It’s difficult to pinpoint the precise moment MTV became more about reality programming and less about, you know, music, but with the rise of beautiful entities like YouTube and Twitter, there’s now more ways than ever to not only discover new tunes and videos, but effortlessly keep tabs on your favorite artists as well.
Whether it was in response to the gradual MTV makeover or just a sign of the times is unclear, but musicians themselves have undergone transformations in recent years via the big and small screens. In the past, a movie or television show typically featured a cameo by a musician who almost always played him or herself or just remained in the background to perform during a scene or two, but it’s now become commonplace to cast rockers in real, hearty roles.
Musicals aside, the list of films with noteworthy musicians has grown over the years, while TV shows have been game as well, routinely treating audiences to the entertaining acting chops of their favorite performers.
Film has produced some classic roles for several A-list artists, with one of the most memorable belonging to the late, great Whitney Houston. In 1992, Houston made her acting debut alongside Kevin Costner as fictional superstar Rachel Marron in The Bodyguard. In addition to earning rave reviews for her performance, Houston’s cover of “I Will Always Love You” went on to become one of the best selling singles of all time, and led to other prominent roles in 1995’s Waiting to Exhale and 1996’s The Preacher’s Wife.
Just a few months before Houston’s turn in The Bodyguard, a fresh-faced Madonna graced the silver screen as Mae Mordabito in Penny Marshall’s dramedy, A League of Their Own, which also co-starred Tom Hanks, Geena Davis, and Rosie O’Donnell.
Penny Marshall’s brother, Garry, also is something of a director himself, and in 2010, he cast country starlet Taylor Swift in her feature film debut, Valentine’s Day. As ditzy high school cheerleader, Felicia Miller, Swift’s scenes consisted mostly of her crushing on Taylor Lautner, who played doting boyfriend, Willy. The two also were dating in real life (surprise, surprise).
Swift’s brief role in the film was similar in scope to the types of parts typically afforded musicians looking to diversify their IMDB page. While some garner a good chunk of screen time a la Jessica Simpson in The Dukes of Hazzard, Tim McGraw in The Blind Side, or Rihanna in Battleship, most are reduced to just a few opportunities to try and steal a scene. One regular thief is Dave Matthews, who has popped up in a number of off-the-cuff roles for Don’t Mess with the Zohan, Because of Winn-Dixie, I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry, and Just Go with It.
Still, sometimes artists get more of a blink and you’ll miss it kind of role, such as zombie Chris Martin in Shaun of the Dead, police inspector Phil Collins in Hook, Flea in Back to the Future Parts II and III, and Rolling Stones guitarist, Keith Richards, who played dad to Johnny Depp’s Captain Jack Sparrow in two installments of Pirates of the Caribbean.
Over on the small screen, Saturday Night Live has long provided just about anyone the opportunity to show off their acting skills, allowing some choice musicians to even pull double duty as both the show’s host and musical guest. Since 2001 alone, there have been 12 different performers (Jennifer Lopez, Britney Spears, Justin Timberlake, Janet Jackson, Queen Latifah, Ludacris, Jon Bon Jovi, Steve Martin, Taylor Swift, Elton John, Mick Jagger, Bruno Mars) who have pulled off the feat and on Feb. 9, pop megastar Justin Bieber will make it 13 when he takes the stage at Studio 8H.
One of the most memorable of the SNL dual performers is Justin Timberlake, who has successfully bounced from music to television to film, and, as it was recently revealed, back to music. Whether he’s mentoring a young Mark Zuckerberg in The Social Network or collaborating on an SNL Digital Short instant classic, there’s no denying the electrifying charm accompanying every one of Timberlake’s roles. Even the goofy ones, as evidenced in the clip below.
Fellow musician turned double threat, Adam Levine, has become a regular fixture on the tube thanks to his hosting gig on NBC’s The Voice. He also made his acting debut in late 2012 when he appeared in three episodes of the second season of FX’s American Horror Story: Asylum, and on Jan. 26, he’ll host Saturday Night Live for the first time with Kendrick Lamar serving as musical guest.
While SNL certainly has certainly had its share of musicians showing off their comedic timing, CBS’ long-running How I Met Your Mother has compiled quite a list of musically inclined guest stars over the years. Between Mandy Moore, Katy Perry, Carrie Underwood, Jennifer Lopez, Enrique Iglesias, and Britney Spears, the show knows to book ‘em, as each musician’s character played a prominent role in the respective episode.
Though the artists certainly enjoy the chance to explore a new venture, fans can count on an inevitable return to the road. Vivid Seats will have your concert tickets for all upcoming tours, including Maroon 5 tickets, Justin Bieber tickets, Taylor Swift tickets, Rihanna tickets, and more. Visit the marketplace today!