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11 Hollywood heavyweights who jumped from the big screen to the small screen

We’re in TV’s second (or third?) Golden Age, so it’s no surprise that so many Hollywood actors are looking to jump aboard some of the hottest new series instead of — or in addition to — their usual big-screen projects.

The trend has been going strong for years, with massive names like Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson turning heads in shows like True Detective, and the great Jessica Lange becoming a fixture in FX anthology series American Horror Story. Sure, most movie stars have dabbled in television at one time or another, but these days multiple Oscar-winners are seeing value in the TV world. Here’s a sampling of some of the biggest Hollywood A-listers flocking to the small screen.

Julia Roberts

Homecoming (Amazon)

Julia Roberts – Homecoming (Amazon)

She’s Hollywood’s resident sweetheart, and one of the most successful actresses in terms of revenue generation thanks to mega-hit films like Pretty Woman, Erin Brokovich (for which she won an Academy Award), and Eat Pray Love. But Roberts took a trip to TV land late last year to play a caseworker at the Homecoming Transitional Support Center in this psychological thriller created by Mr. Robot’s Sam Esmail. With the riveting premise of a facility that seemingly helps soldiers reintegrate into civilian life, but isn’t what it appears to be, it’s no wonder the veteran actress saw value in taking a break from the big screen.

Mahershala Ali

True Detective (HBO)

Mahershala Ali – True Detective (HBO)

Ali is one of the hottest names in Hollywood right now, having already won two Academy Awards, one for Moonlight in 2016 and this year for Green Book. The in-demand actor has also followed his series predecessors in infiltrating the small screen for the incredible third season of this anthology crime drama. Ali’s “mesmerizing performance,” as noted in the RottenTomatoes critical consensus, has catapulted the series back to success following a lackluster second season.

Nicole Kidman

Big Little Lies (HBO)

Nicole Kidman – Big Little Lies (HBO)

Kidman, who has been A-list since the ’80s, and also has an Academy Award, is joined by fellow Hollywood heavyweights Reese Witherspoon, Shailene Woodley, Alexander Skarsgård, and Laura Dern in this drama about a group of emotionally troubled California women who get caught up in a murder investigation. The show has 16 Emmy Award nominations and eight wins, including one for Kidman herself. The A-list game is being kicked up a notch for the upcoming second season, with three-time Oscar winner Meryl Streep joining the cast.

Viola Davis

How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)

Viola Davis – How to Get Away With Murder (ABC)

Having earned accolades for her performances in films like Doubt, The Help, and Fences, Davis was rewarded with multiple Academy Award nominations, along with a win for Fences. But amid all this big-screen success, she has dutifully been playing lead character Annalise Keating in this highly successful Shonda Rhimes drama, which just wrapped its fifth season.

James Franco

The Deuce (HBO)

James Franco – The Deuce (HBO)

Franco did indeed get his start on television, most notably on the short-lived, cult classic comedy-drama Freaks and Geeks. He also had a recurring role on daytime soap opera General Hospital from 2009 to 2012, though that seemed more like an art experiment. While his film career has been successful, with a string of hit movies like 127 Hours (for which he received as Oscar nod), Milk, The Disaster Artist, and even the controversial film The Interview, he isn’t afraid to pursue opportunities on the small screen. In this 1970s-set period drama, he plays twins navigating the drug- and violence-fueled New York City pornography scene.

Helen Mirren

Catherine the Great (HBO miniseries)

Helen Mirren – Catherine the Great (HBO miniseries)

Mirren has long been a fixture on the movie scene, with several Academy Award nominations, and a win for her portrayal of Queen Elizabeth II in The Queen in 2007. She has appeared on television before, including a long-running stint on British series Prime Suspect, as well as in the television serial Elizabeth I. But she’ll soon take her talents back to the small screen for this four-episode miniseries which she both stars in and executive produces. A release date has not yet been confirmed.

Sir Anthony Hopkins

Westworld (HBO)

Sir Anthony Hopkins – Westworld (HBO)

“Hello, Clarice.” When you think of Hopkins, you think of his fantastic performances in iconic films like The Silence of the Lambs, Remains of the Day, and Meet Joe Black. But his role in this fantastical sci-fi/Western was a fun and intriguing change of pace. Loosely based on the novel of the same name by Michael Crichton, it tells the story of a fictional Wild West-themed amusement park populated by android “hosts” that fulfill the wildest fantasies of its high-paying guests. Hopkins’ character, Robert Ford, is the mysterious co-founder and director of the park.

Winona Ryder

Stranger Things (Netflix)

Winona Ryder – Stranger Things (Netflix)

With a career that spans over three decades that was almost exclusively on the big screen in films like Beetlejuice, Reality Bites, and Bram Stoker’s Dracula, Ryder took a big leap when she signed on for this sci-fi/horror series. But it paid off in spades, with the series receiving rave reviews, and gearing up to debut its third season this summer. Ryder has received high praise for her performance as the perpetually grieving and fiercely devoted mother of two boys.

Brie Larson

Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA (Apple TV)

Brie Larson – Undercover: Coming of Age in the CIA (Apple TV)

Fresh off her lead role in the film Captain Marvel (and let’s not forget that Academy Award for Room), Larson is confirmed to be starring in this as-yet-untitled drama about a young woman working as an undercover agent for the CIA. She isn’t new to TV, having previously appeared in sitcoms like Raising Dad and United States of Tara. Yet, despite her rise to A-list status, and her membership in the Marvel Cinematic Universe, she still has a taste for small screen projects.

Emma Stone

Maniac (Netflix)

Emma Stone – Maniac (Netflix)

Dubbed the highest-paid actress in the world in both 2013 and 2017 by Forbes Magazine, the 30-year-old Stone has already racked up an impressive movie résumé with starring roles in films like The Help, The Amazing Spider-Man, Birdman, and La La Land (for which she won an Academy Award). Most recently, she starred in The Favourite, for which she earned another Academy Award nomination. Yet, she still found time to try her hand at TV, starring alongside her Superbad co-star Jonah Hill (another A-list film actor) in this psychological dark comedy about two strangers who connect during a pharmaceutical trial.

Amy Adams

Sharp Objects (HBO)

Amy Adams – Sharp Objects (HBO)

With six Oscar nominations (though no wins), Adams is exploring the small screen alongside her Hollywood film career, which has included movies like American Hustle, Arrival, and Doubt. In 2018, the same year she was nominated for her role in the satirical film Vice, Adams also appeared as a troubled reporter who returns to her hometown to cover the murders of two young girls in this psychological thriller based on the Gillian Flynn novel.

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Christine Persaud
Christine is a professional editor and writer with 18 years of experience in trade and consumer journalism. While she started…
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