9 celebrities you didn't know had Pittsburgh roots

Written by Nicole Martin on .



Pittsburgh is no stranger to big budget film-making. Just recently it served as a primary location for "The Dark Knight Rises," "Jack Reacher" and "Out of the Furnace." To many celebrities, Pittsburgh may have been a temporary home during the movie-making, but there are quite a few celebrities who once lived here; David Conrad, for example, still lives here and recently talked about his affinity to Pittsburgh on WQED. But there are other, perhaps more surprising names you may have never associated with Pittsburgh.

1. Julie Benz

Benz is most recognizable from her roles as Darla in “Buffy the Vampire Slayer” and “Angel.” In 2006, she won Best Supporting Actress at the Satellite Awards for her role of Rita Bennett in “Dexter.”

Benz grew up in Murrysville, Pa., and graduated from Franklin Regional High School. “I remember the teacher telling me I should not even try acting,” she told TV Guide. “I still have the report card where she was like, ‘You will never be an actor. Your voice is horrible.’ That was the best thing that ever happened to me because I was like, ‘I’ll show you’.”

2. Joe Manganiello

Best known for his character, Alcide Herveaux, on “True Blood”, Manganiello is a heart throb to all “truebies.” Manganiello graduated from Mt. Lebanon High School, and he attended Carnegie Mellon's acting program before moving to Hollywood. As many actors with ties to Pittsburgh, Manganiello hasn’t forgotten his roots: he remains a fan of the Pittsburgh Steelers and in 2007 produced and directed a short documentary “DieHardz,” about Steelers fans that meet at bars in Los Angeles. He also stays involved with UPMC Children’s Hospital charity events.

3. Zachary Quinto

Another CMU grad, Quinto started his acting career in the Pittsburgh Theater. Quinto grew up in Green Tree and graduated from Central Catholic High School. He landed a role on the hit show “Heroes” before getting his big break as Spock in the very successful remake of “Star Trek” alongside Chris Pine. Quinto is currently working on a 10-part TV series based in Pittsburgh about college students returning home on their first break.

4. Jeff Goldblum

Just a simple boy from West Homestead grew up to be a big star. Goldblum starred in the box office hits, “Jurassic Park” and “Independence Day.” In 2007, Goldblum played in “Pittsburgh,” a witty variation on a Christopher Guest mockumentary that combines fiction, reality and an irregular cast including Goldblum, Ed Begley Jr., Illeana Douglas, Moby, Conan O’Brien and many unsuspecting Pittsburghers.

5. Cherie Johnson

Born right in the heart of Pittsburgh, she is best known for her role as Cherie on “Punky Brewster” and Maxine on the long-running TV series, “Family Matters.”

6. Dennis Miller

With a resume ranging from a stand-up comedian and talk show host, to sports commentator, actor and more, Miller is a curious Pittsburgher. Miller grew up in the South Hills and graduated from Keystone Oaks High School. He then attended Point Park College — now Point Park University — where he majored in journalism. “When I went to college, I lived on campus, and the guys I hung out with made me do some things I’m not proud of, although they made the characters in Revenge of the Nerds look like the Rat Pack in 1962. I myself made that kid Booger look like Remington Steele,” Miller wrote in his book, "I Rant, Therefore I Am."

7. iJustine

Justine Ezarik grew up in Scenery Hill and graduated from Bentworth High School. She started her career from a YouTube video about a 300-page iPhone bill and quickly became an online sensation. Since then she has been an Internet celebrity and made many guest appearances on popular network television shows such as “Law & Order,” “Criminal Minds,” “The Vampire Diaries,” and was a guest host of “E! News.” Ezarik graduated from the Pittsburgh Technical Institute in 2004 and started her own business that she ran out of Pittsburgh until 2008, the year she moved to Los Angeles. While living in Pittsburgh, Ezarik also worked as a spokeswoman for Bill Peduto, then a city councilman.

8. Christina Aguilera

Though originally from Rochester, Pa., Aguilera moved to Wexford after her family received threats stemming from jealousy of her talent; it was obvious even then. She attended Marshall Middle School and North Allegheny High School. Aguilera was discovered when she sang at a Pittsburgh charity banquet and started receiving offers to sing the National Anthem for the Pirates, Penguins and the Steelers. She got her break on the “Mickey Mouse Club” along with other stars of the 1990s like Britney Spears and Justin Timberlake. Her singing career took off from there. In her song, “I Will Be,” she says, “all the things that you never expected to see from little old me, this Pittsburgh girl.”

9. Melina Kanakaredes

Kanakaredes was not born in Pittsburgh, though she moved here to pursue acting after high school. She attended Point Park and earned a bachelor’s degree in theater arts. It was in Pittsburgh where Kanakaredes began her acting career in the professional theater scene. One of her earlier roles included Mary Magdalene in “Jesus Christ Superstar” at Pittsburgh Musical Theater. She eventually got her break as recurring characters on popular shows like “CSI,” “NYPD Blue,” “Guiding Light,” and, prominently, as Dr. Sydney Hansen on “Providence.”

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