Celine Song’s next film, Materialists, is now in production in New York. Here are Dakota Johnson and Pedro Pascal on set yesterday. The film was announced a few months ago, it’s being produced by Margot Robbie and her LuckyChap shingle, and it stars Johnson, Pascal, and Chris Evans as points on a love triangle. 


Seeing Pedro Pascal on a movie set reminded me of something, and I wish I could find the source because I’ve been thinking about it ever since I saw it, but someone observed that Game of Thrones, the biggest TV show of the last decade and arguably the last monoculture series, has not produced any movie stars. This would include Pedro Pascal, one of the breakout stars of GOT, but an actor who is, it’s true, best known for TV roles like The Mandalorian and The Last of Us. Don’t get me wrong, Pedro Pascal is a star—though he’s probably more popular on the internet than he is in real life—but he hasn’t had a defining movie role (yet).


There used to be a pretty sharp divide between movie and TV actors, with an encoded belief that TV stars couldn’t make the leap the movie stardom, and movie stars only “lowered” themselves to doing TV if their film careers were floundering. The age of prestige TV thinned that line, as TV became more cinematic, and a range of genres began struggling at the box office. But there does still seem to be a one-way street between film and television. 

It’s no longer seen as less than for an actor to do television, but while movie stars can dip their toes into the world of TV and then go right back to being movie stars, television stars still struggle to crossover. Jon Hamm, for instance, gave one of the most admired television performances of the last 20 years, yet he has never established himself as a movie star. Bryan Cranston gave one of the other most admired television performances of the last 20 years, but he, too, is still best known as a TV star—people think of Malcolm in the Middle and Breaking Bad before they think of Trumbo.


There are exceptions, like Sydney Sweeney’s leap to movie stardom over the last year while Euphoria has been on hiatus, but it takes concentrated effort. Like, Sweeney hasn’t done any TV since Euphoria’s last season, she’s only made movies. The closest to TV she’s come is Reality, but that was a film intended for a theatrical release, it just ended up being bought by HBO Films and airing on HBO. Still, it’s a feature, not episodic TV. Similarly, Regé-Jean Page made the choice not to return to Bridgerton, instead focusing on film roles. That hasn’t gone brilliantly, though, and he is returning to series TV alongside Glen Powell in a Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid series.


It's interesting that though the stigma of television fell away over the last twenty years, actors who break out on TV first still don’t necessarily make the leap to film stardom. These days, I think it’s less about stigma and more about scheduling, though. TV does not work fast, even shortened seasons of 8-10 episodes can take 6+ months to film if the series is devoted to its aesthetic (like The Last of Us). An actor has to make a conscious decision not to take those jobs and instead go for film roles, like Sydney Sweeney did. But again, let’s revisit this after Fantastic Four, which may yet make a movie star of Pedro Pascal.