Seeking a career resurgence or just a good old hefty role, it’s becoming increasingly common for established actors to migrate to television.
After the recent untimely death of Philip Seymour Hoffman, it got me thinking about one of his very last projects: Happyish, a pilot which he shot for Showtime that got a full 10-episode season order. Yes, one of cinema’s most in-demand actors was making his television debut. For a medium that a decade or so ago was deemed inferior to cinema, that isn’t shabby at all.
Jane Fonda and Sissy Spacek, two of the finest Hollywood actresses, have just signed on to star in two different Netflix shows
There is a sense of security in the television sector for already established thesps. After winning two Oscars in the 1990s, Kevin Spacey’s presence in Hollywood slowly diminished, before he uprooted to theatre instead. House of Cards reinvigorated interest in Spacey and made everyone realise just how much we missed him. Similarly, over a decade after winning an Academy Award and after a string of flops including the infamous Catwoman, Halle Berry has managed to maintain A-list status. Nonetheless, in an interesting career move, Berry has opted for a sci-fi television show, Extant, and just like Gravity, the protagonist is a female astronaut.
Television is additionally becoming a haven for the iconic actors of yesteryear. Jane Fonda and Sissy Spacek, two of the finest actresses of the post-classical Hollywood era, have just signed on to star in two different shows for Netflix, which is evidently having its moment as a new platform for exciting television projects. Then there’s the Midnight Cowboy duo: Dustin Hoffman, who earned plaudits for his role on HBO’s Luck (subsequently cancelled after the alleged accounts of animal abuse became a cause célèbre for the show) and Jon Voight, whose scene-stealing performance in Ray Donovan earned him a Golden Globe this year.
Five TV shows to watch out for in 2014: Del Toro horror and a HBO apocalypse drama
But perhaps the actor who has gained the most out of moving to television is Jessica Lange, who has gained a whole new demographic of younger fans thanks to American Horror Story. What all these actors have in common is that they are all Academy Award winners whose careers peaked in the 1970s and 1980s, but the sad reality is that Hollywood film producers rarely cast older, veteran actors in lead roles (unless their name is Meryl Streep). And it is particularly harder for women; so why not reinvent yourself as a television star and expose yourself to the new generation of television enthusiasts?
Why not reinvent yourself as a television star and expose yourself to the new generation of television enthusiasts?
The news that Frances Ha’s Greta Gerwig, one of last year’s cinematic breakouts, has inked a deal with CBS to star in, write and produce the spin-off for How I Met Your Mother, the aptly titled How I Met Your Dad, wasn’t exactly met with the most enthusiastic reaction from much-too-proud TV snobs. But it is imperative to note that Gerwig is predominantly an indie actress – there is much-needed exposure guaranteed here, particularly for an actress who is perched on the precipice of stardom. Moving to television was a good move, too, for Kerry Washington and Zooey Deschanel, whose film careers were seemingly directionless, but life on television has reinforced their popularity both critically and commercially. Oh, and the payday on CBS is remarkable. Ashton Kutcher could certainly tell you that.
There will be always be the dreaded film/television hierarchy for actors, but HBO has set a precedent for television. The budgets are high, which means the writing is uniformly brilliant and the cinematography is polished. 20 years ago, when television budgets were significantly lower, you would have been hard pressed to even find many period dramas in production. Now, there are countless quintessentially grandiose directors, such as David Fincher, Martin Scorsese and Jane Campion, taking their respective visions to the small screen, and with today’s technology (HDTV and whatnot), as well as cable channels increasingly taking risks, it is easier nowadays to capture the feeling akin to watching a film in the cinema. With television budgets increasing exponentially, there becomes a wider spectrum of roles for actors to choose from.
More on TV: Even Oscar winners are now making the move to TV
Featured image: Netflix
Inset image: Showtime