Film to Television – A New Kind of Transition

Karine Ohayon January 20, 2011 0

When you think about success for an actor you think movies. Box-office gold, Oscar buzz and critical acclaim is what any actor would aspire to. Television was always seen as the movie’s little brother and a TV star never sounded as glamorous as a movie star. However, the status of the TV star rose from a stepping stone to an attained goal in the past few years. The main transition for an actor was always from TV to movies. Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Leonardo DiCaprio, George Clooney and many more started their career on the small screen. In Hollywood it is considered as natural evolution.

Lately, the Hollywood circle of life was altered with the creation of another step in the actor’s life; the return to TV. The creation of cable TV and speciality networks upped the TV programming game and it is thanks to that fierce competition that viewers have better, edgier, smarter and riskier television and at the same time give actors meatier roles. An exodus of big names to network and cable TV ensued making the television screen as appealing to opening weekend at the box office for some actors.

Case 1: Sally Field – Brothers and Sisters

Sally Field is a genius, an icon of her generation and a joy to watch on screen. This film icon started on the small screen as a flying nun and transitioned to Oscars and critical success in theatres. For 5 years now, she’s been back on TV and audiences have the privilege to see her week after week as the matriarch Nora Walker in ABC’s Brothers and Sisters. This role gave Field longevity; a rare gift for any actor.

Roles for older women are not pouring in and if they are, they all go to Helen Mirren! Television has audiences of all ages; older women included, and therefore gave the possibility for many writers to create great characters. Sally Field is not the actress to get her own show. The great Kathy Bates is helming this year’s David E. Kelly’s opus Harry’s Law and Glenn Close rebooted her career thanks to Damages.

Case 2: Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock

Saying Baldwin made a transition into television is an understatement. The oldest brother of the Baldwin brood literally transformed himself on television. 30 Rock gave the movie star a new life and contributed to the metamorphosis of this dramatic film actor into one of the most celebrated comedians on television. He made appearances on television in the 90′s but they never matched the success of his film career. Baldwin won more awards, received more critical acclaim and gained more popularity with his role in 30Rock than he ever did in his film career. Television, and more particularly the great Tina Fey, gave Baldwin a chance to reinvent himself, a chance he would never have gotten if he stayed in film. Thanks to television, audiences got a chance to rediscover Alec Baldwin and be a witness to his wonderful versatility.

Television evolved, grew up and now has the most celebrated stars on its roster. TV stars get the royal treatment but most importantly quality writing, something that is lacking in the mainstream movie world. In order for a star like Baldwin, Close or Linney take on a show on their shoulders, the material needs to be close to perfect.

Pilot season is known to be ruthless and this new competition makes it impossible to get away with soulless scripted shows. The movie stars just upped television’s game, equalizing the field quite a bit.