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10 Actors from Famous TV Shows Who Are Irrelevant in Cinema

17 July 2016 | Features, Film Lists | by Pedro Bento

tv actors

Television shows can be like selfies; they’ve existed for a long time, but today they are trendier than ever. While they used to be connected with family moments or a very different content consumption than the common film, to watch a series today is “to belong” and the more you watch, the cooler you are in society’s eyes (mostly on social media).

Sure, “Game of Thrones” or “Breaking Bad” have their strong attributes, but the buzz created online is closely connected with that aforementioned feeling of membership – everybody wants to say “I also watch it!” – than due the show, per se.

There are TV shows for niches, about all kinds of topics and for all tastes. Spin-offs are made exaggeratedly. If, in previous generations, there was a TV show for millions of people, today there is a person who watches millions of TV shows.

As you may have already noticed, there are far more cases of good film actors who’ve succeeded on TV series – Steve Buscemi, Kevin Spacey, Wagner Moura, Mads Mikkelsen – than the opposite. That happens because it’s easier to shine on TV due to its broader contexts and the continuous opportunity to convince the viewer.

Linked with this, it’s very funny how a great performance on a TV series can be synonymous with spoiling a career, once the actors stick too much with the character and with a certain type of acting (similar to a play). Of course, everything tends to be a matter of talent and ability to adapt to contexts; someone who is truly talented will deliver good performances in both TV series and films.

Here, we focus only on actors that showed talent on their TV shows and never had significant roles in cinema. We also ignore actors from certain amazing TV series, such as  “Friends”, “Modern Family” and other similar shows, because we believe their success was based mainly on good scripts and not good acting. With that said, let’s name some of the actors who are references in TV shows but wouldn’t be missed in cinema.


10. Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

Jim Parsons (The Big Bang Theory)

Jim Parsons? Who is this guy? Bazinga! Sheldon Cooper.

Even the not so fans of “The Big Bang Theory” (like me) have to admit this man makes an astonishing nerd and sarcastic physicist. The problem is exactly that: because he embodies the character so well, it’s very hard for the audiences to not see Sheldon in everything he does and, consequently, it’s very unlikely for Parsons to soon do a really relevant and challenging role in movies.

It happens to be funny when a perfect role – nobody can imagine another actor as Sheldon – destroys a career and how this American actor is almost limited to do voices or small roles in minor projects.

However, we shouldn’t feel pity. Parsons is very well paid; he’s played his Sheldon role for almost 10 years and the TV show doesn’t seem even close to ending. So, I guess he doesn’t need to worry about being forever connected with Sheldon as he will.


9. Kiefer Sutherland (24)

Kiefer Sutherland (24)

This multifaceted Canadian man is a relatively well-known actor worldwide, but if you took out “24” of his curriculum, maybe he would be seen as a third or fourth league actor.

Sure, Kiefer Sutherland participated in dozens of films, but in the majority of them, his presence is mostly unseen and his characters don’t stand out. There is also some where he’s just doing voices or cameos. Altogether, this means Sutherland isn’t properly a name we immediately associate with cinema.

The thing is, even his most relevant roles are irrelevant. Proof of that are “The Three Musketeers”, “Young Guns”, or all the films he’s made with Joel Schumacher.

However, some credit has to be given for his role as Jack Bauer on “24”. Even if the show isn’t for certain tastes, Sutherland fits what was needed to do it as a modern but guy-next-door American hero (even if he’s Canadian), and we couldn’t imagine any other person for that role.


8. Rami Malek (Mr. Robot)

Rami Malek (Mr. Robot)

While some choose a TV career out of necessity, there are others who do it as an option. That’s the case of Rami Malek, the superstar of “Mr. Robot”.

The American actor of Egyptian origin has some good appearances in films in his curriculum, but from a young age, he felt closer to TV shows than motion pictures. Adding roles in “The Pacific”, “The War at Home” and “24”, Malek trod his path and showed his future intentions. “Mr. Robot” was the climax of this route and of Malek’s career until today.

In cinema, he had his spot in some big budget projects like “Night at the Museum”, “Need for Speed”, “Battleship” and “The Twilight Saga – Breaking Dawn Part 2”, and in artistic films like “The Master” and “Short Term 12”. This shows a kind of randomness at picking roles in a crucial step of his career.

However, Malek’s situation is different from others, as he isn’t a lost cause yet. Due to his young age, amazing talent (he is very appreciated by Spike Lee), and peculiar aspect, there’s some margin for Malek to still achieve something important in films. Let’s wait and see.


7. Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)

Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones)

Born with achondroplasia, the most common form of dwarfism, Peter Dinklage is a very special case on this list.

You don’t need to be smart to know that main characters are usually not dwarves, so for little actors (in size), it’s not very easy to grab good jobs. In fact, Dinklage is the first to admit “Game of Thrones” saved his acting career, as he wasn’t going very far with the projects he was doing before the TV series.

The truth is, the fantastic series went viral and Dinklage is now one of the most acclaimed actors on TV, winning two Emmys and a Golden Globe.

But even if Dinklage is universally seen as a talented actor, he is strongly and eternally connected with his character in George R. R. Martin’s tale (in fact, he is the actor present in most episodes in “Game of Thrones”). This plus his physical condition work as a door closer in terms of reaching great roles in cinema.

Beside his (irrelevant) presence in films and (acclaimed) series, Dinklage is also very attached to theater, where he is considered a serious talent.


6. Hugh Laurie (House M.D.)

Hugh Laurie (House M.D.)

“House M.D.” was a largely praised TV show broadcast around the globe with a problem common to lots of other TV shows: if you’ve seen one episode, you’ve seen them all.

But even if the show is related to a “been there, done that” point of view, its influence is undeniable, and I dare say that Hugh Laurie is one of the most outstanding and notable dramatic-actors-masked-as-anti-heroes inside this rich universe of television. Nevertheless, Laurie is an amazing sample of what it means to be a beast on TV and a puppet in films.

Seeing Laurie onscreen without some kind of limp is awkward enough for many, but if you think long enough, you really can’t name a solid and pertinent role by this actor. You just can’t! His presence in family movies, like “Stuart Little”, “Tomorrowland” and “101 Dalmatians”, was dull for an actor with such potential, while other roles achieved in good films like “Sense and Sensibility” were just too small.

Wherever Laurie goes and whatever he makes, he will always be an arrogant and crippled doctor and there’s nothing we can do about it.



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  • heilherzog

    This is one of the worst lists ive seen around here

  • Asad Shairani

    Terrible list and a terrible concept.

    • James Antram

      I was also just thinking this.

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  • Pingback: 10 Actors from Famous TV Shows Who Are Irrelevant in Cinema | roberto cimatti()

  • Jofbaut

    Ten Lists On Taste of Cinema That Are Irrelevant For People’s Attention Spans:
    10. (cynical soapbox piece)
    9. (cynical soapbox piece)
    8. (cynical soapbox piece)
    7. (cynical soapbox piece)
    6. (cynical soapbox piece)
    5. (cynical soapbox piece)
    4. (cynical soapbox piece)
    3. (cynical soapbox piece)
    2. “Ten Famous TV Show Actors That Are Irrelevant in Cinema”.
    1. This comment.

  • Nje

    How the fuck is Peter Dinklage on this list? Did you see The station agent? Death at a funeral? or even find me guilty?

    • Jofbaut

      Or the timeless classic,

      Knights of Badassdom.

  • Luís Carlos K.

    Pedro Bento is irrelevant

  • Harsha Raman

    Total BS.

  • James Antram

    ludicrous to add Dinklage…He was excellent if the X-men movie and Oscar worthy in Station Agent.

  • Dave

    I’m not sure the jump from tv to film has the same appeal to actors any more. Television is offering far superior scripts with complex characters whereas most movies now are CGI fests that have been dumbed down to play on the international market

    • Klaus Dannick

      I’ve seen simllar comments directed toward me and my preference of film over television. For me, though, I prefer the finite, closed aspect of film to the serial narrative of television, regardless of how good the writng, direction, and acting might be. Of course, many current films are developed with franchises in mind, and these, like television series, do not interest me. Some people enjoy and prefer the ongoing serial narrative, and it’s been shown that it can be done artfully and intelligently. It’s simply not to everyone’s taste: a case of apples versus oranges.

      • SJHoneywell

        My thoughts exactly. A movie is a date; television is a relationship.

        • Klaus Dannick

          Oh, no…I have a SERIOUS relationship with my favorite films.

  • SJHoneywell

    Peter Dinklage is a shitty addition to this list. He’s had plenty of good film roles. And James Gandolfini? Have we never heard of Zero Dark Thirty, In the Loop, True Romance, or Get Shorty?

    What a pants load.

    • frank mango

      even his last film small parts in the drop were good

  • Rijwan Karim

    Peter drinklage? Really? Have you seen his performance in the station agent?

  • Sethcohen26

    Wow this is just a horrible article, do we really need to find a way to put down successful actors, I didn’t realize that you guys were this mean. Aaron Paul will be revelant. Less articles like this

  • Klaus Dannick

    The author of this article makes a few interesting points in the introductory material, then renders them irrelevant with the list which follows.

  • Sheldon

    Really? Do not agree.
    – Clint Eastwood
    – Allan Alda
    – Will Smith
    – Johnny Depp
    – George Clooney
    – Ryan Gosling
    And I am sure there are many more. These are all actors who were in popular TV series who have had great movie careers as well.

  • Oriana

    Why isn’t there one single actress? They also starr in tv shows you know..

  • tea & snark

    This list is horrible. For one thing, it appears to be judging excellent actors as mediocre or less than successful just based on the actors’ medium. For another, it doesn’t even do that well – it just comes off like the writer is attacking successful actors for no good reason.

  • V.C. Privitera

    James Gandolfini? REALLY!?
    This author should get his head straight out his mother’s bloated ass if he thinks he’s got authority over his reasons why….of which, he doesn’t!!!
    Gandolfini has been a fine actor for years before The Sopranos, it was only tough for him following such a show/character cause Filmmakers/Producers would “TYPECAST” the living hell out of the guy and I’m glad he stuck to his guns (no pun) to keep to his own tastes & talents.
    Sadly, we’ll never get to see what he could’ve brought today & for the future, since the fantastic new HBO show “The Night Of” which stars John Turturro in the Character that Gandolfini would’ve played, and the show is created/written/directed by Oscar winning Screenwriter Steve Zaillian (Schindler’s List).
    I thought Gandolfini did a phenomenal job with films like “Killing Them Softly” and “The Drop,” granted those roles penetrated the likes of typical “New York-Italian” Types, but who fuckin’ gives a shit, I’m an Italian from New York, so go suck a fat cock and choke on it “PEDRO BENTO!”
    I could comment on more of these, but fuck that, and fuck the author…he’s not worth writing for this site: THAT’S FOR SURE!!!!

  • Veronica Clarke

    Maybe the writer watches too much tv and too few movies.

  • Steve Dodds

    I’ve got this nagging suspicion that you really didn’t think this milquetoast polemic of a list through. Poorly conceived and executed. See below for the repeated listing of all the details of its deficiencies. Thanks!