Sometimes actors get an itch to stretch a new muscle. They may lose the passion they once had for performing or they may just need a new challenge. For some, it means taking a break from the biz and getting a degree; for others it means trying their hand at a new craft within the industry. Some take a crack at writing scripts of their own, but quite a few step behind the camera because that's really where the power seat is. And perhaps surprisingly, many of them actually find a real longevity there.
Tonight, after just about a dozen years in this industry, going from fresh-faced preppy teen to serious, mature actor, Jensen Ackles finally unveils his directorial debut. Though television can often offer actors more in the line of job security, being on a long-running show can turn into a routine. To keep the actors happily signing their next contract, deals are often struck regarding types of story lines or amount of hour worked in any given week. Ackles has expressed interest in stepping behind-the-scenes for almost as long as he's been on-camera, so it is just about the damn time he gets his shot. And tonight he will be in good company.
Take Fred Savage for example. The once boy-next-door with the charming smile may have worried about transitioning to an adult actor from a cherub-cheeked kid, but the issue became moot pretty quickly. Savage began working as a director just a few years after his long-term and fan favorite role on The Wonder Years came to an end. He stuck with what he knew at first, programming aimed at the younger demographic, and gradually moved onto more quirky comedies. Now he works on some of the smarter ones on cable television, including It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia and Party Down.
Just a few years after first getting his crack at the whole acting thing as an extra, David Boreanaz was a co-star on a hit show, Buffy the Vampire Slayer. And in just the same amount of time he went from an ensemble to starring in his own spin-off. But being the teen heartthrob on Angel wasn't enough for this guy; he had higher aspirations-- ones that didn't have to do with brooding or taking off his shirt. He got his first break behind the camera as guest-director of the same show and has since followed up that debut stint with two (so far) episodes of his current fan favorite, Bones. But with no end in sight to the popular procedural, and with the production team being so willing to let their actors' hidden talents shine, there's no telling how many more episodes he will helm in the coming seasons!
David Schwimmer pulled double-duty during his later tenure on Friends perhaps as a way to keep things fresh on the sitcom that was entering a decade on-air. But once that run finally did come to an end, he continued with episodes of other sitcoms, including the spin-off Joey, the sketch comedy program Little Britain USA, and a couple of feature films. He may have been somewhat whiny and annoying as Ross Geller, but sitting in his director's chair, he is anything but. His authority, mixed with his years of classic dramatic training that he never really got to utilize on NBC, has found him the perfect niche. He currently has a film called Trust about online predators and sexual assault readying for release.
Just like Ackles, John Krasinski has had his eye on the director's seat for awhile, and he got to whet his appetite with a documentary before finally winning over his bosses on The Office and being given the opportunity to take a crack at an episode ("Sabre"). He's only done one so far, but it was pretty well received among fans and critics alike so if he is smart, and truly interested in making the leap, he will be negotiating some terms to take the reigns in a different way when Michael Scott leaves the paper company.
Ackles, too, is still a series star on Supernatural. And since he is one of only two who carry the dramatic weight of each week's episode, it doesn't look like he'll have the time or chance to direct any more anytime soon. And it's quite a shame, too, because judging from this clip below, he certainly has a talent for it!
Those who have spent a long time on television often seem to be natural directors, though. The instincts they have honed as actors translate extremely well behind the camera because they have years of insight on how to hit marks for cameras and perform scenes from a variety of angles. But for most of them, there will come that day when they have to make the choice of actor or director. Even actors who no longer have to audition find that the process of booking, working on, and then promoting their jobs is more than full-time. And it goes double for directors because of all of the added prep work collaborating with each individual department head. While Ackles has lit up every scene in which he's ever been, we wouldn't be surprised if in a few years he walks away from the spotlight to light up the next star. And who knows? Maybe that will finally mean the Academy nominates him for an Emmy!