When you have an iconic TV role, I would assume that it would be both a blessing and a curse. Actors are chameleons by nature and I think that being known primarily as one character would be quite difficult. Take the 6 “Friends” for example; their characters are engraved in the pop culture memory of anyone my age, so much so there was even a ridiculously popular “Rachel” haircut. The success and the paycheques that the 6 actors got from those roles have been astronomical, but at what cost to their post-Friends careers. I must say that I am pleasantly surprised by Matthew Perry’s new show Go On, even though its “on the bubble” between cancelation and renewal for next year, and that Courtney Cox may have finally sluffed off Monica by making the hilarious and heartfelt Cougar Town but it has been almost a decade since Friends ended and I know I’m still guilty of referring to them as their Friends monikers.
I have always made it known that I believe that Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Elaine Benes on Seinfeld (1990-1998) is, in my opinion, the greatest female character on TV, but now due to the brilliance of JLD we know have a very different type of female character to cheer for, she is currently playing VP of America Selina Meyer on HBO’s Veep. Although not as popular by any stretch of the imagination as Seinfeld, and let’s face it, Seinfeld is in its own Stratosphere, but it is a character that has meat and bones and shows that JLD is far and above at the top of her game in the world of TV comedies. This can be said for a few actors who have been lucky enough to double dip in the pool of beloved/hated/adored but all around recognized and popular characters…..Ed O’Neill has had a great second role as Jay Pritchett on Modern Family, but doesn’t hold a candle to his celebrated and often jaw-dropping Al Bundy on Married with Children (1987-1997), and the same can be said for Peg ….Katy Segal has a new mama role that is a drastic and dramatic reversal from Peg Bundy to Gemma Teller-Morrow on Sons of Anarchy. Look at Bryan Cranston, Hal the hapless and put upon father on Malcolm in the Middle (2000-2006) is now the dangerous and frightening science teacher turned meth cook on Breaking Bad. These examples are pretty general but the list of names is as long as your arm and it includes supporting character actors and also hops the genres between comedy and drama. Actors such as Joshua Jackson (Dawson’s Creek/Fringe), David Duchovny (The X-Files/Californication), Matthew Fox (Party of Five/LOST), Michael J Fox (Family Ties/Spin City) and David Hasselhoff (Knight Rider/Baywatch) are all actors that have had 2 signature roles.
Although this could be considered a new phenomenon, it really all started with The Golden Girls. After 2 very successful strong, different female characters for the time they aired (liberal and independent Maude Findlay on Maude and devious Sue Ann Nivens on the Mary Tyler Moore Show) Bea Arthur and Betty White got Act 2 on TV in the cheerful but much dirtier than I realized as a child comedy about 4 ladies in their golden years living together in paradise. And if the Golden Girls were those brilliant comediennes encore, I have to find the DVD’s of those older shows to see just what sparked their popularity. I think I will start with Maude, I have a feeling I will like her. What do you think are the most iconic 2 role actors? Did your favourite make the list? Tweet me at erinl_clarke