Whatever Happened To These '90s TV Hunks?

Ah, the '90s. Some fads died hard like Beanie Babies and saying "wassup." Others, like fanny packs, flannel shirts, and high-waisted mom jeans, came back as strong as ever. What a time to be alive. And what a time for hunky eye candy. Any TV program you turned into, whether drama, reality or comedy, chances are a stud awaited. Do you like your guys a little nerdy, funny, buff, or all three?

A few actors used their spots on TV to launch into incredibly successful careers. Even decades later, these stars are continuing to shine in all forms of entertainment. But others peaked and turned into forgotten stars of the '90s. As explained by Business Insider, the shows of the '90s created such a long-lasting appeal that many were rebooted decades later, to varying success. What will never change, however, is the memory of first-setting eyes on those dreamy male leads.

What was your favorite TV series in the '90s? And who was your favorite onscreen crush? Stay tuned, as it's time to find out: whatever happened to these '90 TV hunks?

George Clooney becomes better and better with age

It's hard to remember a time when George Clooney wasn't one of the most famous actors ever — but every star needs to start somewhere. For Clooney, that was with the hospital drama ER. Casting director John Levey talked to The Hollywood Reporter about how even before the show began, Clooney appeared ready for his big break. "He was a 35-year-old, handsome leading man with a sense of humor and a sense of vulnerability. But he had also been in seven or eight failed pilots by then. We somehow got him a script," Levey revealed. Clooney played Dr. Doug Ross, a pediatrician. Fans knew Dr. Ross as "the wildcat maverick, drunk and handcuffed to a hospital bed, sleeping with assorted women to evade some darker internal demons," (via The Atlantic). Clooney played the role full-time for the first five seasons, and he appeared as a guest in Season 6 and the final Season 15.

Outside of TV, Clooney dominated Hollywood, earning him the nickname "Mayor of Hollywood." He starred in Batman & Robin, the title character in Ocean's Eleven plus the two sequels, and many other leading roles. He produced the Oscar Best Picture-winning Argo. And Clooney wrote, directed, and starred in the Oscar-nominated Good Night, and Good Luck. Plus, he co-founded the tequila brand Casamigos, which mega-company Diageo bought in 2017 for $1 billion.

David Hasselhoff is still a rockstar

In one of the more epic opening credits on television, Baywatch featured David Hasselhoff and his ultra-attractive castmates running in slow-mo on the beach. "The Hoff" starred as lifeguard Mitch Buchannon and appeared in over 200 episodes across 10 seasons. And during his long-running role, the actor picked up a world record. "American actor David Hasselhoff has the distinction of being the most-watched man on television of all time," writes the Guinness World Records. All thanks to "Baywatch, which at its 1996 peak had an estimated weekly audience of 1.1 billion viewers."

Hasselhoff never matched that same popularity after the show ended, but he remained a public figure — and he had a crab nicknamed after him. As National Geographic reported, scientists discovered a new species of crab called the Kiwa tyleri, or the "Hoff crab" unofficially. "When I finally saw a picture of it, I laughed pretty hard. It's white and it's got a hairy chest," Hasselhoff told Men's Health about the distinctive feature of the crustacean. 

Outside of the sea, Hasselhoff remained somewhat of a national treasure in Germany. Despite a mostly embarrassing music career, his album Looking for Freedom "went triple platinum in Europe," NPR reported. And amazingly, on "New Year's Eve of 1989, Hasselhoff sang his anthem for freedom while hoisted by a crane above the Berlin Wall to an estimated half a million Berliners." He returned 30 years later to celebrate the occasion, screaming, "Thirty years of freedom!"

John Stamos continued being a lovable uncle

In the '80s, John Stamos landed his first big role as Blackie Parrish in the never-ending daytime soap General Hospital. Stamos posted on Twitter that without the show, "I'd still be flipping burgers at my dad's burger joint." But the actor earned his signature role as Uncle Jesse Katsopolis in Full House. The charming Stamos alongside the young Olsen twins and onscreen wife Lori Loughlin appeared in almost 200 episodes over eight seasons. What followed for Stamos was an up-and-down set of acting jobs on series like ER and Jake in Progress. "It's always been a fight. To get into talk shows or television shows," he confessed to GQ. "I think the Full House thing has been a blessing and a curse," Stamos added.

Things turned around for Stamos as a sexy doctor in the 2010s. He played a medical professional on Glee, Scream Queens, and You. In 2016, Netflix rebooted Full House with the sequel series Fuller House. Stamos reprised his role, and the show lasted an impressive five seasons. At the end of the run in the part that made Stamos famous, he posted on Instagram, "The end of an era...again."

Mario Lopez became the host with the most

The NBC series Saved by the Bell only lasted four seasons but evokes nostalgia for many kids who grew up in the '90s. The Saturday morning show actually started off as the Disney series Good Morning, Miss Bliss (via Screen Rant). A few of the young actors remained, but for the NBC version, the "action was moved from Indiana to the fictional Bayside High School in Los Angeles." And most importantly, "characters like popular girl Kelly Kapowski (Tiffani Thiessen), jock A.C. Slater (Mario Lopez) and overachiever Jessie Spano (Elizabeth Berkley) were added."

Once the show ended, Lopez found his true calling by just playing himself. He transitioned to an entertainment journalist and super-host. Lopez remained a staple on multiple entertainment news series like Extra and Access Hollywood for years. If that's not all, he also wrote a shocking memoir along the way

In 2020, The Hollywood Reporter revealed that NBC Universal's streaming service Peacock planned to revive Saved by the Bell. Lopez signed on to reprise his role of A.C. Slater alongside the other famous hunk from the show, Mark‑Paul Gosselaar.

Watch out for Chuck Norris and his thunderous punches

If paper beats rock, rock beats scissors, and scissors beats paper, what beats all three at the same time? Chuck Norris. The legendary actor "started studying martial arts in Korea in the 1950s" while he served in the U.S. Air Force, according to Biography. When he returned home, "Norris opened more than 30 karate studios" and "taught several celebrities, including Priscilla Presley and actor Steve McQueen." He went on to compete professionally and won the World Professional Middleweight Karate Championships six times. In fact, after losing his first ten fights, Norris' total fight record is reportedly 168 wins, two ties... and ten defeats (via Vintage News).

After he retired from fighting, Norris turned to acting and appeared in the Bruce Lee film Return of the Dragon. He became an action star on the big screen, and then in the '90s, he transitioned to TV. Norris starred as "Cordell Walker, an honorable crime fighter" in the TV series Walker, Texas Ranger for eight seasons. In his personal life, "Norris founded Kickstart Kids in 1990 with the help of President George H. W. Bush" (via Kickstart Kids). Through the charity, Norris provided martial arts lessons to middle school students in Texas. Can you imagine Norris as your teacher?

Norris finally retired from acting after appearing in the 2012 film The Expendables 2 but made a 2020 cameo on Hawaii Five-0. That being said, you should never count Norris out.

The high-to-low journey of Joey Lawrence

Producers cast two talented young teens, Mayim Bialik and Joey Lawrence, to play brother and sister in the NBC '90s sitcom Blossom. The show aired for five seasons, with Bialik as the brilliant title character and Lawrence as the "handsome and dumb Joey," as explained by Digital Spy. Once the show ended, he transitioned directly into his next sitcom, Brotherly Love. Fitting, given that the actor grew up near Philadelphia.

Meanwhile, the heartthrob released three albums in the '90s as a musical artist. "Lawrence was influenced by the Philly soul music scene," his Apple Music profile summarizes, while two songs from his debut album, "Nothing My Love Can't Fix" and "Stay Forever" both charted on Billboard's Hot 100.

Lawrence continued acting and landed his next big role in the 2010 ABC Family sitcom Melissa & Joey. He starred alongside fellow '90s TV icon Melissa Joan Hart in over 100 episodes across four seasons. Even with all his successes, Lawrence filed for bankruptcy in 2017, as first reported by The Blast. Things only got worse for the actor in 2020 when he and his wife of almost 15 years divorced. On the upside, Lawrence became a member of the single-and-40 hunk list.

Jaleel White went through a glow up

"Did I do that?" was a phrase uttered by actor Jaleel White in the '90s, and one which went on to be one of the most iconic catchphrases in TV history. "Back then, you didn't really know what was going to be a catchphrase that was gonna stick," White explained to Entertainment Weekly. "Nowadays, things are so contrived it's like 'Oh, we've got our catchphrase,' and they'll just drill into your head whether audiences like it or not," the actor added.

The line came from White's role as Steve Urkel in the sitcom Family Matters. He played the adorkable character in over 200 episodes through the series' nine seasons. According to The Wrap, this included his transition from geek "[to] suave ladies man Stefan Urquelle." During a later appearance on Dancing with the Stars, White recalled the transformation onscreen and off. "Playing Stefan Urquelle was life-changing for me," White said (via Us Weekly). "After I played that character, people started treating me differently. When I played Stefan Urquelle, I showed people there was more to me to offer," he added.

White continued to perform, and as of 2020, he has been acting on TV for almost an astounding 40 years. His first role came in 1984, where he played Van Van Morris, a child-prodigy pianist on The Jeffersons. And he just missed out on playing Rudy Huxtable — originally a male role — on The Cosby Show, which he revealed to Vanity Fair.

David Boreanaz turned into a TV mainstay

Long before Team Edward or Team Jacob existed from the Twilight series, there were Team Angel and Team Spike from Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Joss Whedon created the '90s TV series based on the 1992 movie, and David Boreanaz played the mysterious and dreamy vampire Angel. His character was such a hit with audiences that Whedon created the spinoff series, Angel. The actor appeared in all 111 episodes of the series, which aired for five seasons. He tried his luck on the big screen in films like The Crow: Wicked Prayer but returned to his true calling in 2005, network television.

For 12 seasons and well over 200 episodes, Boreanaz starred as investigator Seeley Booth alongside Emily Deschanel — Zooey Deschanel's older sister — on Bones. The show "loosely rips stories from real-life crimes," according to Kathy Reichs' website, a forensic anthropologist and novelist who produced the show. Boreanaz then jumped into his next TV series, SEAL Team, in 2017. Though the busy actor lives in Los Angeles, he still takes time to support his childhood team, the Philadelphia 76ers. As a basketball lover, Boreanaz is "always in the stands in L.A. sporting 'old-school' NBA paraphernalia when his team is in town," Parade reported.

A 50-year-old Boreanaz appeared on LIVE with Kelly and Ryan in 2020, showing off his rugged salt-and-pepper beard. The actor shows no signs of slowing down, perhaps taking his SEAL Team training just as seriously offscreen.

David James Elliott picked up a lifelong hobby

For those who prefer their hunks in uniform, please welcome David James Elliot. The Canadian actor first appeared in various roles within popular series, like Melrose Place and Seinfeld. As Heroes and Icons recalls, he played "one of Elaine's flames. You may remember him as Carl, the hunky furniture mover who delivers a couch." But Elliot landed his biggest role in 1995 on the military legal drama JAG. The actor starred as Commander Harmon "Harm" Rabb, Jr. for all ten seasons of the series, with over 200 episodes. After the series, he appeared in several other movies like Trumbo, where Elliot portrayed the legendary John Wayne, and TV shows too, including another legal drama, Close to Home.

In 2019, Elliot reprised his famous JAG character on NCIS: Los Angeles. In his free time, Elliott and his wife, entrepreneur Nanci Chambers, enjoy living with their son, "two dogs, two rats and a lizard," (via Los Angeles Times). Plus, Elliot loves to cook in his custom Italian kitchen. "Cooking is another creative expression for me. It's very fulfilling. My wife and I have an arrangement — she does the laundry; I cook," he explained.

Elliot starred as "the patriarch of a figure-skating family" in the 2020 Netflix drama series Spinning Out. Unfortunately, a month after its release, Netflix canceled the show.

Will Smith went from a prince to a king

"In West Philadelphia, born and raised..." Sound familiar? Most '90s TV fans can likely finish this intro song to The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Per the Los Angeles Times, Will Smith invented his lead role "as his alter ego during his years as a Grammy-winning hip-hop artist." The actor could be suave, charming, and goofy — often in the same scene. "On some weeks you spend more time with your TV family than you do with your real family. It's hard to say goodbye to that atmosphere, but we felt like it was time," Smith explained as the series ended after six seasons. Plus, Smith's career in film was starting to explode after lead roles in Bad Boys and Independence Day.

What followed was an unprecedented success in acting. Smith earned the title of "Highest-Paid Actor of the Decade" from 2010-2019. Though many of his films during the decade weren't blockbusters, Smith made most of his money through Men in Black 3. He negotiated a base salary of $20 million plus 10 percent of gross income from the film, which earned him an additional $80 million.

Outside of filming, Smith and his wife, the beautiful Jada Pinkett Smith, created quite the family dynasty. Their children Jaden and Willow Smith both pursued musical careers and became teen icons. And showing he's still in touch with the youth, Smith is one of the stars of TikTok with 33 million followers as of August 2020.

David Duchovny enjoyed life on premium cable

A New York City native, David Duchovny became a star when he landed the role of agent Fox Mulder in the paranormal series X-Files. But despite the show's success, Duchovny still had previous obligations to fulfill. Not long before, the actor signed on to the Showtime erotic series Red Shoe Diaries. As MEL Magazine reported, "Duchovny's deal included an appearance in every episode, despite landing the role of Fox Mulder." The actor admitted, "I could have told myself many things, but I needed a job. I wasn't being offered a bunch of stuff." 

The actor played out the role, and ultimately, his turn on X-Files became his most memorable performance. Ironically, Duchovny returned to Showtime for his next series. He starred in seven seasons as the writer and womanizer Hank Moody in the series Californication. This role wasn't too far from the truth, as the Princeton and Yale grad is a real-life novelist. He published three novels as of 2018 (via The New York Times).

Duchovny reprised the Fox Mulder role when Fox rebooted X-Files for seasons 10 and 11. The actor joked that the fictional character is "'the worst F.B.I. agent of all time' because he never solved one case in nine years." Another unsolved case is how the actor seems to withstand aging. Duchovny celebrated his 60th birthday in 2020.

Jason Priestley dealt with heartbreak, twice

Fox's 1990 series Beverly Hills, 90210 followed young and attractive characters living in the ultra-wealthy zip code. Jason Priestley starred as Brandon Walsh, alongside other future stars Luke Perry and Shannen Doherty. Not only did the series popularize the teen drama genre but it turned Priestley into a teenage idol, who played the role for the entire decade. Afterward, the Vancouver native continued to act but additionally started producing and directing for TV and film, per Priestley's website.

In 2014, Priestley released his book, Jason Priestley: A Memoir. In an interview for CNN, the author talked about his career-killing move to leave Beverly Hills, 90210 in the ninth season. "I felt that the character of Brandon had kind of run his course. I had explored everything I wanted to explore with him," Priestley said. "In retrospect, I do regret leaving," he mused.

Priestley's co-star Perry tragically passed away from a stroke in 2019. The actor told Hello!, "Luke's passing was very difficult because Luke was also a big part of my personal life. His passing was so sudden and so unexpected that it was very difficult to process and it's still difficult to process." Sadly, his other co-star, Doherty, was diagnosed once again with cancer in 2020. "Shannen was a big part of my life," Priestley told People. "Shannen and I will always have a bond that is very meaningful. I'm very heartbroken about the news," he explained.