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April 23, 2014

Lucky Us: Movie Stars Are Taking Over Our TV!

by Stephanie Earp, posted Feb 15th 2011 11:15AM
Everyone is talking about Forest Whitaker coming to TV. Actually, I should clarify that statement: By everyone, I mean my colleagues who write about TV or edit sites and magazines about TV. I imagine most of you haven't been racking up your long distance bill comparing Oscar winner Forest Whitaker to Laurence Fishburne.

I'm mainly surprised by how surprised everyone is. This trend -- if you can call it that -- of serious screen actors taking lead roles on procedural dramas is getting kind of long in the tooth. At this point, you can't even launch a legal or crime show without first securing the services of a frequently nominated supporting actor type -- a Sinise, D'Onofrio or Patinkin.

It makes me wish there was some kind of long-term betting site where I could place money on the likelihood of 'Law & Order: Space Station' starring Jeremy Renner debuting in 2035, or 'CSI: Missoula' with special guest star Mark Ruffalo.

What's more interesting to me is how rarely we see women making the same move. I wonder if it's just about perception. When William Petersen was announced as the star of 'CSI' way back when, it was seen as an interesting choice by a quirky actor. But cast a critical eye over his resume up to 2000, and it's clear the guy wasn't exactly turning away work. 'Manhunter' was in '86, 'Young Guns 2' in '90. (And, as a side note, I wonder why he left the show -- what was so pressing?) Basically, Petersen needed a job and Anthony Zuiker gave him one. The same can be said for most of the 'CSI' guys. What was keeping Gary Sinise so busy that we should be surprised he'd take a regular series role? 'The Matrix' is over, Inigo Montoya has probably retired as the Dread Pirate Roberts, yet we TV fans still count ourselves lucky when these guys take a television role.

The issue is we never think that way about actresses -- and that's what keeps them away from TV. They know if they helm a show, they'll never make it back to the big screen. Which is why we'll never see Jennifer Aniston on a series again -- even though it's so clearly her medium.

No, the leading ladies of TV procedurals are small-screen veterans -- Marg Helgenberger, Mariska Hargitay, Laura Innes -- who make the most of what are, in actuality, pretty awesome roles. The characters are just as work-obsessed, bad-tempered and mysterious as the men they work with and they never have to pretend to enjoy kissing Adam Sandler. They are women of a certain age -- namely over 32.

So, if anything, I'm way more surprised to see Janeane Garofalo's name on the credit list for 'Criminal Minds: Suspect Behavior' than I am Whitaker's. (Remember him? I started off this column talking about him and you already forgot, which I think proves my point.) Is this a sign that Garofalo has given up on a big-screen career? Or did that happen ages ago? I admit, I still think of her as Wino Forever's sardonic roommate in 'Reality Bites' and expect her and Ben Stiller to announce their engagement any minute -- squee! I also think of her as a comic who sometimes acts. The problem is, I think Garofalo stopped thinking of herself in those ways a long time ago. And it took the announcement of this role to make me sit up and take notice.

She's already done guest stints on '24', 'The West Wing' and 'Law & Order.' She was the voice of Colette in 'Ratatouille.' She was in 'Copland' for goodness sake. So why do I feel like this is a weird left turn, when she's obviously been angling for a spin-off profiler drama all along?

All I can say is, here's to you Janeane: May you age as well and with as much job security as Marg, Mariska and Laura, and may you never have to attend another jeans folding seminar at the Gap.

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mgarnt

Billy Petersen started out in Chicago theater where he won many awards. He never went looking for Hollywood--Hollywood directors came to him. CBS tried for years to get him in a series, but all they offered were the same run of the mill single dad shows or a cop show. He wanted something different, and when CSI was offered--he liked out different it was. What has he been doing since leaving CSI. He left to get back to theater and has been in 3 plays in Chicago. Last year he filmed "Detachment" (with Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harder, Christina Hendricks, James Cann) and this April he starts filming an HBO series "To Appomattox" as W. T. Sherman. Also staring will be Michael C Hall, Will Patton, Paul Giamatti, Bill Paxton, Noah Wyle and more. He had done everything with the Grissom role that he felt he could---so he moved on. But, he never ruled out a return to CSI as a guest, which he did 2 weeks ago.

February 16 2011 at 3:07 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Four Deuces

"and it's clear the guy wasn't exactly turning away work", you don't know much about William Petersen if this is what you believe! He did turn down an awful lot of work (including many tv roles - CBS had him signed to a Pay or Play deal for many years before he took CSI). He left to do stage work back home in his native Chicago, not all actors are consumed with making movies and total fame!

February 16 2011 at 6:10 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
sueandjanat525

Kathy Bates. "Harry's Law" is terrific and she's perfect for the part.

February 15 2011 at 5:49 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
David

Kyra Sedgwick & Glenn Close does TV & Movies, so what work is work

February 15 2011 at 12:53 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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