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Five Recently Successful Actors Who Were Great on TV, but Cross-Over Failures on the Big Screen

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | June 3, 2010 |

By Dustin Rowles | Lists | June 3, 2010 |

Yesterday, when I mentioned, once again, that the Veronica Mars movie was still basically dead, I wondered again what has happened to Kristen Bell and all that potential I once thought she had. Then, this morning, I see that Zach Braff is starring in an off-Broadway play (granted, an off-Broadway play directed by one of the Weitz Brothers), and then I thought: What happened to his career? Where did that Garden State potential go.

Those two examples, and the other three I’m offering below, just goes to show that no matter how beloved a television character may be, the actor depicting that character is not always well suited for the big screen. It’s not for lack of trying in any of the five actors’ cases. It’s not really typecasting, either. I think what we have, in these five actors, are performers who simply cannot fill out a movie screen. Their presence is not “big” enough. They’re television people. They belong on television. And in all five cases, really, they are the product of cult hits, television shows that strongly appealed to a relatively small base. And that base apparently can’t propel an actor to movie stardom. It doesn’t hurt, either, that the projects these five have done in their post-television careers haven’t really appealed to that fan base, either. I think in the case of all five, if they expect to find real success again, they’ll have to return to television.

A few honorable mentions: Jon Krasinski and Rainn Wilson got some consideration (who knew Ed Helms would be the break-out star of that supporting cast?), but Away We Go saved the former (despite some weak-looking romantic comedies in the works) and Wilson has a few projects in development that may yet allow him to break through.

4024102.jpgAlexis Bledel

Notable Television Role: Rory Gilmore, “Gilmore Girls”

Big Screen Break-Out Attempts: Sin City, Post-Grad, The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants

What’s She’s Doing Now: Ummm. She’s the lead in an upcoming Sleepaway Camp Reunion and has a small role in the Robert Redford directed, The Conspirator

kristen-bell-elle-promos-medium.jpgKristen Bell

Notable Television Role: Veronica Mars, “Veronica Mars

Big Screen Break-Out Attempts: Forgetting Sarah Marshall, Couples Retreat, Serious Moonlight, Fan Boys, When in Rome

What She’s Doing Now: She’s got a forgettable looking romantic comedy, You Again coming out in August, and Burlesque, with Christina Aguilera, Eric Dane, and Cher, which doesn’t look promising.

6a00d8341c4df253ef0112791ba5f028a4-800wi.jpgZach Braff

Notable Television Role: J.D., “Scrubs”

Big Screen Break-Out Attempts: Garden State,, The Last Kiss, and Fast Track.

What’s He Doing Now: He’s the lead in an upcoming low-budget Deborah Chow movie, The High Cost of Living. And no: I’ve never heard of Deborah Chow, either.
Also, he’s going to be in that off-Broadway play.

The_Wire_Jimmy_McNulty.jpgDominic West

Notable Television Role: McNulty, “The Wire”

Big Screen Break-Out Attempts: 300, Hannibal Rising, The Punisher: War Zone

What’s He Doing Now: He has a somewhat substantial role in the upcoming Centurion, which I’ve seen, and which is fairly dull. He also has a supporting role in John Carter of Mars.

sarah-michelle-gellar-pregnant.jpgSarah Michelle Gellar

Notable Television Role: Buffy, “Buffy the Vampire Slayer”

Big-Screen Break-Out Attempts: Gellar actually flirted with real break-out success in The Grudge movies and, to a lesser extent, as part of the ensemble in the Scooby Doo movies, but then her career completely faltered.

What’s She Doing Now: She starred in an unsold television pilot, “The Wonderful Maladys.” That’s it.