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In the late 90s, network TV was just starting to embrace the teen dramedy. From the supernatural to the prestigious zip codes, teenagers could immerse themselves in a variety of alternate high school experiences. But beyond the extraordinary, there was a small crop of shows that were able to capture the true teenage experience; shows that were relatable, funny, heartbreaking, and honest. Freaks and Geeks was one such show, and, like most others, was taken from us far too early. Fifteen years after the premiere of the pilot, here’s a look at what the young stars of the show, and the two big names behind the scenes, have gone on to accomplish.

 

Paul Fieg 

Fieg began his entertainment career in stand-up comedy, acting in films such as Heavyweights and That Thing You Do, and shows like Sabrina, the Teenage Witch. He created Freaks loosely based on his own high school experience growing up in Michigan, though he has said that the other writers contributed many of their own experiences as well. Following the series’ cancellation, Fieg has continued to act and direct, appearing in some of Apatow’s productions. He has also directed numerous episodes of popular series like Arrested Development, The Office, Weeds, and Nurse Jackie, often making appearances on the shows as well. He currently has a number of films in the works.

 

Judd Apatow

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As writer, director, and executive producer, Apatow also began as a stand-up comedian, and shared an apartment with Adam Sandler early in his career. He worked on a few shows, but his big break came when he co-wrote Heavyweights. After Freaks, he went on to create Undeclared, another underrated young adult show that only lasted one season. After parting ways with TV for awhile, Apatow quickly produced film hit after film hit: AnchormanThe 40-Year-Old VirginKnocked UpSuperbad, and many more, often working with Steve Carell, Will Ferrell, and Freaks alums Jason Segel and Seth Rogen. Currently, he’s producing the HBO hit Girls, in addition to various films, with his fifth feature as director, Trainwreck, coming out in 2015.

 

Linda Cardellini

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The show’s star was in her 20s when she landed the role of Lindsay Weir, a mathlete who was struggling to find her place in high school. Prior to this role, Cardellini had guest acted on a few shows, including a small but notable part on Boy Meets World as Lauren, the girl who breaks up Cory and Topanga. Post-Freaks, Cardellini played Velma in the live Scooby-Doo franchise, and starred on ER for a number of seasons as nurse Samantha Taggart. Beyond love interest roles in Brokeback Mountain and Grandma’s Boy, arguably Cardellini’s best roles have been on the small screen; in particular, her guest starring roles on New Girl and Mad Men (the latter of which she received an Emmy nomination for).

 

John Francis Daley

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As Lindsay’s little brother Sam, Daley was the head of the titular geeks. He may have also been the most believable high school student on screen at the time, as he was approximately the same age as his character. After Freaks, Daley went on to have prominent roles on The Geena Davis Show and Kitchen Confidential. Today, you may know Daley best as Dr. Lance Sweets, a psychiatrist with the FBI on Bones. Daley’s also a writer: He co-wrote Horrible Bosses and its upcoming sequel, The Incredible Burt WonderstoneCloudy With a Chance of Meatballs 2, and the recently-announced Vacation, all with his writing partner Jonathan Goldstein.

 

James Franco

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The classic bad boy, Daniel Desario was as lovable as he was underachieving. The role was Franco’s first, and shortly after, he was cast in the box office hit Spiderman as Peter Parker’s best friend, Harry Osbourne. He went on to star in the film’s two sequels, and worked steadily before scoring his two big breakout roles: Weed dealer Saul in Pineapple Express (opposite Freaks co-star Seth Rogen), and in the biographical Milk, as the love interest of politician Harvey Milk (played by Sean Penn). Franco was later nominated for an Academy Award for his lead role in 127 Hours, and in addition to many more notable screen credits, he has also taught film courses at NYU, UCLA, and USC.

 

Samm Levine

 

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Levine also began his career on Freaks, as Sam Weir’s geek pal, Neal. Following the show, Levine has gone on to have a steady acting career, appearing in films such as Wet Hot American Summer and Inglorious Basterds, and on TV in shows like How I Met Your Mother and Entourage. However, much of Levine’s time is spent appearing on podcasts like comedian Doug Benson’s Doug Loves Movies, where he’s known as “Little Wolverine,” and very often wins the various movie trivia games played on the show. He’s also a regular guest on Kevin Pollack’s Chat Show, a weekly webshow on UStream.

 

Seth Rogen

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Despite receiving perhaps the least screen time of the freaks, Ken Miller’s sarcastic retorts and carefree attitude made him a likable character. Behind the scenes, Rogen was an eager-to-learn young actor, as well as a writer; Apatow took him under his wing and cast him in Undeclared following the cancellation of Freaks, and helped pave the way for Rogen’s successful career. After small roles in other Apatow productions, Rogen starred in and executive produced Knocked Up, which was released the same year as Superbad, the script for which Rogen and childhood friend Evan Goldberg initially penned when they were teenagers. Both were huge hits, and since then, Rogen has continued to direct, write, produce, and act in more than 30 feature films, often with Freaks alums Franco and Jason Segel.

 

Jason Segel

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Like most of the other young actors, Freaks was Segel’s first prominent role. As Nick Andopolis, a funny musician who dated Lindsay, Segel played the nice guy who didn’t usually get the girl. After a recurring part on Undeclared, Segel had a few small roles before landing the main role of Marshall Eriksen on How I Met Your Mother. His career took off when he wrote and starred in Forgetting Sarah Marshall, and has since written, produced, and starred in The MuppetsThe Five-Year Engagement, and this year’s Sex Tape, in addition to other film and TV roles. HIMYM recently ended after nine seasons, giving Segel more time to focus on his film career.

 

Martin Starr

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The third member of the geeks, Bill, was often thought of as the geekiest of the trio, but his sweet nature made him endearing to audiences. His portrayer, Starr, has gone on to play plenty of geeky characters since, including his role as wannabe Sci-Fi writer Roman DeBeers on Party Down. Though he’s had small parts in Apatow films such as Knocked Up and Superbad, among other film roles, most of his success has been on TV; He starred as Sam on Adult Swim’s NTSF:SD:SUV::, and is currently playing Bertram Gilfoyle on HBO’s Silicon Valley.

 

Busy Philipps

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Though she was initially little more than Daniel’s strong-willed girlfriend and a foil for Lindsay, Kim Kelly was quickly shown to be a loyal friend and multilayered character. Not long after Freaks‘ cancellation, Philipps landed the role of Audrey Liddell in the final two seasons of the established teen drama Dawson’s Creek. On film, she’s best known for her role in White Chicks, but Philipps has stuck primarily with TV, starring in the short-lived Love, Inc. as well as nabbing a season long arc on ER. In recent years, Philipps has been most recognized for her role as Laurie on Cougar Town, the final season of which premieres in 2015.