We’re officially starting to review a couple of television shows this week, so what better time for a list like this! We’re thinking about actors/actresses who started their careers in the television world, and eventually made it big on the big screen. We’ll each give our favorite, some specifics as to why they’re our favorite, then a short video clip to give you a bit of a blast from the past. Let us know what you think of our picks, and we’d love to hear yours as well!
Logan’s pick: Will Smith
Before there was Independence Day, there was Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Will Smith has long been one of my favorite actors, but seeing where he got his start is especially cool. He was a master of comedy on the offbeat comedy, and it was that role that led to his transition to film in the mid-1990s, a decade which included his breakthrough films Bad Boys, Independence Day, and Men in Black, films as varied in tone and style as the actor himself.
Nate’s pick: Tom Hanks
Like many actors Tom Hanks began his career with a fizzle (no pop). His first film was a low-budget stinker He Knows You’re Alone in 1980. He quickly rebounded into the television series Bosom Buddies a two-season bit where two guys dress up like women to secure affordable housing in an all-female hotel. This is how I was first introduced to Tom Hanks, as a 6 foot tall dude in drag named Buffy. The show was really funny, especially Hanks! He parlayed his success with Bosom Buddies into other television appearances as well as a string of hit or misses in the 1980s. Some of the hits for me were Splash, Big, and Turner and Hooch. Up to that point, Tom Hanks was just the funny guy in comedies. All that changed when he starred in Philadelphia as an AIDS-stricken gay man suing his old law associates for discrimination. There are moments in that movie where Hanks absolutely takes my breath away (even to this day). Ever since Philadelphia Hanks has had a run of extremely successful films: Forrest Gump, Apollo 13, Saving Private Ryan, The Green Mile… the list just goes on and on. The thing I love most about Hanks is when he displays strength in a subdued, overly composed way. It’s almost like an oxymoron of mild power. But it works! Whether he’s playing Jim Lovell, Michael Sullivan (The Road to Perdition), or even Richard Phillips (Captain Phillips), it’s like he’s not acting. He is those characters. I’ll never forget the scene in Saving Private Ryan where his character, Captain Miller, begins to cry but he tries to keep his composure. It’s one of the most real moments I’ve ever seen in cinema.
Tres’ pick: Johnny Depp
I finally narrowed my choices down to a guy whose versatility of the screen just amazes me. From the days where he started as a pretend teen-something punk cop known as Tom Hanson on 21 Jump Street to the multi-character Johnny Depp of today. This guy can sell any roll that you cast him in. Don’t get me wrong, just because I am a huge fan, does NOT mean that I like all of his movies (ie: I thought he ruined his chance at movies when he did Cry-Baby). What I do like about him is that he takes only rolls where he is drawn to the character and feels that he can bring it life. Right after Cry-Baby I gave him a second movie chance with Edward Scissorhands and I was blown away. This was nothing like the cop I was used to seeing on Jump. He was a totally different character with nothing of Hanson coming through. Then in 1993 I was sold; I now knew this guy was going to be huge. He played Benny, opposite of Mary Stuart Masterson’s Joon, in a crazy and fun loving romance and in the same year he played Gilbert Grape a big brother to an autistic brother and son to an obese mother. The following year he showed the ladies a different side Don Juan DeMarco. Then in 1995 he did an intense crime drama called Nick of Time. Year after year for an entire decade he continued to show the world a different side to his persona that he was able to bring to the screen.
Then in 2003, Captain Jack Sparrow was born. It seemed like everyone wanted him for their film, but he remained very selective on the roles he played and turned down some big money to do only character he connected with. Then, when you thought that Capt. Jack was probably the weirdest and strangest that he could get, he began to show the world a more creative side than you could ever imagine: Willy Wonka (based truly on the book and not on the musical), Sweeney Todd, Mad Hatter, Barnabas Collins, and Tonto. At the same time he created along side these, other movies that showed his talents for the serious: Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Finding Neverland, Public Enemies, The Tourist, and Transcendence. He’s been in over 80 films, so I of course didn’t mention them all. There are several that I would consider just plain bad and some morally questionable. Some that rank on people’s list of a waste of time. Like them or not, going from a cop that was too young looking to be taken serious, so he was put into a high school to bust misbehaving juveniles to the big screen where he creates some amazing characters and personalities, you have to admit, Johnny Depp is one of our generations great actors.
Amber’s pick: Jennifer Lawrence
Jennifer Lawrence is one of my favorite actresses working right now. Most people know her as Katniss Everdeen—heroine of the Hunger Games trilogy—but before Lawrence rocketed to silver-screen stardom, she was a series regular on TBS’s The Bill Engvall Show. While I was not a regular viewer throughout the entire run of the show (2007-2009), I was still a fan—the show is funny, charming, and even rather sweet at times (and almost astonishingly “wholesome,” from what I saw). Jennifer Lawrence plays the part of Lauren Pearson, the daughter and eldest child of Bill Pearson (Engvall), and she more than holds her own in the funny family sitcom.
Her breakout film role came soon after, when she played the lead in Winter’s Bone (2010), an intense dramatic role for which she earned an Academy Award nomination for Best Actress. She has since starred in blockbusters such as X-Men: First Class (in the role of Mystique) and of course The Hunger Games, and her role in the 2012 romantic comedy Silver Linings Playbook garnered her a whole slew of awards, including the Academy Award and Golden Globe for Best Actress.
In addition to being an incredibly talented and versatile actress on the screen, Lawrence is incredibly charismatic off screen—she is the anti-Hollywood Hollywood star, and she is a complete goofball, in the best sort of way. If Jennifer Lawrence is in a movie, I will see it just for that reason.
Here is a clip from Lawrence’s role on The Bill Engvall Show…
Gene’s pick: Joseph Gordon-Levitt
JGL had a pretty solid showing in television has a young actor, appearing in popular tv shows like Roseanne and Third Rock from the Sun, among others. In Roseanne he was mostly used as comic relief, but in Third Rock he had a regular role Tommy Solomon for about a 5 year span. One of his earlier appearances on film was Angels in the Outfield in 1994, and a couple years later in The Juror. One of his first and most significant lead roles was in 2009’s 500 Days of Summer, but he is probably most widely recognized for his role as Arthur in 2010’s Inception, then as Detective Blake in Dark Knight Rises. In Rises, there is a short reference to JGL as being Robin, Batman’s young sidekick. I’m mixed on whether JGL would’ve made a good Robin. He’s never struck me as an action star, but that’s likely because he just hasn’t done much in that genre. I guess that would be interesting to see him in that role, but I would probably temper my expectations. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear likely that DC, or Christopher Nolan, are interested in continuing that thread.
Here’s a short montage of his appearances on Roseanne…
There you have it. We’d love to hear from you. What are some of your favorite actors/actresses that made the jump from tv to the big screen? There are quite a lot to choose from.