I already wrote about actors better known for their film roles moving (back) into TV-land, but the ranks of those moving the other way must be almost infinite. It’s normal for actors to graduate from working in television to the movies, and it would be nigh on impossible to make a comprehensive list, or even a representative overview. Nonetheless I thought I’d share some of my favourites.
21 Jump Street
21 Jump Street was an 80s show with a slightly ridiculous premise about young-looking undercover cops investigating teenage crime and imparting PSAs about everything from drugs to sex and back again. The first four seasons starred Johnny Depp back before he started playing against (the teen idol) type in lots of Tim Burton films (Edward Scissorhands, Sleepy Hollow, Alice in Wonderland) and plenty of others (Fear and Loathing, the Pirates of the Caribbean series, The Imaginarium of Dr Parnassus). Depp wasn’t the only nascent star on the show either, check out baby Brad Pitt’s guest spot:
Veronica Mars starred Kirsten Bell as a student-cum-PI. This was Bell’s breakout role, and she gained more exposure after its cancellation through a stint on Heroes and as the voice of the eponymous- if mysterious- narrator of Gossip Girl. She’s also gone on to star in films like Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Fanboys and Couples Retreat- and has a role in the film I think I’m most excited about for 2011, Scream 4. The first season also featured Amanda Seyfried (who went on to act in Big Love before focussing on films) as Veronica’s dead best friend Lilly Kane. She was only supposed to be in a few episodes (in slightly misty flashbacks) but Rob Thomas, the show’s creator, was so impressed by her she ended up in more. Since then she’s been in Mamma Mia!, Jennifer’s Body and Letters to Juliet- and I’m eagerly anticipating her Little Red Riding Hood, also scheduled for release in 2011.
Young Americans is one of my favourite shows of all time- a short-lived sort-of Dawson’s Creek spin-off about a group of friends growing up in a small town, revolving around Will Krudski (Rodney Scott) a boy from the wrong side of the tracks who wins a scholarship to the prestigious Rawley Academy- that really needs to be released on DVD already. Despite only lasting eight episodes this show seemed to have it all, exploring (possible) incest, social class, philosophy and Calvin and Hobbes. Not only did it give us The Vampire Diaries‘ Ian Somerhalder and The L Word‘s Katherine Moennig, it also featured Kate Bosworth. Bosworth has gone on to star in films like Blue Crush, Beyond the Sea and Superman Returns. Another Young American who’s featured on the big screen as an adult quite a bit is Michelle Monaghan (Mission Impossible III, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, Made of Honor) who guest starred in two episodes (or a quarter of the show) as Will’s love interest Caroline Busse.
I still have no real idea what this show was about, aside from Jessica Alba in leather. Anyone? Anyone? …Bueller? Well Wikipedia calls it an:
American biopunk/cyberpunk science fiction television series created by James Cameron and Charles H. Eglee…Set in a post-apocalyptic Seattle, the show chronicles the life of Max Guevara (X5-452), a genetically enhanced super-soldier, portrayed by Jessica Alba as an adult and Geneva Locke as a child, who, after escaping from a covert government biotech/military facility as a child, tries to lead some semblance of a normal life and constantly try to elude capture by government agents, while searching for her genetically-enhanced brothers and sisters scattered in the aftermath of their escape.
I’m still lost, but it did seem to launch the career of Jessica Alba (Sin City, Fantastic Four, Machete) so maybe it was doing something right. Plus you can’t really go too wrong with Jensen Ackles (who played twins Ben and Alec, or something):
The stars of Supernatural, Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester and Jared Padalecki as his brother Sam, don’t have stellar movie careers- although they have gained roles in genre films (Ackles in My Bloody Valentine 3-D and Padalecki in Friday the 13th) probably at least in part due to their work on the show. But back before Mark A. Sheppard was in absolutely everything on TV (Battlestar Galactica, Dollhouse, CSI, Leverage, Chuck, Warehouse 13, Supernatural, Dr Who- and that’s just since 2009!) there was Jeffrey Dean Morgan. Morgan had a tendency to play dead guys on TV (Weeds, Supernatural, Grey’s Anatomy), but seems to have given that up for a movie career (PS, I Love You, Watchmen, The Losers). That’s when he’s not too busy being introduced as Jared Padalecki’s boyfriend anyway. [Skip to the 3:30 mark if you don't want to listen to Jared waffling, though I can't imagine why you wouldn't.]
Supernatural’s Misha Collins (who plays the angel Castiel) also starred in Stonehenge Apocalypse, which deserves notoriety for possibly being the worst film of all time.
My So-Called Life
Oh, My So-called Life was so good! It was a 90s teen drama about a group of high school students, narrated (mostly) by Claire Danes’ character, Angela Chase who was, like, so totally in love with Jordan Catalano (Jared Leto). Their romance didn’t necessarily make all that much sense given that they kind of had the same hairstyle and I don’t really see how anyone could look at Devon Gummersall (who played Angela’s hapless neighbour Brian Krakow who was totally crushing on her) and not want to pinch his cheeks until they fell off. Still everything about the show was superb, and it’s not surprising that it launched the film careers of both Danes (Little Women, Romeo + Juliet, Stardust) and Leto (Girl, Interrupted, American Psycho, Requiem for a Dream). And it gave the world the adorableness that is Wilson Cruz, for which I think we all ought to be eternally grateful:
There’s plenty of stars who started out on soaps- House‘s Jesse Spencer on Neighbours, Buffy‘s Sarah Michelle Gellar on All My Children and Pushing Daisies‘ Anna Friel on Brookside to give you three examples from three different continents’ lowest common denominator programming. Perhaps the most famous example though is Salma Hayek who rose to fame after appearing in Mexican telenovelas Un Nuevo Amanecer and Teresa, and has since been in films like From Dusk Til Dawn, Frida and Once Upon A Time In Mexico.
I’m sure everyone must have a favourite example or two of actors’ TV roles before they hit the big screen- tell us about them in the comments. Bonus points for videos!