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11 TV Actors Who Showed They Have What It Takes To Be Movie Stars

By Joanna Robinson | Seriously Random Lists | January 2, 2014 | Comments ()


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Louis C.K. (Blue Jasmine, American Hustle)
Many know C.K. from his stand-up, but of course he’s best known to the general public for his FX show Louie. While that show is charming and emotional and funny, it’s so autobiographical that it wasn’t always clear how talented C.K. was as an actor with range. His role as a bit of a bounder in Woody Allen’s Streetcar retelling Blue Jasmine and his exasperated, put-upon FBI operative in American Hustle, however, showed us a little more shading.
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Adam Driver (Frances Ha, Inside Llewyn Davis)
Driver has long been a favorite in Girls and though his film roles this year weren’t massive, they were a big step up from last year’s “Doe-Eyed Telegram Operator” in Lincoln. The understated Frances Ha was perfect for his naturalistic acting style and it takes someone pretty talented to pull focus from Justin Timberlake in a singing scene. I expect he’ll only get bigger and bigger.
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Ruth Wilson (The Lone Ranger, Saving Mr. Banks)
It’s a shame that Idris Elba gets all the love around here when at least half of it, by rights, belongs to Ruth Wilson. She’s maddeningly electric in Luther (the show drags when she’s not in an episode) and Hollywood (or at least Disney) took notice this year giving her significant roles in the (disappointing) Lone Ranger and (also disappointing) Saving Mr. Banks. The Mary Poppins flick might have felt a little empty and insincere on the whole, but there was nothing missing from either Colin Farrell or Ruth Wilson. I could have watched them for another hour.
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Jane Levy (Evil Dead)
Levy has always been an impressively mature presence on Suburgatory and she did not disappoint in this year’s remake of the classic Sam Raimi horror flick. To be put a position where you’re compared so closely with Bruce Campbell and to come out the other side looking not just good but kind of great? That’s impressive. The film wasn’t the best we saw this year, but that had nothing to do with Levy’s energetic performance.
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Liam James (The Way Way Back)
This kid held it down against Sam Rockwell. That’s damn impressive. Don’t recognize him from TV? He only played young Shawn in, oh, 60 episodes of Psych. I had no idea. He’s also been serving time as Linden’s moody son on The Killing. Kid’s got a future.
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Max Casella (Blue Jasmine, Inside Llewyn Davis, Oldboy)
I’m not sure if it’s a stretch to call Casella a TV actor. It’s been years since his most famous role in Doogie Howser, M.D. and, of course, he is and always will be a Newsie. But his long term character work is starting to pay off and he really hit his stride this year particularly in Blue Jasmine and Inside Llewyn Davis. I could see him having a late in life career renaissance in the manner of Jackie Earle Haley. Another child actor who never really seemed like a child.
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Taran Killam (The Heat, 12 Years A Slave)
We’re always on the look out to see which SNL player is going to break out next. Who among the current cast is going to be the next Kristen Wiig or Jason Sudeikis or Will Ferrell? (And who, for that matter, is going to be the next Rachel Dratch or Chris Parnell.) Killam pulled into the lead this year not only because of a rather predictable, sideways move into The Heat, but also because of his wholly unexpected role in 12 Years A Slave. It was a small part, but he was partnered with Scoot McNairy: Serious Drama Supporting Player King. Killam could do worse. Given that his wife already landed herself a plum Marvel gig, things could be quite rosy in the Killam/Smulders household long after their time on the small screen is done.
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Brie Larson (The Spectacular Now, Short Term 12, Don Jon)
I think we’ve made our crush on the United States Of Tara actress abundantly clear at this point. Larson already impressed us with Scott Pilgrim vs. The World and 21 Jump Street but she had an absolutely incredible year and vaulted herself from cartoon/love interest to serious contender for Indie It Girl.
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Nick Robinson, Gabriel Basso And Moises Arias (The Kings Of Summer, Ender’s Game)
These kids were plucked from a Showtime show, an ABC Family show and a Disney Channel/Miley Cyrus vehicle. Not bad, not bad. Arias had perhaps the most impressive year, stealing the show from the other two kings and making his mark in Ender’s Game. But it’s Robinson who’s fared the best from this high-profile indie. He’ll be starring in the upcoming Jurassic World and it’s only going to go up from there. Melissa and Joey will soon be just a particularly shameful incident in his rearview.
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Comments Are Welcome, Bigots and Trolls Are Not


  • Jezzer

    I wish people would stop trying to sell the ratty grossness that is Adam Driver.

  • dizzylucy

    I had no idea that was Vinnie from Doogie Howser. I think I was too distracted by Bobby Cannavale's haircut during their scenes.

  • Mrs. Julien

    I was reading along fine and nodding my head until I got to the name "Scoot McNairy". I once, on this very site, wrote a tribute to his name to the tune of "Maria" from West Side Story. I remember the line "Does he have a brother named Harry?" Sic transit gloria mundi.

    How about a "This Actor Has an Oscar* in Her/Him?" list for people who are so talented we know they could give an earth-shattering performance. Mr. Cannevale up there could certainly be included, as could Aaron Paul.

    *Wherein "Oscar" means potential greatness along the lines of a DeNiro, a Theron, a Hepburn, an O'Toole and their all-time superlative performances which leads me to another SRL suggestion: The Best Acting Performances of All Time. Just think of the potential for bickering and captiousness. It would be a perfect Pajiba storm.

  • Naye

    Rico!

  • Who's that scooting in the background behind Taran Killam?

  • Wigamer

    Max Casella looks like the offspring of Fred Savage and Joe Pesci. In a good way.

  • John W

    Ruth Wilson is the only reason I still want to see the Lone Ranger.

  • Sara_Tonin00

    Louis CK? Does "star" still mean what it used to mean?

  • Stevie Oh See

    I felt Louis CK was a pleasant surprise in American Hustle, but yeah, could he be a 'star'? I'm not so sure.

  • ed newman

    I'm with you. If not for the fame he has already achieved he could be a James Rebhorn type of "that guy". But a star? I don't see it. And that goes for at least a third of this list.

  • Barry

    Stop trying to make Driver happen. He's not going to happen.

  • annie

    Was Max Casella a child actor? I swear he was like 24 when he did Doogie.

  • Guest

    Chris Parnell hasn't made the transition from SNL to big-time movie star, but he has had a fantastic career in voice-over work: Rick and Morty, Archer, WordGirl, about 30 different commercials airing right now (like Progressive), and so on. Plus, he's Dr. Spaceman. So you could do a lot worse than to be the next Chris Parnell, is what I'm saying.

  • Three_nineteen

    Don't forget his role as the "head" of the Shay family on Suburgatory.

  • e jerry powell

    More importantly, Max Casella spent a major chunk of time channeling Nathan Lane while playing Timon on Broadway.

    Are we saying that Taran Killam is the next late-career Dan Ackroyd?

  • Sara_Tonin00

    I swear I just saw him mentioned in relation to some other theatrical venture that sounded impressive, but I can't remember what

  • e jerry powell

    Well, Julie Taymor's Midsummer Night's Dream opened in Brooklyn last November... (and closes in just under two weeks.)

  • Sara_Tonin00

    That was it! Read the review the other day

  • narfna

    I . . . watch Melissa and Joey.

    And Nick Robinson is hilarious on it. Glad to see he had such a good year. And Jurassic World! Huh.

  • Tinkerville

    In an interview Vince Gilligan talked about how if you're a great comedic actor, that almost always means you can go the other way and be just as good at drama. I'd say that's definitely true just looking at people like Patton Oswalt and Louis CK.

    I'd also add Chris Pratt to the list. Guardians of the Galaxy hasn't come out yet but he was great in Zero Dark Thirty.

  • hoppergrass

    Wow, Max Casella grew up to be kind of... cute. I did not see that coming.

  • The only talent you need to pull my attention away from Justin Timberlake doing anything is to not be Justin Timberlake.

    First Timberlake burn of the new year. Felt good. Starting the year off right.

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