but strangely passionate affair with Ruth. While their romance was brief, Arthur ended up leaving the apprenticeship, and his home, after he was unable to deal with his heartache after Ruth fell in love with George (George Cromwell). And on the day after David bought him a new suit, no less.
Justin Theroux – Joe
When Brenda returns to L.A., she becomes fast friends with her neighbor, Joe, a French horn player who she eventually falls in love with. The two of them even move in together and try to start a family… that is until he walks in on Brenda cheating on him with Nate. Spurned by his now-former love, Joe ends up joining the pantheon of guest stars spurned by one of Six Feet Under‘s main characters.