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April 15, 2010
The Next Ten TV Actors Who Should Become Movie Stars
Posted by Turk182 in Lists, Features

With Steve Carell and Tina Fey making the switch from TV stars to movie stars with the new Date Night (the film debuted at #2, meaning that the multi-talented Carell and Fey can now safely call themselves "movie stars"), it got us thinking about that difficult journey from the small screen to the big one and why some actors and actresses make the leap while others fall flat on their face. For every Jennifer Aniston there's a couple Matt LeBlancs proving that having a giant fan base for your TV work doesn't always translate to big screen success. It's a tricky combination of having enough screen presence to carry a viewer's attention for longer than the time between commercial breaks and picking the right parts that work.

So, who's next? Who will make the jump from small screen success to the big screen? First, we had to decide who was eligible. Of course, there are people on TV right now who were already considered movie stars (at least once in their career). Since this is not a comeback piece, people like Bill Paxton (Big Love), Alec Baldwin (30 Rock), Steve Zahn (Treme), and Toni Collette (The United States of Tara) are understandably ineligible. If an actor or actress is still "best known" for TV, they're eligible. So, while Michael C. Hall and Edie Falco have been in a few films, they've reached nowhere near the level of success on celluloid that they have on DVRs, so they could make the list. There are a few tough calls (Ginnifer Goodwine is still a Big Love star to me but was probably more widely-seen in He's Just Not That Into You while I would say her HBO co-star Amanda Seyfried is the opposite – a movie star who happens to be on TV), so if your favorite TV star isn't on the list it could be because they were considered too much of a movie star already.

One last arbitrary rule: We could only pick one star per show. Why? Because we love arbitrary rules and we didn't want Castle taking up twenty percent of the list (sorry Stana … we still love ya) and we enjoyed the challenge of picking only one Lost cast member.

by Brian Tallerico


Runner-ups: He's held a massive small screen fan base for years, so it's possible that Tom Welling of Smallville could make the jump but we think he sometimes struggles to hold the audience's attention for forty-five minutes on The CW, so a movie lead is a tough sell. Speaking of The CW, the pretty boys and girls of shows like 90210 and One Tree Hill seem interchangeable on TV, so they clearly don’t have the personality for the big screen. Same goes for the increasingly-annoying Gossip Girl (although we wouldn’t be surprised if Leighton Meester made the jump).

The very talented casts of ensemble dramas like The Mentalist, Friday Night Lights, Southland, Dexter, and True Blood work so well as a team that it's hard to see who could break free (although Owain Yeoman, Michael Cudlitz, Michael C. Hall, and Alexander Skarsgard were all strongly considered). Same goes for funny shows we love like The Big Bang Theory, How I Met Your Mother, The Office, The League, It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia, and Modern Family. Great ensembles sometimes work best because of the rhythm they develop with one another and not because of future movie stars (although more Sofia Vergara or Kaley Cuoco on the big screen wouldn't be a bad thing). Finally, Chuck's Yvonne Strahovski and Zachary Levi could both become movie stars and we wouldn't be surprised but they just missed the cut.


10. Dan Byrd

Dan Byrd.

Show: Cougar Town

Why: Because with his stellar work on the underrated Aliens in America and the inferior-but-improving Cougar Town, Byrd is proving to have the comic chops to carry more than the supporting part he's currently playing.

How to Do It: Find a part like Jason Biggs' role in American Pie. Byrd clearly has better comic timing than the star of Loser and Over Her Dead Body (and, hopefully, a better agent) and he has the same kind of "everyboy" quality to pull off the kind of roles that turned Biggs into a star. And that kind of actor is missing from the landscape right now. Michael Cera is getting too old. Ditto Jonah Hill. Clark Duke has done decent work in Hot Tub Time Machine and Kick-Ass but is he really the next young star of the moment? I doubt it. Give Byrd a great Superbad-esque part and it could easily be him.


Tyler Labine in a publicity photo from Reaper.

Show: Sons of Tucson

Why: Because his show will probably be cancelled by the time you read this and TV clearly isn't working out for the talented comedian. Invasion – cancelled. Reaper – tragically, stupidly cancelled. It may seem crazy to "move up to the majors" after three strikes, but perhaps he's just not in the right league.

How to Do It: Take the parts we're tired of Jack Black playing. Black's best performances feature both his physical skills as a comedian and his way with words; two things that Labine could easily pull off. Or what if he lost a little weight and took Val Kilmer's role in the Real Genius remake? Labine has always had a way with characters who can talk themselves out of any situation, something that would be perfect for this already-questionable remake. While we're dream-casting, why not give Dan Byrd the part of the dorky lead for Labine to torment?


Josh Holloway in Lost.

Show: Lost

Why: Because we can only pick one Lost actor and Holloway has been the charismatic stand-out choice since day one almost by process of elimination. Matthew Fox hasn't been a great fit in films like Speed Racer or Vantage Point and Evangeline Lilly doesn't have the presence to carry a leading role. Jorge Garcia and Michael Emerson rule but they're destined to be supporting character actors in TV or film. Sawyer could be the star.

How to Do It: Play up what works about Sawyer on the show – a strong, clever everyman. Think the best roles of Mark Wahlberg and that everyman relatability that so often makes him effective as both the guy who you’d like to have a drink with at a local bar and the one on your side when the fight erupts after a few too many. Holloway has a similar tough guy charisma and he may try to downplay it by taking roles outside of the box he might think Lost has put him in. Use the box. Exploit it. Do a movie where you play a con man named Sawyer. Then find your “range.”


Joel McHale in a publicity photo for Community.

Show: Community

Why: Because he has perfect comic timing. Even though we were fans of The Soup, we had our doubts that McHale could break out of that host role but after seeing his underrated supporting work on The Informant and watching him improve every week on Community, he clearly has the range and charisma to be a true star.

How to Do It: Find the deadpan wit roles that made your Community co-star Chevy Chase into a household name in the 1980s. McHale has an excellent way with a raised eyebrow or a clever quip and he could bring that intellectual style to a comedy genre so reliant on physical comedy nowadays. Team up with truly talented comedy directors (even though a lot of people missed it, The Informant was a great choice) like Wes Anderson, Noah Baumbach, or Judd Apatow.


Elisabeth Moss in Mad Men.

Show: Mad Men

Why: Because she’s underused and underappreciated on Mad Men, only being allowed to show her range and ability a few episodes a season if she’s lucky. Moss has landed a few deserved nominations but she doesn’t seem to get the press of Jon Hamm or January Jones and she’s just as talented, displaying a very subtle understanding of her craft that could make her a movie star at least on the art house scene.

How to Do It: Take indie dramatic roles a la another TV star turned art house darling – Michelle Williams. Michelle has earned kudos by delivering three-dimensional characters each time and Moss has a similar believability on camera that could easily be exploited by the right low budget writer/director. Someone merely needs to build the right movie around her and the offers will pour in.


Jensen Ackles in Supernatural.

Show: Supernatural

Why: Jared Padalecki is also good but last year’s horror challenge – Padalecki was in the Friday the 13th remake while Ackles starred in the much better My Bloody Valentine 3D – proved that Jensen is more likely to be the breakout star when the saga of the Winchester brothers comes to an end.

How to Do It: Take smart-talking action roles – the kind that don’t require an abundance of physical action but rely on charisma and personality as much as brawn. Ackles is never going to be built like Jason Statham and he shouldn’t try but he could easily take action movie parts from Brendan Fraser, Ben Affleck, or Nicolas Cage.


Aaron Paul in The Last House on the Left.

Show: Breaking Bad

Why: Because anyone who has seen the Emmy award-winning show knows how good Paul is on it and when you add in the range shown by his parts in Big Love and the remake of Last House on the Left it almost seems impossible that he’s NOT going to be a movie star someday.

How to Do It: But what kind of star? Will he fall into the traps of actors like Joshua Jackson or James Van Der Beek and make bad career choices as he tries to break into film? I doubt it. The way to go is to follow the path of Joseph Gordon-Levitt who could have taken blockbuster roles but chose ones that spoke to him artistically in films like Brick or The Lookout. He’s becoming more popular every year. Take those kind of creatively satisfying parts and the fame will come to Paul too.


John Barrowman in Torchwood: Children of Earth.

Show: Torchwood

Why: Because the incredible Children of Earth merely proved again that John Barrowman is easily one of the most interesting stars on television. He brings so much range and presence to the small screen that it’s hard to believe it wouldn’t translate to the big one.

How to Do It: The continual casting of the yawn-inducing Sam Worthington has made me wonder what happened to charismatic science fiction stars. They went to TV. Imagine the personality that someone like Barrowman could bring to the next major sci-fi summer blockbuster? Of course, James Cameron is unlikely to give him the lead in Avatar 2 but why not throw him a juicy supporting part? Barrowman might need to start small but there’s one way to break him into the mainstream quickly – Torchwood the Movie.


Edie Falco in Nurse Jackie.

Show: Nurse Jackie

Why: Because she’s arguably the best actress in the history of television creating an iconic character on The Sopranos and now delivering Emmy caliber work again on Showtime’s black comedy.

How to Do It: There’s no limit to what Falco could accomplish on the big screen, so there’s any number of ways she could do it. The sad fact is that being a woman over forty in Hollywood not named Meryl Streep usually leads to a dearth of believable, interesting roles, so Falco should probably stick to independent drama like the one she did with John Sayles (Sunshine State) until she finds that breakthrough part that allows her to display the depth she has on television. She’s clearly got the talent. She just needs the right platform on which to show it.


Nathan Fillion in Castle. Photo by Adam Larkey.
© 2010 American Broadcasting Companies, Inc.
All rights reserved.

Show: Castle

Why: Because he undeniably rules. On Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Firefly, and now Castle, Fillion has proven that he has that indefinable “star quality” that doesn’t come along that often. He should have been a movie star after Serenity but Castle has made him much more of a household name than anything else in his career. During the next hiatus from the show, he should use that fame to finally become the movie star he should have been years ago.

How to Do It: Fillion and Stana Katic have chemistry not unlike Bruce Willis and Cybil Shepherd on Moonlighting and it would be easy to see Fillion in many of the roles that turned Willis into an A-list star although he’s not quite as physical an actor. He should stick with roles that display his wit although it’s easy to see him in action parts as well (as he proved in Serenity). Appearing in highly acclaimed indie films like Waitress and Trucker has wisely given him a chance to show his skills to movie producers and now a writer/director should give him the high profile summer blockbuster that he deserves. Castle finally brought Fillion to a wider audience. Keep the star rising.


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Posted by Turk182 in Lists, Features - April 15, 2010 at 1:04 PM
Love Nathan but what about Christian?

jennifer03878 at Jun 13 2010 19:13:09
I do agree with Nathan Fillion. I've loved him for years and am glad that he's finally getting the success that he deserves. What about Christian Kane? Amazingly talented, undeniably hot! Yes he's been in quite a few movies but it's time for him to really hit it big!
Enver Gjokaj

JanaG at May 09 2010 19:47:16
Check out "Waitress" for a great Nathan Fillion movie. I know that barely anyone has seen Dollhouse (besides die hard Whedonites), but Enver Gjokaj is a ridiculously talented actor with a fantastic range and I really hope he gets more work. And Sarah Michelle Gellar could only ever play Buffy, like, she has no other range whatsoever, just like how Eliza Dushku can only really play bad #!@%*#. And I agree that we shouldn't downplay tv, Bryan Cranston kept my attention for 3 seasons, not just an hour and a half.
What about The Wire

BrianInvincible at May 09 2010 15:31:35
Idris Elba, Chris Bauer, Jamie Hector, Sonja Sohn, Dominic West, James Ransone... I also think Robert Knepper (T-Bag from Prison Break) would make a great movie actor.
Colin Ferguson

zeroNth at May 09 2010 14:04:01
I agree with Nathan Fillion... but would like to add Colin Ferguson from the Syfy original series Eureka. He's a top notch talent and relatable. You want to trust him just by looking at him... it's almost spooky.

thisyearsgirl at May 07 2010 22:31:45
8 out of 10 of the people on this list are dudes. That seems a little odd to me. As far as actors on current shows go, I would definitely want to include Tabrett Bethell (Legend of the Seeker), Sophia Bush (One Tree Hill), Christian Kane (Leverage), & Chris Colfer (Glee).
Movie > TV?

MaxM at May 07 2010 21:39:03
There's a bit of a false comparison here with the !#$umption that a TV actor is "promoted" to a movie star. Don't get me wrong, I'm aware that movie stars get paid a whole lot more and is more traditionally "prestigious". But at the same time, TV acting is extremely different nowadays. TV of the last decade has reached new heights of complexity, depth, and critical acclaim. Nathan Fillion, for instance, as much I'd have loved him to be Green Lantern and think he's incredibly underrated, I would much rather have him doing 24 interesting varied episodes over the year than a romantic comedy or two. Same thing with John Barrowman, a multi-season arc of Torchwood USA would be way more satisfying than a single Torchwood movie. Liliaeth mentioned Sarah Michele Gellar who was fantastic on Buffy and then became a "movie star" releasing a series of bland films like Scooby Doo, I Know What You Did Last Summer, and The Grudge (good horror movie, but not exactly the best use of her versatility).
Disagreeing on Nathan Fillion

liliaeth at May 07 2010 16:32:59
I'm afraid to say that I don't know most of the people on this list, so I can't say anything about them. But I most definitely would NOT put Fillion on this list. I tried to watch Firefly, found it boring, with characters that couldn't even hold my attention for one episode, let out allow me to remember their names. He was ok on Buffy, but mostly because he was playing up against the always excellent Sarah Michele Gellar who is awesome in bringing out the best in the people she shares a scene with. I always felt that Fillion is overrated, and genuinely not that good an actor.
Nathan Fillion

bc3 at May 07 2010 10:31:03
He should've been a movie star already. He would've been perfect as The Green Lantern.
Nathan Fillion!!

Apathygrrl at May 07 2010 07:02:31
YES!! I <3 Nathan Fillion, although he actually has been in quite a number of movies. He was also in Slither and Blast From The Past.
Dan Byrd

pagem at Apr 15 2010 18:54:07
He actually has been in the movies before, he had a big part in A Cinderella Story a few years back.
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