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Way Back When: Joseph Gordon-Levitt

'The Dark Knight Rises' premiere - Joseph Gordon-Levitt
Larry Busacca, Getty Images

You probably first noticed Joseph Gordon-Levitt on the TV series ’3rd Rock from the Sun’ or in ’10 Things I Hate About You,’ but in today’s Way Back When we go even further back to look at what the star of ‘Lincoln‘ and ‘The Dark Knight Rises‘ was up to before you knew his face.

‘Stranger on My Land’

Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s first role was in the 1988 TV movie ‘Stranger on My Land,’ about a Vietnam war veteran who has to fight the air force when they want to use his farmland to build a new air force base. JGL plays a young boy named Rounder, and you can watch all the parts with him in it (about four minutes’ worth because child labor or something) below, including a moment where he shows us the dire state of computer technology in the late 80s:

‘Family Ties’

Man, everyone was on ‘Family Ties’ back in the 80s, right? But no guest star was as adorable as Joseph Gordon-Levitt — or as much of a jerk! JGL was in two episodes of the series as Dougie, a mean little kid who makes fun of a deaf classmate while wearing a sweater we can only describe as “ladybug-esque”:

‘Dark Shadows’

The classic 70s vampire soap opera ‘Dark Shadows’ was revived in 1991, and  – surprise — only lasted for one 12-episode season. JGL plays David Collins, a little boy who screams like a little girl:

‘A River Runs Through It’

In 1992, JGL played the young version of Craig Sheffer’s character, Norman, in ‘A River Runs Through It.’ The film follows the two sons of a fly-fishing Presbyterian minister (stop me if you’ve heard this one) as they grow up very differently in rural Montana. Please note that the kid who played the young version of Brad Pitt did not end up so famous — make of that what you will:

‘The Powers That Be’

On this short-lived TV series from 1992, JGL plays Pierce Van Horne, son of David Hyde Pierce’s character, Theodore Van Horne. The series tells the story of a clueless man elected to be senator in New England, but it’s okay because his manipulative wife, his mistress (scandalous!), and his political aide will do all the work for him. Privileged white men, you guys! JGL got to act alongside quite the cast, though, including Eve Gordon, John Forsythe, Holland Taylor, and Peter MacNicol:

‘Angels in the Outfield’

If you grew up in the 90s, you probably remember the 1994 film ‘Angels in the Outfield,’ about a boy (Joseph Gordon-Levitt, cute as ever) who asks God to help the Angels baseball team win the pennant so his dad will come back — because, you see, his dad (Dermot Mulroney) is the kind of great guy who tells his own son that they can’t be a family again unless the Angels win. And then angels come down and help the baseball team win! And Christopher Lloyd is an angel (we already knew this)! And Danny Glover is STRESSED OUT:

next: see jeremy renner before he was famous

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