Rhode Island might be the smallest state in the US, but you wouldn’t have guessed it from the huge number of actors, writers, TV hosts, and musicians that call it home. From award-winning actress Viola Davis to horror writer H.P. Lovecraft, acclaimed entertainer George M. Cohan to reality TV star Pauly D, hundreds of stars can thank Little Rhody for their start in life. Here are 20 of our favorite celebrities from Rhode Island.
20. Mickey Barone
Mickey Barone was born on July 2, 1999, in Providence, Rhode Island. According to famousbirthdays.com, he first found fame on Youtube before extending his social media influence on Instagram and TikTok. He now has over 350,000 followers on Instagram and more than 210,000 followers on Twitter.
19. Elizabeth Hasselbeck
Elisabeth Hasselbeck was born on May 28, 1977, in Cranston, Rhode Island. After first coming to attention as a contestant on the second season of Survivor, she continued to hog the spotlight as a co-host on ABC’s The View and as a co-host on Fox & Friends. Since retiring from TV in 2015 to spend more time with her family, she’s written several books, including 2019’s Point of View: A Fresh Look at Work, Faith, and Freedom.
18. Michaela McManus
Actress Michaela McManus was born in Warwick, Rhode Island, on May 20, 1983. Since landing her breakthrough role in season five of One Tree Hill in 2008, she’s appeared in numerous TV shows, including Castle, CSI: Miami, Aquarius, The Vampire Diaries, The Village, and Hawaii Five-0. Her most recent TV role came in series three of the Netflix thriller, You.
17. Will Blackmon
Former American football cornerback Will Blackmon was born in Providence, Rhode Island, and raised in Cranston. At high school, he showed a natural talent for sport, earning the title of Gatorade Rhode Island Player of the Year in his senior year. After turning professional, he started his career at the Green Bay Packers before transferring to the New York Giants in 2010. He subsequently played with the Seattle Seahawks, the Jacksonville Jaguars, and the Washington Redskins. Since retiring in 2018, he’s worked with both the NFL Network and Sky Sports UK as an analyst.
16. Pauly D
Pauly D was born July 5, 1980, in Providence, Rhode Island. After launching his career as a DJ, he shot to fame in 2009 when he was cast on the reality TV show, Jersey Shore. He quickly established himself as one of the most popular members of the cast, becoming the first to land his own spin-off show in 2012. Since then, he’s continued to juggle his work as a DJ with reality TV projects such as Marriage Bootcamp: Reality Stars 11, Famously Single, and Revenge Prank.
15. Olivia Culpo
Influencer, social media personality, and actress Olivia Culpo was born in Cranston, Rhode Island on May 8, 1992. She initially rose to fame as a beauty pageant queen, first winning the 2012 Miss Rhode Island USA and later that year claiming the title of Miss USA. After her two-year relationship with Nick Jonas turned her into a tabloid sensation, she gained a huge following on social media, something she later used to her advantage when she entered into collaborations with brands like L’Oreal, Kipling, and Uberliss. Over the last few years, she’s ventured into acting, racking up roles in I Feel Pretty, Reprisal, and The Other Woman.
14. Mena Suvari
Actress Mena Suvari was born in Newport, Rhode Island on February 13, 1979. After working as a model throughout her teens, she made the move to acting at the age of 15 with a role in the TV show, Boy Meets World. In 1997, she made her film debut in the coming-of-age movie, Nowhere. Two years later, she made her breakthrough with starring roles in American Pie and American Beauty. Since then, she’s divided her time between independent films like Factory Girl and Brooklyn Rules and TV shows such as Chicago Fire and American Woman.
13. Wendy Carlos
Hailing from Pawtucket, RI, Wendy Carlos is best known for her electronic music and film scores. While studying music composition at Columbia University. she helped develop the first commercially available keyboard, the Moog synthesizer, alongside Robert Moog. In 1968, she made her name with the Grammy award-winning album Switched-On Bach, which features a collection of pieces by Johann Sebastian Bach performed on a Moog synthesizer. From there, she continued to win acclaim for her electronic reimagining of classical music, along with her scores for Stanley Kubrick’s A Clockwork Orange and The Shining. In 1979, Wendy, who was born Walter, became one of the earliest proponents of transgender rights when she publically announced that she had undergone sex reassignment surgery in 1972.
12. Harry Anderson
Harry Anderson was born in Newport, Rhode Island, on October 14, 1952. After spending his youth performing street magic in Chicago, New York, and New Orleans, he moved to Los Angeles at 16 and took up a place at the Dante Magic Club. Over the next few years, he continued working as a street magician until an appearance on Saturday Night Live thrust him into the spotlight. Three years later, he took the next steps in his career with a leading role as Judge Harry Stone on the television series, Night Court. The show ran until 1992, after which he landed a starring role on the sitcom, Dave’s World. Anderson died in his sleep in his home in Asheville, North Carolina, in 2018. He was 65 years old.
11. Ruth Hussey
Ruth Hussey, who was born October 30, 1911, in Providence, Rhode Island, got her first taste of show business as a fashion commentator on a local radio station. From there. she worked briefly as a model in New York City before moving into acting. After earning her stripes with touring companies, she was eventually talent-spotted by Billy Grady of MGM. After making her film debut in 1937, she quickly established herself as one of Hollywood’s most popular leading ladies. In 1940, she earned an Academy Award nomination for her career-defining role as Elizabeth Imbrie in The Philadelphia Story.
10. Van Johnson
Born in Newport, Rhode Island, on August 25, 1916, Van Johnson’s “boy-next-door wholesomeness” made him one of the biggest stars of the ’40s and ’50s. After making his name during Hollywood’s golden age in films like Thirty Seconds Over Tokyo, A Guy Named Joe, and The Human Comedy, he enjoyed a career renaissance in the 1970s in theatre, landing starring roles in the musical La Cage aux Folles and Woody Allen’s The Purple Rose of Cairo. After retiring from acting in the early 1990s, Johnson died on December 12, 2008, at the age of 92.
9. Ruth Buzzi
Ruth Buzzi was born in Westerly, Rhode Island. After graduating from college, she began making a name for herself in New York musical variety shows. Before long, she made the transition to TV, quickly establishing herself as one of the hottest comedic talents of the ’70s on the likes of NBC’s Rowan and Martin’s Laugh-In and That Girl. Since then, she’s continued to enjoy success on stage and screen, winning numerous accolades and a coveted place in the Rhode Island Heritage Hall of Fame.
8. Aaron Fricke
Gay rights activist and author Aaron Fricke was born on January 25, 1962, in Pawtucket, Rhode Island. After his high school told him he couldn’t bring his boyfriend to prom, Fricke took them to court, resulting in a media storm, a place for both Fricke and his boyfriend at the prom, and the establishment of a legal right across the US for students to bring same-sex partners to school social events. Fricke later wrote about the experience in his autobiography, Reflections of a Rock Lobster.
7. Meredith Vieira
Broadcast journalist and TV personality Meredith Vieira was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on December 30, 1953. After starting her career as a news announcer on WORC radio in Worcester, Massachusetts, she came to prominence in the early ’80s as a CBS reporter, correspondent, and anchor for shows such as West 57th, 60 Minutes, and CBS Morning News. In 1994, she landed the role of moderator and co-host of ABC’s The View, serving with the show from its debut on August 11, 1997, until June 9, 2006. Since then, she’s maintained her position in the spotlight as the first host of Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, co-anchor of Today, and host of the game show, 25 Words or Less.
6. James Woods
James Woods was born in Vernal, Utah, but was raised in Warwick, Rhode Island. Although he initially harbored ambitions of becoming an eye surgeon, his infatuation with theatre led him to drop out of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology just one semester before graduating to pursue a career in acting. It was a risky move, but one that paid dividends. Since rising to fame in the 1970s with his roles on Broadway and the critically acclaimed four-part TV miniseries Holocaust, he’s continued to enjoy a hugely successful career that spans theatre, TV, and film.
5. Debra Messing
When actress Debra Messing was three, she and the rest of her family moved from Brooklyn, New York to East Greenwich in Rhode Island. During her time at East Greenwich High School, she starred in numerous musicals, an experience that fostered her desire to pursue acting professionally After graduating from Brandeis with a Bachelor of Arts in Theater Arts, she earned a place on the prestigious Grad Acting Program at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts. In 1998, she landed her breakthrough role in Will and Grace. Subsequent projects have included the 10x Emmy nominated TV series, The Starter Wife, and the police procedural comedy-drama, The Mysteries of Laura.
4. George M. Cohan
George M. Cohan was born in 1878 in Providence, Rhode Island. His parents were traveling vaudeville performers and from the time he was an infant, Cohan would regularly join them on stage. By the time he hit his teens, he was writing skits and songs for his family to perform. Not long after that, he started publishing his pieces professionally. In 1901, he wrote, directed, and produced his first Broadway musical, The Governor’s Son. From there, he continued to enjoy huge success both as an actor, writer, and producer of Broadway hits and as a leading Tin Pan Alley songwriter. In his later career, he ventured into more serious acting, starring in projects such as The Phantom President, I’d Rather Be Right, and Ah, Wilderness! Described by former president of the American Society of Composers, Authors and Publishers Gene Buck as “the greatest single figure the American theatre ever produced” and by many more as the father of American musical comedy, Cohen passed away in November 1942 at the age of 64.
3. Cormac McCarthy
Cormac McCarthy was born in Providence, Rhode Island, on July 20, 1933. Over the course of his career, he’s written a total of two short stories, two plays, five screenplays, and ten novels, including the critically acclaimed All the Pretty Horse, The Crossing, The Road, and Child of God. Many of his works have been adapted into films, including the 4x Acadamy Award-winning No Country for Old Men. Today, he’s widely considered one of the greatest living US authors.
2. Viola Davis
As Only In Your State notes, actress Viola Davis may have been born in South Carolina, but she was raised in Central Falls after her family moved to Rhode Island when she was two months old. After graduating from Juilliard, she spent the early years of her career playing minor roles on TV shows and films before making her breakthrough in Doubt, where her astonishing performance earned a nomination for the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress. Since then, her career has gone from strength to strength, earning her an Academy Award, a Primetime Emmy Award, and two Tony Awards.
1. H.P. Lovecraft
H.P Lovecraft was born on August 20, 1890, in Providence, Rhode Island. By the time he was 7 years old, he was already writing poems that drew on Greco-Roman myths like the Odyssey. Although he remained largely unknown during his lifetime, his popularity exploded following his death, with writer Stephen King citing his work as a major influence and describing him to American Heritage as “the twentieth century’s greatest practitioner of the classic horror tale.” If you ever find yourself in his hometown of Providence, be sure to stop by the H.P. Lovecraft museum to learn more about his life and work.