This Is Why Hollywood Movie Stars Flocked To TV In 2016

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There’s an epidemic in Hollywood – or at least that’s how it may appear to anyone who owns a television.

Hollywood movie stars are fleeing the silver screen and lining up to appear on its smaller counterpart.

But when Tinsel Town’s unwritten trajectory of success suggests film roles are more worthy of praise than television appearances, why are so many actors choosing to put their backs into TV?

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For years, Hollywood’s finest have been trading the gruelling hours on film sets for less demanding television production schedules, long periods of holiday and – you guessed it – more buck for their bang.

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Take Netflix original, Easy.

The last thing I expected to encounter in the charming drama shorts that examine modern modes of love was Orlando Bloom in the throes of a threesome with his wife, played by Malin Akerman and his nanny, played by Kate Micucci.

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While the awkward sexual experimentation in the narrative was undoubtedly alarming, the true source of my shock was to see a Hollywood megastar in a meagre short series – which shows just how immune to nakedness we’ve all become in 2016, and just how naive I was to impending Netflix world domination.

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Saying that, I would rather welcome Bloom onto my small screen than Emily Ratajowski of Blurred Lines fame, whose role in Easy as a ‘selfie-artist’ literally required zero acting.

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Bloom is by no means the only feature-length acting talent to move to television. Winona Ryder lends her unique blend of enchanting poise, beauty and anxious delicacy to the riveting thriller series Stranger Things.

But why did Winona take the job?

With the charge for gender equality in film more powerful than ever, and the days during which film companies shunned mature female actors supposedly over, surely we can no longer assume Ryder joined the Stranger Things cast for fear of ageism in the industry?

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Maybe, as with most things in this climate, the answer could lie in the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.

Variety reported that Superbad superstars, Emma Stone and Jonah Hill are reuniting on the set of a new Netflix series, Maniac, to the tune of $350,000 each. Drew Barrymore is also earning an estimated $350,000 per episode for her upcoming comedy The Santa Clarita Diet.

Some critics argue it all began with HBO, the American television channel that trots out award-winning epic dramas under the tagline ‘Not Just TV’.

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HBO bought us Claire Danes in Homeland, Kevin Spacey in House of Cards and Steve Buscemi in Boardwalk Empire.

Most recently – and notably – they have given us the unimaginable: Jude Law as The Young Pope in an entirely fascinating and modern take on life in The Vatican featuring Diane Keaton as his sidekick in a habit.

It is not known whether Law and Keaton are being paid in promises of eternal bliss in the afterlife, but I can say with confidence that fellow Hollywood stars, Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman are raking in an estimated $350,000 apiece per episode for HBO’s Big Little Lies.

Dwayne Johnson is earning an estimated $400,000 per episode for the sports-themed HBO series, Ballers, which lenses 10 episodes a season… You do the maths.

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But let’s give credit where credit is due: For many actors concerned with creative integrity, money is not the decider.

LA Times critic Mary McNamara explained this years ago, writing:

…Actors and writers and directors, like most of population, also follow the love. And right now, audiences are in love with television. Truly, madly, deeply, and in ways difficult to sustain in film or the theater.

Episodic television is regularly deconstructed in a way once reserved for Shakespeare or the Romantic poets. Meanwhile, the people creating the shows we’re all mad for are similarly lionized.

Take Lena Dunham and her – also HBO – series Girls. As the writer, director and star, Lena is now a cultural icon, hailed (if controversially) as the every-woman who speaks for a section of society who own a television but can’t afford cinema tickets.

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TV stars are the new movie stars and movie stars want in.

This is evidenced by a plethora of silver screen legends who are dipping their toes into the television pool, whether out of sheer nostalgia for their ‘humble’ beginnings or to stay relevant to viewing audiences.

Joyously, this trend welcomed a powerhouse duo of film – Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin – who starred in Marta Kauffman’s Grace and Frankie, alongside co-stars Martin Sheen and Sam Waterson.

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Although the trend-setters are HBO and Netflix, even the BBC have followed suit, enlisting movie actors to play title roles.

Cuba Gooding Jnr.’s portrayal of OJ Simpson in The People Vs. OJ Simpson was uncanny.

The actor seems to be comfortable on the small screen, starring in Channel 4’s glitzy – but ultimately shallow – Empire.

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Whether you like it or not, the lines between TV and film are becoming increasingly blurred. Big budget TV now has the facility to churn out 40-minute episodes with the high production values of feature films.

TV even takes inspiration from classic films. A&E’s Bates Motel – the riveting televised prequel to Psycho is now in its third season, and what better way to match its cinematic excellence than with a Hollywood lead duo?

Vera Farmiga and Freddie Highmore’s performances are so intensely eerie, I’m not sure my mind could handle more than 45 minutes in one sitting; it almost seems the actors were made for TV.

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TV now has the budget to tell stories, fully and beautifully.

Actors follow the meaty roles and with Hollywood chasing franchises and Oscar nominations – as well as becoming increasingly criticised for its institutionalised bigotry – no wonder actors are looking to branch out into TV.

Furthermore, casting directors must now take into account so much more than an actor’s IMDb rating; there’s popularity with untapped audiences to consider, online presence, the actor’s philanthropic dealings – all of which have a part to play in who gets cast (or cherry-picked) in what.

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Take Cara Delevigne in Suicide Squad – arguably the biggest comic film of 2016.

Although her performance was wooden – ever so slightly less convincing than her starring role in Paper Towns – Cara gave the franchise something invaluable: She thrust the story of DC’s Suicide Squad onto the radar of a multitude of young fashion-following tweens who may otherwise have chosen to go see a middle-of-the-road Rom Com.

Bob Dylan was right when he said the times are a-changing. He may have been talking about social movement but his point still stands when it comes to the entertainment industry. The floodgates have opened and here are the glittering performances you can expect in the upcoming year.

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Geena Davies has taken some time out of her busy activism schedule, previously tied up with her self-titled institute which combats sexism in Hollywood.

She returns to our screen in The Exorcist on FOX.

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Famkeh Jansseen, who famously criticised Marvel for ageism and sexism, will continue to play Susan ‘Scottie’ Hargrave in The Blacklist: Redemption.

Kiefer Sutherland will grace our screens as President of the United States of America – if only – in Designated Survivor on ABC.

FYI, for fans of 24, Fox is releasing a spin-off called Legacy sans Sutherland.

Conversely, for fans of High School Musical: The Movie – if you’re out there – Vanessa Hudgens is set to take the lead in NBC’s Powerless, a comedy that looks at the flip-reverse of living with superheroes.

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If superheroes is your bag, Marvel is getting another welcome Netflix series, and this time it’s all-inclusive for The Defenders. The villain of the piece is said to be played by the woman who is no stranger to the supernatural; Sigourney Weaver.

But if you’re feet are firmly rooted in gritty reality, The Duece might suit.

This show, set in 1970s crime-ridden New York stars James Franco and Maggie Gyllenhaal.

With HBO’s backing and creative direction from the writer of The Wire, David Simon and Michelle McLaren, who directed episodes of Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and Westworld, The Deuce is one to watch – in the most literal sense.

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Finally, Joan Cusack of High Fidelity and School of Rock fame will be starring in Netflix’s eagerly-awaited re-telling of Lemony Snicket’s Series of Unfortunate Events, alongside Neil Patrick Harris as the unrelenting villain, Count Olaf.

The way we consume film and television is changing. Our attention spans are getting shorter. We’d rather watch 10 hours of Suits in a row, claiming productivity in watching an entire series in one sitting, rather than just absorbing one movie whole-heartedly.

Netflix and Chill has been absorbed into to common parlance of most millennials and we may as well accept it; it’s here to stay.

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So rather than fight it, let’s all sit back, relax and enjoy the feast of televisual delights coming our way, safe in the knowledge that television is leading the way for a more inclusive, free-flowing acting industry.


Francesca Donovan

Francesca Donovan

A former emo kid who talks too much about 8Chan meme culture, the Kardashian Klan, and how her smartphone is probably killing her. Francesca is a Cardiff University Journalism Masters grad who has done words for BBC, ELLE, The Debrief, DAZED, an art magazine you've never heard of and a feminist zine which never went to print.