30 Musicians Who Are Dying to Be Successful Actors
For some, topping charts in one field just isn't enough.
In an era of more-is-less, it’s not surprising to find your favorite celebrity trying their hand at a various slew of talents. Case in point: the musician-turned-actor (and vice versa).
Multitalented artists, like Jennifer Hudson and Mark Wahlberg, have made the transition from Billboard accolades to Oscar nominations look entirely too easy, prompting a new wave of young talent like Zendaya, who are completely at peace with juggling multiple job titles—and doing it all with a surreal level of calm and coolness. And, while many make the transition from musician to actor look effortless, just as many still try to charm film critics—ultimately, to no avail. From Rihanna to Mariah Carey to Nick Jonas, here they are. And for more A-listers who can effortlessly phase between disciplines, check out these 12 Famous Actors You Forgot Were Once Amazing Athletes.
As one of the most influential pop stars of all time, Queen B has singlehandedly maintained the vibrancy and importance of music videos through her visual albums like “Lemonade.” So, it may not be surprising that the international pop star wants to add an Oscar to her long list of accolades. While critics were less-than-crazy about her role as Deena in Dreamgirls, her latest venture in acting, as Nala in Disney’s latest adaptation of The Lion King, may just be her golden ticket to the big leagues. And for more on celebrities’ past lives, check out these 20 Celebs Who Were Once Game Show Contestants.
Widely known for being one of the creators of “gangsta rap,” Ice Cube first found commercial success as a member of the rap group N.W.A. However, after releasing two platinum albums in the ’90s, Ice Cube went on to try his hand at other ventures—namely, acting. While his film debut in Boyz in the Hood was heavily praised, the remaining decades of his acting career have been less than memorable. Most recently, however, he produced 2015’s Straight Outta Compton, a biographical film about N.W.A., that ended up grossing more than $200 million globally.
Curtis James Jackson III, better known by his stage name 50 Cent, was once named the sixth most influential artist of the 200os. He sold over 30 million albums worldwide and earned a Grammy Award, 13 Billboard Music Awards, six World Music Awards, three American Music Awards, and four BET Awards. So, just like other influential rappers before him, 50 Cent figured that acting might come just as naturally to him.
Fortunately for the rapper, much of his work in film has been behind the scenes, as the creator of two film production companies called G-Unit Films and Cheetah Vision. Since the founding of these companies, 50 Cent has sold multiple film projects to other networks, including ones that he has starred in—though they haven’t seen much commercial success. And for more on your favorite actors, check out these 25 Funny Pranks from the Sets of Your Favorite Movies.
Whether she is starring as herself or someone else, Lady GaGa has gradually made the transition from musician and superstar performer to multitalented global sensation, adding movie star to her repertoire. Most recently, GaGa has been promoting her first lead role in A Star is Born, due to premiere in theaters later this year.
At one point, the “Sexyback” singer and former member of the boy band N’SYNC had taken a four-year hiatus from music to focus on his acting career from 2008 to 2012. The hiatus from music resulted in minor roles in The Social Network, Bad Teacher, and Friends with Benefits (and according to Timberlake, a series of awful auditions). And, though he continued pursuing acting, Timberlake decided to return back to his original calling, releasing two more albums, “The 20/20 Experience” and “Man of Woods,” both of which were almost overnight successes for the singer. And for more on the hidden lives of your favorite musicians, check out these 30 Celebrities With Amazing Hidden Talents.
Fresh from her latest heist as “Nine Ball” in an all-female installment of the Ocean’s series, Ocean’s Eight, Rihanna now seems to be reaching for total world domination. Unfortunately for the pop star, though, critics haven’t exactly loved her silver screen performances. Despite these setbacks, there are still many aspects of Rihanna’s empire to be cherished—like, for example, the millions of albums she has sold worldwide or the growing popularity of her brand, Fenty. We’d still bow down to you any day, Rih.
For decades, Lenny Kravitz has masterfully blended genres in his musical career, inciting heavy praise and plentiful awards and accolades. However, in the past couple of years, Kravitz has decided to take off his funky shoes (and incredibly tight pants) and take a turn at acting, appearing for brief stints in Precious, The Hunger Games, and The Butler. Kravitz’s daughter, Zoe Kravitz, may have been to blame for his foray into acting, serving as an inspiration via her ever-growing list of critically-acclaimed movie and television roles.
Similar to his song material, Tim McGraw prefers to stick to film projects with warm and wholesome messages (well, except for his famous role as Charles Billingsley in the movie version of Friday Night Lights). While his feature roles in Flicka and Country Strong were not accolade-worthy, they did showcase McGraw’s desire to pursue acting more seriously in the coming years.
Though there’s no disputing that Snoop Dogg was hilarious as Martha Stewart’s counterpart on Martha & Snoop’s Potluck Dinner Party, there was surely little acting involved on set. However, if you take into account the sheer volume of other film endeavors Snoop has been a part of (most of which you probably haven’t yet heard of), the rapper is also quite an accomplished actor—though most of these films have never made it into theaters.
Since his first appearance in the Fast and Furious series in 2003’s 2 Fast 2 Furious, rapper Ludacris has been making a name for himself as the lovable tech guy amid the film’s chaos and crash sequences. Along with an appearance in 2004’s Oscar-winning Crash, Ludacris’ roster of films should suggest a more illustrious film career—though indeed, we still can’t seem to give the actor that attention he deserves.
Harry Connick Jr.
Jazz musician Harry Connick Jr. has earned seven top-20 U.S. albums and ten number-one U.S. jazz albums—making him the most prolific jazz musician ever. And, though he has been appearing in films since 1990 (as well as starring in a few lead roles), Connick Jr.’s lack of celebrity leaves many feeling as though he is the “fat kid that gets hidden in the back of the class picture instead of the handsome, charismatic leading man he is”—and we’re sure he feels exactly the same way.
Since her film debut in 2001’s Glitter, singer Mariah Carey has been attempting to add accomplished actor to her resume. Though her early films have largely been considered flops, Carey’s stellar performance as Kitty in the hit show Empire suggests that she might be on her way to achieving more than just the high notes.
Since the beginning of his acting career, starring alongside Demi Lovato in Disney’s Camp Rock movie franchise, Nick Jonas has been open about his struggle to be taken seriously in the film industry. Despite wanting to be a credible actor, many of his fans still see him as boy band member and Disney star, though he desires to be something more. Fortunately for the singer, his acting chops in films like Goat and sleeper blockbuster Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle have managed to ignite his transition from Disney star to accomplished actor.
With only a flip of his perfectly-groomed hair, former One Direction star Harry Styles has managed to keep millions of fans following every project, which now includes a successful solo act and an appearance in last year’s war drama Dunkirk. This film was his acting debut, and according to critics, while it wasn’t an earth-shattering performance, he was duly noted for “being a little handsomer than anyone else.” According to the singer, he’s ready for his next feature film—and we’re sure all of the One Directioners are as well.
The more recent news about Nicki Minaj’s collaboration with the multi-talented Tina Fey, a comedy called Get Ya Life Ugly, suggests that the rapper is beginning to take her acting career a bit more seriously than we thought. This is especially the case since her roles in films like Ice Age: Continental Drift and The Other Woman have only been small parts, merely teasing her breadth of talent.
Since the early 2000s, pop star Christina Aguilera has reinvented her image numerous times—from the bubblegum pop of “Genie in a Bottle,” to the vintage-influenced maturity of “Ain’t No Other Man”—and, not surprisingly, her film career has taken the same route of self-discovery. Since filming Burlesque in 2010, Aguilera has seemed to move away from sexy and into more high-minded territory with her latest project, a science fiction love story, Zoe, in which she plays a supporting role. Through her constant persistence in both the film and music industries (and a successful stint on The Voice), Aguilera has proved that she isn’t going anywhere.
Sean “Diddy” Combs
Though you may not be aware of it, Sean “Diddy” Combs has appeared in over 20 films since he found success as a rapper in the late 1990s. While his performances in films like Get Him to the Greek and I’m Still Here were not exactly critically-acclaimed, Diddy’s quest for world domination is still very much on his mind.
Mary J. Blige
Until recently, Mary J. Blige’s acting career, while relatively impressive for her busy recording schedule (and the enormous list of music industry accolades), did not gain her much attention. Her appearances on the Jamie Foxx Show and Rock of Ages did indeed display a level of talent fit for the big screen, but it wasn’t until her critically-acclaimed standout performance in 2017’s Mudbound as Florence Jackson, the matriarch of her family, that the singer’s intentions and talent became known.
While Latin pop star Enrique Iglesias’ pursuit of an acting career has been small in comparison to others on the list, he admits to facing his shortcomings as a singer-songwriter head on—and says he does the same with acting.
“It was different from the daily thing that I do. I want to do little things and learn,” he says of his roles on various sitcoms and daytime shows like How I Met Your Mother, Two and a Half Men, and The Young and the Restless. And, though he has only appeared in one successful feature film, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, alongside Johnny Depp and Antonio Banderas, we’re expecting more projects looming on the horizon.
In terms of being a financially successful musician-turned-actress, Jennifer Lopez is one of the greatest. However, unfortunately for the multitalented powerhouse, her roles have never been enough to land her in the top tier of performers, despite her tenacity and hard work to get attain this achievement. Since her acting debut in the early ’90s, Lopez has appeared in two rotating roles—either as the unsuspecting heroine in a less-than-stellar (but very financially successful) movie like The Boy Next Door, or as the well-meaning character on a less successful film. Either way, Lopez, even in her latest role as a scorned detective in NBC’s Shades of Blue, can’t seem to find her way into the acting big leagues.
While it is safe to say that singer and former boy band member Jesse McCartney may have ultimately failed at monumental success in any category of fame and fortune, he hasn’t given up on his dream of acting stardom just yet. From snagging the lead on the beach drama Summerland to minor voice-over roles such as Theodore on Alvin and the Chipmunks, McCartney has seemingly ended his singing career and opted for one on the big screen—though whether or not he’ll be taken seriously is up to the industry.
Though considered relatively irrelevant today, rapper Vanilla Ice has tried his hand at many talents—including acting. With a not-so-promising film debut in 1990’s Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles II: The Secret of the Ooze (and plenty of other embarrassing projects, like Vanilla Ice Goes Amish and Da Hip Hop Witch), the rapper has become his worst enemy through a series strange and terrible tries at acting.
The “With You” singer may not know what tuna is, but what she lacks in the kitchen has been made up for with her acting chops—or, well, she would like you to believe as much. Perhaps not entirely on purpose, Simpson has become the poster child for Hollywood’s affinity for casting pretty females into roles that require little acting. Case and point: her entire performance in The Dukes of Hazzard.
The award-winning R&B singer has managed to become one of the best-selling artists of all time; he’s sold 75 million records worldwide. And, as it turns out, throughout his time as an extremely successful musician, Usher was also digging into the film industry, making his debut as the lead character’s love interest on Moesha in 1997. Since then, he has appeared in minor roles in television and feature films alike, reminding us all that he still aims to be a triple threat—singer, actor, and heartthrob.
Though there is undoubtedly a larger percentage of the population who never knew Queen Latifah as the feminist rapper icon of the ’90s, the portion of the people who do remember her “Ladies First” days are mostly of the opinion that nothing she could do would ever change her image as rap icon. However, it seems as though the Queen of Hip Hop is attempting to rebrand herself as an actress, moving on to larger projects like Beauty Shop and Girls Trip with some critical acclaim, but not enough to overshadow her incredibly prolific career as a musician.
When JoJo first began releasing music in 2006, the world couldn’t get enough, and so the pop star did what many pop stars have done before—she began appearing in films. And, for a while, it appeared as though she might have found success in the arms of Hollywood—with films like RV, starring alongside Robin Williams, and teen flick Aquamarine—until the starlet disappeared from the world of fame and fortune altogether. Since her hiatus, JoJo has appeared in G.B.F. and released a brand new album, Mad Love.
Unfortunately for the icon, her acting offers came to a grinding halt after the infamous wardrobe malfunction during the Superbowl Halftime Show in 2004. The Poetic Justice star and award-winning musician’s career has suffered due to a lack of commitment (she has backed out of most roles offered to her) and because of her fines accumulated through the wardrobe incident forced her out of appearing on MTV.
Singer-songwriter Tom Waits, whose distinctive voice was once described like it had been “soaked in a vat of bourbon, left hanging in the smokehouse for a few months, and then taken outside and run over with a car,” has appeared in many films over the years (most of which you probably haven’t seen). His most notable appearances were in indie film Wristcutters: A Love Story and opposite Iggy Pop in Jim Jarmusch’s tastefully quirky Coffee and Cigarettes, suggesting that Waits mostly appears to a niche audience.
Most famous for his role in the hip-hop duo Outkast, André 3000 has also appeared in numerous films over the past two decades, including minor roles on Idlewild and Charlotte’s Web.
Bjork, the chart-topping queen of avant-garde music, has also found a place for her unique artistic expression in the film industry. In fact, her 2000 feature film debut as the lead in the Lars von Trier film Dancer in The Dark ended up snagging her the Best Actress Award at the 2000 Cannes Film Festival. Since that film debut, however, the singer has only appeared in a handful of foreign films, none of which landed her many positive reviews. And for more style evolutions, check out these 30 Worst Red Carpet Style Fails.
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