Wednesday, 24 March 2010

The Plight of the TV Star

This guest post is provided by Luke Tatge of Journalistic Skepticism. From a distance he seems like your typical Streep fanatic, but he's actually more than that. You'd do well to have him on your blog roll.
Ah, the struggle of poor suffering TV actors. Their work is hardly as respected as that of the film or stage stars, yet they soldier on with weekly installments of often beloved characters. When it comes to the transition from small to big screen work, which seems inevitable at one point another for most television stars, it can be a treacherous path that rarely bears any fruit.
In the early years, it was basically understood that TV stars (possibly due to the strict studio guidelines at the time) were basically stuck with the tube when it came to finding work. Take Lucille Ball, for example – one of the biggest stars of her time, and yet she was relegated to playing varying versions of the “Lucy” character for most of her career (with the exception of a couple barely noted films).
So how do more recent TV stars fare when it comes to the big step into moviedom? Unfortunately, not so well in most cases. Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman has moved on to plenty of film work since the show wrapped, but he is mostly pushed into sideline roles. Even in the high-profile Juno, who even remembers the gifted TV star was in the cast? It seems like Lucy, he’s been pushed into playing a variation on Michael Bluth in most of his subsequent roles.
Sharp-tongued Rory Gilmore (a.k.a. Alexis Bledel) has had about the same amount of luck – any work she’s done since the show ended has been unanimously trounced (Post Grad) or ignored due to her co-stars (Sin City, Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants). It seems these TV stars just can’t shake the persona that was so ingrained into the public week after week.
There are glimmers of hope, though. For people like Freaks and Geeks alums Jason Segel and James Franco or Cheers alum Woody Harrelson, film isn’t so out of reach. It seems the best route is to either stick with your crew and succeed or fail together or go for awards-bait roles. Although a word of caution – though folks like Mary Tyler Moore and Helen Hunt found break-out Oscary roles in 1980 and 1997 respectively (Ordinary People and As Good As It Gets), they’ve hardly enjoyed much of a career in film since.
So until Lisa Kudrow can shake Phoebe Buffay, Sarah Jessica Parker can shake Carrie Bradshaw, and Eric McCormack can shake Will Truman, how does a TV star stand a chance in the wide world of movies? Give them a chance to surprise you. 
Luke's thoughts are provocative. Why do you think it's so difficult for the television actor?


Burning Reels said...

It's tricky one. Whilst TV series can possible give an actor the opportunity to fully develop a character, they are also locked in within that framework for (sometimes) a long period of time. I would say from a directors viewpoint, perhaps they are wary of the fact that TV actors can pick up many bad habits and ticks from such TV working methods.

If you can afford it and desire the credibility, it's best to go indie and stick at that for a good while and hopefully carve out a couple of decent lead roles in smaller pictures helmed by trustworthy directors, whilst landing a juicy cameo or supporting role on a bigger stage.

Jude said...

Poor Lisa. How does someone like Kevin James make it to semi-movie star status, where as Lisa Kudrow (somebody twenty times as talented and recognized) is nowhere near movie star?

Andrew: Encore Entertainment said...

All your points are so valid Luke. Even SJP who is not the BEST actor has so much talent (see The Family Stone) and yet nothing comes of it. People underestimate TV actors. Look at Sarah Michelle Gellar, so many actors in her age bracket (Megan Fox, Anne Hathaway, Scarlet J, etc) and she IS talented, but nothing comes her way.

Castor said...

It's true that long-standing TV actors may have a harder time "breaking out" in the movie business. The truth is many of them are just what they are: TV stars. They can only reliably play one type of persona well so they end up being typecast or attracted to roles that they feel comfortable playing. Anyone who truly wants to show acting chops can always turn to the indie scene for a challenging role. The vast majority don't so I don't really feel sorry if people like Matthew Perry or Lisa Kudrow don't really become successful movie stars.

As for SJP, she has been in plenty of Hollywood features. The fact that she hasn't been in anything else but rom-coms is her own fault.