For all its glitz and glamour, Hollywood can be an unforgiving place for actors. One minute they’re at the top of their game, playing hit after hit, then suddenly they’re struggling for work as they land one unsuccessful gig after another. While television was once looked down upon by movie actors, it has become something of a refuge for them when they are down on their luck.
The drastic improvement in the quality and acclaim of TV series over the past few decades – not to mention the rise of streaming services – has only made the medium more attractive to movie stars hoping go back. From Oscar-winning legends to some of the biggest names in blockbuster entertainment, these stars have returned to Hollywood stardom thanks to some of our favorite shows.
Drew Barrymore – ‘Santa Clarita Diet’ (2017-2019)
Drew Barrymore never had a problem landing big roles, playing in AND the extra-terrestrial when she was just seven years old during her first career revival in the late 90s and early 2000s. which she appeared failed to gain the popularity of her early work.
Everything changed with his starring role in the Netflix original series Santa Clarita Diet. Focusing on Sheila (Barrymore), a real estate agent whose happy family life is uprooted when she turns into a zombie, the comedy-horror ran for three seasons, earning the actress plenty of acclaim and re-establishing her as a than comic master.
Danny DeVito – “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” (2005-)
With a career dating back as far as 1970, Danny DeVito excelled as both a hard-hitting dramatic actor and a hilarious comedic talent. A Hollywood A-lister in the 80s and 90s, his career began to falter in the 2000s as many of his films struggled to break through to mainstream audiences.
You could say similar things Philadelphia is always sunnythe first season with the irreverent comedy showrunners tasked with attaching a major star to the show for season two or face cancellation. They got in touch with DeVito and the rest, as they say, is history.
Kevin Costner – ‘Yellowstone’ (2018-)
After getting his big break in the 1985 Western Silverado, Kevin Costner became one of the biggest names in American cinema as an actor and director. Appearing in some of the biggest blockbusters of the time, it dominated the late 80s and 90s, but its box office reliability began to wane soon after.
As his leading man career lasted, he quickly became more recognized for his supporting roles, particularly as Superman (Henry Cavill) father in Steel man. It was again the western genre where he broke new ground, starring rancher John Dutton in the hit series Yellowstone which has only gotten better over time.
Kirsten Dunst – ‘Fargo’ (2014-)
After breaking into Interview with a Vampire, Kirsten Dunst became a real star in the early 2000s with her role in Sam Raimiit is Spider Man trilogy and his frequent collaborations with Sophie Coppola. As she continued to star in underrated gems like Melancholy and Midnight Specialshe struggled to recapture her superstardom from the start of her career.
Its major role in FargoThe second season of however boosted his career by showcasing his acting range and earning him a Primetime Emmy nomination. After the series, she received acclaim for her performance in the Oscar-winning western drama The power of the dog which saw Dunst receive an Oscar nomination.
Matthew McConaughey – “True Detective” (2014)
One of Hollywood’s rising stars in the 1990s, Matthew McConaughey was into everything from legal dramas to coming-of-age comedies and looked set to become an industry titan. While his career remained active, it plateaued somewhat as he found himself locked into starring roles in cliched rom-coms through the 00s.
However, in the early 2010s, McConaughey definitely returned to more dramatic roles which showed the full extent of his acting skills. One of the most pivotal of these roles came in HBO’s first season. real detective where he played the deranged and deeply philosophical detective Rustin Cohle and earned a Primetime Emmy nomination for the performance.
Martin Sheen – “The West Wing” (1999-2006)
After exploding onto the scene in the 1970s working with some of the greatest directors of the time, Martin SheenSheen’s career took a downward turn in this latter part of the 80s and into the 90s. Appearing in many disappointing pictures throughout this period, it seemed that the best of Sheen’s career was behind him, but that changed in 1999 when he played President Jed Bartlet in The west wing.
While initially intended for a small role, the writer Aaron Sorkin extended Sheen’s role after seeing his performance in the pilot episode. Sheen earned five Primetime Emmy nominations over the show’s seven seasons and reignited her career.
Karl Urban – ‘The Boys’ (2019-)
With appearances in The Lord of the Rings trilogy, the MCU, Bourne supremacyand the recent star trek to restart, Karl Urban has carved out a career as a supporting actor in some of the greatest films of this century. He landed leading roles in action movies like Dred and Priest but given their lack of success, it seemed his tenure as a leading man could have come and gone.
But then he landed a starring role in Amazon Prime’s outrageously shocking superhero comedy series The boys. His portrayal of Billy Butcher has become something of a pop culture icon, with the blunt superhero murderous Englishman adored by fans for being as ruthlessly violent as he is incredibly offensive.
Jessica Lange – ‘American Horror Story’ (2011-)
Two-time Oscar winner, Jessica Lange rose to prominence in the 1970s and had an illustrious career in the 80s and 90s with notable roles in Tootsie, Cape fearand Blue sky. Her career began to falter after the turn of the century, however, a decline that was exacerbated by her distinct move to stage acting.
After witnessing her performance in a production of A tram called Désiramerican showrunner ryan murphy wrote a role for her in her next series american horror story. Lange appeared in the horror anthology series’ first four seasons and five in total, reigniting her on-screen career and showing off her talents to a new generation of fans.
Cillian Murphy – ‘Peaky Blinders’ (2013-2022)
After breaking into 28 days later… and Sunshine, Cillian Murphy established himself as a character actor, working regularly with Christopher Nolan in The black Knight Trilogy and Creation. As good as his work was, he never continued from his early days as a leading man, at least until he appeared in the BBC’s period crime drama. Peaky Blinders.
With every aspect of the hit series oozing style, Peaky Blinders became a mainstay of modern pop culture with Murphy’s Tommy Shelby, one of the most iconic characters in television history. Cementing Murphy as a certifiable leading man, he’s set to star in Nolan’s dramatic biopic Oppenheimer in 2023.
Winona Ryder – “Stranger Things” (2016-)
One of the biggest movie starlets from the late 80s to the 90s, winona ryder marked lastingly in its collaborations with Tim Burton as well as roles in movies like Heathers and girl interrupted. Following a high-profile scandal, she disappeared from the screen while taking a sabbatical from acting in the early 2000s, returning to work in 2006.
While she landed supporting roles in big pictures like star trek and Black Swanthe lead roles eluded her until Netflix signed her on to star in stranger things. The part brought Ryder back into the limelight, rebooting her acting career and reaffirming her as a screen star for a whole new generation of fans.
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