15 Hollywood Actors Who Were Nerds in High School

Actors are usually seen as the epitome of beauty and cool. But what people typically forget is that the stars who stayed in school were just theater nerds who had a lot of talent and hopes of making it in Hollywood.

That path might have led to where they are today, but that doesn’t mean they came across as cool to their fellow classmates. A lot of celebrities were outcasts and nerds in high school. Then there are those who were nerds just because they were studious.

Now that they are past it all, many celebrities have opened up about their time in high school. Sometimes those years can be hard, but if there’s one thing this list shows you it’s that you have a lot to look forward to afterward! Here are 15 Hollywood actors who were nerds in high school.

1. Nolan Gould

the entire cast of modern family stand together for a photo of season 7

Nolan Gould (far left) and the cast of Modern Family. | ABC

The Modern Family actor was already famous in high school, but that doesn’t mean he wasn’t also nerdy! The young actor was so studious that he graduated high school at the age of 13. He could have probably stopped there and relied on acting the rest of his life, but instead, he started taking college classes while working.

Nolan Gould has an IQ of 150 and is a member of Mensa International. There’s hardly anything nerdier than that.

2. Naya Rivera

Naya Rivera is posing on the red carpet.

Naya Rivera | Imeh Akpanudosen/Getty Images

The actress played the mean cheerleader on Glee who eventually fits into the music club. But although her character on the show was popular, she relates more to the nerdier characters on the show.

In high school, I was most like Artie and Rachel,” Naya Rivera told Fitness Magazine. Rivera is referring to the Glee characters who are outcasts in school, but love music. “But like Artie, I was a nerd, always trying to fit in and get my hair to lie flat.” She then continued, “My dad always wanted me to be sporty, so I tried softball. I was 12 and tiny, and all the other girls were huge and looked 25. I was too afraid of the ball to bat.”

3. Adam Levine

Adam Levine is singing on stage in a white t-shirt.

Adam Levine | Kevin Winter/Getty Images for CBS Radio Inc.

No one would think of the singer and actor as anything other than cool now. He is the lead singer of a band, is a judge on one of the most popular competition shows on TV, and isn’t hard to look at. But apparently his passion for music didn’t make him popular back in the day.

“When I was 14-15, I think it was a little less cool to be in a band. I was very uncool, had disgusting long hair and shorts down to [to my knees], cutoff shorts — I desperately wanted to be Eddie Vedder from Pearl Jam really badly, and I was just a nerdy, awkward kid and I was obsessed with music,” he told Access Hollywood.

4. Jennifer Garner

Jennifer Garner looks down in a leather outfit in Daredevil.

Jennifer Garner in Daredevil | Fox

The gorgeous actress proved she can kick butt on screen in the TV show Alias. She has since starred in some dramatic and funny movies, but what you probably didn’t know is that she was a band geek back in the day. There is even some interesting photo evidence of it.

“I was a real nerd. I wasn’t the popular one,” she told The Mirror. “I was one of those girls on the edge of the group.”

She then continued, “I never wore the right clothes and I had a kind of natural geekiness. I was in the school band and I think that has a bit of a stigma at the age of 13. If you’d asked me what I wanted to be, I would have said something like a librarian.”

5. Rashida Jones

Rashida Jones is squinting as she looks up in Angie Tribeca.

Rashida Jones in Angie Tribeca | TBS

The actress is beautiful so it’s hard to think she ever fit the label “nerdy.” But although she was involved in some things in high school that would give her “cool points” she was also in some nerdy clubs. Basically she did it all, and was more of a Leslie Knope than an Ann Perkins.

I was social,” she told Vanity Fair. “I was overachieving, I was a cheerleader, I was in the math club, I was in the National Honor Society. I was in every club. I was like a teacher’s pet.”

6. Charlize Theron

Charlize Theron looks to the side as she sits next to Tom Hardy in Mad Max: Fury Road Warner Bros.

Charlize Theron in Mad Max: Fury Road | Warner Bros.

The Oscar winner is definitely gorgeous now, but she didn’t always look this way. Back in the day she had a pretty nerdy look thanks to some noticeable accessories.

I wore really nerdy glasses because I was blind as could be and the boys didn’t like [me]. I didn’t have any boyfriends, but lots of crushes … I wasn’t in the popular crowd. There was a really popular girl at school and I was obsessed with her. I mean you would go to jail for that stuff today. I was in tears one day because I couldn’t sit next to her.”

7. Zac Efron

Zac Efron is smiling in a black suit on the red carpet.

Zac Efron | Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images

We have pretty much watched the actor grow up on screen since his High School Musical days. But even though he’s a hunk now, he wasn’t turning heads in school.

I wasn’t a heartthrob at school,” the actor said according to CelebsNow. “I was a geek, I was into musical theater, which isn’t perceived as the coolest thing. There were guys who were 6′ 1″ with beards and big muscles and I was a gawky 17-year-old, a skinny, awkward kid. I was a late bloomer. Growing up was hell. I could never get into trouble like the rest of my friends, my parents were very strict and taught me good values.”

8. Natalie Portman

Natalie Portman posing on the red carpet.

Natalie Portman | Tobias Schwarz/AFP/Getty Images

The actress is one of the smartest people in the business. Although she starred in Star Wars: The Phantom Menace in high school, she also missed the New York premiere of the film to stay home and study for her final exams.

Natalie Portman got into Harvard University after finishing high school with a 4.0 GPA. She also competed in the Intel Science Talent Search and made it to the semifinals.

9. Danica McKellar

Danica McKellan is smiling with her hands up as she's on stage.

Danica McKellar | Ethan Miller/Getty Images

You probably remember her as Winnie Cooper on The Wonder Years. Although she broke into the business when she was young, Danica McKellar was still a nerd in school.

“I always worked hard at school, both on set and at my actual school (I went back and forth — it was challenging!). Most of the time I liked school and got good grades,” she said according to Seventeen magazine. “But after a few good teachers and a lot of perseverance, I ended up loving math and even choosing it as a major when I got to college.”

When asked which group she was in during high school she gave an interesting answer. “I wasn’t in school often enough to really belong to a clique, but my friends all studied hard and got pretty good grades. They were good people with self-respect.”

10. Anna Kendrick

Actress Anna Kendrick looks over her shoulder while posing on the red carpet.

Anna Kendrick | Jason Merritt/Getty Images

The Pitch Perfect actress has shown that she is talented in many ways. But she is also another beautiful actress who says she wasn’t that cool in high school, especially not with the guys!

“I had a totally normal high school experience, boys really liked flat-chested theater nerds, let me tell you,” Anna Kendrick revealed on the WTF with Marc Maron podcast. “I wasn’t, like, socially comfortable, that’s for sure.”

11. Alison Brie

Alison Bris is sitting on a couch and holding up a poster.

Alison Brie in Community | Krasnoff Foster Productions

The actress played an uptight nerd for many years on Community. When asked if she was the same way in high school, she gave an interesting answer.

“[Laughs] I was fairly nerdy in high school—not that bad,” she told The Daily Beast. “I had drama friends! I was a drama nerd. Someone recently said to me, ‘You must have been exactly like your character in high school—really type-A,’ and I wasn’t. I was somewhere in between.”

12. Sigourney Weaver

Sigourney Weaver, wearing a white dress and looking to the right of the frame

Sigourney Weaver in The Defenders | Netflix

The action star didn’t exactly rule the school back in the day. “I was sort of in the nerdy group,” Sigourney Weaver said according to The Cut, “and we read a lot of books and we thought we were really cool and we didn’t want to be like anyone else. We didn’t want to be like the cheerleaders or anything; we wanted to be like Virginia Woolf.”

13. Joe Manganiello

Joe Manganiello poses on the red carpet with his hands in his pockets.

Joe Manganiello | Paras Griffin/Getty Images

The Magic Mike star may be known for his ripped body now, but he didn’t always look that way. He shared an old picture of himself on Conan that showed he was just a scrawny little guy in school with big glasses. He didn’t look like a jock, but he was on the basketball team.

14. Vin Diesel

Man in a crowd of people making a face looking to the side

Vin Diesel in The Fate of the Furious | Universal

The action star is the face of the popular Fast and Furious franchise, but back in the day, he was too busy playing Dungeons and Dragons to hitting the gym.

He has kept his love of the game alive and had a Dungeons and Dragons cake for his 48th birthday.

15. Cristin Milioti

Josh Radner and Cristin Milioti standing under a yellow umbrella in the rain in How I Met Your Mother

Josh Radnor and Cristin Milioti in How I Met Your Mother | CBS

The How I Met Your Mother actress wasn’t a theater nerd in high school, but fell into another nerdy category. “No, I was always in bands,” Cristin Milioti told Interview magazine. “I mean, I did plays in high school and I really loved it, but I think singing was always what I loved most of all. I would say if I was any type of nerd, it was probably a band nerd.”

Follow Nicole Weaver on Twitter @nikkibernice

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