Top UC Berkeley alumni in the arts world to name-drop

List of celebrities who went to Cal
Ariel Lung/Senior Staff

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UC Berkeley is an academically renowned school whose alumni have gone on to make groundbreaking scientific discoveries, win Nobel Prizes and change the course of history. But we also boast an alumnus who starred in “The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement,” which is arguably more fun to talk about. While references to famed engineer Butler Lampson or physicist Barry Barish may be hard to fit into a conversation, here are a few of the best UC Berkeley alumni in the entertainment world to bring out the next time you see your high school friends.

Chris Pine

Yes, everyone’s third-favorite Chris once graced UC Berkeley with his strikingly blue-eyed presence. He was an English major but, not surprisingly, was active in Berkeley’s theater department and even performed at the subterranean theater inside La Val’s Pizza. Only two years after graduating, Pine landed the role of the flirty Nicholas Devereaux in the sequel to “The Princess Diaries,” launching him into the hearts of millions of teenagers.

John Cho

You may know him as Harold Lee, as the guy who coined the acronym “MILF” in “American Pie” or as Hikaru Sulu 2.0. (Ironically, George Takei also went to UC Berkeley, but we don’t talk about him because he transferred to UCLA. Boo.) Just like Pine (his Captain Kirk counterpart), Cho studied English, and he fell into acting when he had to fill in for a role in his friend’s play. Thanks to another student who fell sick, we now have a trilogy of “Harold & Kumar” movies and the word “MILF” permanently ingrained in pop culture.

Gregory Peck

It makes sense that the man who would go on to play Atticus Finch went to the OG university for social justice warriors. During his time here, Peck was an English and pre-med student, rowed crew and was a kitchen helper at Gamma Phi Beta. Much like Cho, Peck was pushed into acting by a theater professor who approached him senior year, complaining about the lack of tall actors for a play, and persuaded Peck to try out. After being bitten by the acting bug, Peck headed straight to New York, even skipping his graduation. Yay for pushy professors, right? Some say if you whisper “Gregory Peck” three times in the corridors of Dwinelle Hall, his ghost will appear and lecture you about racial inequality.  

Young Jean Lee

Theater aficionados and Broadway lovers will recognize Lee’s name from her hit play “Straight White Men,” which debuted on Broadway last year, making Lee the first Asian American woman to have a play produced on Broadway. And to think, it only took more than 250 years for this milestone! Even before “Straight White Men,” Lee had been in the theater scene for years, with her works touring everywhere around the world — from Athens to Zagreb. Tragically, however, Lee now resides as a professor in Stanford’s theater department.

Ki Hong Lee

Perpetually baby-faced Lee of “Maze Runner” and “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” fame (or, if you’re a die-hard ABC Family fan, you know him from the short-lived “The Nine Lives of Chloe King”) only graduated from UC Berkeley about a decade ago, in 2008. Although he had been acting since middle school, Lee studied psychology in college. In true academic-fatigue fashion, it was only after realizing that he would have to attend grad school to become a licensed psychologist that he turned back to acting. Thank goodness he did, or else Berkeley wouldn’t be able to brag about having 2014’s fourth-sexiest man alive.

Brenda Song

It may be hard to imagine London Tipton at a public school, but Song studied psychology and business online and graduated from UC Berkeley in 2009, shortly after “The Suite Life of Zack & Cody” ended. After graduating, 2006’s “queen of Disney” went on to play Christy Lee in “The Social Network” and London Tipton again in “The Suite Life Movie.” Nowadays, you can catch her on ABC’s “Station 19” and in Netflix’s “Secret Obsession,” and you can also find her dating Macaulay Culkin from “Home Alone.”

Tom Holland

Yes, you can name-drop that the world-famous Tom Holland went to UC Berkeley — just not Tom Holland, everyone’s favorite British Spider-Man turned internet boyfriend. It’s visual artist Tom Holland, renowned for his work with fiberglass and aluminum!

Contact Julie Lim at [email protected].