Celebs You Didn’t Realize Were Cousins
We had no idea some of these famous folks were related.
Celebrity couples are a dime a dozen. Of course it’s exciting when our favorite celebs get together or get engaged. (Did you see the ring Orlando Bloom gave Katy Perry? Who couldn’t gawk?!) And, of course, we swoon at the news of celebrity babies (yes, we followed every photo Joanna Gaines posted of baby Crew).
For some celebrities — like the entire Kardashian clan — their celeb status is all in the family. But others are much more quiet about their fellow famous family members. Here are some famous cousins that you might not have known were related in the first place.
Larry David And Bernie Sanders
Larry David’s impersonations of Bernie Sanders on “Saturday Night Live” were so on the nose they almost seemed too good to be true — and maybe they were. It turns out David wasn’t just really Feeling the Bern. The two are distant cousins, but neither of them knew it until Henry Louis Gates Jr. revealed that they are related on a 2017 episode of PBS’s “Finding Your Roots.” In the episode, the senator from Vermont and the director/writer/actor turn a page in the album about their heritage and discover a photo of the other. Both laugh at the surprise. “That is amazing,” David says. “All right, cousin Bernie.”
When they appeared side by side on “SNL” — it was easy to see the resemblance.
Melissa McCarthy And Jenny McCarthy
Actor Melissa McCarthy is a superstar now, but she got her start in Hollywood with a little bit of help from her cousin, TV host Jenny McCarthy.
“When she was starting out, I was fortunate enough to be in a position to get her a job on a show I was doing, to learn the ropes and get some experience on a TV set in front of the camera and behind the scenes,” Jenny told People. “She has accomplished everything she has accomplished through hard work and her extraordinary talent.”
The two don’t seem to have much of a relationship now, however. In fact, Melissa didn’t attend Jenny’s wedding to Donnie Wahlberg in 2014.
Al Roker And Lenny Kravitz
“Today” host Al Roker and rocker (and “Hunger Games” actor) Lenny Kravitz are related. Kravitz and Roker’s grandparents were cousins. And the two aren’t the only celebrities in the family.
Kravitz’s mother, Roxie Roker, was an actor who was well known for her role on the 1970s and 1980s TV sitcom “The Jeffersons.” Roxie was from the Bahamas originally, so it’s no surprise that Al traveled there on his quest to learn more about his ancestry — a journey that eventually took him to Senegal. Al learned that the family name “Roker” likely came from a Bahamian slave owner, and local documents traced his family there back to his great-great-grandfather, Robert Roker.
Snoop Dogg And Brandy And Ray J
Snoop Dogg and singer and actor Brandy are first cousins, and the two have even collaborated on a song, 2009’s “Special” (which also features Pharrell).
“We never really told the world because we weren’t trippin’ off of that, but that’s my family,” Snoop said in a 2006 interview with MTV of learning they were related. (Snoop’s mother is from McComb, Mississippi, which is where Brandy was born.)
Brandy’s more-public relation is her brother Ray J, a rapper and reality TV star. The siblings even had a VH1 reality series in 2010, “Brandy and Ray J: A Family Business.” The two are still close and mention each other on social media sometimes.
Nicolas Cage And Sofia Coppola
Director Sofia Coppola and actor Nicolas Cage are first cousins — and they once shared their famous last name. Sofia’s father is famed director and producer Francis Ford Coppola. Cage’s father, August Coppola, is Francis’ brother.
Cage told the Huffington Post that he decided changed his last name after some bad experiences with other actors, who resented what they perceived as his access via his famous uncle, on the set of “Fast Times at Ridgemont High.”
“So it wasn’t until I auditioned for ‘Valley Girl’ — where Martha Coolidge did not know who I was. I had already changed my name to Cage and I had this weight come off my body and I went, ‘Wow, I really can do this.’ And I felt liberated by that experience,” he told HuffPo.
Jason Schwartzman And Roman Coppola
But wait! There are more famous cousins in the Coppola family — a family whose members are so thoroughly ingrained in the entertainment industry that it prompted Hollywood Reporter to make a rather large and exhaustive family tree to explain how folks in this clan are related (to each other and Hollywood).
Actor and writer Jason Schwartzman’s mother, Talia Shire, is Francis Ford Coppola’s sister. Screenwriter and producer Roman Coppola is Sofia Coppola’s brother, thus Schwartzman and Roman (and Sofia, for that matter) are cousins. Roman and Schwartzman often collaborate, sometimes on films with Wes Anderson, whose movies have featured Schwartzman in a starring role as an actor. The cousins were co-writers on the Amazon series “Mozart in the Jungle.”
Ira Glass And Philip Glass
Ira Glass, whose voice so many know from listening to “This American Life,” and iconic classical music composer Philip Glass are second cousins; Philip is Ira’s father’s cousin.
The two barely knew each other when Ira interviewed Philip for NPR in 1999, and though they didn’t directly address it in the interview, it was apparent.
“Our families both lived in Baltimore,” Ira said in the interview. “By the time I was old enough to sort of be awake to anything you had moved, first to Chicago and then here, then to New York.”
“No, I was here, I was in Chicago for about five years,” Philip said. “Fifty-two … ’52 to ’57.”
“That was before I was born,” Ira said.
Tom Cruise And William Mapother
Tom Cruise and William Mapother (well known to fans of ABC’s hit show “Lost”) are first cousins. Cruise, whose birth name is also Mapother, and William grew up in Louisville, Kentucky. Their fathers are brothers.
Cruise helped Mapother get a foothold in Hollywood. In fact, many of Mapother’s early movie credits are on films in which Cruise had a leading role. Mapother has said he makes a point to avoid talking about his more-famous cousin, since he feels that whatever he says could too easily be misunderstood or taken out of context.
Shaquille O’Neal And Bill Bellamy
Comedian Bill Bellamy and NBA superstar Shaquille O’Neal are cousins, and they do the usual things families do. When a reporter at The News and Observer asked Bellamy who was funnier, Bellamy or his cousin, Bellamy replied, “Shaq thinks he’s funnier than me. He’s a big, loving guy. You see how massive he is but he’s just a big Teddy Bear. It’s amazing how successful we both became. We still do a lot of stuff together. Our kids play basketball together. My son is 12 and his younger son is 15. Our families have a blast hanging out.”
Marisa Tomei And Julianne Moore
Julianne Moore and Marisa Tomei have starred in a movie together, worked on the same soap and both attended Boston University in the 1980s. And then they discovered yet another thing they have in common: DNA.
The actors learned in a January 2019 episode of “Finding Your Roots” that they share an identical stretch of DNA on their X chromosomes. The genetic connection was a surprise to the show’s researchers, who couldn’t find any Italian ancestors of Moore, while they could only find Italian ancestors on Tomei’s family tree.
Tomei and Moore both took to Instagram to share their excitement, with Tomei writing, “What an incredible gift to find out about my family’s roots with @HenryLouisGates! Eternally grateful for this generation and generations to come…. and the big surprise — discovering my friend is my REAL cousin! Hey cuz @juliannemoore!!!! Love.”
Whitney Houston And Dionne Warwick
These amazing vocalists were first cousins, as their mothers were sisters. The cousins grew up in New Jersey, but not at the same time — Warwick was born nearly 23 years before the late Houston, whose mother was the youngest of eight siblings in the family (Warwick’s mother was the second eldest of the siblings).
When a CBS Sunday Morning reporter asked Warwick what Houston was like as a girl, she said, “I loved her very deeply; still do. Enormously talented young lady. Gorgeous to look at. She’s a sweetheart, you know, and will always be. And that’s all I’m gonna say about Whitney.”
Hillary Clinton And Madonna
The former Secretary of State and the queen of pop are distant — and we mean distant — cousins. A Washington, DC, genealogist’s research confirmed that the two are 10th cousins. We’ll spare you the nine greats that would explain the relative they have in common, Pierre Gagné, and just say it goes back 10 generations into their French-Canadian heritage. In this line, Clinton also shares an ancestor with Angelina Jolie.
During an appearance on “Ellen” in 2008, Clinton confirmed that Madonna is her 10th cousin. And Degeneres’ graphics department had some fun with the family tree, superimposing Clinton’s head on a pic of the pop star, and giving her the same plump lips as Jolie.
Glenn Close And Brooke Shields
Actors Glenn Close and Brooke Shields are second cousins once removed. Close’s grandfather, Charles Arthur Moore Jr., is the brother of Shields’ great-grandmother, Mary Elsie Moore. Though the two haven’t appeared together on screen, Close did help Shields out by stepping in when Shields was recovering from foot surgery. Shields had a charity event at Carnegie Hall, narrating the children’s book “Runaway Bunny.” But when her doctor told her she couldn’t fly to the event, Close offered to fill in and play the part of the narrator that evening.
Amy Schumer And Chuck Schumer
The longtime senator from New York and the comedian known for her raunchy (and hilarious) humor are related. Amy’s father is Chuck’s first cousin.
The two took to the public stage together in 2015, after a shooting at a showing of Amy’s movie, “Trainwreck,” in Lafayette, Louisiana, to call for tighter gun laws and funding for mental health services. Amy has also come to Chuck’s defense on social media when the senator has been under political attack. However, when it comes to politics, the two don’t always agree. They supported different candidates in the New York governor race last year.
Henry Winkler And Richard Belzer
Henry Winkler and Richard Belzer are first cousins. They were born about a year apart, and both have had busy acting careers, but they took quite different paths to stardom. Winkler was born in New York and got into Yale’s drama school on his audition (despite his poor grades). He moved to Los Angeles to take a shot at getting into television, and it worked — he landed a role after two weeks.
Like his cousin, Belzer wasn’t the best student. A lifelong activist, he was kicked out of several schools for his involvement in demonstrations. He got into acting via his connections from his sketch comedy career. He ended up in one of Winkler’s films, “Night Shift,” before landing the role he’s so well-known for now, Detective Munch on “Law & Order.” Winkler later guest starred on “Law & Order” in 2002.
Sissy Spacek And Rip Torn
“30 Rock” fans know Rip Torn for his role as Don Geiss, the mentor to Alec Baldwin’s character, Jack Donaghy. But Academy Award-winning actor Sissy Spacek knows him as her older cousin who helped her acting career when she was just a teenager. Torn and Spacek grew up in Texas; his mother, Thelma Mary Spacek, is the sister of Sissy’s father, Edwin Arnold Spacek Sr.
Torn (Rip is a family name, his real first name is Elmore) hitchhiked to California to pursue a career in acting. He became more dedicated to the craft of acting and decided to move to New York to study with Lee Strasberg at the famed Actors Studio. When cousin Sissy was just 17, she moved to New York to pursue an acting and singing career, staying with Torn while she sought out gigs. He even helped her enroll in the Actors Studio.
Matt Damon And Ben Affleck
We all know that Matt Damon and Ben Affleck are besties, and that they can write a wicked-good screenplay when they put their heads together. But it turns out they’re related, too.
The New England Genealogical Society determined that the actors are 10th cousins once removed. The distant relative they have in common is William Knowlton Jr., a bricklayer from Ipswich, Massachusetts. However, being cousins via a relative so far back means you’re related to other famous folks as well, as the Daily Beast pointed out: According to the family tree, Affleck is also related to Princess Diana and 16 U.S. presidents, including Barack Obama, and Damon is related to 11 former presidents.
Jay DeMarcus And Gary LeVox
Rascal Flatts is two-thirds a family band. Two of the three members of the trio, Gary LeVox and Jay DeMarcus, are second cousins. The two grew up together in Columbus, Ohio, but DeMarcus moved to Nashville after college to pursue a career in contemporary Christian music. Though they’d fallen out of touch, they reconnected.
“We always had the ability … to pick up right where we left off,” DeMarcus told Taste of Country. He convinced LeVox to move there, too, and they started playing together — though things really clicked the first time they played and sang with Joe Don Rooney.
The cousins still clearly appreciate their family connection.
“I have always been amazed at Jay’s talent and have always been his biggest fan,” LeVox told Columbus Monthly. “But the chance to share the stage and do all of this crazy, amazing, wonderful, record-breaking things with my cousin? It’s still unbelievable.”
Kate Middleton And Dakota And Elle Fanning
Researchers at Ancestry.com discovered that not only are the Fanning sisters related to Kate Middleton, but they’re also distant descendants of King Edward III, who ruled England in the 1300s. The actors are his 22nd great-grandchildren. They share a great-grandmother 20 generations back, Phillipa of Clarence. So, yeah, they went way back on that family tree … and reports on the findings still called them “long-lost princesses.”
Middleton’s mother is also a descendant of King Edward III, and the researchers found that Kate is also a distant cousin to Ellen Degeneres.
Queen Elizabeth And Prince Philip
Queen Elizabeth and Prince Philip have been married for more than 70 years, but there’s more than marriage to their familial bond.
Elizabeth was the eldest child of Britain’s King George, while Philip was born Prince of Denmark and Greece to Princess Alice of Battenberg. Sounds like they aren’t related … but the Queen and the Duke of Edinburgh share a great-great-grandmother, Queen Victoria, making them third cousins.
However, it’s common in royal families for distant cousins to be married, and as Heart points out, being third cousins isn’t a big deal — especially when you consider that their shared descendant, Queen Victoria, and her husband Prince Albert were first cousins.
Kyra Sedgwick And Kevin Bacon
Royals aren’t the only families that have close ties between spouses. Kyra Sedgwick and Kevin Bacon knew they’d be subject to the “six degrees of separation” game when they went on “Finding Your Roots,” but they learned on the show that the game circles back to make them more than just husband and wife.
Sedgwick expressed concern from the start that they’d learn they’re related, and when Henry Louis Gates Jr. tells her that her husband is also her ninth cousin once removed, she says, “See, I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! I knew it! I knew it!”
Bacon later seemed chill about the connection, saying in a TV commercial, “It’s a beautiful concept that we are connected. That we all, essentially, kind of climbed out of the same swamp. It’s fun to be at the forefront of that idea.”
They’ve been married for more than 30 years.
Prince Charles And Ralph Fiennes
Actor Ralph Fiennes has never played Prince Charles, but he has been on stage before him. Fiennes performed an excerpt from “Bleak House” by Charles Dickens live for a celebration for the 200th anniversary of the writer’s birthday that the royal family, including the prince, attended.
However, that’s as close as Fiennes is likely to get to the royal bloodline, even though he and the prince are distant cousins — eighth to be exact. The relative they have in common? James II of Scotland, who ruled in the 1400s.
Bill Maher And Bill O’Reilly
These two Bills — firebrands on opposite ends of the political spectrum — discovered on “Finding Your Roots” that they do have one thing in common: an ancestor. DNA evidence found the ancestor, a male from Kingdom of Breifne in Ireland.
“It just shows you what a great place America is,” Maher said when Henry Louis Gates Jr. presented him with the finding that he and O’Reilly are distant cousins. “Because we’re about as opposite as you can possibly get.”
O’Reilly had a different reaction. “Oh, geez,” he said. “You’re going to have to put him on 24-hour medical watch.”
Halle Berry And Sarah Palin
As we’ve noted, looking far back in your ancestry can lead to some unexpected ties. And sometimes you don’t have to be looking for distant cousins to find them — with the popularity of genealogy sites, others can easily find them for you. Halle Berry didn’t say just how far back you have to go to find her connection with former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin, but she did confirm it while promoting “Cloud Atlas” with Tom Hanks on Extra.
“In some twisted way,” she said. “Somebody sent me this information that she was my distant …” Hanks jumped in as Berry shrugged off the connection to say, “This is the ‘Cloud Atlas’ continuum!”
Fantasia Barrino And K-Ci And JoJo
“American Idol” winner Fantasia Barrino is the cousin of brothers and R&B duo K-Ci and JoJo. K-Ci and JoJo grew up as Cedric and Joel Hailey, and are one of the two sets of brothers in the iconic group Jodeci.
The three grew up in North Carolina, and there’s no doubt this is a musical family: Fantasia’s uncles, the Barrino Brothers, had a rhythm-and-blues band in the 1970s, too. K-Ci answered a question from VH1 in 2013 about collaborating with their cousin, saying, “If we don’t do it out here we’ll do it in church, so you might want to come to Sunday service sometime.”
John Turturro And Aida Turturro
Aida Turturro of “Sopranos” and “Law & Order: SVU” fame, and “Barton Fink” actor and filmmaker John Turturro don’t just share a last name. They’re first cousins.
Aida was shy as a kid, but with her cousin John already getting into acting, as well as her sister and John’s brother, it seemed like the way to go, especially after she started doing plays in college.
“You think of a family where everyone’s in construction or they’re all lawyers and it’s like any other business — except that it’s public,” Aida told the Baltimore Sun. The two have worked together on a stage production of “Italian Folk Tales.”
Stacey Dash And Damon Dash
Stacey Dash, who is known for her role in “Clueless” as Cher’s bestie Dionne, and later as a Fox News commentator, and Damon “Dame” Dash, who founded Rock-A-Fella Records with Jay-Z and Kareem “Biggs” Burke, are first cousins. But it sounds like these cousins aren’t on speaking terms.
Stacey’s controversial statements have alienated some fans — and some members of her family. After threatening to sue her cousin over a poster for one of his movies, Ebony reported she’d said, “My family and I have not spoken. My cousin Damon and my brother (Darien, CEO of DME Interactive Holdings) were role models to me because they were great capitalists. Now we’re not really talking because they were the ones who told me to keep my mouth shut.”
Gwyneth Paltrow And Katherine Moennig
The star of the Showtime hit “The L Word” and the founder of Goop are cousins. But from what Moennig has said about her cousin in the press, the two may not be tight. A Los Angeles Times reporter asked her about a reference on her Wikipedia page that says her friends call her “Alt.Gwyn.” She replied, “I can guarantee you none of my friends ever called me that.” And a New York Observer interview with Moennig noted that her face froze when the reporter mentioned Paltrow, and she “folded her arms and leaned away from the table.”
Sarah Ferguson And Princess Diana
They didn’t know it when Diana was alive, but the princess and her friend and relation-by-marriage Sarah Ferguson are distant cousins. Each married a prince in the British royal family — Diana famously married Prince Charles and Ferguson married his younger brother, Prince Andrew.
But it turns out Diana and Fergie are distant relatives of William Cavendish, who was the fourth Duke of Devonshire in the 1700s. But here’s something extra-funny about this connection: It makes both of them distant cousins of their husbands, too.
Franklin Delano Roosevelt And Eleanor Roosevelt
We’d be remiss if we didn’t mention the Roosevelts. Though being related isn’t as common in America’s first families as it is for Europe’s royalty, it has happened here. President Franklin Delano Roosevelt and his First Lady Eleanor Roosevelt were fifth cousins once removed. Eleanor was the niece of President Theodore Roosevelt; Franklin was Theodore’s fifth cousin. They met when they were children, and the two married when Eleanor was 20 and Franklin was 22. The ancestor Eleanor and Franklin had in common landed in New York — it was New Amsterdam at the time — in the 1600s.