From 'The Mandalorian' to 'King Kong': How nine celebrities made their start in Binghamton

Kate Collins
Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin

When we think of famous people from Binghamton, "The Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling tops the list.

But there are many other stars who called the Southern Tier home before hitting it big.

They include a record-smashing athlete, several actors and actresses, as well as the first woman to start her own movie production company.

Here we’ve compiled a list of those locally grown names. A few are the elements of hometown lore, the names you’ve grown up hearing about, but even those who’ve called this area home all their lives might find a surprise or two tucked among the rest.

Amy Sedaris

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - OCTOBER 28: Amy Sedaris attends Apple's global premiere of "The Morning Show" at Josie Robertson Plaza and David Geffen Hall, Lincoln Center for the Performing Arts on October 28, 2019 in New York City. "The Morning Show" debuts November 1 on Apple TV+, available on the Apple TV app. (Photo by Brian Ach/Getty Images for Apple TV+) ORG XMIT: 775427837 ORIG FILE ID: 1184084987

Most recently appearing as Peli Motto in the Disney+ "Star Wars" series, "The Mandalorian," Endicott native Amy Sedaris's breakout television role came in 1999 when she starred in the comedy series "Strangers With Candy." Sedaris also appeared in the holiday film "Elf" and Netflix series "The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt."

Sedaris has lent her voice to animated roles, too, from Cinderella in "Shrek the Third" to Princess Carolyn in the Netflix adult comedy "BoJack Horseman."

Sedaris’s book, “I Like You: Hospitality Under The Influence,” spent more than 12 weeks on the New York Times Best Seller list and in 2017 she created the comedy series “At Home with Amy Sedaris.”

Coronavirus streaming options: Watch Southern Tier talent in these movies and shows

Jon Jones

Jon Jones goes through his pre-fight routine before a light heavyweight mixed martial arts bout against Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 on Feb. 8, 2020, in Houston.

Born in Rochester, mixed martial arts champion Jon Jones was a standout athlete at Union-Endicott High School. He was a defensive lineman on the football field and captured the state wrestling championship.

After a stint studying criminal justice, Jones left college to make his Ultimate Fighting Champion (UFC) debut in 2008, competing in the light-heavyweight division.

Jones was the youngest champion in UFC history and holds records for most title defenses, most wins and longest winning streak. He is considered one of the best fighters in the world.

For several years, Jones lived in Ithaca and trained with Team BombSquad in Cortland. Jones now trains in New Mexico.

Jones isn’t the only athlete in his family. His older brother, Arthur, retired from the NFL in 2017 and his younger brother, Chandler, is a defensive end and Super Bowl champion, currently playing for the Arizona Cardinals.

More:Jon Jones vacates UFC title, 'It's officially up for grabs,' and looks to heavyweight

More:Press & Sun-Bulletin Athletes of the Year: 1949-2020

Paul Reiser

US actor Paul Reiser and his wife Paula Ravets attend Netflix's "Stranger Things 3" premiere at Santa Monica high school Barnum Hall on June 28, 2019 in Santa Monica, Calif.

Paul Reiser, a native New Yorker, spent his college years studying music at Binghamton University. Reiser lived in the Hinman College community on campus and acted in its theater company.

During the summer, Reiser cut his teeth performing stand-up comedy in New York City comedy clubs. His big break came in 1982, when he appeared in the movie “Diner.” Roles in 80s hits “Beverly Hills Cop” and “Aliens” followed.

After starring in the sitcom “My Two Dads,” Reiser co-created and starred in the hit series “Mad About You” from 1992-97. Recently, Reiser appeared in the Netflix hit “Stranger Things” as Sam Owens.

Reiser has also written three books: “Couplehood,” “Babyhood,” and “Fatherhood.”

Rod Serling

Born in Syracuse, "The Twilight Zone" creator Rod Serling grew up in Binghamton.

Rod Serling, the creator of the iconic television series "The Twilight Zone," was born in Syracuse and grew up in Binghamton. 

After graduating from then-Binghamton Central High School, Serling served in the U.S. Army during World War II. He met his wife, Carol, while attending college in Ohio.

The Serlings moved to California, where Rod Serling made his mark in entertainment history as a screenwriter, producer, playwright and narrator. He won six Emmy Awards, including two for "The Twilight Zone." He also wrote the script for the movie "Planet of The Apes."

Serling never forgot the Southern Tier. There are references to Binghamton in some "Twilight Zone" episodes. Serling is also well known for his quote about hometowns.

"Everybody has to have a hometown," he said. "Binghamton's mine." 

Looking for something to stream?Jordan Peele's 2019 reboot of The Twilight Zone can be streamed on CBS All Access. 

More:Carol Serling, the widow of 'Twilight Zone' creator Rod Serling, has died at age 91

More:Hey Jordan Peele, these fifth-graders have some 'Twilight Zone' ideas for you

Bridget Moynahan

CBS drama 'Blue Bloods' prosecutor Erin Reagan (Bridget Moynahan) lawyer and daughter of the New York Chief of Police.

The star of the long-running police drama "Blue Bloods," Bridget Moynahanwas born in Binghamton in 1971. Her family moved to Massachusetts a few years later, where Moynahan started modeling as a teenager.

She appeared on the cover of Glamour six times, then in several commercials and in 1999, she had a guest role on "Sex and the City."

Moynahan made her film debut in "Coyote Ugly," followed by roles in "The Sum of All Fears" and "I, Robot."

Since 2010, Moynahan has played Assistant District Attorney Erin Reagan on "Blue Bloods."The show airs on CBS and can be streamed on CBS All Access or Hulu.

Hugh Herbert

Shirley Temple, film actress, is the center of attraction during luncheon at the Brown Derby, March 24, 1945 in Hollywood. Her luncheon companions are Hospital Apprentice Second Class John Forman and F. Hugh Herbert, a Binghamton-born comedic writer and actor from the 1930s to the 1950s.

With a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame and over 100 acting credits to his name, Binghamton native Hugh Herbert was one of the most prolific actors during the Golden Age of Hollywood.

Born in 1884, Herbert got his start as vaudeville actor before appearing in film in the 1930s. Herbert's fluttering fingers, along with his catchphrase “hoo hoo hoo,” had many imitators, including Mickey Rooney and Curly Howard of The Three Stooges comedy team. Herbert is also said to be the inspiration behind the Warner Bros. animated character, Daffy Duck.

Throughout his long career, Herbert acted in movies for Warner Bros. and Columbia Pictures, wrote screenplays and directed. He was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 1960. 

More:Spanning Time: These Broome County natives made it big in Hollywood

Johnny Hart

A graduate of Union-Endicott High School, Johnny Hart is better known for his comic strips “B.C.” and “Wizard of Id.”

Creator of the long-running syndicated comic strip "B.C." and co-creator of "The Wizard of Id," cartoonist Johnny Hart was born in Endicott and graduated from Union-Endicott High School.

Hart was first published in the American military newspaper Stars & Stripes while serving in the U.S. Air Force. Later, magazines including The Saturday Evening Post picked up Hart's comics.

Hart's most popular comic, "B.C.," began appearing in daily newspapers in 1958. "B.C." and "The Wizard of Id" each appeared in over 1,000 newspapers and won Hart numerous cartooning awards. 

Hart lived in the Southern Tier throughout his life and gave back to the community, frequently donating "B.C."-style logos to local organizations.

Hart died in 2007, but "B.C." and "The Wizard of Id" are still in syndication, with John Hart Studios now run by his family.

More:'B.C.' comic strip's Cute Chick and Fat Broad are now Grace and Jane

Rick Baker

Academy Award-winning make-up artist Rick Baker is from Binghamton.

Binghamton-born, California-raised special effects artist Rick Baker has created some of Hollywood’s most memorable werewolves, monsters and graveyards goons.

Starting as a makeup assistant on horror classic “The Exorcist,” Baker received the first Academy Award for Best Makeup for his work on the 1981 movie “An American Werewolf in London.” He also created Michael Jackson’s werewolf character for his 13-minute “Thriller” video.

Baker has worked on films including “It’s Alive," “The Howling,” "Men in Black," "Harry and the Hendersons" and "How The Grinch Stole Christmas." He has won seven Academy Awards and been nominated 12 times – both record achievements.

Baker has appeared on screen as well, including the title role in the 1976 film, "King Kong." Baker was inducted into the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2012.

More:The 'Lady in White' of Devil's Elbow: A ghost story of the Southern Tier

Helen Gardner

Actress Helen Gardner, circa 1912. Photographer unknown.

Helen Gardner was born in Binghamton in 1884 and graduated from the American Academy of Dramatic Arts in New York City, where she studied theater. In 1911, Gardner made her silent film debut in “Vanity Fair” to critical acclaim.

In 1912, Gardner announced in the theatrical trade newspaper New York Dramatic Mirror that she had formed her own production company, Helen Gardner Picture Players. She was the first woman to do so and soon Helen Gardner Picture Players began specializing in feature-length films.

Gardner’s best known movie was “Cleopatra,” which was released in 1912. She starred as the Egyptian queen and also produced, edited and designed costumes for the film.

More:It's finally showtime! How small theaters in the Southern Tier are getting ready to open

More:Return of the Thunderbirds for Greater Binghamton Airshow: What else is new for 2021?

More:Amazon in Bath? Billion-dollar company, town officials weighing planned facility

Follow Kate Collins on Twitter: @kcollins213. To get unlimited access to the latest news, please subscribe or activate your digital account today.