Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Actors doing double duty in film and on TV

Numerous actors have made the transition from film to television and from television to film with varying degrees of success. Television has been a great launching pad for several actors who went on to make it big in movies, while other actors have brought their movie star power to the small screen. Gone are the days when making movies was the be all and end all of an actor’s career. There is no “step back” stigma associated with making a television show over a big budget film nowadays. Rather, stars are working in TV and finding meaty roles with great substance on great shows that audiences tune into with interest, anticipation and excitement.

Here’s a look at a few great movie actors currently starring on popular television shows:

Glenn Close on Damages
For me, two of Close’s most memorable movie roles are in Fatal Attraction and Dangerous Liaisons. Each film is set in a different era, but Close plays a strong, volatile and vindictive woman in both films and she plays bad so very well.

Toni Collette on The United States of Tara
Toni Collette emerged as an actress to watch after she appeared in The Sixth Sense, for which she received an Academy Award nomination for best supporting actress. Before playing mother to Haley Joel Osment, she starred in the Australian comedy Muriel’s Wedding.

Steve Buscemi on Boardwalk Empire
Steve Buscemi is doing some of his finest acting on Boardwalk Empire, and he’s left quite an impression on the big screen in some very quirky roles in several entertaining films. For me, his standout roles include his hilarious turns in the blockbuster films Armageddon and Con Air as well as his dramatic turns in Ghost World and Fargo.
Laurence Fishburne on CSI
Laurence Fishburne is bidding adieu to CSI next season to focus on making films. Two of his most commanding roles were as Ike Turner in the bio-pic What’s Love Got to Do with It and as Morpheus in the sci-fi phenomenon The Matrix. One of my personal favourites is his portrayal of caring, over-protective single father, Furious Styles in Boyz in the Hood.

Anna Paquin on True Blood
She’s the second youngest actress to win an Academy Award and she’s Canadian. After her Oscar winning turn in The Piano, Paquin didn’t suffer the fate of some child stars whose careers fizzle after reaching a big milestone at such a young age, a lá Tatum O’Neal. Rather, Anna Paquin has been working steadily since her Oscar win in a variety of different films such as X-Men and Buffalo Soldiers.

Jane Lynch on Glee
Before she became known as mean, ruthless Sue Sylvester on Glee, Jane Lynch made audiences howl as the oddball cougar with a crush on Steve Carell in The 40-Year-Old Virgin. She’s found her niche playing funny ladies in comedic films like Best in Show and Role Models. Her dramatic turn as a paranoid schizophrenic in Criminal Minds is proof that Lynch can mesmerize on screen even without being funny.

Alex Baldwin on 30 Rock
He’s the most famous of the four Baldwin brothers. He broke out big in the 80’s in popular films like Beetlejuice, Working Girl, She’s Having a Baby and Married to the Mob. Although not a great film, Baldwin was cast perfectly as the ruthless, narcissistic doctor in Malice. His acting work includes a bulk of television appearances on shows like Friends, Will and Grace and Saturday Night Live.
Which actor who currently dabbles in film and in television stands out for you? Let us know in the comments section.


  1. How about Sean Bean in Game of Thrones?

  2. Charlie Day is the next Zach Galifianakis!

  3. Great post! I can think of a few others, but the one that stands out for me is Craig T Nelson, who's doing remarkable work on Parenthood. He's has a solid career in the movies, while making a name for himself on TV (first Coach, now this).

    Also, you mentioned Glenn Close in Damages, but let's not forget Rose Byrne, whose rising star cannot be ignored.

    Although it's no longer airing, I thought Martin Sheen was a prime example of a long-time movie actor who just blended in beautifully in The West Wing.

    I can't wait to see Dustin Hoffman in HBO's Luck this fall!

  4. @Bonjour Tristesse – Good call on Sean Bean. I still need to catch up on Games of Thrones but I hear he is great on the show.

    @Castor – Charlie Day is really having quite a year. I think he needs to do a few more dramatic works before he can be considered the next Zach Galifianakis

    @Dave – Rose Byrne is another person who is having a phenomenal year. While Craig T. Nelson as down phenomenal work on the big screen I always picture him as a television actor. Conversely, I tend to see Martin Sheen as a film actor. I can see how easily it is for actors unfairly get typecast. Sometime we do not even consciously realize what we are doing it.

    I had no idea Hoffman was doing an HBO show this fall!

  5. Some other names that come to mind:

    William H. Macy for his work in Shameless.
    Idris Elba for Luther .

  6. William H Macy is a great example, and that reminds me of Laura Linney, who's doing great work on Showtime's The Big C. More and more respected film actors are working in television these days, and that's exciting. There's great material on TV. I'm happy to see the lines blurring between the two mediums.

    Another good one: Gary Sinise in CSI: NY.

  7. @Dave - Laura Linney and Gary Sinise are good picks as well.

  8. Great Idea for a post.

    I am really interested in how great actors like Bryan Cranston are now getting great roles the other way on Film.

    Steve Buscemi is aces in Boardwalk too!!

  9. Ahem...Anna Paquin is from New Zealand. Okay, she was born in Canada but she has/had a NZ accent because she lived here for so long! I think...

    Nah, Anna is awesome in True Blood.

    What about the peeps in Gossip Girl? Blake Lively is in just about every movie these days (unforunately), Leighton Meester seems to be doing well for herself and Penn Badgely has also been in quite a few movies. Mind you, I wouldn't say these people are as successful as the rest of the people on the list.

    Anyway, nice post!

  10. @Custard – I still think it is a little harder these days for TV actors to cross over. They are getting work in film but not necessarily jumping straight into the lead roles. They often have to work their way up. Whereas film actors seem to be getting lead roles the minute they head to television.

    @Stevee – Paquin is Canadian by birth so we shall lay claim to her. Yet we are willing to share her with New Zealand to keep up good relations with that country :)

    The Gossip Girl stars seem to be slowly climbing up the film ladder. I think Blake Lively is getting a bigger push from studios than Leighton Meester is at this time though.

  11. Laura Linney does superlative work on THE BIG C but I definitely agree with you on the work that Close puts in on DAMAGES she's absolutely brilliant...which is of course why she one those two Emmy's.

    I did find it odd when she said that Patty Hewes is possibly the greatest role she's ever had. She's done so much brilliance, so even as good as Patty is it's nowhere near her best I say.

  12. @Andrew – I am behind on both shows. I know that Damages is currently on Netflix up here so I might try and catch up on it after I get through Mad Men (currently on season 1 of that show).

  13. I also remembered Kyra Sedgwick on The Closer, Mary Louise Parker on Weeds and, for a time, Holly Hunter on Saving Grace - three strong actresses playing strong women in three great shows.

    I,too, am intrigued by Dustin Hoffman's arrival on HBO. I hadn't heard about it before now!


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