‘3rd Rock from the Sun’: Why Kristen Johnston Says She and Joseph Gordon-Levitt Were ‘Struggling’ on the Show

The success of a TV show or movie can launch an actor’s career seemingly overnight. What may have taken years of auditions is soon forgotten when a program takes off. Kristen Johnston didn’t experience so much as a rise to fame but more like a catapult to fame. 

Starring in the comedy series, 3rd Rock from the Sun, her life changed dramatically. Keep reading to learn why Johnston says she and her co-star, Joseph Gordon-Levitt, had a difficult time with fame while filming the award-winning series.  

Kristen Johnston played Sally Solomon in ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’

Cast of '3rd Rock from the Sun'
Cast of ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’ | Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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Running for six seasons and 139 episodes, 3rd Rock from the Sun follows a group of aliens as they observe life on Earth as humans. Debuting in 1996, Johnston plays Sally Solomon, an alien learning the ways of life as a woman. 

In one early episode of the series, Johnston’s character goes on a successful first date only to not receive a follow-up phone call. Confused, Sally goes to her date’s apartment and knocks down his door to confront him about the phone call, or lack thereof. 

Sally tackles other topics foreign to her, such as cooking, cleaning, and makeup. Her experiences contrast with the others in the group because she’s the only alien spending her time on the planet as a woman. 

Johnston played Sally for five years until 3rd Rock from the Sun went off the air after six seasons in 2001. 

Kristen Johnston says she and co-star Joseph Gordon-Levitt struggled with sudden fame

During an interview with Entertainment Weekly more than a decade after 3rd Rock from the Sun ended, Johnston opened up her days on the comedy.

She shared that the “most difficult” aspect wasn’t the varying ages of the cast members but becoming famous. She also noted that her co-star, Gordon-Levitt, then a teenager, had trouble with the same thing. 

“The most difficult part of it was the fact that it was basically me and Joey (Gordon-Levitt) struggling,” Johnston said.

Kristen Johnston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in '3rd Rock from the Sun'
Kristen Johnston and Joseph Gordon-Levitt in ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’ | NBC/NBCU Photo Bank

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She continued, saying she “loved” the rest of her co-stars but noted that they had different reactions to 3rd Rock from the Sun’s success. 

“But John (Lithgow) was like, ‘Cool, a third wind.’ Jane (Curtin) was like, ‘Whatever.’ French (Stewart) was excited,” she said. 

Whereas Johnston remembers her and Gordon-Levitt responding in a different way. 

“But Joey and I were like, ‘Oh my god, what’s happening?’ It’s just such an awful feeling to lose [your anonymity],” she said. 

She won 2 Emmy Awards for her performance in ‘3rd Rock from the Sun’

While dealing with the sudden fame of 3rd Rock from the Sun, Johnston gained recognition within the entertainment industry. She earned an Emmy nomination in 1997. The actor took home an Emmy in the category of Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series.

Johnston garnered another nomination in the same category in 1998 but didn’t win. In 1999, up for the same award yet again, she won her second Emmy. 

Today, her role as Sally Solomon in 3rd Rock from the Sun remains one of Johnston’s most famous roles. 

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