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8 Actors Who Became Known For One Role (And 8 Who Broke Away)

Entertainment
8 Actors Who Became Known For One Role (And 8 Who Broke Away)

No matter how hard they try, some actors are forever linked to a character that they have played in the past. It may be a television series, like Aaron Paul’s Jesse who anytime you see him, you’re just expecting him to call someone a bitch. In some cases, it may be an on-screen character; such as Jim in American Pie that will forever define the career of Jason Biggs.

That being said, he had to see that coming after he agreed to make love to a pie on the big screen! 8 of the actors on our list had every opportunity in the world to become an acting version of a one-hit wonder but were able to rise against it.

Sure, you love them for some of their more prominent roles such as Jackie Burkhart on That ’70s Show, but it’s also clear that Mila Kunis has had a tremendous career. Then there are television stars, like Kaley Cuoco, who managed to transition in between several television shows to help become the star that you know and love today.

The other half on our list isn’t quite so lucky and many are currently out of an acting career. You may be able to recognize every role on our list, but for 8 of our entries, that role may also be the only thing that comes to mind.

15. Typecast – Jason Biggs (Jim In American Pie)

Once you put your genitalia in a baked good, it may be hard for people to ever look at you the same way. This was the task set out for Jason Biggs in his most iconic role of Jim in the American Pie series. Helping cement this as the role that people will always see Biggs in is the fact that he has reprised it 4 times and while the pie may stand out, it’s also far from the only embarrassing situation Biggs found himself in.

We do have to give him credit for landing a role in Orange is the New Black, at least for a while, but he’ll still always be Jim to us.

Special credit could also be given to Eddie Kaye Thomas who will probably always be Finch in your eyes.

14. Broke Away – Chris Pratt (Andy In Parks And Recreation)

It’s weird going back to the earlier seasons of Parks and Recreation when Chris Pratt was still a bit of a heavy-set fellow that relied on his comedic timing to make a memorable appearance. Plenty has changed since then, including Pratt re-inventing his body for the role of Starlord in Guardians of the Galaxy. Not to mention his recent announcement that he is separating from his long-term wife, Anna Faris!

And while some people may look at Pratt and still see Andy, we give him credit for working hard to change up his image. The fact that he also has the Jurassic Park franchise will hopefully help people continue to see Pratt for Pratt, and not just Andy.

Though Andy Dwyer dealing with dinosaurs? Yes, please!

13. Typecast – Rainn Wilson (Dwight Shrute In The Office)

When it comes to The Office, the characters have become so beloved by their fan base that it becomes even harder for them to break away from that role. While some, such as Steve Carell, may have found some success – Rainn Wilson who brings Dwight Shrute to life – hasn’t been able to be quite as fortunate with his career. It may have helped that Carell left when the series was still going, whereas Wilson stayed till the end.

Even when he appears in a major movie, such as The Rocker (which sadly disappointed with critics), it just seems like Dwight getting himself into a new situation. Jim Krasinski has also struggled with the Jim label for years, but his recent role in Detroit may open the door for him more. At the very least, it kept him off our list!

12. Broke Away – Will Smith (Will In Fresh Prince Of Bel Air)

Will Smith is one of the biggest movie stars of all-time. His stock has raised even more as of late with the news breaking that he’ll play the Genie in the upcoming Aladdin film. With so many huge film roles to choose from (our personal favorite being the Men In Black series), it’s amazing to think how different Hollywood would have looked if he never broke away from his character Will, on Fresh Prince of Bel Air.

We’re sure it helped that fans spent years falling in love with a character that was also named Will! When talking about why he decided to name his character that in the series, Smith admitted he was influenced by the thought that everyone may remember him for his first ever big break, so why not make that role his name.

11. Typecast – Danielle Fishel (Topanga Lawrence In Boy Meets World)

One of the best shows for anyone growing up in the 90s was Boy Meets World. Fishel may very well have even been one of the first celebrities you found yourself crushing on. I mean c’mon who didn’t love TGIF?

But if you wanted to experience her career away from the character of Topanga Lawrence, we’d beg you to reconsider. Especially because one of her “highlights” includes appearing in National Lampoon Presents Dorm Daze as well as the sequel. Lawrence returned to the character of Topanga for Girl Meets World but the series was canceled after 72 episodes.

Fishel currently has no future projects planned, meaning that her career may have perhaps fittingly died right alongside the end of her character.

10. Broke Away – Mila Kunis (Jackie Burkhart In That ’70s Show)

There aren’t many shows that many people feel a dip in quality as much as That ’70s Show does. The series, to its credit, did have to deal with several of the stars leaving for other projects. Kunis, however, stuck it out, appearing in all 200 episodes of the series.

It’s undeniable that she hasn’t diversified her talents from what we saw in Point Place. In the acting world, Kunis has several great roles to look at whether it’s getting hot and heavy with Natalie Portman in Black Swan or falling for Jason Segel in Forgetting Sarah Marshall. 

Kunis’ voice acting talents, most prominently put on display with the series Family Guy, will also be put to the test again with an upcoming animated film Amusement Park that also stars Matthew Broderick.

9. Typecast – Jason Alexander (George Costanza In Seinfeld)

Seinfeld is one of the best-written television shows of all-time. It has been off the air for over a decade now, and it may be one of the best ways you can spend 20 minutes of your day. But watching the series may make it become very evident that Jason Alexander’s career never really took off after Seinfeld.

He did have a role in Shallow Hal, but when Shallow Hal is our go-to great Jason Alexander movie, you may agree that there may be a problem. One of his more disappointing ventures came in 2015 when he appeared in the Jason Statham action film, Wild Card. The movie scored 32% on Rotten Tomatoes and struggled at the box office, failing to make over $10 million.

8. Broke Away – Jennifer Aniston (Rachel Green In Friends)

Now if we’re being honest, Jennifer Aniston has done a ton of bad movies. Bad movies that failed at the box office. Bad movies (at least according to critics) that did well at the box office. And for the sheer volume that she has put out since Friends, we have to give her at least some credit for working hard to break away from Rachel Green.

At the very least, Rachel definitely wouldn’t be engaging in some of the raunchy behavior that Aniston has in some roles such as Horrible Bosses. Aniston is going to get another chance to create an iconic TV character as her new potential series that will also star Reese Witherspoon is currently being pitched to different networks.

7. Typecast – Aaron Paul (Jesse In Breaking Bad)

Breaking Bad is one of the greatest television series of all-time. So I mean, if any show is going to leave you stuck with one role, at least it’s a pretty great one. But there is little argument that Jesse…I mean, Aaron Paul, has done to separate from his cursing, meth-loving character.

The films he has picked has left much to be desired, including Need For Speed which scored an awful 23% on Rotten Tomatoes. Even some of Paul’s better roles, such as Central Intelligence still use some of the trademark “Jesse” lines that they know the audience is thinking anytime Paul is on the screen.

Paul’s greatest role since leaving Breaking Bad comes in the animated series BoJack Horseman, but the fact that it a voice-over may have helped limit the Jesse connection.

6. Broke Away – Kaley Cuoco (Bridget Hennessy In 8 Simple Rules)

Kaley Cuoco has a tall task ahead of her whenever The Big Bang Theory stops airing and she needs to work to get separation from her character Penny. But leaving a high-profile television show is nothing new for Cuoco. She was one of the stars of 8 Simple Rules, appearing in 76 episodes. Shortly after that, she was able to land a reoccurring role on the series Charmed which then led to her role on The Big Bang Theory.

Cuoco ran the risk of being someone who was always defined by their first big break (in this case, Bridget Hennessy from 8 Simple Rules), but we credit her ability to keep consistent work. We wouldn’t blame her if after her time on The Big Bang Theory is over that she spends some time exploring films as opposed to another TV role.

5. Typecast – Topher Grace (Eric Forman In That ’70s Show)

Topher Grace made arguably what ended up being the worst moves in Hollywood history. After spending several years as the lead on That ’70s Show, Grace made the decision to leave the series. The decision was largely influenced by the opportunity to play Eddie Brock, aka Venom, in Spider-Man 3.

While the idea on paper may have seemed tantalizing to Grace, to everyone else it sounded like a match made in hell. The movie made money at the box office but is largely considered one of the worst endings to any film franchise; due in part to people’s inability to see Brock for Brock and not you know, Eric Forman.

If you are a huge fan of Grace you can check out his latest movie, War Machine, easily enough as it was a Netflix original.

4. Broke Away – Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Elaine In Seinfeld)

You could make the argument that both Michael Richards and Jason Alexander failed to escape from their roles on Seinfeld. In comparison, however, Julia Louis-Dreyfus has done a tremendous job in keeping her career going strong.

In the world of sitcoms, Louis-Dreyfus found success in the lead role of The New Adventures of Old Christine which ran for nearly 100 episodes. You may be an even bigger fan of her current series Veep that has been awarded the Primetime Emmy for Outstanding Comedy Series two separate years.

It doesn’t mean we don’t still love seeing Louis-Dreyfus on Seinfeld reruns, but fans of her can rest assured that there is plenty of her to check out. If you’re interested in seeing Julia Louis-Dreyfus prior to Seinfeld, she also had a solid stint on Saturday Night Live but the episodes might not be as easy to find.

3. Typecast – Emma Watson (Hermione Granger In Harry Potter)

There is no arguing that the Harry Potter franchise is one of the most recognizable of all-time. So it’s perhaps understandable that Emma Watson, Daniel Radcliffe, and Rupert Grint all were given the tremendous opportunity to become huge movie stars. And while Grint elected to fade from the spotlight (at least for a while) and Radcliffe has done a few projects, Watson was given the major opportunity to play Belle in Beauty and the Beast.

And while nobody is going to blame her for taking the role, finding herself in another magical castle where she plays a nerdy character wasn’t exactly the biggest leap. Her recent film, The Circle, also failed with critics scoring 15% on Rotten Tomatoes.

Watson currently has no upcoming projects, so perhaps she is taking this time to think about what type of role she wants to tackle next.

2. Broke Away – Evangeline Lilly (Kate In Lost)

You aren’t able to get too far into a conversation about the television series Lost before someone starts to complain about the ending. But we’re sure regardless of Evangeline Lilly‘s thoughts on it, we’re sure that she (and you) is ecstatic that it didn’t signal the end of her career.

Far from it as Lilly’s perhaps biggest roles have come since the series has ended, including a prominent role in both The Hobbit franchise and Ant-Man. Her role in the latter will continue to expand as she plays the role of Hope van Dyne, aka The Wasp, and will be at the focal point of Ant-Man and the Wasp as well as play a role in an upcoming Avengers film.

1. Typecast – Frankie Muniz (Malcolm In Malcolm In The Middle)

We definitely don’t want to slam Frankie Muniz too hard. In fact, when a fan took to Twitter to say “ur acting is just, awful, sorry but, it is.”, Muniz responded “Yeah, but being retired with $40,000,000.00 at 19 has not been awful. Good luck moving out of your mom’s house before youre 35,” yikes!

Which may help explain why you probably still see Muniz and still imagine his character, Malcolm, from Malcolm In the Middle as he clearly had little motivation to continue diversifying as an actor. Muniz has 4 projects that he has wrapped on this year, so perhaps he discovered that continuing to earn income is probably a pretty positive thing.

Anyone who hasn’t checked out the series needs to do so, as you’ll also get to see a tremendous acting performance by Bryan Cranston.

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