10 Musicians Who Surprised Us with Their Acting Skills
Lady Gaga's move into acting looks like it's paid off: her performance in A Star is Born has been getting rave reviews, and no doubt the "next role" rumors will soon be flying about.
She's just the latest example of a musician adding "thespian" to their resumé. Whereas multi-talented stars such as Barbra Streisand, Jamie Foxx and Riz Ahmed took a double-pronged approach to show business right from the start, some took us (and sometimes themselves) by surprise when they switched things up after a successful musical career. Below are 10 of our favorites.
10. Billie Piper
Billie was a pop princess in the U.K., with hits like "Because We Want" and "Honey to the Bee," long before she encountered the TARDIS as the Doctor's resourceful assistant Rose Tyler.
9. Mos Def
Having had a brief, abortive career as a child actor, the artist now known as Yasiin Bey gave acting another crack after establishing himself as a hiphop artist. He made a name for himself playing pensive, soft-spoken characters in films such as Monster’s Ball (2001) and 16 Blocks (2006), before demonstrating he was also a deft hand at comedy, playing Martin Freeman's pal Ford Prefect in The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005) and a hapless amateur filmmaker in Be Kind Rewind (2008). He served as inspiration for Hell on Wheels star and fellow rapper-turned-actor Common, according to this 2011 interview.
8. Carrie Brownstein
It's no surprise there are so many musician cameos in hipster-skewering sketch show Portlandia, given how one half of the double act is riot grrrl and Sleater-Kinney guitarist and vocalist Carrie Brownstein. The other half, Fred Armisen, started out as a drummer for punk rockers Trenchmouth.
7. David Bowie
"I don't want to be an actor," the erstwhile David Jones said in 1978. But a lack of ambition in that arena didn't stop him from taking parts in more than 22 movies. And his embodiment of characters such as Major Tom, Ziggy Stardust and The Thin White Duke proved Bowie was just as interested in playing a part as in performing music.
6. Frank Sinatra
The Rat Pack were notorious double threats. Ol' Blue Eyes' efforts on screen stand out, however, particularly in From Here to Eternity (1953) and Guys and Dolls (1955). The former bagged him the group's only Academy Award.
The "I Got You Babe" star acted in a few films in the 1960s, before honing her craft in sketches for The Sonny & Cher Comedy Hour and The Sonny & Cher Show in 1970s. Her acting breakthrough didn't come until the 1980s, however, when she made films such as Silkwood, Mask and The Witches of Eastwick.
4. Mark Wahlberg
It's fair to say not many people took Marky Mark seriously when he left the Funky Bunch to become an actor, but his roles in Boogie Nights (1997) and The Departed (2006) proved us wrong. In the latter, he even received an Oscar nomination for his performance as undercover police officer Dignam. Things came full circle in 2018, when it was announced rapper Post Malone would make his acting debut alongside Mark in Wonderland.
3. Mariah Carey
This pop and R&B diva had dominated the music charts for over a decade when she turned her hand to acting. First, there was 2001 star vehicle Glitter, but none of us were prepared for her stripped-down performance as guidance counselor Ms. Weiss in 2009 Oscar-winning drama Precious.
2. Jennifer Hudson
If Jennifer was disappointed at missing out on the title of American Idol in 2004, she didn't let it bother her for long. Her portrayal of Effie White in Dreamgirls won her an Oscar in 2006, and since then she's gone on to play Sarah Jessica Parker's assistant in the Sex And The City movie (2008), and was even cast as Nelson Mandela's wife in Winnie (2017).
1. Will Smith
The Fresh Prince bagged the first-ever rap Grammy in 1989 with DJ Jazzy Jeff, before making the seamless transition into comedy acting with The Fresh Prince of Bel Air (1990-96). Since then he's kept it fresh, nailing everything from action films (1995's Bad Boys) to sci-fi blockbusters (1997's Men in Black) and serious award contenders like Ali (2001) and The Pursuit of Happyness (2006).
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