Life After a Hit: Actors Who Made It Big After Making It Big


It’s incredibly difficult to make it big in the competitive world of TV and streaming. A hit show doesn’t come easy, and few projects are successful right from the start. However, a select few manage to capture the public’s attention, launching their stars’ careers and making them household names. Still, every show has to end, and some actors find it difficult to move on after their hit show has aired its final episode.

However, some actors are lucky enough to find another equally or even more successful project than their previous one. The flight attendant‘s Kaley Cuoco is perfect proof that she’s currently starring in not one but two hit shows after 12 years on the job The big Bang Theory. And just like her, many other actors found success after making it big.

Kaley Cuoco

Although she has never received any Emmy nominations or critical acclaim for her work The big Bang Theory, Kaley Cuoco was an important part of the show’s success. The actress played Penny, the waitress/actress-turned-pharmaceutical salesperson, throughout the show’s twelve seasons.

Cuoco diversified her resume after that Big Bang ended and provided the voice of the title character in HBO Max’s subversive animated series Harley Quinn. Since 2020, Cuoco has played the self-destructive anti-heroine Cassie Bowden in the surprise hit from HBO Max The flight attendant. Her performance received rave reviews and earned her Primetime Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Award nominations for season one. With Harley Quinn in its third season and The flight attendant Cuoco is still going strong in his second and busier than ever.

Gina Torres

Jessica Pearson sits in her office in suits.

It might be generous to call Firefly a hit; After all, the show was canceled after just one season. However, it received critical acclaim and continues to garner intense fan interest, making it a cult classic among geek sets. Gina Torres played Zoe Washburner on the short-lived series, the role that effectively launched her career.

Torres had another hit almost a decade later with USA Network’s legal drama suits, plays the steely Jessica Pearson. While a moderate hit, suits became a staple of the network’s line-up and lasted nine seasons. The show’s legacy was so strong that the network greenlit a spin-off centered on Torres’ character. Unfortunately, interest in the show waned, and pearson was canceled after just one season.

Sterling K. Brown

Randall Pearson looks serious in This Is Us.

Sterling K. Brown was one of the undeniable stars of the past decade. The actor made waves with his tour de force performance at Ryan Murphy’s The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Storywho plays fellow prosecutor Christopher Darden and received a Primetime Emmy for his performance.

The actor followed his success with a starring role on NBC’s family drama. This is us, plays Randall Pearson. Brown received another Primetime Emmy Award for his role on the show, as well as a Golden Globe, a Screen Actors Guild Award and a Critics’ Choice Award. This is us completed on May 24, but Brown’s future looks bright on TV and movies.

Julia Louis Dreyfus

Selina Meyer looks bored at a book signing at the Veep.

His field was a landmark of ’90s television and went on to become one of the most iconic sitcoms in history. The show followed Jerry Seinfeld and the lives of his three closest friends, George, Kramer and Elaine. Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who previously worked as part of the cast of Saturday night liveplayed Elaine for the show’s nine seasons and received the 1996 Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress.

Louis-Dreyfus returned to television with the neurotic Christine Campbell on CBS The new adventures of old Christine, a role that earned her an Emmy for Lead Actress in a Comedy. However, it was her role as Selina Meyer on HBO’s scathing satire veep this cemented her legacy as one of the most iconic actresses in television history. Louis-Dreyfus won six consecutive Emmys for her performance, tying with Cloris Leachman for most primetime acting Emmy wins.

Most of the cast friends

The cast of Friends in formal wear.

Speaking of iconic 90s shows, friends takes pride of place in this conversation. The show, which followed the lives of six twenty-somethings in New York, turned its cast into stars, made them famous and earned them critical acclaim.

The show ended in 2004, and every actor enjoyed great success. Jennifer Aniston became a movie star and recently returned to television with Apple TV+ The morning show, for which she won a SAG Award and received an Emmy nomination. Lisa Kudrow starred in HBOs The coming back, received two Emmy nominations and rave reviews. After a failed spin-off centered on his character Joey, Matt LeBlanc played a fictionalized version of himself on Showtime episodes, received four Emmy nominations and won a Golden Globe. Courteney Cox starred in the ABC hit Cougar Townreceived a Golden Globe nomination for her performance and is currently on the Starz series Glowing Valley.

Christine Baransky

Agnes Van Rhjin drinks tea in The Gilded Age.

Christine Baranski could be the queen of television reinvention. The actress is best known for playing the bitter and alcoholic Maryann Thorpe on the CBS sitcom Cybill. Baranski won the 1995 Primetime Emmy Award for her performance, the first of fifteen nominations throughout her career.

Baranski earned further recognition for her guest performances The big Bang Theorywho plays Leonard’s cold mother Beverly, and her supporting role in The good wife as the tough Diane Lockhart, who received Emmy nominations for both roles. Baranski is currently making headlines The Good Fighta spin-off centered around her good wife Character and plays an important part in Julian Fellowes’ historical drama The Gilded Agecemented her dominance over the television landscape.

David Tenant

Crowley on his throne in Good Omens.

Christopher Eccleston may have been the first Doctor in the reboot Doctor Who, but it was David Tennant who essentially revived the show and made it a cultural staple. Tennant played the tenth incarnation of the Doctor, a warm, funny, and extremely emotional version of the time-traveling alien.

Tennant passed the baton to Matt Smith after three series and went on to star in the critically acclaimed crime drama broadchurch, opposite the powerful Olivia Colman. In the years that followed, Tennant continued to play Kilgrave on the Netflix series jessica jones and Crowley on Amazon Prime Good omens. He received critical acclaim for both performances, but the Emmys have yet to recognize his talents at the primetime ceremony, though he won a Daytime Emmy in 2013 and an International Emmy in 2021.

Sandra Ah

Eve Polastri looks serious in Killing Eve.

Sandra Oh is one of the hardest working actresses in the business. She rose to prominence in the early 2000s playing supporting roles in films before receiving critical acclaim for her performance on the hit ABC drama Grey’s anatomy. For her role as Cristina Yang, Oh received a 2006 Golden Globe and SAG Award, as well as five consecutive Emmy nominations.

Four years after her stint on GraysOh returned to primetime television playing Eve Polastri in BBC America’s spy thriller kill Eve. Her work received rave reviews, and Oh won a second Golden Globe and a second SAG Award. She received three consecutive Emmy nominations in the Leading Actress category, but failed to win any. Oh also starred in the 2020 Netflix comedy The chaira SAG nomination in the comedy category.

Elizabeth Moss

Offred in an altar in The Handmaid's Tale.
George Kraychyk/Hulu

Although she was already a veteran actress when she first started playing Peggy Olson, mad Men was Elisabeth Moss’ ticket to mainstream success and critical acclaim. Her performance earned her multiple nominations, including six from the Primetime Emmys, one from the Golden Globes, and two from the SAG Awards. Moss never won an Emmy for it mad Men often ranks among the most egregious snubs in television academy history; Luckily, her next show would finally get her on stage.

Beginning in 2017, Moss played June Osborn, renamed Offred, in Hulu’s dystopian drama The story of the maid. Her work eventually earned her an Emmy Award, plus a second for producing the show. Moss also received recognition for her work in Jane Campion’s crime drama Up on the lake, an Emmy nomination for the first season. She is currently starring in the Apple+ limited series Luminous girls.

Bryan Cranston

Walter White looks at the camera in Breaking Bad.

Thanks to his performance as the clumsy but well-meaning Hal in Fox’s comedy malcom in the middle, Bryan Cranston became everyone’s favorite TV dad. Cranston received three Emmy nominations in the Supporting Actor in a Comedy category for his work, but lost each time.

Two years later malcolm ended, Cranston switched genres and surprised everyone by starring in the AMC neo-western crime drama. breaking Bad. The show and its performance received widespread critical acclaim, and Cranston won a variety of awards including four Primetime Emmy Awards, two SAG Awards and a Golden Globe. Cranston made a successful transition to the big screen, earning an Oscar nomination for Best Actor for trombobut his portrayal of Walter White remains iconic to this day.


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