I'm wondering if Taylor Kitsch deserves a career review? He seemed to be everywhere for a while, and is now nowhere. Just watched John Carter last night and he was so meh. How can Riggins let us down?
I haven’t done one of these in a while, but then Kendra suggested Taylor Kitsch, who somehow escaped being prospectusized previously. Not sure how, he’s a prime case study. What happened to Kitsch is self-apparent—in 2012, he starred in three bombs (Battleship, John Carter, Savages), one them, John Carter, catastrophically so. His burgeoning leading man career was cut off at the knees, fed into a wood chipper, and left to rot in mangled pieces. He recovered somewhat with supporting roles in Lone Survivor and The Normal Heart, but then True Detective season two turned out horrendous, and he wasn’t particularly impressive in it, either. So it’s two steps forward, one step back.
How can Riggins let us down? Well, a case of Leading Man Syndrome doesn’t help. Despite his general handsomeness and blockbuster-ready biceps, Kitsch isn’t really leading man material. He’s more suited to supporting roles or working in an ensemble. This is the groove he’s been working since 2012 imploded for him, and it looks to be where he’s living for the foreseeable future, too. He’s got to remind people that the reason he got the big break in the first place is that he has real talent, and solid ensemble work is a way to do that.
The main challenge facing him is that he’s already tried all the stuff you do to get your career into high gear. The superhero thing didn’t work out—Channing Tatum has replaced him as Gambit in the X-Men universe. He can’t carry a franchise (see also: Battleship and John Carter). Returning to TV resulted in True Detective season two. So what should he do next? There’s a short film he’s written and directed on his resume—sure, try that. Actors usually become directors because they think their careers would be better/different/A-listier if only THEY had been making all the decisions, but sure, give it a shot. Who knows, Taylor Kitsch could be the next Ben Affleck or Jodie Foster, an actor with actual directing chops.
But on the chance he’s part of the 98% of actors who are not, in fact, talented directors, the only thing he can do is keep on keeping on. I suspect the B-grade quality of most of his resume is more to do with lack of options than actual bad taste. I think he’s made the best of the second/third-tier opportunities he’s gotten, but unfortunately, more of them turned out bad than not. After all, going into it, True Detective season two was a major get and we had every reason to think it would be his triumphant return to TV.
On Kitsch’s side, he just has to keep going until he finds the next project that fits him well, and he’s probably better off trying it on TV. Unless he wants to try superheroes again, there are more ensemble opportunities on TV than in movies. But the reality is Kitsch may have peaked early. Friday Night Lights was exceptional, and Riggins was a perfect actor/character match. It’s hard when the best thing you’ve done is also the first thing you’ve done, because that means that perfectly fine work later on is judged as less than simply because it doesn’t match that early high water mark. But that could very well be the case for Kitsch. He may go on to find second success on another TV show down the line, but nothing is ever going to recapture what he had on FNL.