While there have been some actors that were lucky enough to achieve fame overnight, not everyone can become an instant sensation just by being plucked from the masses. On the other hand, the world is filled with struggling actors working as waiters and waitresses while fighting to go on auditions. From Penny on The Big Bang Theory to Joey from Friends, it’s commonly known that many aspiring actors struggle to even land a role on television, much less get a speaking role in a feature film.
For many actors, television is often a jumping off point to help propel their careers onto the silver screen. Kevin Bacon and Demi Moore famously started off their careers doing soap operas, and even our beloved Tom Hanks had a television role in the '80’s on a sitcom called Bosom Buddies. While many of Hollywood’s A-list actors started off their careers in television, they don’t often return to the small screen after they have reached film success. Unless it’s an occasional talk show appearance to help promote a movie role or to host SNL, there seems to be a certain stigma between TV and film actors.
However, there have been some A-list actors that deigned to portray a role on television, regardless of their film success. While they definitely took a pay cut in taking these television roles, there are a number of different reasons why an actor would choose to stray from their main bread and butter. Whether it’s their chance to be part of one of their favorite television shows, for publicity, there simply weren’t any good roles available film at the time, or “any paycheck’s a good paycheck,” check out these 15 A-list actors that took a pay cut to be on TV.
15 Octavia Spencer
14 Scarlett Johansson
Scarlett Johansson is a well-respected actress that has starred in a number of award-winning films. One of the more notable films was Lost in Translation, which won an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay and also brought her a BAFTA award for Best Actress in a Leading Role. However, oftentimes opportunities afforded actors aren’t solely based on skill and networking. Since public perception is a huge part in whether or not roles are open to actresses, it didn’t hurt that Scarlett Johansson was long coined Hollywood’s hottest “It” girl.
13 Oprah Winfrey
12 Brad Pitt
11 Benedict Cumberbatch
Benedict Cumberbatch is an actor with the rare ability to find equal fame through his work in television and film. His early work in television earned him high praise, and was probably a huge factor in landing him some of the bigger roles he played in film. Commercially successful films like Atonement, Star Trek: Into Darkness, 12 Years a Slave, and The Imitation Game were just a few examples of how well he has been able to capture the attention of audiences and receive accolades from his peers.
10 Billy Bob Thornton
Billy Bob Thornton is an Academy Award-winning actor that has been in a number of hugely successful films. From Armageddon to Monster’s Ball to Bad Santa, it seems he is the type of actor that can play any sort of character. However, he doesn’t limit himself to the big screen. Although he won Best Actor in a Miniseries or TV Film at the Golden Globes for his role in the first season of Fargo, it was his minuscule role in The Big Bang Theory that really showed audiences how down to Earth he can be.
9 Reese Witherspoon
Reese Witherspoon is an Academy Award-winning actress that has been in a number of commercially successful films, like the Legally Blonde series and Walk the Line. While she often plays in feel-good films like Sweet Home Alabama, her portrayal in Wild showed she is more than just a one-trick pony. Although everyone can agree that she has true skill as an actress, audiences secretly adore when she plays a not-so-smart blonde vixen.
8 Lucy Liu
While Lucy Liu has been lucky enough to achieve roles in film that aren’t typically meant for only Asian actors, the industry hasn’t yet evolved to include her as a leading lady in regular romantic comedies or dramas. While Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon are the go-to actresses for those types of films, it will probably be awhile before we see Lucy Liu in a starring role like that.
7 Matthew McConaughey
Ever since his breakout role in Dazed and Confused, Matthew McConaughey has definitely been an actor to watch. While he won an Oscar for his starring role in Dallas Buyers Club, fans still associate him with his infamous line from his first film, “Alright, alright, alright.” The epitome of an A-list actor and Hollywood heartthrob, fans and critics alike were shocked by the announcement he would be playing a role in a television series, True Detective.
6 Rachel McAdams
5 Woody Harrelson
Although Woody Harrelson was first introduced to audiences through television, he has come a long way since we first saw him on Cheers. While often thought of as a free spirited individual with a fun-loving heart, he doesn’t shy away from portraying dark characters in film. Whether it was his role in Natural Born Killers or No Country for Old Men, he has more than proven he can play in roles outside of any specific genre.
4 Colin Farrell
3 Vince Vaughn
2 Viola Davis
The 2016 Oscars caused an inordinate amount of controversy, since many actors spoke out against the awards show for failing to recognize actors of color. However, this isn’t exactly a new theme for the Oscars, and it is something that Viola Davis is all too familiar with. Meryl Streep actually famously begged Hollywood to give Viola Davis a role after remarking on her stellar performance in the film Doubt. Although she did wind up winning the Academy Award for Best Actress for her portrayal of a maid in the film The Help, she made numerous comments on how difficult it is to find a quality role in Hollywood as an African American woman.
1 Terrence Howard
Terrence Howard has been in a number of hugely successful films throughout his professional career, including films like The Butler and Iron Man. However, it’s been the headlines he’s made in the tabloids over his personal life that has overshadowed his acting ability. Allegations of abuse by his third wife were made public, including some recordings leaked to the press with definite signs of verbal abuse, and she ended up filing for divorce while she was pregnant with their first child. Although the script and premise for Empire was no doubt a huge draw in Terrence Howard’s decision to play a television character, one has to wonder whether or not he chose the role to deflect attention from his personal life drama.
Sources: mtv, hollywoodreporter
Leave A Comment
Looking for an AD FREE EXPERIENCE on TheRichest?Get Your Free Access Now!