As you learned from Samuel L. Jackson’s monologue in Pulp Fiction, a pilot is a test episode of a prospective TV series shown to network executives. If those execs like the pilot, it becomes a series. If not, all the participants move on to other things—often better things. Such is the case for the actors on this list, who made these pilots early in their careers before they did work that lasted much longer.

1. Keri Russell in Clerks.

Somehow not as big a career mistake as cutting her hair.
Somehow not as big a career mistake as cutting her hair.
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Kevin Smith started his career by making his own movie on his own dime: 1994’s indie classic Clerks. It was distributed by Miramax, which is owned by Disney, which is how that filthy, chatty movie got turned into a laugh-track heavy sitcom pilot rejected by ABC in 1995. Among the cast is a pre-SNL Jim Breuer, and as the requisite Desirable Female, future Felicity and The Americans star Keri Russell.

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