CELEBRITIES

Big Stars, Small Screen

Faces from the multiplex are coming to a television near you.


In The First Wives Club, the movie star played by Goldie Hawn bitterly describes the ages of women in Hollywood as “babe, district attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy.” She neglected a fourth: TV-series star. The coming season, however, will see a number of feature-film actresses in their prime arriving on the small screen. Which raises the question: Why—or at least, why now?

Television has always funneled stars into the movies, from Clint Eastwood, Bruce Willis, and John Travolta to the Friends cast and Saturday Night Live’s plentiful alumni. However, the door hasn’t readily swung the other way—the fear being that a movie actor would be committing career suicide by turning up on TV. HBO helped soften that divide with programming that appealed to an elevated niche. IT’S NOT TV. IT’S HBO, went the premium channel’s slogan.

Meanwhile, movies underwent their own fundamental shift. Films such as Jaws, Star Wars, and E.T. ushered in the age of the blockbuster. As a consequence, an entire class of midsize, character-driven movies fell out of favor, and with them more nuanced roles. “I’ve done all sorts of films, but those I’ve gotten the most notice for are independents, where the women are more fully fleshed out, which really doesn’t happen with the big blockbusters, I’m sorry to say,” says Maria Bello, the Golden Globe nominee for A History of Violence, who this fall will headline NBC’s Prime Suspect, an adaptation of the famous British miniseries that starred Helen Mirren.

Television can be not only more creatively rewarding, offering the opportunity to develop a character over time, but also an exercise in financial pragmatism: Lead actors in a network show can earn upwards of $100,000 an episode in the first season, and much more if the show is a hit. (Before his excesses made him radioactive, Charlie Sheen—nursing a then moribund film career—parlayed his CBS sitcom into nearly a $2 million-an-episode gold mine.) And today success in TV can heighten recognition in ways that render an actor more marketable, not less.

Although the distinction between the two mediums is undoubtedly narrowing, for now, movies remain at the top of the Hollywood hierarchy. (Never mind that more people will eventually view the average film on TV—or a computer—than in a darkened theater.) Asked about TV’s second-class status, sitcom writer Charlie Hauck once quipped: “Movies are bigger. They win.” These days, though, it seems that bigger isn’t always better.

Big Stars, Small Screen

“Someone said to me that TV is the new independent film for women,” says the 44-year-old actress (A History of Violence). In the NBC police procedural Prime Suspect, a remake of the acclaimed British series, Bello—who was on ER for one season before her movie career took off—returns to the network to reprise the hardened detective that Helen Mirren fashioned into a feminist icon. “For me, it wasn’t about going back to TV so much as that I really took to this character,” explains Bello. “I like to say I’m walking in Helen Mirren’s shoes.”

Chanel’s stretch crepe dress.

Styled by Moses Moreno. Hair by Terry Millet using L’Oreal Professionnel; makeup by Jo Strettell for Chanel Beaute. Fashion assistants: Anastasya Kolomytseva and Thomas Carter.

Photographer: Kurt Iswarienko

The first time the 31-year-old film veteran (she starred in Mermaids at age nine) appeared on TV, it was for a seven-episode arc on Ally McBeal in 2002. “After that I thought I would really love to do another TV show,” Ricci recalls. “I’ve just been waiting for the right thing to come along.” This fall she returns to the small screen as an airline stewardess during the glamorous dawn of jet travel in Pan Am, an ABC prime-time soap that has been described as Mad Men at 30,000 feet. “What’s interesting about TV is that I don’t know where the series is going,” explains Ricci, who is an avid consumer of the medium. “It’s fun to open a script and wonder what’s going to happen that week. It’s almost like being a viewer.”

Ruffian’s silk charmeuse blouse.

Styled by Moses Moreno. Hair by Terry Millet using L’Oreal Professionnel; makeup by Vanessa Scali. Production by Stardust Visions. Fashion Assistants: Anastasya Kolomytseva and Thomas Carter.

Photographer: Kurt Iswarienko

Before she was asked to star in the CBS odd-couple comedy 2 Broke Girls, the 25-year-old actress (Nick and Norah’s Infinite Playlist, Thor) had been exclusively focused on her burgeoning movie career. “But when something like this falls into your lap,” Dennings admits, “you have to re-evaluate.” After reading the script for the pilot, in which she plays a struggling, cynical Brooklynite who takes a newly penniless heiress under her wing, she was won over. “In the past I’ve done small movies that I’ve poured my heart into, and they never get seen,” she says. “So the idea of having something on the air in two weeks—it’s instant gratification.”

Araks’s cotton blouse. Alexis Bittar earrings.

Styled by Moses Moreno. Hair by Terry Millet using L’Oreal Professionnel; makeup by Jo Strettell for Chanel Beaute. Production by Stardust Visions. Fashion assistants: Anastasya Kolomytseva and Thomas Carter.

Photographer: Kurt Iswarienko

The Ray actress, who has two films out this year, was reluctant to even look at network TV scripts before she read the pilot for Scandal, an ABC drama premiering next year. “The network schedule takes away from your ability to do movies,” Washington explains. But by page 12 of the script by Shonda Rhimes (Grey’s Anatomy), she was hooked: “I was thinking, What do I need to do to get this?” Washington stars as a powerful D.C. crisis management consultant, a role inspired by Judy Smith, who handled publicity for Monica Lewinsky during the Clinton scandal. The character’s keen intelligence and political entanglements are well suited to the 34-year-old, who campaigned for Barack Obama and serves on the president’s committee for the arts—and who’s looking forward to a long run. Says Washington: “On a film, by the time you’ve figured out the character, it’s over.”

Equipment’s silk top. Vhernier 18k rose gold chain necklace, Claire Goldsmith Legacy glasses, Movado 18k gold and diamond watch, vintage Gucci bracelet.

Styled by Moses Moreno. Hair by Kiyah Wright for Cloutier Remix; makeup by Jo Strettell for Chanel Beaute. Fashion assistants: Anastasya Kolomytseva and Thomas Carter.

Photographer: Kurt Iswarienko

Earlier in her career, the actress (Joan of Arc) had no qualms about taking off for a remote locale to shoot low-budget, high-risk independent films. Now, as a recently married 29-year-old mother, Sobieski is in a different place. “Doing a TV show seems more like a stable job,” she explains. This fall she plays a grounded rookie cop on the CBS police procedural The 2-2, which is produced by Robert De Niro, written by Richard Price, and directed by James Mangold. “I’ve played crazy people before and it’s exciting, but it can also be unhealthy over time,” Sobieski says. “If this show is on the air a long time, I wouldn’t mind staying in my character’s head.”

Jason Wu’s silk dress. Yves Saint Laurent shoes.

Styled by Carolyn Tate Angel. Hair by Dai Michishita at Jed Root Inc. for Cutler; Makeup by Lisa Houghton at Jed Root Inc. for YSL Beaute.

Photographer: Kurt Iswarienko

“A few years ago, a TV show might have been unthinkable to me,” admits the Oscar winner, whose husband, sculptor Robert Graham, passed away in 2008. “But now, as a single person, I don’t want to just sit in our house regretting what’s passed. This feels like I’m embarking on a new chapter.” Huston’s full-time TV debut will be as a theater producer on NBC’s buzzed-about drama Smash, a behind-the-scenes look at the making of a Broadway musical. “Television is where the great parts are for women my age,” she says emphatically. “But I begged the writer to make my journey a pleasant one—since my life generally reflects my art.”

Tommy Hilfiger’s wool coat. Stetson hat; Cast of Vices pin; Bulgari 18k white gold, diamond, green beryl, and ruby bracelet; Vram for Gray Gallery 18k white gold, rose-cut diamond, and Tahitian pearl necklace. Special thanks to Milk Studios, Los Angeles; Milk Equipment Rental; and Highline Stages.

Styled by Moses Moreno. Hair by Terry Millet using L’Oreal Professionnel; makeup by Jo Strettell for Chanel Beaute. Production by Stardust Visions. Fashion assistants: Anastasya Kolomytseva and Thomas Carter.

Photographer: Kurt Iswarienko

The 42-year-old actor (The Passion of the Christ) caught the TV bug last year from friend Kiefer Sutherland, who turned Jack Bauer into a household name. “I told my agent, ‘If you ever find a 24, let me know,’” Caviezel says. His starring role as an ex–CIA agent with a murky past on the new CBS crime drama Person of Interest has the big-name talent—it’s created by J.J. Abrams and written by The Dark Knight’s Jonathan Nolan—to make it a long-term success. “I feel like a baseball player looking for the right pitch to hit it out of the park,” says Caviezel of his career. “And it’s somewhere in this show.”

Louis Vuitton’s cotton shirt and tie.

Styled by Moses Moreno. Hair by Terry Millet using L’Oreal Professionnel; Makeup by Jo Strettell for Chanel Beaute. Production by Stardust Visions.

Photographer: Kurt Iswarienko

For years, whenever he appeared in would-be blockbusters that never quite caught fire (Watchmen, The A-Team), the 38-year-old actor was consistently talked up as the new brand-name leading man. “I’m not oblivious to celebrity status,” admits Wilson. “Or my lack thereof. But it’s all good—I have no issues with that.” There is, of course, the chance that his move into network TV—as a neurosurgeon who encounters the ghost of his ex-wife in the supernatural CBS drama A Gifted Man, helmed by Oscar winner Jonathan Demme—could in fact result in Wilson’s long-awaited breakout role. “It would be funny if the show turned out to be successful,” he says, “because then you’re back on top of that studio short list.”

Louis Vuitton’s wool and satin tuxedo and cotton shirt.

Styled by Moses Moreno. Grooming by Kumi Craig. Special thanks to Milk Studios, Los Angeles; Highline Stages; and Milk Equipment Rental.

Photographer: Kurt Iswarienko
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Styled by Moses Moreno. Hair by Terry Millet using L’Oreal Professionnel; makeup by Jo Strettell for Chanel Beaute. Fashion assistants: Anastasya Kolomytseva and Thomas Carter.