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If you’re going to start a company, you’re going to work there, right? It’s sort of the same idea… if you’re an actor creating a TV show, well of course you’re going to be in it. Acting is a hard biz, so it’d be silly to hand all the parts — especially the lead — to your competition.

At least, these 10 stars thought so when they made TV shows and cast themselves in the best roles.

1. Aziz Ansari
We’ll kick off this list with Master of None, which just launched season two on Netflix last week (May 12). Aziz Ansari, who we know from Parks and Recreation as the less-than-sensitive Tom Haverford, co-writes, along with Alan Yang, and stars in the semi-autobiographical series about a self-doubting actor in his 30s. Ansari uses a light touch to highlight the lack of diversity in Hollywood casting. As a minority actor, his character knows he’s more likely to be assigned best friend roles, but not the lead… and never will there be two non-white actors starring in a scene together, based on his “rule of two.” But, lo and behold, there he was, with his two co-stars (Gerrard Lobo, Ravi Patel) — both Americans of Indian origin — on-screen, right then and there. It was happening. Ansari took a break between the two seasons, because he had to go out and live, to have something to write about. We look forward to more groundbreaking TV in season two when Dev (Ansari) travels to Italy for a pasta making class.

2. Sharon Horgan
It may seem like we have a friend crush on Sharon Horgan, having recently penned this whimsical post. And, you know what, it’s no secret: we do! But, beyond us being super sweet on the actress/screenwriter, she’s a perfect fit for this list having co-written and starred in two series, Pulling and Catastrophe (she also created Divorce, but she’s not on-screen for the HBO series). She didn’t necessarily set out to write about relationships as her “master plan,” but it’s worked out for her, which she talks about in this NPR interview. She even jokes about being “a bit selfish” casting herself and Catastrophe co-writer and co-star Rob Delaney as the leads, in the below clip at 5:21.

3. Brit Marling
Amazon’s The OA was definitely a twisty turny story… and who better to act it out than the co-creator, Brit Marling, who collaborated with Zat Batmanglij. The sci-fi drama follows Prairie Johnson (Marling), a young woman who claims to have had died — more than once — and was able to come back to life. She seeks the aid of her new neighbors to help her get back to that place of “in between.” The Netflix series is utterly binge-worthy, with viewers clamoring to get to the end to find out, “What’s real? And, what’s not?” Marling came up with the idea after meeting a young woman at a party who had survived a near-death experience, telling USA Today, “You understand why she felt like a person who was both apart from the world, but also more deeply in it. The idea of a character like that became really appealing.”

4. Tom Hardy
Tom Hardy was already a full-fledged movie and TV star, with projects like Mad Max: Fury Road (2015) and Peaky Blinders (2014-2017) under his belt, when he turned to writing with his dad Chips. The two came up with the concept for the miniseries Taboo, fictionalizing moments in history… with a dash of the supernatural. Steven Knight was on board as co-creator. The series is set in 1814, revolving around an adventurer by the name of James Delaney (Hardy). Delaney was thought to be dead, but he surprises everyone when he returns to avenge his father’s death. Hardy talked to Collider about how the story came to light, saying, “It went from just a little idea between me, to dad doing the footwork to write a treatment that we could then present to Steve to say, ‘Please, will you write this with us.'”

5. Jerry Seinfeld
Speaking of nothing, comedian Jerry Seinfeld teamed up with Larry David and based their evergreen sitcom, Seinfeld, on just that: nothing. Well, at least, that’s how it was presented in the series, with this scene, when besties Jerry and George (who was based on David) pitched NBC about a show revolving around four friends — Jerry, George (Jason Alexander), Elaine (Julia Louis-Dreyfus), Kramer (Michael Richards) —  going about their daily lives, doing… we already said it… nothing. And, based on what we’ve seen, it worked out alright.

6. Tina Fey
Tina Fey
 co-anchored and was the head writer on the Weekend Update for Saturday Night Live in the late 1990s into the 2000s, making her breakout when writing the film Mean Girls, starring as a teacher to the teen actors, Lindsay Lohan, Rachel McAdams and Lizzy Caplan. And from there, she landed herself on NBC, creating and writing 30 Rock, starring as the unforgettable Liz LemonLemon is pretty successful career-wise, being the head writer at the sketch comedy show TGS but her room of writers tend to give her a hard time… she’s practically the American version of Bridget Jones, slightly neurotic and unlucky in love. But, so fun to watch. Fey also created the hit show Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, in which she made appearances as real-life prosecutor Marcia Clark and the character Andrea Bayden. She talks about working as a writer and actor in this 2011 interview with NPR.

7. Ricky Gervais
Ricky Gervais
is quite the success story, too. He started off wanting to be a boybander, which he did for a stint, but it didn’t last long-term. He was in his thirties, with two acting credits (The Jim Tavaré Show, Bruiser), when The Office, which he co-created with friend and co-star Stephen Merchant, was picked up by the BBC in 2000. Gervais wrote The Office and smartly cast himself in the lead role as the paper company’s quirky boss David Brent. Brent didn’t quite fit in with his employees, but he had a good heart. Gervais could have put his feet up and rested on his laurels, but… nope. He then co-created and starred in Extras, again with Merchant, which outlined his rise to stardom, starting off as a “background artist.” He starred as himself in Life’s Too Short, which he… yep, you guessed it, co-created with Merchant, plus Warwick Davis this time around.

8. Phoebe Waller-Bridge
Yes, you know Phoebe Waller-Bridge from Fleabag. And, yes, she’s heading to BBC America in 2018 as showrunner for Killing Eve. But, did you know she also created and starred in the TV series Crashing in 2016? Also on the BBC, Crashing revolves around a group of people living in a hospital as caretakers. It sounds a bit odd, but… the norm isn’t all that entertaining, and we wouldn’t expect anything different from the creative mind of Waller-Bridge. The new tenants pay cheap rent in exchange to keep an eye on the institution, but there is a strict set of rules, which you can check out in the below trailer.

9. Julie Klausner
Life just makes more sense with Hulu’s Difficult People around. Comedian Julie Klausner is creator and co-star, opposite her friend and fellow comedian Billy Eichner. The show is set in NYC, where Billy and Julie struggle to get their entertainment careers going. Julie is an aspiring comedian and Billy wants to act. In the meantime, Julie keeps busy writing reality TV show recaps and Billy waits tables. Even Julie’s live-in boyfriend (James Urbaniak) is treated as a third wheel. At first we thought the title of the show, Difficult People, was describing the rest of the world, from Julie and Billy’s perspective… but, now we’re getting the feeling, it might be describing these two. We’ll get more of Difficult People this summer, with season three premiering on August 8.

10. Seth MacFarlane
Seth MacFarlane
, the creator of Family Guy, started off as an animator, turned writer, turned actor… then back to writer. That counts, right? Nobody is keeping score, so we will say, “Yes!” because MacFarlane has created a new sci-fi show, called The Orville, and is starring in the lead. The show gets its name from the ship, The Orville, featured in the TV show, very à la Star Trek. MacFarlane is recruited to serve as captain of an exploratory vessel, but his bubble is burst when he’s informed, “You were nobody’s first choice for this job. But we have 3,000 ships to staff and we need captains.” You can see what his new job entails in the below trailer, just released this week (May 16).

What do you think of these actors taking on writing roles, too? A for ambition!

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Filed Under: TV Show Writers
By Brigid Brown