These Stars Accepted A TV Role That Saved Their Career

The Impact of Television Roles on Movie Stars’ Careers

So many stars get lucky breaks and we are blessed that the below made the right careet moves when they did!

The world of entertainment is a challenging and ever-changing terrain. Even some of the most prominent celebrities, like Lindsay Lohan and Rob Lowe, have faced career slumps due to various reasons, such as box office failures or personal challenges. However, a strategic move, like accepting a role on a television show, can breathe new life into a fading career. In this article, we explore ten movie stars who experienced a career resurgence after taking on television roles.

1. Chris O’Donnell – NCIS Los Angeles

Chris O’Donnell made a name for himself as an actor in the early 1990s, starring in movies like “Batman and Robin.” Although the film was a box office success, it was heavily criticized and labeled “the worst Batman movie ever.” This led to a decline in O’Donnell’s career.

After a two-year hiatus from movies, O’Donnell returned to the screen with a lead role in the TV series “Head Cases” (2005), which unfortunately got canceled after only two episodes. However, in 2009, he got his big break when he portrayed Special Agent G. Callen in the CBS drama series “NCIS: Los Angeles.” The show’s popularity revitalized his career, setting it on an upward trajectory once again.

2. Rob Lowe – The West Wing

Rob Lowe gained fame in the 1980s through roles in popular movies like “The Outsiders” and “About Last Night.” However, personal and professional challenges, including a sextape scandal, affected his reputation and career opportunities.

In the late 1990s, Lowe made a significant comeback with the role of Sam Seaborn in the TV series “The West Wing.” His performance restored his reputation in Hollywood, and he received multiple award nominations, including a Primetime Emmy nomination.

3. Winona Ryder – Stranger Things

Winona Ryder achieved recognition for her roles in films like “Beetlejuice” early in her career. However, in the mid-1990s, she faced setbacks, including a string of box office failures and a major scandal when she was arrested for shoplifting in 2001. This led to her being shunned by the industry.

After a three-year break from acting, Ryder made a comeback with film roles that didn’t achieve the same success as her earlier work. Despite this, she regained the spotlight in the late 2000s with her role as Joyce Byers, the mother of a missing boy, in the Netflix series “Stranger Things.”

4. Christian Slater – Mr. Robot

Christian Slater rose to fame in the 1980s but experienced a career decline in the late 1990s and early 2000s due to personal struggles and underperforming film projects.

However, Slater’s breakthrough came in 2015 when he joined the cast of the USA Network drama series “Mr. Robot” in the titular role. His performance earned him a Golden Globe Award for Best Supporting Actor In A Series.

5. Charlie Sheen – Anger Management

Charlie Sheen became a household name through roles in films like “Platoon” and “Wall Street.” He reached the peak of his career as one of the leading stars of the CBS sitcom “Two and A Half Men.” However, a public feud with the show’s creator, Chuck Lorre, and other personal controversies led to his dismissal from the series.

Nevertheless, Sheen began his comeback about a year later with an appearance in the FX sitcom “Anger Management” in 2012.

6. Kiefer Sutherland – 24

Kiefer Sutherland is best known for his iconic role as Jack Bauer in the TV series “24.” Before taking on this character, however, he faced a significant slump in the ’90s, partly due to his breakup with Julia Roberts and subsequent involvement in a love triangle with Jason Patric.

Sutherland decided to take a break from acting and joined the rodeo in 1994. When he returned to acting, he struggled to land major projects. However, booking the role of Jack Bauer became the turning point of his career, and he became synonymous with the character.

7. James Spader – The Blacklist

James Spader achieved early success with roles in movies like “Pretty in Pink” and “Sex, Lies and Videotape.” However, he took a self-imposed creative hiatus to focus on his family, declining many projects until the early 2000s.

Spader’s comeback began in 2003 when he joined the cast of the ABC legal drama “The Practice” and later had a part in Season 8 of “The Office.” His presence in the industry was firmly reestablished when he became the main star of the NBC drama series “The Blacklist,” with his character Raymond Reddington becoming one of the most popular in modern television.

8. Mandy Moore – This Is Us

Mandy Moore faced numerous challenges in her career before landing a breakthrough role in the NBC drama series “This is Us.” She experienced a bitter divorce and had four failed TV pilots.

However, just before she was about to give up on acting, Moore was cast as Rebecca Pearson in “This is Us.” The show garnered a massive following, reviving Moore’s on-screen career. Despite taking a break from acting to focus on music and motherhood, her role in the series remains a highlight of her career.

9. Alec Baldwin – 30 Rock

Alec Baldwin had a successful career before his role in “30 Rock,” but it somewhat plateaued in the early 2000s, partly due to an acrimonious divorce with his then-partner, Kim Basinger.

Fortunately, his strong return came with the role of Jack Donaghy in the NBC comedy series “30 Rock.” Baldwin’s performance earned him numerous awards and nominations, including two Primetime Emmy Awards.

10. John Travolta – Pulp Fiction

John Travolta experienced early career success with roles in movies like “Saturday Night Fever” and “Grease.” However, his career took a downturn when he starred in several films that failed to perform well commercially and critically.

Travolta’s career experienced a resurgence in 1994 when he played Vincent Vega, a laid-back hitman, in Quentin Tarantino’s classic film “Pulp Fiction.” His performance earned him an Academy Award nomination for Best Actor, marking a turning point in his career.


The journey of a movie star’s career can be tumultuous, with ups and downs that are often unpredictable. However, a well-timed television role can serve as a catalyst for career revitalization. For these ten stars, accepting roles on television shows proved to be a smart move, leading to a resurgence in popularity and success. The examples of Chris O’Donnell, Rob Lowe, Winona Ryder, Christian Slater, Charlie Sheen, Kiefer Sutherland, James Spader, Mandy Moore, Alec Baldwin, and John Travolta demonstrate the power of television in shaping the trajectory of a celebrity’s career.

Author Profile

Stevie Flavio
Film Writer


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