15 Big Characters Who Started Small

It's hard to make it in show business. You have to start at the bottom and, with a lot of luck, you'll be able to work your way up to a major role. (Alternatively, you can be born into Hollywood royalty. That works too, if you can manage it.) This biz is so competitive and cutthroat, sometimes even the fictional characters themselves have to follow this career path. If you are created as a bit part, most of the time that's it for you -- but if you manage to impress your bosses, they might end up giving you your own show. We've collected these underdog stories, so you can vicariously live the success of people who don't even exist.


The Smurfs were throwaway characters. The Belgian comic Johan and Peewit had been running for six years when the little blue fellas showed up as a parSource: The Belgian Comic Strip Center


Inspector Clouseau was only comic relief. The Pink Panther was intended as a vehicle for David Niven, with Clouseau as a bumbling police detective faiSource: North Bay Stage and Screen


Jason Voorhees barely shows up in the original movie. The villain in Friday the 13th is Pamela Voorhees, Jason's mother, seeking revenge fSource: Screen Rant


The Daleks were supposed to be a one-time threat. The all-evil, pepper shaker aliens were created early in Doctor Who's history- and by the Sources: The Guardian, The Guardian


The Smoking Man has four words in Season 1. The Smoking Man was at first just a bit player in a vast conspiracy. As the show went on, he eSources: The Circular, Screen Rant


Miles O'Brien didn't even have a name. The everyman Irish engineer was completely nameless in the first episode of The Next Generation, anSource: Star Trek (Official Site)


President Josiah Bartlet was created as a background character. The West Wing was conceived as a show about the White House's staff, with Source: Deseret News


Steve Urkel was supposed to be in just one episode. The nerdy neighbor was created to take Laura Winslow on a terrible date, halfway through the firstSource: Los Angeles Times


Phil Coulson was called only Agent at first. Clark Gregg was initially reluctant to take such a small, nameless role for Iron ManSource: Den of Geek


Harley Quinn was created to wheel in a cake. For an episode of Batman: The Animated Series, writer Paul Dini needed someone to bring a big cake for JoSources: Cartoon Research, CBR


Kim Wexler was more or less disposable. Kim was created as a broadly defined tempering T influence, for Jimmy McGill, with the creators open to the Source: Vulture


Fonzie wasn't even billed in the opening credits. The Fonz was written as a cliched bully, and Henry Winkler outright refused to play him that way. ThMore: 5 Classic Pop Culture Moments (Actors Made Up on the Fly)


Popeye was hired for just one gig, then stayed forever. In 1929, the characters of the comic strip Thimble Theater needed a crew for their boat, so thSource: Animation World Magazine


Mike Ehrmantraut was a ast-minute fix(er). Bob Odenkirk wasn't available to shoot a scene as Saul Goodman, so Jonathan Banks was cast as aSource: Uproxx


Xena was supposed to die very soon. Xena was created for Hercules: The Legendary Journeys, and was intended to kick the bucket after a three-epiSource: Screen Rant