Moviegoers remember first encountering Sean Penn as surfer-stoner Jeff Spicoli in the 1982 coming-of-age comedy Fast Times at Ridgemont High. But Penn’s acting debut actually came in 1974, when he had a small role in an episode of Little House on the Prairie – directed by his father, Lea Penn.
“The Voice of Tinker Jones” is the 11th episode in the first season of Little House on the Prairie and it aired in 1974. Leo Penn directed the episode, and he cast his wife Eileen Ryan and son Sean Penn in the episode.
In the episode, Sean Penn appeared as an uncredited extra; and it was Penn’s first-ever TV role. At the time, Sean Penn was 13 years old. While the role was uncredited, Little House on the Prairie still served as Penn’s debut as an actor.
Over the years, Sean Penn has gone on to receive acclaim for his work. He won Academy Awards for his roles in the 2003 film Mystic River and the 2008 film Milk.