The NCIS Episode You Forgot Starred Zac Efron

"High School Musical" launched the careers of Vanessa Hudgens and Zac Efron into the stratosphere, but in the intervening time, similar to the young actors whose lives were irrevocably changed by "Twilight" and "Harry Potter," they've made strides to establish themselves as serious performers. Although Efron became known as the hunky goofball in films including "Neighbors" and "Baywatch," he took risks over the years too, most notably by playing serial killer Ted Bundy in "Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile." 

In fact, a 2016 profile of the star in The Times pled in its headline, "Take me seriously." Harpers Bazaar charted how Efron worked hard to establish himself as a viable performer beyond just his looks, while also trying not to upset anybody who appreciated him solely in that capacity. "Extremely Wicked" director Joe Berlinger confirmed the former teen star was his "first choice" to play Bundy, and he ended up taking "a 99 per cent pay cut" just to make the project happen, which further showcases Efron's commitment to his craft. 

Funnily enough, prior to breaking out in "High School Musical," Efron popped up in "NCIS," looking every inch the superstar he was about to become. However, even underneath the floppy hair and goofy exterior, it was clear Efron had something special.

Zac Efron was on the cusp of mega-stardom in NCIS

As Showbiz Cheat Sheet notes, procedurals like "NCIS" are fertile ground for up-and-coming actors looking to show off what they can do. "Law & Order" has a reputation for featuring virtually every New Yorker at some point, as Elizabeth Banks quipped after her own appearance, but "NCIS" is similarly flush with talent.

Zac Efron starred in a Season 3 episode of the hit show entitled "Deception," as a character named Daniel, who's hauled in for questioning after unintentionally getting himself involved in the kidnapping of an officer, per The Express. According to Hello! magazine, Efron was just 19 at the time. It was a small role, but the actor's demonstrable talent shone through, and indeed just a short while later "High School Musical" dropped, setting Efron on course for the career he has today. 

Although the actor has mostly left his musical roots behind, Efron subsequently starred in "Hairspray" and "The Greatest Showman." He's eager to show off more of his skill set, however, revealing during a 2019 appearance on "The Graham Norton Show," while promoting "Extremely Wicked" that, despite having "reservations" about playing Ted Bundy, Efron "knew" he could do it. 

The actor explained, via USA Today, "I just didn't want to jump at something that could be seen as a desperate shot at trying to change my image," adding, "It was a unique experience and not what anyone expects. It makes me proud."