Celebrities You Never Knew Had Famous Parents

It's no secret that good old-fashioned nepotism can be a huge help when it comes to making it big in Hollywood (à la Tracee Ellis Ross or Jack Quaid, to name just a couple), but unless you follow the stars closely, you might not know that some of today's biggest celebrities had some help along the way from their mom and dad. While some aren't afraid to trade on their family name, others have taken great pains to hide their famous heritage and prove that they made it in the business through nothing more than their hard work and sheer talent. 

While it's open to debate if good genes lend a helping hand, at the end of the day, if you don't bring it in front of the cameras, audiences won't care if you're a Fisher or a Jones. You either have the goods or you don't, and this group of celebs definitely has it. See which famous faces grew up with a connection to those who were already famous themselves.

Lenny Kravitz

He's won four Grammys, sold over 40 million records, and you probably know Lenny Kravitz has a famous daughter, "High Fidelity" star Zoë Kravitz. But here's one thing you may not know about the guy Men's Health calls "the ultimate rock god": He also had a famous mother. Roxie Roker played Helen Willis in the '70s sitcom "The Jeffersons," blazing trails as half of an interracial couple. In a 2020 interview with People, Lenny said, "I was a mama's boy. She was a woman who never spoke badly about anybody, even if they deserved it."

As much as Lenny loved his mother, he admired her as well. Roker, like her TV character, was married to a white man (Sy Kravitz, a news executive). While speaking about being biracial, Lenny said Roker was "very smart" about teaching him how to navigate the world when he was a child. "She really taught me the facts and made sure that I knew my heritage," he stated. 

In 2018, Zoë opened up about the importance of her grandmother's TV role in an interview with Harper's Bazaar, saying, "I don't think her intention was to shake things up. It was actually her truth." Lenny will always cherish the memory of his mom, who died in 1995. "I have her pictures around, and there's always a big portrait of her in my homes, wherever I am," he told People. "I know that I wouldn't be here if it weren't for her and all those who came before me.

Chris Pine

Chris Pine is probably best known as the new Captain Kirk in J.J. Abrams' reboot of the original "Star Trek" franchise, but an entirely different TV show paved Pine's way into Hollywood. "CHiPs," the classic series about a pair of motorcycle-riding cops, featured Chris' father, Robert, in a recurring role as Sgt. Joseph Getraer, reported PopSugar. To Chris' credit, he reportedly only used his famous dad to help him land a job as a production assistant. "Just regular old nepotism," Chris admitted with a laugh, per Daily Hampshire Gazette.

Although a 3-year-old Chris made an appearance alongside his dad on "CHiPs," per PopSugar, acting wasn't something he set his eyes on from an early age. According to the Daily Hampshire Gazette, "I just started doing plays in college. And then I went to LA. Then I got an agent. It just sort of rolled like a very slow snowball into what I'm doing now. It's very weird," Chris said. After his production assistant days, the younger Pine then worked his way up from building sets to starring in the 2017 blockbuster "Wonder Woman."

Billie Lourd

Like a lot of children of Hollywood stars — or in this case, Hollywood royalty — "American Horror Story" star Billie Lourd doesn't go by the last name of her famous mother, the late Carrie Fisher. Billie's dad is Bryan Lourd, who was in a relationship with Fisher for a few years in the early '90s. When it came to following in her mother's acting footsteps, Billie revealed in a Town & Country interview that her "mom actually pointed me toward it ... The thing is, I was bizarrely comfortable on set. My mother would pull me aside and be like, 'It's weird that you're so comfortable here. This is the most uncomfortable environment in the world. If you're comfortable here, you should do this.'"

Billie Lourd has embraced the family business by appearing in new "Star Wars" movies "The Force Awakens" and "The Last Jedi," and at the red carpet premiere of the latter, Lourd honored the departed Fisher by cleverly recreating her mother's iconic Princess Leia look. On top of that, after her mother's death, Lourd became responsible for a very special family member: Gary Fisher, who's become an integral part of the "Star Wars" universe. Okay, maybe not integral, but he's still a pretty awesome space pooch.

Maya Rudolph

Maya Rudolph is known for making us laugh, but did you know she comes from a musical family? The "SNL" alum is the daughter of composer Richard Rudolph and singer Minnie Riperton, who died when Maya was a child. Riperton shot to the top of the charts in 1975 with the pop song "Lovin' You." Both of Maya's parents contributed to the creation of the tune, which had humble origins: It was a lullaby Riperton used to sing to Maya and her brother Marc, per uDiscover Music

In 2018, the "Bridesmaids" star told The New York Times, "When I was a kid, and people would come up to me or stare at me because of my mom, I didn't like it. I used to think, 'Oh, they're staring at my hair, because it's so big and ugly.' Because I didn't realize people were just staring at my mother, like, 'Wow, that's her daughter!"

Maya, now the mother of four children with "Licorice Pizza" director Paul Thomas Anderson, talked to Us Weekly in 2017 about having a big family. "I feel really lucky ... it's like this extra layer of life you never knew about," she gushed. For the "Forever" star, knowing that her mom's legacy lives on warms her heart. "['Lovin' You'] was the debut of this special quality that my mother had and people just were blown away," she told uDiscover, adding that Riperton was "this one-of-a-kind, gem of human being, of a recording artist, of a performer."

Katie Cassidy

Actor Katie Cassidy burst onto the scene with parts on "7th Heaven," "Supernatural," and the "Melrose Place" reboot before landing her most prominent role on the hit CW show "Arrow." If her last name sounds familiar, that's because she's the daughter of the late David Cassidy, star of the hit '70s sitcom "The Partridge Family." David admitted in interviews that he didn't raise Katie. She lived with her mother, Sherry Williams. In the years leading up to his death, Katie and David became so estranged that she was reportedly left out of his will. However, People reported that Katie rushed to her father's side when he was hospitalized before his death on November 21, 2017. 

Suffice to say that Katie didn't get much help from her father to break into the entertainment industry. As she explained to Fox News, "David Cassidy is my father, yes ... But for me, it was always really important with acting to stay in class, study it and earn it on my own. My dad didn't help me ... At the end of the day, talent is talent. You have to be able to deliver."

Benedict Cumberbatch

As the son of well-known British actors Timothy Carlton and Wanda Ventham, Benedict Cumberbatch may follow the trend of not using a famous parent's last name, but in a twist, the "Sherlock" star actually uses his real family name. Benedict's mother reportedly warned him not to do so because the Cumberbatch surname, which his father chose to not use professionally, is heavily associated with slavery, according to The Telegraph. However, the Daily Mail reported that Benedict has purposefully taken roles in films that highlight the awfulness of the slave industry to atone for his ancestors.

Not only did he receive little support for using his actual surname, his parents reportedly wanted him to pursue a career as a barrister, according to The Mirror. However, as Cumberbatch explained to Variety, after Carlton saw his son perform in "Amadeus" while he was still at university, his father told him, "You're better at this than I ever was or ever will be. I can't wait to watch you and support you in what I think is going to be a fantastic career." His parents definitely came around, as they portrayed his character's parents in an episode of "Sherlock," which made him very "proud."

Eve Hewson

Eve Hewson, the actor who headlined the Netflix series "Behind Her Eyes" and starred in "Robin Hood," has a very famous father. His name is Paul David Hewson. Oh yeah, that's Bono! So, has the U2 frontman helped his daughter along the way? According to Hewson, that's a big fat yes. "I always say that my dad's a crazy stage mother," she told the Mirror.

"Whenever we're out and about he's always introducing me and talking about me and he gives my full movie credits to whoever we're having dinner with," Eve said. She added that at first Bono and her mom, Ali Hewson, didn't want her to pursue acting, but now they're all in. "I just ask him his opinion on many things. We're constantly giving each other advice ... I tell him all of my opinions about his career, so it's a two-way street."

"The Luminaries" star revealed an embarrassing secret about her superstar dad to OK!. When she was a kid, Bono would be "blasting Backstreet Boys and dancing in his dressing gown" in traffic before dropping her off at school. She was "mortified." As for Hewson's favorite songs on set to help her get into character? Sorry, big guy, U2 did not make the cut. Hewson told the Mirror, "On the set I'm always playing Kelly Clarkson and Drake."

Grace Gummer

Grace Gummer might not have a prominent film career, but the actor has been building a solid resume on the small screen with roles on "The Newsroom," "American Horror Story," and "Mr. Robot." Take a closer look, because it shouldn't be a surprise that Gummer has become a reliable talent in her field. After all, her mom is Meryl Streep, as in the Meryl Streep. You might assume having Streep as a parent would be an instant pass to stardom, but Gummer is putting in the work and striving to research every role, according to V Magazine

Not surprisingly, however, as Gummer revealed to The New York Times, having such a famous and celebrated mother posed its own challenges. "It used to bother me," Gummer said. "I try not to think about it, or it could really get to me." The resemblance between mother and daughter is striking as well, with Gummer (credited as Jane Gray) playing a younger version of Streep's character in "The House of the Spirits."

Will she one day dominate the Oscars like her mom? Who knows? For now, she's forging her own path in the ever-changing Hollywood landscape.

Rashida Jones

When it comes to last names, it doesn't get more common than Jones, so it would be easy to assume that "Parks and Recreation" actor Rashida Jones comes from an average, run-of-the-mill American family. Think again: the "Angie Tribeca" star is actually the daughter of legendary music producer Quincy Jones. However, if you want to know who really wields the power in this family, check this out: Rashida had her famous dad recast on "Angie Tribeca" after he played her TV father for the pilot! Don't worry, there were no hard feelings, and Rashida joked on "Late Night with Seth Meyers" that, hey, her super talented dad can't always have everything.

Despite the famous pedigree (Rashida's mother is none other than Peggy Lipton), Rashida didn't spend her childhood expecting to go into acting. As she told The Guardian, "So when I would talk about being interested in the law as a kid, [my parents] would be like, 'That's so cute! She has her own thing!'" It wasn't until Rashida's college years — where some of her friends went into comedy writing — that she recognized her desire to act. But even the daughter of a mega-famous producer and "The Mod Squad" star didn't find landing every role easy. "It's not a meritocracy," Rashida told Forbes of the entertainment industry. "Above all, the people that I know in the business are resilient. Some of them are so talented and some of them are ... yeah."

Elle King

Elle King, singer-songwriter and Grammy nominee, is the daughter of "SNL" alum Rob Schneider. King, who was raised by mom London King and step-dad Justin Tesa, opened up to People in 2018 about her complicated relationship with her famous father. "My whole childhood, my dad was a workaholic," the rocker explained. After getting out of a marriage she described as "destructive" and experiencing "depression and PTSD" in 2017, per People, King said, "You realize what's important."

As for King's father, the "Deuce Bigalow" star is now married to actor and producer Patricia Maya Schneider. Unfortunately, Rob has become known for a host of controversies that have clouded his career over the years. However, King's two young half-sisters prompted her to reconnect with her dad in 2018. "I wanted my sisters to have good memories of me from their childhood when they grew. ... When it's about the kids, the bulls*** kind of goes away." By 2020, she was even performing a duet with Rob for his Netflix special, during which he joked about being known as "Elle King's dad."

"I love him," the "Ex's & Oh's" singer gushed to People. Dear old dad became her biggest fan, and she has been eating it up. "Like, every other day I'll get texts in all caps of like, 'Your record's gonna change the world! I can't wait for your fans to hear what you've made!'" she said. "And that's a beautiful, wonderful thing."

Dakota Johnson

In 2013, little-known actor Dakota Johnson landed the coveted role of Anastasia Steele in the "Fifty Shades" series, but Johnson wasn't entirely unknown to the Hollywood scene. She's the daughter of veteran actors Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson, and thanks to mom, Dakota made her first big-screen debut in "Crazy in Alabama" before the age of 10. And it seemed nothing was going to keep Dakota from acting, despite her parents' discouragement.

In an interview with W Magazine, Dakota revealed that she was "Nothing old. Zero old" when she decided she wanted to be an actor. "I couldn't wait because I grew up on set. My parents were always working with amazing artists, and I just loved it. I wanted to be a part of it so badly," she said. Her parents weren't on board because "they wanted me to have as much of a childhood as I could." When she announced that she didn't want to go to college after high school, her dad told her she wouldn't "be on the payroll anymore." Just a few weeks later, however, she landed a role in "The Social Network," and now Don Johnson is pretty proud, as he noted to Seth Meyers: "And the rest is, shall we say, cinema history."

Gwyneth Paltrow

While Steven Spielberg is often credited with launching Gwyneth Paltrow's career by casting his goddaughter in "Hook," the future Goop entrepreneur actually had some help from her showbiz industry parents, actor Blythe Danner and director/producer Bruce Paltrow. In fact, Bruce cast Gwyneth in her first role at age 5, according to The Guardian, and he found it "wonderful" working with her. "When you work with your family you develop a shorthand. I'd know immediately if Gwyneth was uncomfortable with something she was doing, or happy or unhappy," he added.

To Gwyneth's credit, she built her own name in Hollywood by turning in an Oscar-winning performance for "Shakespeare in Love." Mom Blythe had some advice for her daughter, as related to Parade: "Only take the projects that mean the most to you, and try to be there as much as you can. You have to balance it."

Mom and Dad might've opened a few doors, but it was Gwyneth who put in the work.

Margaret Qualley

Margaret Qualley, an Emmy nominee for "Fosse/Verdon" who also appeared in "Once Upon a Time in Hollywood," is the daughter of one of Hollywood's most enduring stars. Her mom is "Four Weddings and a Funeral" actor Andie MacDowell. In 2021, Qualley's dreams came true when an opportunity to share the screen with her famous mom presented itself. Here's the scoop: Qualley had already been signed to headline "Maid," a series for Netflix, but the key role of her character's mother had not yet been cast.

So, who better to play the role than MacDowell, right? In an interview with Collider, Qualley recalled finding out about the job opening and thinking, "My mom's gotta do this. And I called [producer] Margot Robbie and she loved the idea." Working with a seasoned pro like the "Cedar Cove" star, who also happened to be who gave birth to her, was "the biggest cheat I've ever managed to pull off," she said, adding that her mother was "so giving and cool. It seems like it's the easiest thing in the world for her."

MacDowell told The Washington Post that she and her daughter "are very close. We're both truly emotional beings, and we spend a lot of time together." The "Groundhog Day" star knows an opportunity like this doesn't come along that often. "I really wanted to do a good job ... because I was scared it would never happen again," she told USA Today. "Every moment was precious for me."

Alexander Skarsgard

Alexander Skarsgard might be one of the top hunks in Hollywood, but "The Legend of Tarzan" star also has some impressive acting chops that earned him an Emmy award for best supporting actor in HBO's "Big Little Lies." That shouldn't come as a surprise if you know that his father is veteran actor Stellan Skarsgard (and brothers Bill, Gustav, and Valter act as well), who you may recognize from "Thor" and the "Pirates of the Caribbean" franchise. Thanks to his dad, Alexander got an early jump on acting and was a star in Sweden by age 13, but the experience freaked him out so much that he actually quit acting and almost became an architect, according to The Telegraph

As Alexander told the outlet, "The movie I did was because the director was a friend of my dad's. I told my parents, I don't want to do this any more. My dad said, 'You have to love it, if you don't feel that way, do the other thing, whatever it is.' I'm very grateful that he did that. I would have listened to him if he'd said, 'Keep going.' I would have tried, and I would have done it for a few more years probably, but I'm absolutely sure I wouldn't be acting today."

After giving up his architect plans and briefly serving in the Swedish military, Alexander moved to Hollywood in 2004. Fortunately for fans of the Swedish heartthrob, Alexander caught the acting bug again, and he's never looked back.

Mariska Hargitay

"Law & Order: SVU" star Mariska Hargitay is the daughter of iconic '50s bombshell Jayne Mansfield and Hungarian bodybuilder Mickey Hargitay. In an interview with Closer Weekly, Mariska admitted that growing up the daughter of famous parents wasn't always easy. "In some ways, being the daughter of a Hollywood icon has been a burden. I used to hate constant references to my mom because I wanted to be known for myself," she said. The actor still has a scar on her face from the fateful day her mother was killed in a car accident that spared her children, including 3-year-old Mariska.

Acting wasn't on Mariska's radar until she landed a part in a school play. Back in 1985 (years before "Law & Order: SVU" hit the small screen, the actor told People, "I want to be an actress, not a model or a pretty face." Though she's worked hard to make her own name in Hollywood, she has made peace with her lineage. She even posted an Instagram photo showing just how much she resembles her famous mom.

Riley Keough

Riley Keough may not have a famous last name, but she does bear a striking resemblance to her mom, Lisa Marie Presley, and, some say, the "King of Rock and Roll," her grandfather Elvis Presley. As a young child, Riley lived with her mom and musician dad, Danny Keough. "I grew up very privileged with my mother," the "Zola" star told The Guardian in 2017, "But my dad didn't live like that ... Actually, my memories of growing up with him were so colorful and eccentric and fun ... When I was like eight I told him, 'I want to grow up and be poor like you!"

Riley certainly didn't grow up poor, although Lisa Marie, who inherited Elvis' estate, is worth negative $16 million — that's right, 16 million bucks in the hole, according to Celebrity Net Worth in 2022. Of Lisa Marie's brief marriage to second husband Michael Jackson, the "Logan Lucky" actor told The New York Times, "I loved him." She also loved visiting him at Neverland Ranch, saying, "It was like being at Disneyland all day."

"The Girlfriend Experience" star, who said she was "super shy" growing up, remembered her mother telling her to work hard "or you won't be taken seriously." Riley admitted that when it came to getting her start in Hollywood, being a Presley didn't hurt. "Like the normal story of moving to L.A. and it takes you three years to find an agent? I got one in a week."