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12 Famous People You Had No Idea Worked for the Government

We tend to associate celebrities more with red carpets and paparazzi than government work, but there are indeed household names who once held roles far different than the careers for which they're best known. Curious who used to punch a government-issued time card? Prepare to be surprised.

Steve CarellMichael Buckner/Variety/Shutterstock

Steve Carell

What must seem like a lifetime before he best became known to us as Michael Scott on The Office, Steve Carell was a mailman back in Littleton, Massachusetts. During his time as a letter carrier, the actor also spread a little Christmas cheer by responding to a child’s letter to Santa. “What I would do as a mail carrier is I would write a little hand-written note and say, ‘Your letter to Santa Claus has been picked up by special reindeer courier.’ And I’d leave it in the mailbox,” he said on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert. Find out 12 unusual things mail carriers see every day.

Kal PennEfren Landaos/Shutterstock

Kal Penn

Fresh off a stint on the FOX medical drama House, actor Kal Penn decided to leave Hollywood behind (if only temporarily) for a gig in the White House during the Obama administration. His title? Associate Director in the Office of Public Engagement. While Penn has resumed his acting career, he’s bringing his political experience to the small screen on ABC’s Designated Survivor, a series about what happens when a low-level Cabinet member becomes POTUS after a massive attack murders everyone in the line of succession above him. Check out this White House trivia you never knew.

Ina GartenGregory Pace/BEI/Shutterstock

Ina Garten

Before she was teaching us the benefits of using “good” olive oil and how to perfect a roast chicken, Ina Garten (also known as the Barefoot Contessa) held a strikingly different office job. During the 1970s, Garten worked as a top economist in the U.S. Office of Management and Budget.

Shirley TempleShutterstock

Shirley Temple

Possibly the most iconic child actor ever to hit Hollywood, Shirley Temple charmed audiences with her signature curls and cheerful demeanor. After an impressive show biz run, her acting career had dwindled by the late 1950s. By 1969, Temple was ready for her second act, choosing a career in foreign service with the UN General Assembly. She also served as U.S. Ambassador to Ghana and later Czechoslovakia. Read up on movie trivia facts you’ll never believe.

Ben SteinCharbonneau/BEI/Shutterstock

Ben Stein

Eighties movie fans will remember Ben Stein best as the man who famously uttered, “Bueller? Bueller?” in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off, but prior to that role he had a pretty impressive speechwriting career. Stein penned speeches for both Richard Nixon and Gerald Ford. Interestingly, he was born in Washington, D.C., so perhaps politics was always in his blood. He also worked for the Federal Trade Commission as an economist.

Dr. SeussUniversal History Archive/Shutterstock

Dr. Seuss

The man responsible for such treasures as The Cat in the Hat and Green Eggs and Ham once used his illustrating talents to work for the government. According to the U.S. Department of Defense, Dr. Seuss (real name Theodor Seuss Geisel) “drew posters for the Treasury Department and the War Production Board.”

Julia ChildUncredited/AP/Shutterstock

Julia Child

Julia Child may have experienced great joy sharing her recipes and cooking techniques with the world, but the culinary phenom also knew how to keep a secret…a government secret that is. It was during World War II that Child was a researcher for the Office Strategic Services (OSS), which is a United States intelligence agency. She also worked as Chief of the OSS Registry.

Wanda SykesChris Pizzello/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Wanda Sykes

Funny lady Wanda Sykes held a job far more serious than her more famous comedic roles might suggest. She worked for the National Security Agency. In an interview, Sykes told the Baltimore Sun: “I just really felt like I was wasting my time, government money, and taxpayers’ money working that job. I was doing well and getting promoted. But it was not fulfilling, I knew I should be doing something else.” Check out these bizarre things the government is actually allowed to do.

Walt WhitmanGlasshouse Images/Shutterstock

Walt Whitman

Famous for poems like “O Captain! My Captain!” and “Song of Myself,” Walt Whitman is naturally best associated with literature, not government. However, according to the National Parks Service, he once worked as a clerk in the Army Paymaster’s Office as well as the Department of the Interior for the federal government. Also of interest, Whitman served as a volunteer nurse during the Civil War.

Steven SeagalPicture Perfect/Shutterstock

Steven Seagal

Steven Seagal has more than 50 show biz credits to his name, most of which include playing butt-kicking characters in action movies. Although the Michigan-born actor continues to work in television and film, he became a volunteer sheriff’s deputy in both New Mexico and Texas, then followed that up with a stint as a Border Patrol officer. That gig paid him $15 an hour. Find out which hit movies were actually books first.

Walt DisneyMoviestore Collection/Shutterstock

Walt Disney

Long before there was Mickey Mouse, Walt Disney was working as a mail carrier for the United States Postal Service. He was only 16 at the time he held the job and delivered letters in his hometown of Chicago. For reference, this was right around 1918, meanwhile, Mickey’s first appearance in Steamboat Willie didn’t occur until 1928.

Bing CrosbyKobal/Shutterstock

Bing Crosby

Disney and Carell weren’t the only famous folks bringing mail to the people. Actor Bing Crosby was also a letter carrier. Hailing from Washington state, the White Christmas star worked a route in Spokane. Years later, after achieving Hollywood fame, Crosby would be commemorated on his very own U.S. postage stamp. Next, try your luck on these pop culture trivia questions people always get wrong.