These days, Danes is recognizable to TV fans as Homeland‘s Carrie Mathison, but before her high-tension turn as the bipolar CIA agent, the actress was known for her role as angst-ridden teen Angela Chase in My So-Called Life – for which she won a Golden Globe and was nominated for an Emmy at just 15.
“It was a seminal experience for me, both professionally and personally … I was the same age as the character, and there was an incredible symmetry between us — unlike Carrie Mathison, who in no way resembles me,” the star told Interview. “I would be the worst case officer on the planet. I am so ill suited to Carrie’s vocation. But Angela Chase was just another high school student.”
Since the show, she’s won multiple Emmys for roles in Temple Grandin and Homeland and starred in films including Romeo + Juliet and The Family Stone. In 2009, she married actor Hugh Dancy, and they have two sons.
Years after starring as Danes’ rebellious onscreen BFF Rayanne Graff on the cult hit, Langer is now taking on a different role: Countess! In 2005, she married Charles Courtenay, who is the 19th Earl of Devon, and the couple are raising their children Joscelyn, 10, and Jack, 8, in his ancestral home of Powderham Castle in the English countryside.
While she hasn’t been in touch with Danes for many years, she recently spoke with Wilson Cruz, who played gay teen Rickie Vasquez in one of the series’ pioneering storylines, about a plan she has in mind: “I’d love to do the first countryside Pride here.”
Cruz is still acting — most recently in Star Trek: Discovery and 13 Reasons Why — and serves as an LGBTQ activist, more than two decades after making history by being the first openly gay actor to portray an openly gay teen on TV as Rickie Vasquez.
“The show changed my life. When I tell you that I am just as grateful for Rickie Vasquez as much as anyone else?” Cruz, who credits his onscreen character with helping his father come to terms with his sexuality, told PEOPLE. “I mean that.”
Before Angela Chase became tight with Rayanne and Rickie, the My So-Called Life protagonist considered Odessa’s straight-edge Sharon Cherski to be her best friend. But Angela quickly outgrew that friendship to the painful realization of Sharon, which played out in the show’s pilot episode. Since starring on the ABC show, Odessa has stayed busy scoring parts in Private Practice and 2017’s Blink.
“[Creator] Winnie [Holzman] married my husband and me in 2008,” Odessa told ELLE, adding that the show’s cast and crew were a tight-knit group. “Claire [Danes] and I were both in each other’s weddings.”
In the years since he made untold Gen X-ers swoon as pensive heartthrob Jordan Catalano on My So-Called Life, Leto has dabbled in both music (he leads the band Thirty Seconds to Mars) and film (he won an Oscar in 2014 for Dallas Buyers Club).
Despite fans’ appreciation for the brooding bad boy he played, the actor told Rolling Stone starring on the show didn’t leave as much of an impact on him. “I feel like it was such a short period of my life,” he recalled. “Let’s face it, I barely spoke! I have a lot of gratitude for starting there, but they made such a big deal of the character in the show.”
Gummersall played nerdy next-door neighbor Brian Krakow, whose unrequited crush on Angela Chase was a grueling storyline to witness. Since starring on the show, which lasted one 19-episode season, the actor has acted in The Last Ship and directed an episode of Nashville.
“Even though we were all devastated when it ended, I do think we are grateful for it being such a short-lived and kind of perfect thing that happened under glass, in a way,” Gummersall shared with ELLE. “It was over before it became huge, so it had a purity to it that was kind of unique and rare.”
As the youngest star of the show, Wilhoit played Danielle Chase, whose day-in-the-life as Danes’ little sister was portrayed in an episode of the series — complete with narration from Wilhoit, a unique opportunity considering 17 of the 19 episodes of My So-Called Life are narrated by Danes’ character.
Wilhoit has kept busy since the series, doing voiceover work for animation including Family Guy and The Smurfs.
Irwin has worked steadily in TV and movies (including on Devious Maids, Scandal and On the Basis of Sex) since his days playing Angela and Danielle Chase’s down-to-earth dad, Graham, who was married to Patty Chase (Bess Armstrong).
“Usually Bess and my scenes would be toward the end of the day because they wanted to get the kids out earlier,” Irwin recalled to ELLE of his experience on the set of My So-Called Life. “And oftentimes we would be in a scene where we were in bed discussing the day’s activities and what’s going on with the kids and all of that.” He added: “There were several times when we would finish the scene and then Bess and I would just sit there in bed and talk for another hour or two, and just hang out on the set. I loved working with her.”
Armstrong took on the role of well-meaning helicopter mom, Patty Chase, on the ’90s hit before graduating to acting stints in House of Lies and Mad Men. While viewers may have sympathized with the matriarch’s eldest daughter, Angela, the show’s season finale — which showed Armstrong’s onscreen husband kissing another woman — procured a legion of Mrs. Chase supporters. Armstrong opened up about the defining moment in an interview with Vanity Fair, and how the twist would have influenced a second season.
“[Creator Winnie Holzman] had told me that, because Graham was beginning that affair, I know I was going to go into a major depression,” Armstrong recounted. “I know that she told me that the thing which was going to force Angela to become more of the adult in the household. I swear on a stack of Bibles, she did tell me this. And Angela was going to be forced to become more of the adult.”