It’s easy to look back at Dawson’s Creek as just another teen melodrama of the late 1990s. However, the show has actually left quite a legacy since it wrapped its sixth and final season in 2003.
For one, Dawson’s Creek helped redefine and solidify the WB Network after a few years of struggling to find a mainstream audience. Alongside Buffy, the Vampire Slayer and Gilmore Girls, the series shaped the network into an early version of its current form as The CW, which features plenty of teen-focused series in the same vein, like Jane the Virgin, Riverdale, and more.
On top of that, it sports an impressive ensemble of young actors, many of whom went on to find tremendous success in Hollywood. It isn’t just the stars of the show who continue to headline projects, either—nearly every character of substance from Dawson’s Creek is still working in film and television today, often headlining their own projects.
We don’t wanna wait. Here’s what happened to the cast of Dawson’s Creek.
James Van Der Beek – Dawson Leery
It’s impossible to separate Dawson’s Creek from actor James Van Der Beek, who portrayed the title character and instantly shot to stardom. Van Der Beek’s main era in the spotlight was during the late 1990s and early 2000s, but he’s always seemed comfortable with the spotlight and has a self-deprecating sense of humor that has continued to win fans over.
After the series began, Van Der Beek landed major roles in films like Varsity Blues and The Rules of Attraction, playing up his young heartthrob looks and charm. He still occasionally pops up in films, but often in memorable bit parts instead of starring roles.
Van Der Beek has landed several starring or recurring roles on television in the last several years. He played Dr. Joe Briggs as part of the ensemble of the short-lived NBC drama Mercy, and then played a self-centered, sad-sack version of himself as part of the main cast of Don’t Trust the B––– in Apartment 23. He had a lead role on CSI: Cyber, which lasted for just a few seasons. More recently, you might’ve seen him on Ryan Murphy’s Pose or heard him as the voice of Boris on Disney’s Vampirina.
Katie Holmes – Joey Potter
Katie Holmes had a pretty impressive debut in film and television. In addition to playing Joey on Dawson’s Creek, she also appeared in the notable films Go, Disturbing Behavior, and Teaching Mrs. Tingle (starring Helen Mirren!), all within the same year. Holmes has had a solid acting career, but she’s probably better known for her personal life at this point.
Things looked pretty promising for Holmes after Dawson’s Creek concluded. She was cast as Rachel Dawes in Batman Begins and had a small role in Thank You for Smoking. She then met Tom Cruise and, just seven weeks after they met, got engaged. Holmes and Cruise were an extremely "it" couple for a long time. In addition to the fact that Cruise was a well-established movie star and Holmes a young actress, the additional Scientology element also kept people fascinated. They divorced in 2012, but it did seem to damage Holmes’ career.
She has recovered in the years since, however, though she continues to put motherhood first. Holmes played Jackie Kennedy in the miniseries The Kennedys, and also had a memorable arc as Paige Finney on Ray Donovan. More recently, she starred in horror flick Brahms: The Boy 2. She also has a few projects in the works, and has shown a talent for directing.
Michelle Williams – Jen Lindley
Everyone thinks of Dawson and Joey when they remember Dawson’s Creek, but we can’t let Jen escape our attention. Played by Michelle Williams, Jen starts the series as a complete mess who’s been sent to Capeside to live with her grandmother. Her upbringing is different from the other lead characters, providing a totally unique perspective to life in the town.
Williams has shown extreme talent in taking on dark and tragic roles over the years. She’s been nominated for Academy Awards on four separate occasions, but has yet to win. Two of her nominations were for her memorable supporting roles in both Brokeback Mountain and Manchester by the Sea. Her two nominations for leading roles came from 2010’s Blue Valentine and 2011’s My Week With Marilyn.
Williams will probably gun for another Oscar with her role in the biopic Fever, where she stars as singer Peggy Lee. Some other recent roles include Anne Weying in Venom and its sequel, Charity Barnum in The Greatest Showman, and Gwen Verdon in the miniseries Fosse/Verdon.
Joshua Jackson – Pacey Witter
Only four actors are credited as appearing in every episode of Dawson’s Creek: James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams, and Joshua Jackson. Jackson played Pacey on the series, rounding out the central cast.
Like the other stars of Dawson’s Creek, Jackson had some major appearances while the series was airing. He has continued to find success, mainly on other television series, in the years following the show’s run. A few years after the Dawson’s Creek finale, Jackson landed another starring role in the sci-fi series Fringe as Peter Bishop. Fringe ran until 2013, and then he landed yet another major role on the series The Affair, where he played Cole Lockhart.
Jackson has had success as a stage actor, and has also appeared in a few major miniseries. Look for him on Little Fires Everywhere as the husband of Reese Witherspoon‘s Elena and on Dr. Death alongside Alec Baldwin, Christian Slater, and Carrie Preston.
Mary Beth Peil – Evelyn ‘Grams’ Ryan
When most people imagine the cast of Dawson’s Creek, they generally remember the beautiful 20-somethings who make up the core group. Even though it was billed as a teen drama, most of the supporting cast was older, as parents and other authority figures were central to the show’s story. Actress Mary Beth Peil is one of the most memorable, playing Jen’s religious grandmother, Evelyn "Grams" Ryan.
Peil was a renowned stage actress before being cast as Grams, earning a Tony Award nomination for her role in a 1985 run of The King and I. She has returned to the stage several times since then, appearing in several other performances and receiving yet another Tony nomination in 2017 for her role in Anastasia.
On the film and television side of things, Peil had a few major movie appearances, such as 2006’s Flags of Our Fathers and 2008’s Mirrors. Her biggest television role since Dawson’s Creek came from The Good Wife, where she played Peter’s mother, Jackie.
Kerr Smith – Jack McPhee
Even though actor Kerr Smith didn’t show up until season two of Dawson’s Creek, there’s no denying that he played one of the central characters of the series for the remainder of its run. Smith portrayed Jack, who joined the show as a love interest/rebound for Joey before becoming popular enough to warrant his own character development.
Smith has carved out quite a career for himself, taking on many recurring television roles and a handful of lead performances. He hasn’t worked much in film since his early years in acting, when he appeared in a number of horror films, like Final Destination.
On the TV side, however, Smith has been all over the place. After Dawson’s Creek ended, Smith landed main roles on the legal drama Justice and the military drama E-Ring. Neither of those series made it past its first season, however. He had a little more luck with The Fosters and Life Unexpected, on which he played Robert Quinn and Ryan Thomas, respectively.
More recently, you may have caught Kerr Smith on the absolutely bananas show Riverdale, where he plays Principal Holden Honey.
Mary-Margaret Humes – Gail Leery
Throughout the show’s run, Dawson’s parents go through almost as much drama as he and his friends do. Dawson’s mother, Gail, is played by actress Mary-Margaret Humes, and her on-again-off-again marriage to Mitch shows that relationship hurdles never stop, no matter how much the people involved grow up.
Before she got into acting, Humes began as a model. She was named Miss Florida and entered the Miss USA pageant in 1975, taking third runner up. She started making guest appearances on several television series not long after, and also appeared in films like History of the World: Part I as Miriam and Eerie, Indiana as the main character’s mother.
Since Dawson’s Creek came to an end, Humes has had a relatively low-key acting career. She still occasionally makes guest appearances on television series, but her bread-and-butter gig seems to be Hallmark Channel movies, including Winter Love Story, A Valentine’s Match, and Christmas in Love.
Nina Repeta – Bessie Potter
Bessie, Joey’s older sister, had to be strong at a very early age. Without parents to rely on, Bessie had to essentially act as a mother for Joey when she was still a teenager. Played by actress Nina Repeta, Bessie balanced being a young adult and acting as a good support system for Joey.
Repeta has a pretty bare list of credited roles, but she still is an active actress and works in other areas of the entertainment industry. She occasionally makes guest appearances on shows like The Originals, and she’s popped up as a background character in a few big movies, like The SpongeBob Movie: Sponge on the Run.
Repeta seems to focus more of her energy on music. She has an impressive vocal range and mostly performs classic blues and standards. Her son, Michael Banks Repeta, also seems to have caught the acting bug from his mother. Even though he’s still fairly young, he’s appeared in major productions like The Outsider, Lovecraft Country, and The Devil All the Time.
John Wesley Shipp – Mitch Leery
Dawson’s father, Mitch, goes through quite a few ups and downs during his run on Dawson’s Creek. Played by veteran actor John Wesley Shipp, Mitch has enough charm, old-school good looks, and dark secrets to make him every bit as compelling and memorable as the younger focuses of the series.
Shipp has found a home on a number of series over his career. Besides Dawson’s Creek, he had recurring roles on Teen Wolf as Mr. Lahey and One Life to Live as Eddie Ford. Shipp is probably best known for his recent roles on the Arrowverse shows on The CW. He first appeared on The Flash as Henry Allen and has since made appearances on many other series through various crossover events. It’s a role he’s fit into very nicely: Shipp actually played Barry Allen (aka The Flash) on the short-lived series all the way back in 1991. No wonder it comes so naturally to him!
Meredith Monroe – Andie McPhee
Another important character in Dawson’s Creek who didn’t show up until the second season is Andie, sister to Jack McPhee. Played by actress Meredith Monroe, Andie is innocent and enthusiastic by nature, even in the face of the extreme hardships her family goes through.
Over the years since Dawson’s Creek came to an end, Meredith Monroe has carved out a pretty impressive career just from appearances on various series. She occasionally lands recurring roles, but you’ve most likely seen her in a single-episode guest role somewhere or another. The Closer, NCIS, The Mentalist, Bones, and more are all some of the guest spots where you may have caught Meredith Monroe.
If you’re looking for some of Monroe’s more substantial roles, you might recognize her as Haley Hotchner from Criminal Minds. Her run on the show ended in 2013. More recently, she appeared in the film The Edge of Seventeen as Greer, and she also has a substantial role on 13 Reasons Why as Carolyn Standall.
Busy Philipps – Audrey Liddell
Actress Busy Philipps joined the Dawson’s Creek party pretty late; her character, Audrey Liddell, didn’t show up until the show’s fifth season. Still, she became a central character over the show’s final two seasons as Joey’s friend and college roommate. By the time she appeared on Dawson’s Creek, she’d already picked up some name recognition from the excellent Freaks and Geeks.
Busy Philipps has had an impressive career in the years since Dawson’s Creek, and she’s also used her celebrity to address social issues that are important to her. The role she’s probably best known for these days is Laurie Keller on Cougar Town, but she’s also had recurring roles on shows like ER and Vice Principals, as well as one-off appearances on hit shows like Search Party, New Girl, and Arrested Development. Philipps has also appeared in a number of films, often in smaller supporting roles. Look for her in White Chicks, Made of Honor, The Gift, and I Feel Pretty. She also hosted the E! Talk show Busy Tonight from 2018-2019.
Philipps is a major advocate for abortion rights, and started the hashtag #youknowme to encourage women to share their stories and help eliminate the stigma of abortions. She shared that she had an abortion at age 15, and has helped to raise awareness and fight against state laws that restrict the procedure.