Among the nominees for this year’s Critics Choice TV Awards are “The Lifers,” an assortment of seasoned artists with long and successful Hollywood careers – many spanning the ’80s and early’ 90s, but also a few as far back as the ’60s – who once again performed as much as their finest work. And as multiple actors tell Variety, they’ve each gone separate ways, navigating industry changes and career ups and downs, to stay in the game for the long haul.
“In a way my acting career headed for that,” said Steve Martin, nominated for his performance as former TV star turned amateur sleuth and podcaster Charles-Haden Savage in “Only Murders in the Building “, which he also co-created.
Martin remembers his writing and comic book journey on TV series such as “The Smothers Brothers” and “Saturday Night Live” through his immensely popular film career, now landing amid the more flexible and nuanced formats of the movie. modern television. âThe artistic level of television has completely changed, and it has actually become more desirable to be an actor on television – and I never thought that would happen in a million years – than to be in. a movie, âhe says, convinced that television is where it’s going to stay. âI just have no interest in leaving to make a movie – or even just to make a movie. I really like it. It’s the perfect thing I should be doing for my nature right now.
Jean Smart says her role as veteran stand-up comic Deborah Vance on “Hacks” was “everything I could have wanted in my next job – he ticked all the boxes.” Noting that even some of the most successful actors rarely get the chance to show off their full lineup, Smart feels lucky to have landed a series of diverse and meaty roles, including “Fargo,” “Watchmen” and
“Mare of Easttown” at this point in his career.
âOver the past 20+ years I’ve just been offered amazing roles, and I haven’t taken anything for granted as a girl over 40,â she says. âI have never been cataloged. The first job I was offered after ‘Designing Women’ was a TV movie about Aileen Wuornos, the first serial killer in America.
For Brian Cox of “Succession,” his now iconic role as patriarch of the media family Logan Roy came from a confluence of “big story, big role, good time, big situation – and outliving a lot of people.” It helps, âhe laughs.
Cox notes that he always felt large-scale success was inevitable for him, as long as he stayed the course. “[I thought], ‘It will all come to you, but it will come in time.’ It was, he said. âI’ve been doing this for sixty years – since I was 15 – I just felt that I would end up in my time, and that it would happen with grace and in the best working conditions. And that’s what happened: I entered my moment.
Broadway and television veteran Audra McDonald, nominated for her role as lawyer Liz Reddick in “The Good Fight,” attributes her longevity to her commitment to testing herself rather than raising awareness of her name. âWhen I’m looking for work, I’m not looking for fame and glory,â she says. “I’m looking for ways to evolve and what will challenge me as an artist.”
McDonald’s multi-faceted career includes theatrical performances and concerts and has always kept his plate filled with new opportunities to stretch. âI’ve been able to keep things varied and stimulating, and that has always been the goal: to grow with everything I do, not recognition or fame, because I understand it’s fleeting,â says -she.
For Christine Lahti, fear was a key motivator – not the fear of not working, but the fear of the role at hand. âI love it when a part scares me,â she said, noting that her current part on âEvilâ was one that she entered with concern. âI’ve always been drawn to things that scare me and make me think ‘I have no idea how to play this character.’ And inevitably, you find a way and dig deep into yourself.
âI love the idea of ââkeeping this challenge up – and I’m old now, but I feel so creatively on top of my life,â says Lahti, who regularly finds new avenues to stay engaged. “Even on TV it was hard to find good roles for women my age, so I directed more and wrote, and tried to produce, too.”
Rather than go all-in on production, Molly Shannon, second nominated for her role as matriarch and now talk show host Pat Dubek on “The Other Two,” believes knowing when to take a step back has been crucial. for both careers longevity and his own peace of mind. âToo much work makes me miserable,â she laughs. âI like not working! And I try not to compare myself to people who think you have to work all the time.
âIf I was feeling tired or exhausted, I would just say no to a job because I’ve always wanted to be happy and excited about work,â says Shannon. âI never want to be like, ‘Oh, I’m calling her. I always know when to step aside, and I think that has made me happy and positive.
How you fill in the time between shows is key for actors because they need to know that they are “infinitely taller than any character,” as “Genius: Aretha” star Courtney B. Vance.
“When people turn away from you, as they always will – when all of a sudden they don’t want you anymore – what do you do in between those times? You have to build a life for yourself. You find things that you are passionate about, so when they don’t want to hear from you anymore, you have a legacy to leave behind, âhe says.
While Vance cites examples such as Robert Redford with the Sundance Institute and Paul Newman with Newman’s Own, sometimes the lives actors build lend themselves to enriching their next characters as well. All of these Critics Choice Award nominated roles are certainly proof of that.