I might as well call these last two weeks “Holy Hell Am I Glad Television Is Back.” I continue my unhealthy fixation with television actors tonight with a list of performers who are not the ones you expected to make it. Those folks who, out of a TV cast of maybe prettier, possibly more talented and certainly more popular actors, emerged to become some of the most famous names in Hollywood. I’m not saying they don’t deserve it, I’m just saying I didn’t see it coming.
Alyson Hannigan—“Buffy The Vampire Slayer”: It was never supposed to be Willow. Willow shops at the softer side of Sears. It was supposed to be Sarah Michelle Gellar, or the well-stacked Charisma Carpenter or, possibly, fan favorite James Marsters. But here we are, eight years after the show’s cancellation, and Alyson Hannigan is the most successful of her cast mates. Smidge’s star hasn’t completely faded, but she can’t hold a candle to that flute girl/Lily Aldren cred.
Bradley Cooper—“Alias”: See him? Way in the back there? Bleached locks? That’s our Emu. This was Jennifer Garner’s show. Ron Rifkin and Victor Garber got all the acting accolades. Michael Vartan was obviously going to be the one with the leading man film career. Right? JJ Abrams et al had so little interest in Cooper, in fact, they wrote him off the show after only two seasons. Big mistake. Huge.
Mila Kunis—“That 70’s Show”: Kunis’s is the third star to rise from this cast. Topher Grace was supposed to be a New Serious Leading Man. A Tobey Maguire 2.0. And Kutcher, well, we’re all just hoping his star is on a permanent wane. But Kunis is the goods, delivering a heart-stopping performance in last year’s Black Swan. In my opinion she acted circles around Natalie Portman, but that’s another conversation.
Amanda Seyfried—“Veronica Mars”/”Big Love”: First, can we pause a moment and revel in the glory that is this photograph? This remarkable constellation of two beautiful women, a head wound, and a piece of wood? Alright then. Oh, Kristen Bell, where is your film career? And, oh, Jason Dohring, where is your anything career? Inconceivably, it’s the dead slutty girl from “Veronica Mars,” the pretty teenaged daughter from “Big Love” who is currently landing all the gigs.
Leonardo DiCaprio—“Growing Pains”: Listen, Kirk Cameron used to be a big deal, guys. Like, Tiger Beat big deal, okay? Then in a later season, the writers Cousin Oliver’d in Leonardo DiCaprio’s Luke (after already Cousin Olivering in Chrissy…is that even allowed? A Double Olivering?). Now Kirk Cameron is on the cover of his wackadoodle fundamentalist DVDs and Leonardo DiCaprio’s on the top of Forbes’ Highest Paid Actors List.
Michelle Williams—“Dawson’s Creek”: While Michelle Williams was a big part of the WB soap early on, her Jen Lindley character got shunted from the main plot. (See her down at the bottom there?) And while Pacey’s doing fine and dandy over on “Fringe” and Katie Holmes has snagged herself an ultra-famous, ultra-crazy husband, it’s Michelle Williams who is the talk of the town. While Williams is a well-established actress with phenomenal performances under her belt (Brokeback Mountain, Wendy and Lucy,Blue Valentine), the Oscar buzz surrounding her most recent role in My Week With Marilyn is deafening. I can’t wait to see Van Der Beek’s face if she wins. You know the one.
Marisa Tomei—“A Different World”: This was Lisa Bonet’s show! (Until, I guess, she left and it was Jasmine Guy’s show.) Anyway, the producers had so little use for Tomei’s character, they wrote her off after the first season. Who’s laughing now, Bonet?
Joseph Gordon-Levitt—“3rd Rock From The Sun”: Now, I always loved JGL, I did. But did you really think the girly looking kid from this NBC sitcom would have a bigger career than Lithgow? That’s where it seems to be headed.
Seth Rogen—“Freaks and Geeks”: Much like “That 70’s Show,” “Freaks and Geeks” produced (at least) three major stars. (I’m holding out hope, Martin Starr.) And while Franco’s brooding Daniel was such stuff dreamboats are made on and Jason Segel’s affable, handsome Nick made a lasting impression, I did not see Rogen’s success coming. And while it’s hard to say which among the three is the most successful at the moment, I’m going to place my vote with Rogen. This is no way influenced by my unabashed enjoyment of 50/50 and by the fact that I skipped The Green Hornet entirely. No way, no how. By the way, go see Tommy from “3rd Rock From The Sun” and Ron from “Undeclared” in 50/50, those kids are alright.
Joanna Robinson knows Lisa Bonet snuggles up with Jason Momoa every night, so she’s probably not particularly worried about Marisa Tomei and her Academy Award.