Monday, February 18, 2013

Falling upon your sword when success strikes

I have been an avid television and movie watcher for years.  I by no means watch as much television as my fellow Americans as I am choosy about what I watch. I have watched some great shows over the years, some have been critics little darlings,and others have been short lived . I have rejoiced with characters through their happiest moments and shed tears during their heartbreaking moments.

My brain seems to be a giant sponge for the trials and tribulations of actors and actresses. Over the years I have joked that I wished my brain would readily soak up something more useful like scientific equations but that is just not how my brain works. I can recall some pretty unimportant trivia about celebrities.

As a viewer I have watched unknown actors and actresses find success or miss out for years becoming some very beloved "character" actors circling around fame as their peers rocket through the stratus sphere. Sometimes this happens because the lesser known actors just never get that elusive break all actors talk about. Other times it is because an actor actually prematurely falls upon their own sword of success.

What on earth am I talking about? Look back at your favorite shows. Has any actor in one of your favorite shows suddenly left a show in its height of fame to go and pursue a movie career?

 The first example of this I can think of is from the 1980's when Patrick Duffy left "Dallas". I don't remember the details as I was very small but my mother watched the show and her reaction of course was shock. What made it worse was after a year of being a gone Mr. Duffy suddenly had a change of heart (the movie offers had all but dried up) and in one of the most talked about moments of  television leaps of faith Bobby Ewing returned to "Dallas" after his death by walking into a shower with his wife and the producers claiming the entire last season had been but a dream.

Next we come to the 1990's "NYPD Blue" is a gigantic hit with David Caruso and Dennis Franz as two detectives. David Caruso was suddenly on a hit show and his ego got the best of him. Dollar signs appeared where his pupils were and he walked away from the show thinking that all the movie offers would keep coming and he would be in that ever coveted A-list circle. He did a few movies that completely bombed and fell into obscurity until 2002 when "CSI: Miami" came along. 1994-2002 is a very long time to be kicking around Hollywood doing bit parts. And to put a nail in the ego coffin he's once again playing a gritty cop, the alter ego he ran away from on "NYPD Blue".

In 1998 "Buffy the Vampire Slayer" had been on for two years and it's star, Sarah Michelle Gellar was getting a little too big for her britches. She started talking about how there were movie offers coming in and that she might want to leave "Buffy". The show's creator came up with an ingenious way to put the actress back in her place by hiring another actress to take over as slayer. Eliza Dusku was hired as a gritty slayer who begrudgingly accepts her fate. Turns out Ms. Gellar did in fact want to stay on "Buffy" which is a very smart move as the actress hasn't had that many huge successes since then.

Which now brings me to the wildly popular British hit "Downton Abbey". The show has just completed its third season and production has begun on season four. Unlike American television, British shows seem to only have three year contracts with its stars and they tend to only film about 6-8 episodes per season.  (American television shows tend to shoot anywhere from 26-32 episodes a year). I would gather that shooting so few episodes lets the actors and actresses film other projects or be on stage during the off times. Such flexablity is an amazing gift.

Sadly for all us viewers it would seem that two of the actors on the beloved show have "looked the gift horse in the mouth" and not renewed their contracts for season 4 of "Downton Abbey". While being on the show has brought these actors into our homes and given other directors an idea of their acting abilities,the actors have decided to pursue other interests at this time. Which reminds me of all those before them, the actors who over shot fame by bowing out of what was making them successful in the first place. Producers can say all sorts of nice things in articles to make it appear that they aren't bitter about losing an important actor that tells part of their story but I as the viewer would guess otherwise. Let us see in a years time if the names of Dan Stevens and Jessica Brown Findlay are associated with anything other then "Downton Abbey" and their successes on that show. (keep in mind there have 26 episodes shot of Downton, and that is 3 seasons which only equals one season on American television)

There is a very thin line one must walk as an actor sometimes. You are always striving for success and then when it strikes so few actually know how to handle it properly. As an actor you must remember from where you came and how you got there. Never for one moment taking it for granted. Once you do, then your "star" is a bit tarnished and you have to start again (look at all the above examples). Don't get me wrong there are some very great success stories out there in Hollywood just look at George Clooney , he had some very humble beginnings for sure.

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