Here in India, we still raise eyebrows when a big movie star does television. Despite Kaun Banega Crorepati turning around Amitabh Bachchan’s slumped career, we still have “TV actors” and “web actors” who reside on a different plane as opposed to “movie stars”. But there, Meryl Streep walks into a television/streaming show which had Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon in the first season. While she did do a mini-series long back called Angels in America, Big Little Lies is Streep’s big TV/web debut. How did some of the other major (read: MAJOR) Hollywood movie icons do when they came on television in the recent past? Let’s take a look.
Julia Roberts (Homecoming): Submitting herself to the hands of Mr Robot creator Sam Esmail, the Pretty Woman star chose the adaptation of a scripted podcast for her TV debut. Homecoming might not have been very high on the popularity charts but as all critics agreed that it was television of the very finest quality with a stellar turn by Roberts. She did have a word of caution, though, in one of her pre-launch interviews: “Let’s not put my film days in the past tense.”
Drew Barrymore (Santa Clarita Diet): Apart from a little-known TV soap called 2000 Malibu Road back in 1992 and a few guest appearances on the small screen including a voice on Family Guy, everyone’s favourite-child-star-turned-everyone’s-favourite-bad-girl-turned-everyone’s-favourite-rom-com girl had hardly done television work before Netflix’s Santa Clarita Diet. It was quite a wild choice given Barrymore’s Sheila Hammond turned into a flesh-eating zombie in the very first episode. The “zom-com” went from strength to strength from its first season to its third – and final – season.
Jim Carrey (Kidding): Before The Mask made him huge, he did a couple of long-running TV shows like The Duck Factory and In Living Color. But Jim Carrey the star arrived on television with last year’s Kidding after his big screen outings flopped one after the other. Directed by Michel Gondry, who directed Carrey in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, the actor played a troubled clown in a character, which seemed to mirror his own self. Yes, there were funny moments but Kidding was sharply melancholic thanks to Carrey’s deeply felt performance.
Amy Adams (Sharp Objects): More than 15 million audiences have (legally) watched the first season of Sharp Objects. In hindsight, it does look like a terrific move for the actress who’s won six Oscar nominations till date. Adams played an alcoholic journalistic investigating the murder of two young girls in her hometown in this small screen adaptation of Gillian Flynn’s bestselling thriller. A Season 2, though, is unlikely and we’ll have to wait a while for Adams’s next TV pick.
Emma Stone (Maniac): She’s often popped up on Saturday Night Live but it was in last year’s 10-part Netflix series Maniac that she really forayed into television in a proper way. The Oscar-winning actress reunited with her Superbad co-star Jonah Hill in this dark sci-fi comedy based on a hit Norwegian series. Directed by Cary Fukunaga, who’s directing the next Bond movie, the series had its highs and lows but Stone as Annie Landsberg, a woman with a personality disorder, was terrific throughout, earning a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination for the role.
Matthew McConaughey, Colin Farrell and Mahershala Ali (True Detective): This one HBO show, created by Nic Pizzolatto, has featured major movie stars in three subsequent seasons. The first one with McConaughey really created a splash and set the tone for the pulsating crime drama series. Dallas Buyers Club released in end 2013 and True Detective came out in early 2014 proving that McConaughey’s talent and stardom could fit on any screen. In the second season (2015), Farrell, who hadn’t done television since 1999, didn’t quite have a great outing as the episodes kept getting panned. It was Ali, who’s done quite a bit of TV including House of Cards, who kind of resurrected the show to its greatness earlier this year.
Sir Anthony Hopkins (Westworld): He supposedly does not have a TV at home because he believes that “we have alienated ourselves in the world watching television all the time.” But one of the greatest actors of all time did take on HBO’s Westworld, where Hopkins played Robert Ford, the “brilliant and complicated” founder of the immersive vacation park. And his performance was a masterclass in acting and one of the main draws of the show.
Clive Owen (The Knick): He wasn’t too inclined to do television but when Steven Soderbergh comes to you with something, you read it, and then you say, yes. In a show set in New York in 1900, the King Arthur star plays the genius but cocaine-addled surgeon John Thackeray who wants to push the limits and limitations of medical science through his hospital. Owen went on to win a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor for the first season and was equally effective in the second and final season of the show.