It’s no secret that most celebrities don’t just stick to just acting – many stars experiment with writing, producing and directing in the span of their careers. And when a celeb stars on a particularly popular TV show, it’s only a matter of time until many of them expand their role and get behind the camera to direct their own show, too. From One Tree Hill to Grey’s Anatomy, it’s rare to see a program that doesn’t have at least one star try their hand at directing during their time starring.
Whether they play a vampire seeking redemption, a CIA agent, or just your average joe, a variety of actors have expanded their horizons with a directing gig on their hit show, and we love seeing stars getting more involved!
19. David Schwimmer, Friends
David Schwimmer, best known for playing Ross Geller on Friends, ultimately directed ten episodes of the show during its run from 1994-2004 on NBC, starting with “The One on the Last Night” in season six. This episode shows Chandler and Joey’s last night together before Chandler moves in with Monica. This hilarious (and yet somewhat bittersweet) episode featured a made-up game called “Cups” between the two, but little did Joey know, Chandler made the game up on the spot to discreetly give Joey money for his apartment costs, proving that Chandler really is one of the best friends one could have. Schwimmer also directed episodes of Joey, Little Britain USA, and the movies Run Fatboy Run and Trust.
18. Ian Somerhalder, The Vampire Diaries
In the span of The Vampire Diaries’ eight season run on The CW, Ian Somerhalder didn’t just get to play the role of vampire Damon Salvatore – he also directed three episodes from 2015-2017. He made his directorial debut with the episode “The Downward Spiral,” followed by “Days of Future Past,” and “We Have History Together.” In an interview with People, he said “As a director, you’re not even a boss, because the master is the story. Your job is to make that vision come alive on the screen, and in order to do that, there’s an entire group of people you have to empower and help and work with.”
17. Shannen Doherty, Charmed
Though Shannen Doherty only starred on three seasons of The WB’s Charmed, she had the chance to direct three episodes. Her first was “Be Careful What You Witch For” in 2000, followed by “The Good, The Bad, and The Cursed” and “All Hell Breaks Loose,” both in 2001. Doherty left the show in 2001 reportedly due to an off-camera feud with her co-star Alyssa Milano, and the last episode she directed (“All Hell Breaks Loose”) was her last episode as an actress on the show. The episode ended with Doherty’s character Prue unconscious, which led to an easy way to write her out of the show.
16. Chandra Wilson, Grey’s Anatomy
In the 13 years that Grey’s Anatomy has been on the air, it has seen its fair share of character deaths and disappearances – but one character who has always been a constant force on the show is Chandra Wilson’s Dr. Miranda Bailey. In addition to being a powerhouse in Grey Sloan Memorial Hospital, Wilson is a powerhouse behind the camera, too: she’s directed 18 episodes in her time on the show! The first episode she directed was “Give Peace a Chance” in 2009 when Derek Shepherd went against Chief’s wishes with a risky and dangerous operation to remove a tumor wrapped around a patient’s spine. Wilson has continued to direct at least one episode per year since this debut.
15. Hugh Laurie, House
Hugh Laurie is known for his role as Dr. Gregory House, a medical (yet controversial) genius who tackled seemingly impossible ailments on FOX’s drama House from 2004-2012. While Laurie didn’t have much directorial experience besides a few uncredited works earlier in his career, he tried his hand at directing “Lockdown” in season six. Surprisingly enough, this episode wasn’t centered around any medical cases. Instead, it focused on the hospital’s lockdown because of a missing child. House found himself locked in a room with a dying patient, unable to leave or do anything to help save him. He directed one more episode of his show, “The C Word,” in 2012.
14. Sophia Bush, One Tree Hill
When Sophia Bush scored her first directing gig for One Tree Hill in 2009, she told The Hollywood Reporter, “I burst into tears and acknowledged what an amazing honor that was to be trusted with that.” The star, who portrayed Brooke Davis from 2003-2012 on the show, directed “Now You Lift Your Eyes to the Sun” in the seventh season. She got the chance to direct two more episodes of OTH during its time on television: “Not Afraid” in 2010 and “Anyone Who Had a Heart” in 2012.
13. Mindy Kaling, The Office
Though Mindy Kaling’s character on The Office, Kelly Kapoor, didn’t have the biggest role at the Dunder Mifflin Paper Company, Kaling spent a lot of time writing and directing off-screen, with many of her cast-mates calling her one of the show’s best writers. Kaling directed “Body Language” in 2010 and “Michael’s Last Dundies” in 2012, which marked one of Steve Carell’s last episodes as the gang’s beloved boss Michael Scott. Kaling also directed eight webisodes of The Office online. These spin-off shows aired on NBC.com from 2006-2011.
12. Bryan Cranston, Malcolm in the Middle & Breaking Bad
Breaking Bad was notoriously known for having some of the craziest and most unpredictable episodes, and star Bryan Cranston was responsible for directing three of them. Before this, he directed a number of other projects, including seven episodes of his other show, Malcolm in the Middle, and one episode of The Office. The first Breaking Bad episode he directed was “Seven-Thirty Seven” in 2009, followed by “No Más” in 2010 and “Blood Money” in 2013. He also went on to direct two episodes of Modern Family and one episode of Sneaky Pete.
11. Amy Poehler, Parks and Recreation
She stole hearts as Parks and Recreation’s Leslie Knope, the lovable (but somewhat eccentric) hero of Pawnee, Indiana’s local government, but Amy Poehler also directed three episodes of the NBC sitcom. Her first was “The Debate” in 2012, where Knope went head-to-head with her political opponent Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd) in a hilarious debate. Poehler also directed “Article Two” in 2013 and “Gryzzlebox” in 2015. During her time on Parks and Recreation, she also directed the Broad City episode “The Last Supper” in 2014.
10. Zach Braff, Scrubs
Zach Braff already had directorial experience before being cast in NBC’s drama/comedy Scrubs, so it was only a matter of time before he got to get behind the camera on this show, too. He began by directing a number of short films and movies, some made-for-TV and one named Garden State, which was his own work and starred Natalie Portman. He eventually directed seven episodes of Scrubs from 2004-2009. One of the most memorable episodes he directed was the series’ 100th episode in season five, “My Way Home,” which featured a number of references to The Wizard of Oz.
9. Melissa Joan Hart, Sabrina, The Teenage Witch & Melissa & Joey
She starred as the titular role in the ABC teen sitcom Sabrina, The Teenage Witch, and Melissa Joan Hart got to bring her magic behind the camera, too, when she directed nine episodes of the show from 2000-2003. When this show ended in 2003, Hart took a few smaller directing jobs before landing a new comedy on ABC, Melissa & Joey. While on air from 2010-2015, she directed six episodes of the show, while also acting as the star and executive producer.
8. Jennifer Garner, Alias
She starred as a daughter in family of spies in ABC’s drama series Alias from 2001-2006, and Jennifer Garner got the chance to direct one episode: “In Dreams…” in 2005. This particular episode was an important one where Garner’s character Sydney and her team finally caught an imposter they had been following for quite some time. This marked her first and only directorial experience, though Garner has notoriously gone on to act in a number of mainstream movies and TV shows since she got her start form Alias.
7. Tracee Ellis Ross, Girlfriends & Black-ish
Before she rose to fame as Rainbow Johnson on Black-ish, Tracee Ellis Ross starred on The CW’s Girlfriends. She tried her hand at directing the episode “What’s Black-a-Lackin’” during the show’s last season in 2008, and ten years later she got another directing gig on ABC’s hysterical family sitcom Black-ish. She directed the episode “Fifty-Three Percent” which is set to premiere later in 2018. Here’s hoping to see more directing from Ross in the future!
6. Lena Dunham, Girls
She created, produced, and starred in her HBO hit show Girls, so it only makes sense that Lena Dunham directed 19 episodes. The show, which followed a group of twentysomething friends as they navigated life in New York City, ran for six seasons from 2012-2017. Though she hasn’t directed anything since Girls, Dunham had an extensive list of previous directing experience before creating her show, proving just how powerful she is on and off the camera.
5. Courteney Cox, Cougar Town
While Courteney Cox rose to instant fame as Monica Geller on Friends in the 1990s, it wasn’t until 2012 that she made her directorial debut. Cox starred as Jules Cobb, a divorced single mom who explores the challenges of dating later on in life. Though she directed a few TV movies and shorts before Cougar Town, the first episode she directed of her show was called “Full Moon Fever” and aired in 2012. She continued to direct eleven more episodes of her show until 2015, and the last episode she directed (“Mary Jane’s Last Dance”) was also the series finale.
4. Debbie Allen, Grey’s Anatomy
Though Debbie Allen only joined Grey’s Anatomy during the middle of its time on the air, she has made the most of her time both in front of the camera and behind it. In addition to starring as Jackson Avery’s mother, Dr. Catherine Avery, she directed 16 episodes from 2010-2017. One of the most notable episodes she directed was “Right of Fire,” the season 13 finale where everything that can go wrong does go wrong: a fire breaks out in the hospital leaving doctors burned, trapped under machines, and fighting for their lives while a dangerous patient just escaped his hospital room. Long story short, Allen knows how to pack a punch with her directing!
3. Shiri Appleby, UnREAL
She plays a Bachelor-style reality television producer on Lifetime’s series UnREAL, and Shiri Appleby had the chance to get behind the camera in real life, too. UnREAL doesn’t shy away from tackling heavy topics (like addiction, racism, and sexism in the workplace), and Appleby got to direct a particularly intense episode involving an unexpected pregnancy and an intense scene between a contestant, her ex-boyfriend, the current Bachelor, and a shotgun. She also recently directed the episode “Confront” in the most recent season, and in an interview with Entertainment Weekly, she said “I really want to create a second career for myself as a director.” You go, girl!
2. Jensen Ackles, Supernatural
In addition to fighting demons and other paranormal predators on camera on Supernatural, Jensen Ackles has also directed six episodes of his show on The CW. He made his directorial debut on the show on the fourth episode of the sixth season, titled “Weekend at Bobby’s.” He also went on to direct four more episodes from 2010-2015: “The Girl Next Door,” “Heartache,” “Soul Survivor,” and “The Bad Seed.” Supernatural became the longest running live-action fantasy TV show after its eleventh season in 2015 – and it’s been renewed for its fourteenth season.
1. Neil Patrick Harris, How I Met Your Mother
Die-hard fans of CBS’s beloved sitcom How I Met Your Mother may have noticed that Neil Patrick Harris’s character Barney Stinson was somewhat absent in the season five episode “Jenkins” – that’s because it was NHP’s first time ever as a director! In the show’s nine year run (with 208 episodes total) a total of four people stepped in as director, and NPH was one of them. This was the only episode of the show he directed, and he has only directed two other works since then (the TV-movie Untitled Peter Knight Comedy Project in 2011 and one episode of The Goodwin Box in 2013).