It’s frustrating when an actor gives an amazing performance on a popular TV show, but their career goes downhill after it ends.
They were so great! The show was critically acclaimed and beloved by fans, and they played a leading role! Why weren’t they able to get cast in anything big after it ended? They definitely have the talent. But it was crickets for their career after the last episode. Sure, they’ve been working, at least, but the only credits on their IMDb page are for either really bad shows and movies, or even worse, titles you’ve never even heard of. You kinda worry about them.
You root for the actors from your favorite TV shows, and it’s sad when one of them just drops off the map after the series finale. Even worse, maybe they were only ever known for this one role to begin with. It’s especially apparent when that TV show is lucky enough to get a revival, and all the stars make time in their busy schedule to do another season, except that one black sheep who doesn’t have to make time because they weren’t acting in anything that important.
Here are 15 Actors Whose Career Went Downhill After Their TV Shows Ended. Everyone on this list is really talented, and they all deserve better. Here’s hoping their careers are revived soon.
15. Sarah Michelle Gellar – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
It’s perplexing that Sarah Michelle Gellar, the star of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, didn’t go on to do more.
She played Buffy on the show from 1996 to 2003, and she also did her best work during this period, acting in Cruel Intentions (1999) and I Know What You Did Last Summer (1997). And, of course, she played Buffy on a few episodes of the spinoff Angel. The next year, she booked The Grudge (2004), which was great for her career, but she didn’t keep up that post-Buffy success.
Her most notable roles since 2004 are Ella in the poorly received Happily N’Ever After and April in the only moderately received 2007 Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles movie TMNT. She also lent her voice to Star Wars: Rebels from 2015 to 2016.
14. Jenna Fischer – The Office
Jenna Fischer played Pam on The Office: half of everyone’s favorite couple/endgame Jim and Pam.
Through her career, she was always only known for this one role. She popped up in comedy movies like Blades of Glory, Hall Pass, and Walk Hard: The Dewey Cox Story, the Johnny Cash/Walk the Line parody film in which she had a lead role as the equivalent of June Carter, a musician and Johnny Cash’s wife.
But what happened to her after The Office ended in 2013? Not much. She joined the ensemble cast of another NBC comedy series: You, Me and the Apocalypse, but it was canceled after one season. Otherwise, she has been appearing in scattered episodes of TV comedies like Drunk History, The Grinder, and The Mysteries of Laura.
13. Matthew Fox – Lost
Lost completely captivated us from 2004 to 2010. And so did its lead actor, Matthew Fox, who played Dr. Jack Shepard.
Lost was actually his second hit TV show. Before that, he played Charlie, one of the five Salinger siblings on the long-running Party of Five. During Lost‘s run, he appeared in the films Speed Racer, We Are Marshall, and Vantage Point. After Lost, he’s doing all right, but not as good as you would expect.
He hasn’t returned to TV, instead appearing in action movies. He scored a lead role in Bone Tomahawk (2015), and a smaller role in World War Z (2013), which were both big movies when they came out, but aren’t exactly new classics. Since 2015, he hasn’t been in anything.
12. Mischa Barton – The O.C.
Where has Mischa Barton been since The O.C. ended in 2006? She just… disappeared from mainstream entertainment. Oh, she’s still been acting. But only in movies that no one has ever heard of.
Here are some of those titles: American Beach House. Beauty and the Least: The Misadventures of Ben Banks. ZK: Elephant’s Graveyard. Bhopal: A Prayer for Rain. Assassination of a High School President. Apartment 1303 3D. Virgin Territory. St. Trinian’s.
No, none of those titles are made up, but doesn’t it sound like they’re all made up? Who sees these movies? If anyone has seen any of them, we have a lot of questions for them.
She was also in a music video for Oasis frontman Noel Gallagher’s new band Noel Gallagher’s High Flying Birds in 2012, so at least the general public caught a glimpse of here there. She also competed in Dancing with the Stars briefly and appeared on Dr. Phil in April of 2017 to discuss a recent breakdown she’d had.
11. Tom Welling – Smallville
This one’s a double whammy: not only did Hollywood forget about Tom Welling, it also forgot about Smallville.
It’s not fair: Tom Welling is far too attractive to not find success after Smallville, but his roles since the Superman show ended in 2011 are few and far between. He had a role in the bad Nicholas Sparks movie The Choice in 2016. He’s also been in three episodes of the fantasy/crime show Lucifer. He also randomly executive produced the short-lived CW series Hellcats, starring Aly Michalka and Ashley Tisdale.
In 2016, he blew our minds by designing a Smallville t-shirt, with proceeds going to St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. The shirt reads “No Flights, No Tights,” a rule made by Smallville creators Alfred Gough and Miles Millar to define the world of the show: Smallville‘s Clark Kent wouldn’t have the power of flight or don the iconic outfit and cape.
10. Kim Cattrall – Sex and the City
Sex and the City is one of the most influential shows of our time. Carrie, Samantha, Charlotte, and Miranda were all such iconic characters, and the four actresses behind them were pitch-perfect, including Kim Cattrall. But she’s arguably been the least successful of the group post-Sex and the City.
She’s done two period drama miniseries, Any Human Heart and The Witness for the Prosecution, neither of which were exactly mainstream. She’s been on a few no name TV shows: Producing Parker, Sensitive Skin, and Modus.
She was also in the peak 2005 teen movie Ice Princess, playing a ruthless ice skating coach and mother of a champion figure skater played by Hayden Panettiere. While that movie wasn’t exactly an Oscar winner, it does have a place in the hearts of ’00s kids.
9. Michael Richards – Seinfeld
Of all the actors in the world, surely the guy who played Kramer on Seinfeld should be enjoying a successful career. But for various reasons, he’s not.
Even though Michael Richards got the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series three times, he never had another hit role on TV – or in film, for that matter. After Seinfeld ended in 1998, he had a failed NBC star vehicle sitcom called The Michael Richards Show.
He returned to stand-up comedy, but in 2006, he caused a media uproar when, during a show at the Laugh Factory, he aimed a racially-charged rant at some black audience members. After that, he retired from stand-up in disgrace.
8. Eva Longoria, Desperate Housewives
Try to name one title Eva Longoria is known for besides Desperate Housewives. It’s not that easy to do off the top of your head.
After the long-running series about the secrets of suburban housewives ended in 2012, the actress has done guest stints on a pair of popular TV shows: Brooklyn Nine-Nine and Empire. She was in a short-lived NBC show called Telenovela. She was also in a no-name Hulu series called Mother Up!.
On the movie front, she’s been in a few flicks, but not many of them are big names. Whether because of her lack of good roles post-Desperate Housewives or not, Longoria has branched out into directing for TV. She’s helmed episodes of Devious Maids (which she also executive produced), Jane the Virgin, her show Telenovela, and Black-ish.
7. Alfonso Ribeiro – The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air
Everyone knowns Carlton from The Fresh Prince of Bel-Aire. But not as many people know Alfonso Ribeiro, the actor who played him, from anything else.
After The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air ended in 1996, Ribeiro lent his voice to the 1997 animated show Extreme Ghostbusters. He also played Dr. Maxwell Stanton on the long-running but nonetheless forgotten series In the House, which also starred LL Cool J. But In the House ended in 1999, and in more recent years, his resume has become sparse.
He’s guest-starred on two teen shows: Nickelodeon’s Big Time Rush in 2012 and Disney Channel’s Shake It Up! in 2013.
6. Sandra Oh – Grey’s Anatomy
Sandra Oh is best known for playing Dr. Cristina Yang on the long-running Shonda Rhimes show Grey’s Anatomy.
Although Grey’s made her famous, she isn’t really known for other roles. Before and during her turn on the medical drama, she appeared in many other well-known movies including The Princess Diaries, Sideways, Under the Tuscan Sun, and Hard Candy.
When she left the Grey’s Anatomy in 2014, her movie resume has been filled with less well-known fare. She did land a role on the critically acclaimed and canceled-too-soon series anthology series American Crime, appearing for a four episodes of the third season.
5. Scott Patterson – Gilmore Girls
Scott Patterson is so hot as small town diner owner Luke Danes on Gilmore Girls that it’s kind of strange that he didn’t go to play any other perfect boyfriend characters. But he’s really only known for this one role.
Gilmore Girls ended in 2007, and between then and his appearance in the revival, Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life, in 2016, he hasn’t been on our screens nearly as much as he should be.
In 2007, he joined the Saw franchise with Saw IV, playing Agent Peter Strahm. He was also in a pair of short-lived TV shows: Aliens in America and The Event. He was also in a Lifetime original movie, Kidnapped: The Hannah Anderson Story, which is never a great sign, career-wise.
4. Penn Badgley – Gossip Girl
Penn Badgley captured our hearts as the sensitive Dan Humphrey on Gossip Girl. But he didn’t really make the transition from hot lead on a teen drama to sought-after actor.
In 2012, the same year Gossip Girl ended, he went indie, playing the dreamy singer Jeff Buckley in Greetings from Tim Buckley, which received average reviews. From there, he plays Posthumus in the very forgettable 2014 film adaptation of Shakespeare’s Cymbeline.
Badgley notably declined to be interviewed for Vanity Fair‘s recent piece on Gossip Girl‘s ten year anniversary. “Penn didn’t like being on Gossip Girl, but… he was Dan. He may not have liked it, but [his character] was the closest to who he was,” executive producer Joshua Safran told the magazine.
3. Gregory Smith – Everwood
We watched Gregory Smith grow up and become steadily hotter throughout Everwood‘s four seasons.
After the show ended in 2006, the Canadian-American actor didn’t really find success until his turn on the Canadian cop show Rookie Blue (2010-2015). He co-starred with Missy Peregrym, who, like Smith, is mostly only known from the teen fare of the mid-2000s, in this case, the movie Stick It. An IMDb review of Rookie Blue by user adicortez70 says “I read somewhere that this is the Grey’s Anatomy of cop shows,” which gives you a pretty good idea of what the series is like.
2. Alyson Hannigan – How I Met Your Mother
Alyson Hannigan first rose to fame as Willow Rosenberg in Buffy the Vampire Slayer. She starred on the show from 1997-2003. Pretty quickly after that, she booked a lead role on How I Met Your Mother, playing Lily from 2005 to 2014. But in the three years since the show has ended, we haven’t heard much from her. To make matters worse, her fellow How I Met Your Mother cast members all found immediate success after the show.
In 2016, she was set to star in the TV series remake of First Wives Club, but the pilot was passed on. Other than that, her IMDb credits have been paltry: she lent her voice to an episode of the Disney Channel show Sofia the First, which doesn’t exactly have the same audience as her usual work. She was also in a movie called Do You Take This Man, which no one has really heard of. Yikes.
1. Zachary Knighton – Happy Endings
When the comedy Happy Endings premiered in 2011, it looked like all six leads were on their way to becoming stars. Each actor was so funny, and as an ensemble, they were perfect. The show gained a loyal following and passionate following despite being canceled too soon.
Post-Happy Endings, everyone seems to be doing pretty well for themselves. Except for poor Zachary Knighton.
In 2013, after the show ended, Knighton made small appearances on two comedy shows: Wilfred and It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia. The next year, he landed a slightly larger guest role on Parenthood. In 2015, he got a chance at another ensemble sitcom with Weird Loners. Unfortunately, the name and the show were not very good, and it was canceled after six episodes.
Are there other actors who couldn’t make it after their TV show ended? Let us know in the comments!
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