Before They Were Famous: Zac Efron in 'Firefly'

A lot can happen in a decade, especially for an actor. Harrison Ford appeared in "A Time for Killing," his first credited screen role, in 1967 and became Han Solo in 1977. Halle Berry made her film debut in "Jungle Fever" in 1991 and by 2001 was starring in "Monster's Ball," for which she earned an Academy Award.

This year Zac Efron celebrates 10 years in Hollywood, and as he prepares to release his new romantic drama, "The Lucky One," we can look back on his career to see just how fortunate he's been. Though he's most famous for singing and dancing in three "High School Musical" movies and "Hairspray," this heartthrob first found work in the geekiest place imaginable: Joss Whedon's "Firefly."

A young Efron honed his abilities on stage in local productions of "Peter Pan" and "Little Shop of Horrors" in Arroyo Grande, California, where he lived a "normal childhood in a middle class family." Getting bitten by the acting bug led to Efron's small-screen debut on "Firefly," the short-lived but beloved space Western starring Nathan Fillion as the captain of the spaceship "Serenity."

Also Check Out: Lucky You Gets 5 "Lucky One" Clips

His character -- a younger version of Sean Maher's Dr. Simon Tam -- isn't lucky in love, and he regularly blows his chances at getting close to shipmate Kaylee. Still, he remains dedicated to the most important woman in his life, his troubled telepathic sister River. Efron's innocent portrayal of Tam as a child aligns seamlessly with Maher's performance as the grown-up Tam, which serves as a testament to the early talent of this emerging A-lister.

After his "Firefly" appearance came bit parts on TV shows and then a steady role on The WB's "Summerland," followed by the lead as Troy Bolton in the Disney Channel original movie "High School Musical." The rest, as they say, is history. Since his "High School" days, Efron has alternated between dramatic fare like "Me and Orson Welles" and "Charlie St. Cloud" and lighter movies such as "17 Again" and "New Year's Eve."

2012 is being kind to Zac: "The Lorax" is a hit, "The Lucky One" should do well enough and "The Paperboy," a film directed by Oscar nominee Lee Daniels and costarring Nicole Kidman, John Cusack and Matthew McConaughey, could be an awards contender. So before we send Efron off to a prestigious future, let's travel back to 2002 to see him (almost unrecognizably, we might add) on "Firefly" in the clip below.

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