Many years ago, actors rose to fame either in the movies or on stage, but not both. What was once two distinct career fields have become intertwined with stars frequently studying lines for both simultaneously. It is almost a rite of passage to stardom now for actors to use their successful status in Hollywood to launch into a Broadway role or start out on the stage in New York City with hopes of attention-grabbing reviews that will turn the heads of movie executives.
Broadway isn’t necessarily a dying art form, but with a generational shift toward other forms of entertainment, it’s not exactly thriving. The only way to keep a show alive is to fill those seats. One proven method to do that, as you might have guessed, is to cast highly rated performers. People aren’t going to pass up an opportunity to sit thirty feet from James Bond, Wolverine, or Captain America while these men deliver a monologue (even if the audience member doesn't know what the play is about).
From Scandal’s Kerry Washington to Breaking Bad’s Bryan Cranston, we’ve uncovered twenty celebrities that have appeared on Broadway. A certain La La Land starlet even made the list.
On your next trip to New York’s Theater District, don’t be surprised to see your favorite actor’s name up in lights (and don’t be surprised if he or she looks different in person than you would have expected).
20 Hugh Jackman: The Other Side Of Wolverine
He may not still play Wolverine on the big screen, but he always will in our hearts. The guy with super muscles and a super nice guy attitude also has a knack for musical performance. Aside from his cinematic appearances in Les Miserables and The Greatest Showman, he has also lent his voice to Broadway.
Jackman made his Broadway debut in The Boy From Oz, which opened in 2003 and for which he earned a Tony Award. He then hosted the Tony Awards four times, earning himself an Emmy Award for one such gig. He even had his own self-titled Broadway show in 2011, Hugh Jackman, Back on Broadway, in which he sang his favorite Broadway and pop songs.
That Hugh Jackman sure is the full package.
19 Emma Stone: From Cabaret To La La Land
If there’s anything we know from watching Emma Stone in films like Easy A, The Help, Spider-Man, and La La Land, it’s that she makes roles unique in her own way. Her 2014 Broadway debut in Cabaret was no different.
Stone took over for Michele Williams mid-way through production of Cabaret as lead Sally Bowles, a young woman seeking attention and trying to make a life for herself in a 1930s Berlin nightclub. When asked if she would consider doing another Broadway show, she told Playbill she would…as long as it wasn’t a musical.
Well, we can still hope.
18 Daniel Craig: Bond Has A New Mission
It takes a very good actor to pull an audience member into a script and make them feel like part of the story, without faltering into previous roles. It takes a doubly good actor to do that if the actor has played James Bond for years and needs to personify a different character. Thankfully, Daniel Craig has a gift (and is a gift to us all).
Craig gave a critically-acclaimed performance opposite his real-life wife, Rachel Weisz, in Harold Pinter’s Broadway play, Betrayal, in 2013.
Craig may make a return to Broadway, but is currently focused on what will reportedly be his last run as James Bond. The twenty-fifth installment of the Bond film will hit theaters in November 2019.
17 Amy Schumer: A Star Shines in Meteor Shower
The Girl with the Lower Back Tattoo (the title of her book, not our nickname for her) couldn’t resist an opportunity to add Broadway to a resume stacked with films like Trainwreck and television shows like Inside Amy Schumer.
Schumer joined an all-star cast for a limited engagement production of Meteor Shower this past year. Known for her quick wit, Schumer was an instant favorite for writer (and original funny-man) Steve Martin. Surprising critics and audiences alike, Amy Schumer playing a character other than Amy Schumer was actually really good, according to the New York Post.
With that kind of success, the world is her oyster.
16 Bryan Cranston: It's Not All (Breaking) Bad
Chances are high Bryan Cranston will be best remembered for his role as the formidable character, Walter White, in Breaking Bad. But if he continues to perform on Broadway as well as he did in All the Way, his legacy may be different.
Cranston’s Broadway debut came in 2014 when he was cast as President Lyndon B. Johnson. The play follows the first year in office after the tragic JFK event. In an interview with Rolling Stone, Cranston noted that he had turned down offers for plays in the past but settled on All the Way because it would resonate with people.
Likely sticking with a similar logic, Cranston will be returning to Broadway later this year in Network as a lead news anchor whose on-air meltdown boosts ratings.
15 Scarlett Johansson: ScarJo Takes Her Turn On The Main Stage
As of this week, Scarlett Johansson is the world’s highest paid actress. So, it’s no surprise that Broadway producers have been clamoring for years to get the Avengers actress on set.
ScarJo made her Broadway debut in 2010 opposite Liev Schreiber in Arthur Miller’s A View from the Bridge. Her portrayal of Catherine, a young woman living a sheltered life with her uncle (whose approval she constantly seeks), won her a Tony Award that year for best featured actress in a play. She followed that performance as the lead in Tennessee Williams’ Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in 2013.
14 Daniel Radcliffe: The Man Of Harry Potter Fame Continues To Cast Spells On Audiences
Even without the spells, Daniel Radcliffe seems to mesmerize audiences time and time again. Launching straight from Harry Potter, Radcliffe amazed in roughly four-hundred performances of How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying as the lead character putting in minimal effort to climb the corporate ladder. Applauded for taking on a new challenge outside the movie studio, Radcliffe was also seen as a less-than-ideal musical theater performer according to The Hollywood Reporter.
In any case, Radcliffe is coming back to Broadway in 2018. He will join Cherry Jones and Bobby Cannavale in The Lifespan of a Fact starting next month. Radcliffe’s character, Fingal, has been assigned to fact check an important article for a large publication and finds it to be largely fictionalized.
13 Armie Hammer: Call Me By Your Name Standout Hits The Stage
In an interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Armie Hammer was quick to note the many privileges he has been afforded throughout his life. The co-star of 2017 favorite, Call Me By Your Name, has many other film credits, including The Social Network and J. Edgar. Wanting to do more, he is swapping Hollywood for New York City (at least for now) to join the cast of Straight White Men.
In his Broadway debut, Hammer plays Drew. Along with his adult brothers, Drew confronts their father (and himself) about what their identities mean. Tickets are on sale now with the show set to close at Hayes Theater on September 9th.
If you’re not sure whether or not to go, know that critics are hailing it as a welcome presence on Broadway.
12 Kerry Washington: Before Scandal, There Was Broadway
Best known for her role as Olivia Pope on the Shonda Rhimes series, Scandal, Kerry Washington has also gained notoriety for her roles in the 2005 and 2007 Fantastic Four movies, as well as The Last King of Scotland. She can even dance.
According to Elle, Kerry took dance lessons as a young girl from the one and only Jennifer Lopez. This combination of powerhouse actress with performance background was perfectly suited for the stage.
In 2009, Kerry returned to her hometown of New York City to be cast as a lawyer in Race. She will be reprising a spot on Broadway this November as a cast member in Amer. Son, which will examine America’s race relations at the Booth Theatre.
11 Jim Parsons: Sheldon, Like You've Never Seen Him Before
Jim Parsons has been bringing television’s most well-known comedic scientist (and germaphobe), Sheldon Cooper, to life since 2007. You might also recall his supporting role in the 2016 blockbuster, Hidden Figures. But you may not know that he is also an award-nominated Broadway actor.
In 2011, Parsons appeared as Tommy Boatwright in the landmark play, The Normal Heart, about the AIDS crisis in New York City. Following the end of that play, he was also cast in Harvey and as the title character, God, in An Act of God. Most recently, he returned to Broadway for the 2018 revival of The Boys in the Band.
10 David Hyde Pierce: Taking Spamalot To The Top
If Frasier was before your time, you might not be that familiar with David Hyde Pierce (though you’re missing out if Dr. Niles Crane didn’t influence your early life). That said, you’ll probably know exactly who we’re talking about when we say Spamalot.
In 2005, Pierce stepped out as Brother Maynard in the Monty Python satirical musical, completing the opening night trifecta opposite Tim Curry and Hank Azaria. He returned to Broadway as a cast member numerous times after, including in the well-reviewed, Curtains. He is back on Broadway currently starring with Bette Midler in Hello, Dolly! at the Shubert Theatre.
9 Lucy Liu: A Charlie's Angel Gets Her Name In Playbill
Having struggled her entire life to find her place, Lucy Liu finally felt like she was fitting into Hollywood life. She was hired onto the television show, Ally McBeal, and followed that with leading roles in films like Charlie’s Angels (opposite Drew Barrymore and Cameron Diaz) and Kill Bill. Wishing to honor her cultural heritage and also explore roles beyond those of her associations, she went to Broadway. Her breakout performance came in 2010 in God of Carnage.
It was just announced by New China that Liu will receive a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2019. We think we will be seeing much more of her.
8 Denzel Washington: One Of The Greatest Hits One Out Of The Park In Fences
To have the chance to play a role on stage and then bring that same role to life in a film is possibly one of the greatest accomplishments an actor can achieve. That’s exactly what Denzel Washington did in Fences.
The play opened on Broadway in 2010 and then became a film in 2016, starring Denzel Washington and Viola Davis in both (Washington also directed the film). The powerful storyline follows former baseball standout, Troy Maxson (Washington), as he struggles with missed opportunity in his own life that he takes out on his wife (Davis) and son.
Washington most recently returned to Broadway in The Iceman Cometh, which brought in over $1 million in box office sales in the first week alone, according to Forbes.
7 Maggie Gyllenhaal: Showing The World She Has The Real Thing
Having mastered her roles in several off-Broadway productions, Maggie Gyllenhaal took to the big stage. In late 2014, she started her run as Annie in The Real Thing. After much anticipation as to whom could hold their own opposite the already-cast Ewan McGregor, whose character was the married love interest of Annie, Gyllenhaal stole the show.
Catch Maggie on the second season of The Deuce on HBO and The Kindergarten Teacher on Netflix. No word on if she and brother, Jake, are working on anything together, but we wouldn’t mind seeing them in tandem again (like the good old Donnie Darko days).
6 Jennifer Garner: Hollywood Hopeful Turned Broadway Beacon
Jennifer Garner thought she was making her Broadway debut in 1995 when she understudied for two roles in A Month in the Country. However, she never made it onto the stage. Twelve years later, following cinematic and television roles in Alias and 13 Going on 30, she had her chance.
Garner was cast as Roxane in the Broadway revival of Cyrano de Bergerac. In it, she is the object of affection for Cyrano but loves another man (Cyrano’s large nose is the focus of much of the play).
You might not catch her back on Broadway, but her new movie, Peppermint, is due out next month.
5 Matthew Broderick: Making A Name For Himself Among An All-Star Cast (And Family)
Matthew Broderick is no stranger to fame. He gave us Ferris in the 1980s classic Ferris Bueller’s Day Off and was the voice of Simba in the Lion King movie. Plus, he is married to Sex and the City goddess, Sarah Jessica Parker.
In addition to those accolades, his stage credits total in the dozens. Broderick got his start in theater and debuted on Broadway in the 1983 hit, Brighton Beach Memoirs (for which he won a Tony). One of his more memorable Broadway performances was as Leo Bloom in The Producers. He was also nominated for a Tony Award for this work in 2001, but ultimately lost to his co-star, Nathan Lane.
4 Laura Linney: Bragging Rights Earned For Role In The Little Foxes
Nearly thirty years ago, Laura Linney began acting, first on stage and television and then in movies (Kinsey, The Savages, Mystic River, Love Actually, etc.). She has made over ten Broadway show appearances in New York City alone, not to mention the work she has done on London’s West End. She has been nominated four times for a Tony Award, most recently in 2017 for her role in The Little Foxes with Cynthia Nixon.
She is not currently in production on any films, though much of the on-camera buzz is now centered on her role in the Netflix original, Ozark, opposite Jason Bateman.
3 Lea Michele: Tracing Her Roots Back To Where It All Began
Before Lea Michele could ever dream of starring on Glee or recording her own album, she made waves on Broadway.
At just eight years old, she was cast as a replacement for the role of young Cosette in Les Miserables. She went on to perform in Ragtime, Fiddler on the Roof, and Spring Awakening. With a successful start on Broadway, she landed an even more prominent role on the television show, Glee, as Rachel Berry.
In 2012, she signed as a pop artist with Columbia Records and has since released two studio albums. She is currently on tour with Darren Criss.
2 Michael Cera: Good Cop/Bad Cop Opposite Captain America In Lobby Hero
Child actor, Michael Cera, left his mark in Confessions of a Dangerous Mind and went on to give us such gems as Arrested Development, Juno, Superbad, and Scott Pilgrim vs. The World.
His off-screen credits include a Tony Award nomination for his role in Kenneth Lonergan’s Lobby Hero. In addition to acting with the occasional stint as director or producer, Cera is also a musician and once recorded a song with Weezer (fun fact).
Cera will return to Broadway next month in The Waverly Gallery at the Golden Theatre as part of a family dealing with the struggles of Alzheimer’s.
1 Kristen Bell: A Debut To Remember
America’s favorite girl next door, Kristen Bell, has given us major relationship goals with husband, Dax Shepard. She’s also given us a trip down memory lane as we recall her past stage appearances and breakout roles in Veronica Mars and Forgetting Sarah Marshall. Oh, and her voiceover for Princess Anna in Frozen.
The relatable and bubbly Bell went to her first audition in her home state of Michigan at age twelve and landed herself a dual role as a banana and a tree. Little did she know that less than ten years later she would be making her Broadway debut as Becky Thatcher in The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. The following year, she starred in The Crucible.