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Welcoming visiting actors to your TV family sends a message: the established cast is confident enough to share the spotlight. And, whether guests have a one-off role, or a multi-episode arc, it’s a short period of time to really shine. But while some merely glow pleasantly, others turn on their high beams.

Check out 10 fantastic guest stars who had us reaching for our sunglasses:

1. Bob Newhart / The Big Bang Theory

The Big Bang Theory revolves around a bunch of scientist friends and their significant others. This group of geniuses, who work at Caltech, like to keep their circle tight, but occasionally someone else is invited to join. This time around, it was the beloved comedian Bob Newhart, who popped up to play Professor Protron a kids’ show TV personality who Sheldon and the gang grew up watching.

Newhart starred in five episodes as the underrated scientist, and each time he set foot in front of the live audience, the applause was booming. Newhart held the room’s attention without even uttering a line. His standout scene was as an incarnation of Star Wars‘ Obi-Wan Kenobi who appeared in Sheldon’s dreams. Even Sheldon (Jim Parsons) was surprised when his childhood role model kept visiting his unconscious after hours.

2. Sharon Stone / Law & Order: SVU  

The Law and Order franchise is known for dramatizing real-life headlines, but the series has also garnered attention for peppering its seasons with big-name guest stars, like John Stamos and Melissa Joan Hart. One of the most unexpected, but welcomed, actresses to make an appearance was Sharon Stone, who joined SVU in 2010.

Stone played A.D.A. Jo Marlowe in a five-episode arc. Marlowe is Detective Elliot Stabler’s (Christopher Meloni) former partner, who says in the above clip, “Elliot never forgave me when I left him for law school.” When she’s transferred back to SVU (Special Victims Unit) she ruffles some feathers, particularly those of Stabler’s current partner, Olivia Benson (Mariska Hargitay).

3. Mira Sorvino / Will & Grace 

In season six of Will & Grace we learn Will Truman (Eric McCormack) had a one-night stand with a woman, and… it was not Grace Adler (Debra Messing). His bestie Grace thought she was his one and only female love interest, even though he wasn’t in it whole-heartedly. But it turns out there was “another woman,” played by Mira Sorvino (Mighty Aphrodite). Grace does not take the news well and Will tries to ease her insecurities: “It was a drunken, meaningless night that I only look back on with shame. It. Meant. Nothing to me.” Oy, Will. Say what you really think!

At first, Sorvino’s character Diana handles the situation diplomatically, but finally she kind of breaks, yelling, “Well, it MEANT something to me! I remember everything about that night.” Oh boy. Sorvino’s character only appeared in the one episode, “Last Ex to Brooklyn,” but it definitely made an impact.

4. Ricky Gervais / The Office U.S.

There’s the original The Office, which stars Ricky Gervais as the annoying paper company boss David Brent. And, there’s the U.S. The Office, which stars Steve Carrell as the just as hapless Michael Scott.

THEN there’s the 2011 episode, “The Seminar,” in which the two goofballs run into each other. When Brent comes out of an elevator, the two exchange some banter, and as Brent walks away, Scott says to himself, “What a nice guy.” Hmm, wonder if he sees himself in this random stranger.

While you may have seen this when it aired in 2011, it’s worth going back for a second look. At that time, American viewers may not have picked up on the fact that Gervais was in fact the creator of the show, just popping by Scranton, PA for a little check in. He also made a guest appearance as Brent in the episode, “Search Committee.”

5. Riz Ahmed / Girls 

In 2017, Riz Ahmed (The Night Of) starred in two episodes of Girls. He took on the role of Paul-Louis, surf coach to Lena Dunham‘s Hannah. The British actor, also known as Riz MC, broke into a rap at the DJ booth of a post-surfing party he went to with Hannah. When we heard Ahmed was going to appear in the sixth season of the HBO series, we were seriously hoping he’d show off his musical abilities. And, he did! It’s usually Hannah who owns the show with her shenanigans at rave-like parties. Not this time.

6. Carrie Fisher / Catastrophe 

In 2015, Carrie Fisher joined the cast of Catastrophe as co-creator and star Rob Delaney‘s mother, Mia. Delaney and co-star/creator Sharon Horgan become parents unexpectedly after a whirlwind, week-long sexathon. They have no idea what they’re doing, so of course, that calls for some parental meddling. Fisher didn’t bite her tongue in real life, and neither did she as Mia. She gives her son some not-so-sound, but definitely entertaining, advice on how to handle the situation he finds himself in. Fisher, who died in 2016, went on to reprise the role of Mia in four more episodes.

7. Maisie Williams / Doctor Who

There have been too many outstanding DW guest stars to list in this space, but Maisie Williams marked the crossover of all crossovers. While on hiatus from filming fan favorite series Game of Thrones, she made her way over to the ultimate (at least in our eyes) fan favorite series, Doctor Who. Williams starred in four episodes, “The Girl Who Died,” “The Woman Who Lived,” “Face the Raven,” and “Hell Bent.” She played Ashildr, also known as Me, who declared war on members of the alien race, Mire. But she didn’t do it on her own. The Doctor (Peter Capaldi) was called on for some help. Even so, that’s a lot to take on, especially when you’re just guesting. 

8. Sir Ian McKellen / The Simpsons 

Sir Ian McKellen can definitely hold a room, even as an animated version of himself. In 2003, McKellen made a cameo on The Simpsons in the episode, “The Regina Monologues.” While visiting London, the Simpson family spot a stage production of Macbeth, starring the one and only Ian McKellen. When they spot and approach the thespian as he exits the theater, he warns the American family that it’s bad luck to say Macbeth out loud. Naturally, his heads up is ignored and McKellen’s cartoon incarnation gets a battering.

9. Daniel Radcliffe / Extras 

In 2006, Daniel Radcliffe made his way over to Ricky Gervais‘ comedy Extras. And, oh did he make an impression. In the series, Gervais and Ashley Jensen star as “background talent.” Radcliffe, like most of the show’s guest stars, played an over-the-top version of himself. We see him coming on to Jensen’s character, showing off that he smokes cigarettes and boasting that he’s “done it” with a girl. He had just finished 2005’s Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire, the fourth installment of the film series, and possibly he was trying to show the world he was no longer a child actor — and that he can laugh at himself. Points proved!

10. Kristin Davis / Seinfeld 

We’re going back to the ’90s for the final item on this list, because Kristin Davis‘ guest spot on Seinfeld was just that good. Before she was known to the world as Charlotte York from Sex and the City, Davis played Jenna, girlfriend to Jerry Seinfeld on his self-titled show. In the 1997 episode, “The Pothole,” Jerry accidentally knocks Jenna’s toothbrush into the toilet. He was about to come clean (no pun intended), but she uses the toothbrush before he gets the chance. From there, he just can’t fathom kissing her tainted mouth. Jenna gets her revenge by dipping a belonging of Jerry’s into the toilet — only he doesn’t know which one. Jenna owned the situation, and Davis owned that scene.

What’s your favorite guest star moment? 

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By Brigid Brown