Credit it to Julia Roberts, or Meryl Streep, or John Travolta, but it’s official: The stigma is dead. There is no longer any reason a movie star shouldn’t consider doing a television show. Not only are series producing limited episode orders on shorter schedules, making it easier for stars to fit multiple projects into their lives, but the range of storytelling happening in the episodic world is often far more fascinating than what’s available in a studio system currently obsessed with blockbusters.
So below are 10 actors who should consider exploring the television world in 2019 — a list that was surprisingly hard to compile, because in researching potential options, so many stars already had a show in the works for next year. But if the era of Too Much TV must be fed, it might as well be fed by some interesting on-screen talent.
The WWE wrestler proved, with his role in the “Guardians of the Galaxy” films, that he has great comedic timing as well as an ability to be an empathic on-screen presence. It’s the sort of presence which could lend itself to an unconventional crime procedural, or even perhaps a dramedy that played on his intense persona — not a lot of people saw “Hotel Artemis,” but he showed there that he can bring a smart, nuanced layer to developing a character.
Annette Bening has had an incredibly impressive career as a film star and she probably doesn’t need or want the rigors of a weekly television show. But, imagine this: “Murder She Wrote” reboot. Yes, this has been tried before (and America mourns the fact that the Octavia Spencer attempt in 2014 didn’t happen) but Bening’s low-key quirkiness, used to solve mysteries on a weekly basis, would be such a slam-dunk for a broadcast audience that it almost hurts to think about it.
The “Searching” star isn’t exactly a stranger to the small screen. He’s appeared on a slew of TV shows spanning various genres, but only one of them was #StarringJohnCho. Long before “Crazy Rich Asians,” Cho was proving that an Asian lead was a great idea for rom-coms when he starred opposite Karen Gillan in the short-lived “Selfie” on ABC.
It’s high time that he’s returned to TV for another a role that is worthy of his leading-man stature. A limited series seems like the best bet so that he can still be free for features. Give John Cho the “Night Manager” or “Bodyguard” treatment that Tom Hiddleston and Richard Madden got. He’d kill it as a highly intelligent, alert, yet profound operative with the driest of wits. And think of all the suits! John Le Carre or Jed Mercurio probably have projects written that could be adjusted for Cho. Hell, he could even do a British accent if necessary. In fact, please let him do an accent.
(Or, barring that idea, we’ll settle for a “Selfie” revival.)
We live in an era of truly bonkers television, and it is glorious, and it is an era tailor-made for Nicolas Cage to enter. The actor has taken on increasingly crazy projects over the years, making the act of losing his mind on screen into an art form. It’s not hard to imagine Cage taking the lead in a completely out-there Starz dramedy, especially if he was paired with an equally out-there creator. Cage as a force of madness, harnessed to the engine of a insane vision, could be magnificent.
The thing about John Cena as an actor is his physique, paired with his affable comedy persona, creates such a clearly defined persona that the right idea is tough to imagine. It’s too easy to lean into “oh, what if he had to adopt a pack of rambunctious kids?”-type ideas, but staying within the realm of comedy feels essential to leaning on his best qualities. A nice way to emphasize his strengths would be perhaps a military-set comedy— the sort of show Fox tried in 2014 with “Enlisted,” but with the additional ooomph of star power that might help the show succeed.
While hosting “Saturday Night Live” last Saturday, Matt Damon made a point of noting that he was just doing the show for fun; he wasn’t promoting any film project. So clearly the actor has some time on his hands, and when you consider that this wasn’t his first appearance on “SNL” this fall, he also enjoys the spontaneity of live television.
Thus, it might not be the most expected idea, but as a low-key entry into the TV world, Damon hosting a short-term variety show could be something enjoyable. Between sketches, musical numbers, and the sort of special guests that Damon could likely attract, this easily could be a fun way to let Damon have fun on screen for a few weeks, with a relatively low commitment should America feel a pressing need for another “Bourne” movie anytime soon.
Recent statements by Megan Fox have made it clear that Hollywood has not done right by the “Jennifer’s Body” star, who was unfairly pigeon-holed as a sexpot thanks to years of working with Michael Bay, and dealt with no shortage of abuse along the way. The best way to make it up to her? The answer is not to give her a reality show where she investigates archaeology mysteries. The answer is to give her a starring vehicle tailored to her talents and interests. An adventure show, admittedly somewhat close to her Travel Channel series, makes a lot of sense: Let Fox play an Indiana Jones equivalent, whether in the past, present, or future, and it would be a lot of fun to watch.
It’s not that TV is a place where stars should go to recover from their recent missteps, but the “Hunger Games” and “X-Men” star floundered with her only 2018 film, “Red Sparrow,” and she needs a win. An easy one would be embracing the goofy side of her personality, as seen in countless talk show appearances, and let her do something comedic, perhaps something in line with FXX’s “You’re the Worst.” Lawrence seems ready for a badly-behaved-but-beloved rom-com heroine role, and given the dearth of romantic comedy films being made, a limited series approach in the television realm could be perfect for her at this stage.
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The “Black Panther” star, it could be argued, initially broke out thanks to her television work, especially her key role in the “Black Mirror” episode “Black Museum.” But in this post-“Black Panther” era, Letitia Wright could basically rule any show — and she could be a perfect partner for Shonda Rhimes, who currently has so many shows in development with Netflix. While everyone loves the character of Shuri, unless Marvel will give her a stand-alone movie, the time is right for Wright to set up her own potentially award-winning franchise.