The broadcast television networks have announced the shows that will comprise their 2013-14 schedules (check out the lineups for ABC, CBS, NBC and Fox at those links), and you might be surprised at the indie cred of their collective casts. While cable channels have long seen actors with independent film-heavy resumes make the leap to their small screens, it has been much less the case for the big network. But this fall and spring will be a different story, with the following 10 actors leading the trend:
The Juilliard-trained Nicole Beharie made her feature film debut as the lead in 2009’s “American Violet,” in which she played a single mother who’s indicted under maddeningly flimsy charges as a drug dealer, and who chooses to fight the powerful DA rather than take a false guilty plea. The film, which was released by Samuel Goldwyn Films, attracted a lot of attention for Beharie, who later turned up as the woman Michael Fassbender attempts (and fails) to actually woo in “Shame.” Next up for Beharie will be “Sleepy Hollow,” Fox’s modern day spinoff of the Washington Irving story that will have her playing a modern day cop against Tom Mison’s recently awakened Ichabod Crane. The series, created by Alex Kurtzman and Roberto Orci, looks incredibly silly, but it should be a good platform for the talented Beharie.
In 2007, Summer Bishil got an Indie Spirit Award nomination for her controversial film debut in Alan Ball’s “Towelhead.” She played a 13-year old Lebanese American girl who has a sexual awakening in suburban Texas care of a neighbour (Aaron Eckhart) decades her senior. Six years later, Bishil has a much less unsettling awakening on ABC’s new drama “Lucky 7.” Her character is one of seven gas station employees who hit the jackpot at the lottery.
She might have made a recent switch to television with her Emmy winning role on now-cancelled “The United States of Tara,” but the vast majority Toni Collette’s resume is of the independent film variety, including “Muriel’s Wedding” (her 1995 breakthrough),”Clockwatchers,” “Velvet Goldmine,” “Little Miss Sunshine,” and the upcoming “The Way Way Back,” which also stars Allison Janney. Collette will join Janney on the CBS schedule this fall in “Hostages,” an hour long drama starring Collette as a high-profile surgeon who is taken hostage and told she has to kill the President of the United States or the hostage-takers will kill her family.
After her breakout in 1995’s “Circle of Friends,” Minnie Driver played the pleasantly unexpected love interests for John Cusack in “Grosse Pointe Blank” and Matt Damon in “Good Will Hunting,” but also roles in indies and other interesting films like “Big Night” and “The Governess,” and after that “Owning Mahowny” and “Barney’s Version.” Her most memorable part in recent years, however, may have been on TV, as the recovering meth addict matriarch of a family of grifters in FX’s “The Riches.” It was an unusual fit for Driver, and one she found vulnerability and humor in — and here’s hoping she’ll be able to do the same in her upcoming role in NBC’s adaptation of “About a Boy,” in which she’ll be playing single mom Fiona (played in the film by her listmate Toni Collette) alongside David Walton as Will and Benjamin Stockham as Marcus.
Anna Faris and Allison Janney
Neither Anna Faris or Allison Janney are strangers to network television. Janney is probably best known for her role on “The West Wing” and was also a regular on failed Matthew Perry sitcom “Mr. Sunshine,” while Faris was on the final season of “Friends” as the surrogate for Chandler and Monica’s child. On CBS’ new sitcom “Mom,” they come back to TV to play a mother and daughter who are both recovering from substance abuse issues (yes, you read right: this is a sitcom on CBS). Notably, both of them also have mighty resumes when it comes to indie film. Janney’s film credits include “Big Night,” “Walking and Talking,” “The Ice Storm,” “Juno,” “Margaret” and the aforementioned “Way, Way Back” (where she also comedically plays an alcoholic) while Faris had memorable roles in “Lost in Translation,” “Brokeback Mountain” and Gregg Araki’s “Smiley Face” (where she hilariously plays a pothead). Hopefully their impressive collective history of TV, film and experience playing addicts for a laugh will give CBS a rare sitcom we actually want to watch.
While John Malkovich has been known to dabble in giant studio productions (see “Con Air” and “Transformers: Dark of the Moon”), the two-time Oscar nominee is known for being a serious and sometimes adventurous actor whose roles have taken him from Tangier in Bernardo Bertolucci’s “The Sheltering Sky” to sumptuous Rococo France in Stephen Frears’ “Dangerous Liaisons,” even journeying into his own psyche as an exaggerated version of himself in Spike Jonze’s “Being John Malkovich.” “Crossbones,” which will premiere midseason on NBC, will find Malkovich in new territory, taking on a lead role in a network TV series. Malkovich will play Edward “Blackbeard” Teach in the series, which was created by Neil Cross (of “Luther”) — and it sounds like the kind of role that Malkovich, a performer who knows how to take pleasure in his hammy side, could have a lot of fun with. There’s not underplaying the role of a famous pirate, and Cross is a clever writer who seems like he’d know how to write the part as one both human and larger than life.
Giovanni Ribisi and Steve Zahn
In 1996, Giovanni Ribisi and Steve Zahn starred together Richard Linklater’s young adult comedy “SubUrbia” (and did the same in Tom Hanks’ directorial debut “That Thing You Do!” that same year, though that isn’t quite an indie). Seventeen years and countless independent films later, both are heading to broadcast television, though on rival networks. In Fox’s Seth MacFarlane-created “Dads,” Ribisi plays one of two successful guys and childhood best friends (the other played by Seth Green), whose lives get turned upside down when their dads move in and wreck havoc. On ABC’s “Mind Games,” Zahn plays opposite Christian Slater as brothers who run an agency committed to “solving clients’ problems using the hard science of psychological manipulation.” Maybe there could be a crossover episode where Zahn and his onscreen brother come and solves the problems Ribisi and his friend have with their dad?
Lili Taylor is a definitive indie actress whose roles in films like “Dogfight,” “The Addiction,” “I Shot Andy Warhol” and “Pecker” are a throughline of the era. She still regularly takes chances on smaller films and first-time directors in more recent work like “Future Weather” and “About Cherry,” though she’s also become a familiar presence on the small screen, first as Nate’s partner in a turbulent marriage in “Six Feet Under” and then as the psychiatrist lead in “State of Mind.” She took a role in Netflix’s recent horror series “Hemlock Grove,” and will be back on TV this fall with a part in “Almost Human,” the J.J. Abrams futuristic cop drama premiering on Fox. Taylor will play Captain Maldonado, overseeing a department in which human police personnel are paired up with android partners — it’ll be interesting to see her bring her grounded, warm humanity to the sleek surfaces of this high-end genre project.