‘Arthur’: Phillip Seymour Hoffman, Mr. Rogers, & Other Celebrities Who Guest Starred on the Show

Though there’s no shortage of educational shows for kids to enjoy, few boast the longevity that Arthur has. The beloved children’s program boasts a whopping 23 seasons with two more in the works. The TV show, which is based on the popular eponymous book series by Marc Brown, premiered way back in 1996 and follows eight-year-old aardvark, Arthur Read, his family, and friends living in Elmwood City.

Arthur show
Rep. Edward Markey, D-Mass, Arthur, the aardvark from PBS Kids, and Rep. Earl Blumenauer, D-Ore., | Photo By Bill Clark/Roll Call

Though Arthur is geared toward children between the ages of four and eight, it is well-loved by people of all ages. The show has proven time and time again that it can successfully navigate conversations around topics such as dyslexia, racism, socioeconomic status, and autism in a way that children can understand. Because of the show’s success, many celebrities have guest-starred on the show. Many people know that Ziggy Marley and the Melody Makers are responsible for Arthur’s theme song: “Believe in Yourself”, but what other celebrities have made an appearance?

Plenty of celebrities have joined the cast of ‘Arthur’ for an episode or two

While some of the famous people who guest-starred on Arthur play make-believe characters, plenty played themselves on the show. Fans of the show will never forget when Fred Rogers showed up for an episode and stayed as a guest in Arthur’s home. Matt Damon also played himself on the show and helped kids learn how an episode of Arthur is made. Lance Armstrong showed up for an episode surrounding a bike-a-thon and then again to provide support to a character who was dealing with cancer. Michelle Kwan also appeared to teach Francine about ice skating.

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But there’s plenty more where that came from. For the 100th episode, Arthur and his friends were interviewed by Larry King, who remains the only celebrity who guest-starred on the show and was not animated. Neil Gaiman, who is famous for penning beloved books like Coraline, also made an appearance in Season 14 of the show. In a more recent season, Arthur learned how to stand up for what he believed in from the late and great John Lewis. Lewis even joined Arthur for a sit-in that he had at school.

The popular show has featured actors, athletes, writers, musicians, and more

Fans of Arthur know just how important music is to the show, so it makes perfect sense that a few musicians joined the cast for an episode. The Backstreet Boys memorably appeared in an hour-long special which was a special treat for fans. Art Garfunkel of the celebrated act, Simon & Garfunkel also appeared way back in Season 3 and he narrates an entire episode with his dulcet tones.

Then there are the celebrities that guest-starred as a slight parody of themselves on the show. For example, the late Jeopardy! host Alex Trebek, guest-starred in the role of Alex Lebeck, as a game show host for which Arthur is a contestant. Similarly, the late actor, Phillip Seymour Hoffman played a character called Will Hoffman, who helped the kids of Elmwood city learn about the craft of acting.

Famous figures have also portrayed fictional ‘Arthur’ characters

Finally, there are celebrities who guest-starred on Arthur who simply play characters, rather than any version of themselves. B.J. Novak, of The Office fame, played a wannabe zen camp counselor. Meanwhile, Idina Menzel, who is known for Frozen and Wicked played therapist, Dr. Paul, who helps Arthur’s friend, Brain, deal with his anxiety. Actor Alan Cumming played snooty poodle, Sebastian Winkleplotz who was the rival to Grandma Thora’s dog, Killer.

Two lucky celebrities even got to pose as family members of the main characters. Jane Lynch guest-starred as Patty, the older sister of Mr. Ratburn. Meanwhile, the late Joan Rivers guest-starred in not one, but two episodes, posing as Francine’s grandma, Bubby. Clearly, there’s no shortage of celebrities who are willing to lend their talents to an episode of Arthur. In fact, the full list of famous people who appeared on the show is much longer. We look forward to seeing what other celebrities guest-star on the show in the future.