Much has been made this season about film actors “slumming it” on television series. And not just the chic Laura Linney, Steve Buscemi, William H. Macy gigs on cable. No, viable film actors like Zooey Deschanel, Kat Dennings and Christina Ricci are making the fall network TV lineup just that much brighter with their star power. But what about the reverse move? TV to film? That’s trickier. Just because a telegenic, reasonably talented actor has success on television, it doesn’t mean That Thing will translate to feature film. Hollywood Blvd. is littered with the corpses of TV actor careers that almost were. Your Sarah Michelle Gellars, Jenna Elfmans, David Carusos, Adam Brodys, David Duchovnys and Kristen Bells. (What’s that? Kristen Bell is still trying? Bless your heart, Veronica, stop acting in such utter crap.) There are some actors who will always reek of TV. Evangeline Lilly and Cobie Smolders? I’m sorry, I can’t take you seriously in those big budget films. Then again, there are The Others. The Ones That Got Out. Your George Clooneys, Olivia Wildes, Mila Kunises, Melissa McCarthys (too soon?) and Jon Hamms. Here are eleven actors currently working in television (and some film) who I think have what it takes to be major film actors. Hamms not Fillions.
Donald Glover—“Community”: While the popular Pajiba opinion may be that the lovely Alison Brie ought to be the “Community” actor to make it in the big time, I’m not convinced. She’s obviously gorgeous, funny and has shown range with her recurring role on “Mad Men,” but, to me, she doesn’t seem weighty enough. Glover, on the other hand, is the goods. A potent presence both on the small screen and during his Childish Gambino shows, Glover is the kind of intelligent comedian I’d like to see more of. You doubt it? See Mystery Team and then get back to me.
Jane Levy—“Suburgatory”: This is a premature and possibly foolish call, but Levy is such a sharp little beauty on the new ABC sitcom, I could see her going all the way. She’s being marketed as a slightly less quirky Ellen Page and with a leading role in TV impresario Josh Schwartz’s upcoming directorial debut Fun Size, I think she’s one to watch.
Aaron Paul—“Breaking Bad”: Full disclosure, folks. I haven’t watched any “Breaking Bad.” I know, I know. It’s next on my list. I promise you. Until then I’m dodging spoilers and taking your word for it when you tell me that Aaron Paul is a huge talent.
Michael B. Jordan—“Parenthood”: It looks like Michael B. Jordan’s time may be up on “Parenthood,” but this kid has been cracking my heart wide open for awhile now. As Wallace on “The Wire,” as Vince on “Friday Night Lights” and, especially this last week, as Alex on “Parenthood.” If any of the “kids” from FNL deserve a career, it’s Jordan. Sorry, Kitsch, you’ve had your shot. Honorable mention to Jordan’s “FNL” partner-in-crime Jurnee Smollett who isn’t on this list only because she’s not currently working on TV.
Dianna Agron—“Glee”: While Agron’s Quinn Fabray is nowhere near my favorite character on that disasterbacle “Glee” (that would be Kurt or Britney), I think she’s got something. She’s obviously got lead actress good looks, but there’s a subtlety to her expressions that I think would translate to the big screen. In a show where everyone is shouting, she’s the only one who ever whispers. And while it’s hard to show any talent while navigating the ham-fisted writing and illogical plot turns of “Glee,” I’ve been impressed with the quiet moments they’ve given Agron.
Nick Kroll—“The League”: Dustin is fond of saying that Nick Kroll stole Aaron Sorkin darling Joshua Malina’s career. Maybe so, but watch him crass up the screen as Ruxin on “The League” and tell me he hasn’t earned it. Kroll has his own show in development, so it looks like he will be staying on the small screen for awhile longer, but I could see him going the way of Charlie Day.
Zachary Levi—“Chuck”: Maybe I’m wrong here. Maybe Levi has Kransinski syndrome, a brand of handsome affability that doesn’t translate as well on the big screen. (Krasinski is still trying, bless.) Our boy Chuck had a rather high profile voice role in Disney’s Tangled, leading to an even more high profile singing gig on the Oscars. I’ve got hope.
Leighton Meester—“Gossip Girl”: As is often the case, the wrong girl is getting all the attention. The roles in gritty Ben Affleck crime flicks and superhero franchises should not be going to the very blonde, but very bland Blake Lively. Anyone who has watched “Gossip Girl” (I know, I know, I should have been watching “Breaking Bad” instead) knows that Meester is the Talented One. But, somehow, she’s been stuck with the Single White Female rip-off and playing second fiddle to Gwyneth Paltrow’s ego in Country Strong. Next up? An Adam Sandler flick, fer crissakes. Yeah this career might be DOA.
Chris Pratt—“Parks and Recreation”: It’s easy to forget under the frat boy chub and scraggly beard that Chris Pratt is an extremely handsome fella. Those are leading man features. When he stepped up to the plate in this fall’s Moneyball, all thoughts of the doofy Andy Dwyer or Bright Abbott were banished. He just needs to be judicious with his projects and keep away from the What’s Your Number/Take Me Home Tonight crap.
Ryan Kwanten—“True Blood”: Listen, Skarsgaard is getting all the attention and magazine covers right now. And that’s fine, I’m a fan. But I’m even more a fan of Aussie-born Kwanten and his surprising blend of superhuman good looks and genuine comedic talent. I hope the upcoming Knights of Badassdom is as good as its trailer and that Kwanten becomes a huge star.
Mae Whitman—“Parenthood”: I’ve spoken before about how impressed I am by Whitman. Inevitably someone in the comments writes: “Her?” Very good, you’ve seen “Arrested Development.” I’m proud of you. However, you’ve obviously not watched Whitman shine on “Parenthood.” Her naturalistic delivery, poignant vulnerability and off-beat beauty makes her every scene a delight to watch. Whitman has been working in Hollywood for a long time, showing big screen talent even when she was tiny. She brought an astonishing amount of skill to thankless kid roles in When A Man Loves A Woman, Hope Floats and One Fine Day. She’s been logging time as a voice actress in “Avatar” “Tinkerbell” and she’ll be the voice of April O’Neill in the upcoming “Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles” animated series. But I’d much rather see her on the big screen kicking ass as she did in Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or doing what she does best. Break hearts. So yeah, smartass, “Her.”