What Happened? Celebrities Who Should Have Had Bigger Careers
What ever happened to some of our favorite stars from back in the day? Well unfortunately, despite how promising things looked, these actors and actresses just couldn’t seem to break into the mainstream. Whether it was just poor luck in role choices, rumors of attitudes on set or something else, these talented folks just couldn’t make the A-list. Even if we can’t change their Hollywood fortune, we can at least honor them here and keep our fingers crossed that somehow they find the success they were looking for.
She first came to prominence as Darlene Merriman on NBC’s Head of the Class, but it would be her tumultuous relationship with boxer Mike Tyson that would largely define her celebrity. We were really rooting for Robin Givens, too. The New York-born actress didn’t rely on just good looks to get her by. In addition to attending college at Sarah Lawrence, she also left Harvard Medical School to pursue a career in acting. Brains, beauty and talent. Yeah, there’s no doubt that it’s a real shame she never had her big breakthrough.
Whitley, Whitley, Whitley. We’d be hard-pressed to find someone who didn’t love to loathe Jasmine Guy’s memorable Whitley Gilbert on A Different World. The show had a tremendous impact on an entire generation of viewers, particularly young African-American men and women, so it almost seemed absolutely certain Guy would become a star. But while she also appeared in the films School Daze and Harlem Nights, along with a slew of television appearances, she was never able to really breakthrough into mainstream, A-list status. We’re not sure why, but we’re confident that was definitely Hollywood’s loss.
Now what happened here? Sure the likelihood of child stars making it big in adulthood is always a little low, but we really had some faith in Jurnee. She dazzled us in Eve’s Bayou and appeared in more television shows than we can count. But for some reason she was never able to really lock-in on a breakthrough role. Denzel Washington-directed The Great Debaters was a nice first step, but she never was able to really tackle those meaty adult roles. She’s still young, there’s still time, so we’ve got our fingers crossed that she can get it together and become the star we know she can be — sans Tyler Perry.
Mos Def/Yasiin Bey is probably one of the most interesting celebs who never really hit it big. Though he seems to pop up everywhere (movies, music, television, social activist causes), Mos Def is almost the epitome of a jack-of-all-trades, master of none. He’s been all over the place, but never achieved top status in Hollywood. Though that could have been largely by design (Mos Def was never really fighting for the spotlight), we do think it is a shame that this wildly talented man never really got the acclaim he deserved.
Cuba Gooding Jr.
We were on the fence about whether or not to include Cuba Gooding Jr. because for a brief time he really did seem like the next big thing. And ever since that breakout Academy-Award winning performance in Jerry Maguire, he has appeared in a few highly acclaimed films, but largely has fallen short in following up to that incredible role. A string of straight-to-DVD movies and B-caliber action roles have relegated him to Hollywood’s lesser tier. Which, given his obvious talent and likeability, is truly, truly a shame.
Multi-talented Academy Award nominated actor, director, screenwwriter and producer Edward Norton shouldn’t be on this list. No way should he be on this list. He wasn’t supposed to be. But following his turn as reformed white supremacist Derek Vinyard in American History X, a leading role in Fight Club and other high profile performances, Norton seemed to pull away from the spotlight. And when rumors circulated of his difficulty on and off set, that certainly did not help matters in the likeability department. He’s wildly talented and there’s no reason he shouldn’t still be on top of the movie game. So we wouldn’t be surprised if he made a rousing return to prominence.
He killed it in the 90s. From Martin to Bad Boys and everything in between, Martin Lawrence found fame and fortune in comedy, but we have to admit that when the Big Momma’s House years rolled in, Lawrence definitely was knocked down the Hollywood totem pole. Instead of sleek, interesting humor, Lawrence found himself doing characters that just didn’t have the same spirit as the roles he had previously created on television and in his other films. Can he get back on top? Drop Big Momma and then maybe you’ll have a shot.
Everyone thought that this 90’s cutie had a bright future ahead of him. With roles in The Craft and Scream, Ulrich definitely knew how to charm the ladies and had this awesome swagger to him. But somewhere along the line, Ulrich’s career seemed to stall out. He tried to break into TV, but most of his forays never really amounted to much. He’s adorable, he’s got the whole strong, silent type thing going on, so we ask: What happened here?
The first of two Clueless stars to make our list, Stacey Dash hit the scene in a big way as Dionne Davenport in the classic 90’s film. And though the drop dead gorgeous Dash certainly made the rounds in a number of movies and television shows (including the small screen version of Clueless), she could never really be taken seriously in Hollywood. Granted, this chick was never going to win an Oscar, but we did expect slightly bigger roles and at least a little more success to float her way. She still got plenty and plenty of beauty, so let’s see if she can make a mid-life run to the top of the game.
Much like Stacey Dash, Alicia Silverstone seemed destined for quite the career after her starring role in Clueless. Even before the movie, she became a teen idol after appearing in Aerosmith’s classic trilogy of music videos. But despite another blockbuster role in Batman and Robin, Silverstone had a hard time finding consistently strong and engaging roles to take on in television and in the movies. Though it’s not as if we’re surprised that she didn’t really make the jump to serious actress, we still would have liked to see a little more from her.
With memorable roles in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Dexter and Desperate Housewives, Julie Benz seemed poised for stardom on the small screen. But she has yet to breakout from supporting role status to become a leading lady in her own right. We’ve definitely got our fingers crossed for this one.
With model good looks and a sparkle on the big screen, Geena Davis was born to be one of Hollywood’s foremost leading ladies. But somewhere between her breakouts in Thelma & Louise, A League of Their Own and Beetlejuice, things went a bit awry. She was never able to maintain enough staying power to certify herself as a top leading lady. What a shame.
Sean Patrick Thomas
Now this one truly makes us sad. Sean Patrick Thomas was wonderfully attractive, super charismatic and had talent for days. He found breakout success opposite Julia Stiles in Save The Last Dance and followed that up with a role in The District. But for some reason, that we’re definitely not sure of, Thomas just couldn’t land that leading man status. We can only hope that was a personal choice and not Hollywood completely missing the boat on this one.