Television. It's a compelling medium in itself - but also frequently acts as a launching pad for actors chasing big screen dreams. To think that full-fledged movie stars like Tom Hanks
, Jennifer Aniston
, George Clooney
, and Katherine Heigl
all got their big breaks on television shows. So, who should the next TV-turned-movie star be? Here's our Top 10 List to get you thinking.
10. Morena Baccarin.
Beauty meshed with an all-around intriguing persona should make Morena Baccarin a natural pick for big film projects. Yet, somehow she's flown largely under the radar, instead developing a string of significant television credentials. A Brazilian-born, New-York-bred actress, she made a splash playing Inara in the FOX cult hit Firefly
and has since gone on to numerous television projects, including Stargate SG-1
. With that twinkle in her eye and tongue-in-cheek edge to her voice, we're thinking Baccarin would be a strong candidate in the event of a Bond girl opening.
9. "Hank Hill."
Cartoon or not, Hank Hill of FOX's long-running King of the Hill
is a Texas everyman whose trials, however satirical, somehow feel much more culturally relevant than those in many a modern-day sitcom. Whether figuring out how to bond with his non-jock, jokester son, Bobby, or how to support his idealistic, outspoken wife, Peggy, Hank is understated and hilarious from start to finish. Especially after the commercial success of last year's The Simpson's Movie
, there could be some viable interest in developing similar projects based off TV shows - and, we dare say, a film centered on Hank (the brain child of Beavis and Butthead
and Office Space
creator Mike Judge
) could be just the ticket.
8. Lauren Graham.
Okay, okay, so this pick could be considered cheating since Graham has technically had some noteworthy big screen parts (with solid, though second banana, roles in films like Bad Santa
and last year's duds Evan Almighty
and Because I Said So
). But this woman's work on TV's Gilmore Girls
proves she deserves leading lady status. Her cuddly voice, sassy comedic style, and dramatic talent all give her an engaging onscreen appeal (à la Meg Ryan
and Sandra Bullock
). But, so far, Graham's big screen moments have left her in sidekick standing. It's time for her to step off the sidelines and into meatier film roles that show off the charm and gifts she displayed in Gilmore.
7. Sarah Chalke.
Her work on the small screen ranges from sarcastic Becky Conner on Roseanne
to the sweetly neurotic Elliot Reid on Scrubs
. She's spunky and pretty to boot. But what we really love about Chalke is her willingness to wholeheartedly throw herself into a scene, never afraid of acting a little crazy to get that audience laugh. In that way, she's got a modern-day Carol Burnett
quality to her - and like Burnett, who first made it big on television, we think Chalke has oodles of crossover appeal to movie roles.
6. Michael Urie.
It's hard to imagine a better "frenemy" on television. With his deliciously biting portrayal of Mark on Ugly Betty
, Urie steals every scene in which his character appears. Satirizing the high fashion world, he floats around the storyline with fast-paced dialogue and ruthless remarks on couture clueless Betty (America Ferrera
). But what really makes Urie such a screen gem are the moments when he makes his catty, shallow, and altogether naughty character seem vulnerable and even - gulp - likeable. Comedic timing, meet your new master.
5. Marcia Cross.
There's a reason she's been nominated for a Golden Globe three times. As Bree on ABC's Desperate Housewives
, Cross reveals the dark side of perfectionism, and she is goo-oo-ood at it (you know what we mean). But even more importantly, with the quality and breadth of television work Cross has behind her (Everwood
and Melrose Place
being a couple highlights), it's clear she's not a one-note actress. Although she's currently occupied filming Desperate Housewives - on top of her twin baby girls keeping her busy at home - maybe somewhere in there, she will find time for a movie project or two?
4. Stephen Colbert.
Although he's one of America's favorite television comedians, Colbert has had only a few nominal big screen appearances (we're talking itty-bitty roles in films like 2005's Bewitched
). And indeed, with his vigilante anchorman alter-ego popularized on "The Colbert Report
," many forget of his acting and improv roots. But now that he's had a hit TV show and a bestselling book, the movie biz could be just around the corner. And, if he's looking to stay in his trademark "Colbert Report" character, he could always play off of the popularity of "mockumentaries" and deliver an improv-driven film (perhaps in the vein of Borat
, minus the gross-out humor).
3. Sendhil Ramamurthy.
His role as Dr. Mohinder Suresh on NBC's Heroes
showcases dramatic abilities that would translate easily to film projects. Ramamurthy juggles entertaining action with a nuanced delivery (subtle facial expressions that convey what a page's worth of dialogue could not). Besides the fact that his good looks and charisma play beautifully in front of the camera, his Heroes performance proves he is genuinely interesting to watch- he infuses his portrayal of a driven intellectual with a unique sensitivity. We're just itching to see Ramamurthy flex his acting muscles in other equally dynamic roles on the big screen.
2. Chandra Wilson.
Wilson's commanding onscreen presence has already made her an audience favorite as Dr. Miranda Bailey on ABC's megahit Grey's Anatomy
. She brings some backbone to the nighttime drama and knows just how to play off her fellow-actors without getting lost in the ensemble clutter. A number of her Grey's cast mates have developed movie careers on the side (most notably, Katherine Heigl
and Patrick Dempsey
), and while Wilson brings different qualities to the screen than these counterparts, she is certainly equal in talent and magnetism.
1. Robert Knepper.
He's one of those method actors who is so convincing, it's hard to imagine that he hasn't yet entertained movie audiences. With a cool glare and husky, snake-like drawl, Knepper's performance as the murderous T-Bag on FOX's Prison Break
is every bit as creepy as Javier Bardem's
in the Oscar-winning No Country For Old Men
(and there's no arguing that Bardem was pretty ding-dang scary there). Knepper makes T-Bag one second frighteningly sociopathic and the next second weirdly sympathetic. And as an added reason Knepper should be workin' it on the big screen: As the storylines on Prison Break have progressed, his character has been reduced to more frequent "token appearances" and less juicy action and dialogue. There are many directions this man's film career could go - perhaps diving into a villain role in the next summer blockbuster or even taking his meticulous acting style to smaller, substantive independent projects.
Is one of your favorite television actors missing from the list? Post your picks in the comments section below.
Story by Chelsea Fogleman
Starpulse contributing writer