From Comedy to Dramatic Roles - 5 Actors Who've Made the Transition

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A man who lost his family in the September 11 attacks on New York City runs into his old college roommate. Rekindling the friendship is the one thing that appears able to help the man recover from his grief. Starring Adam Sandler, Don Cheadle, Jada Pinkett Smith and Liv Tyler.
Photo Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment
March 20th, 2014

Hollywood has a way of encouraging its actors to evolve, taking new and different roles in order to challenge themselves as stars. There are many actors and actresses who started their careers in comedy roles but transitioned slowly into action and drama. This list reveals some of the celebrities who have gone from one end of the spectrum to the other.

 

 

will-ferrell_0.jpgPhoto Credit: Columbia Pictures

Will Ferrell is one impressive example of an actor that has delved into dramatic roles after splashing around in comedy for most of his career. His first real breakout comedy role was in "A Night at the Roxbury" in which he plays endearingly dim-witted Steve Butabi who dreams of spending time at the Roxbury. This comedy role was quickly followed by others. He portrayed Sky Corrigan in "Superstar," Jacobim Mugatu in "Zoolander" and Frank in "Old School." He achieved a lot of recognition for his roles in the Christmas comedy "Elf," "Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby" and the two "Anchorman" movies. However, he only really broke into drama as Harold Crick in "Stranger Than Fiction." In this quirky movie he plays an IRS agent who hears the narration of his life.

 

 

emma-stone.jpgPhoto Credit: Walt Disney Studios Motion Pictures

Emma Stone sharpened her acting chops in well-known comedies. At first she only played peripheral roles in comedies such as "Superbad" and "The House Bunny." However, it was after her portrayal of Zombie-killing bad girl Wichita in "Zombieland" that she started to make a name for herself in comedy. This was quickly followed up by hit comedy "Easy A" in which she played Olive, a quirky girl who tells a little lie that spirals out of control. "Crazy, Stupid, Love." was another romantic comedy in her arsenal. She then changed tracks with "The Help." This movie, based on a bestselling book of the same name, follows Stone's character Skeeter Phelan as she chronicles the experiences of African American maids during the 1960s. This jaunt into drama was followed by roles in "The Amazing Spider-Man" and "Gangster Squad."

 

 

jennifer-lawrence.jpgPhoto Credit: Lionsgate

Although Jennifer Lawrence is best known for her dramatic roles, she started her acting career as a regular in the comedy TV series "The Bill Engvall Show." Her next role was Ree in "Winter's Bone," wildly different from her comedy days as Lauren Pearson. Headlining in this independent film propelled her into other gritty, dramatic roles, and she has not looked back since. One of her most popular and recurring drama roles is Katniss Everdeen in "The Hunger Games" trilogy. However, she won her first Oscar for her portrayal of damaged widow Tiffany in "Silver Linings Playbook" and another Oscar nod for Rosalyn Rosenfeld in "American Hustle."

 

 

adam-sandler.jpgPhoto Credit: Sony Pictures Entertainment

Adam Sandler has made a name for himself in the field of raunchy, hilarious comedy. "Billy Madison" was his first real break into this arena followed closely by "Happy Gilmore." By the time he had starred in "The Wedding Singer," "The Waterboy," "Big Daddy," "Little Nicky" and "The Animal," he had pigeonholed himself into this particular brand of humor. However, he started to transition into romantic comedy with "50 First Dates" and "Spanglish." Then, he played Michael Newman in "Click," a dramedy that illustrates the dangers of taking your family for granted. This slow evolution into dramatic roles gelled in "Reign Over Me," a heart-wrenching tale of a man named Charlie Fineman who loses his family on September 11 and must somehow find his way back to the real world.

 

 

mila-kunis.jpgPhoto Credit: Fox Searchlight Pictures

Another notable actress who transitioned from comedy to drama is Mila Kunis. Her comedy career really began on "That '70s Show" where she played Jackie Burkhart, part of the group of teenage friends around which this show centers. Although she picked up other movie roles, her real entrance to drama came with "The Book of Eli." She played opposite Denzel Washington in a post-apocalyptic world where the most valuable possession is the "Bible." Then, she starred with Natalie Portman in "Black Swan" as Lily, nemesis of the main character. Later, she starred in Disney's "Oz the Great and Powerful" is which she played Theodora, one of the witches in Oz.

This list is by no means comprehensive, but these are some of the most popular actors and actresses who have made the shift from comedy to drama. Honorable mentions include Ben Stiller, although in his case he started in drama, transitioned to comedy and then transitioned back to more drama. Will Smith is also another impressive example of a comedian-turned-dramatic hero. Audiences cannot forget Jim Carrey and Robin Williams, even if their stints in drama are almost always followed up by more comedy.