5 TV Actors Who Went from Comedy to Drama

Bryan Cranston and Jane Kaczmarek

Many funny actors have made the leap from TV to dramatic feature film careers (Jim Carrey, Robin Williams and Jamie Foxx are a few that jump to mind), but just as many have stayed on the small screen after making the switch. Here are five actors who went from laugh tracks to drama with great success.

Bryan Cranston
Breaking Bad’s meth-making dad, Walter White (Bryan Cranston), bears a striking resemblance to the bumbling father from the early 2000s comedy series, Malcolm in the Middle. That’s because Cranston portrayed Hal on the show and is still well known for the role. He was also Dr. Tim Whately, the dentist on Seinfeld who converted to Judaism for the jokes (a schtickle of fluoride anyone?).

Funny enough, a new alternate ending for Breaking Bad sees Cranston waking up next to his Malcolm in the Middle wife Lois (played by Jane Kaczmarek) where he tells her about a dream he just had–and it revolves around being a meth-cooking drug dealer. The scene even includes Cranston’s signature hat, the one his character dons whenever he takes on the Heisenberg persona. This clever spoof is reminiscent of the same ending used on the Newhart show back in the 80s. This ending is rumoured to be part of a Breaking Bad DVD set to be released later this month.

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Katey Sagal
Katey Sagal played Peggy Bundy, the bouffant-styled, sex-starved housewife on Fox’s Married with Children for 11 seasons. The comedy was a crude satirical send-up of stereotypical TV families, and it would have been easy to typecast Sagal as this larger-than-life persona. Luckily, she went on to star in the biker gang series, Sons of Anarchy, created by her husband, Kurt Sutter.

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John Goodman
Roseanne’s Dan Conner was one of the parental pillars that held the working-class Conner family together on this long-running and award-winning series. Can you imagine anyone else formidable enough to go up against Roseanne and that gaggle of smart-mouthed kids? After the series, Goodman went on to star in the short-lived yet critically acclaimed HBO series, Treme.

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Hugh Laurie
Before coming to America, U.K.-born Hugh Laurie was part of the comedic duo, Fry and Laurie, an act he formed with friend Stephen Fry. He also had regular roles on the comedy series Blackadder the Third and Blackadder Goes Fourth, starring Rowan Atkinson of Mr. Bean fame. Years later, he flipped the script to star as the curmudgeon Dr. House for eight seasons. Clearly, those transatlantic crossings can take their toll on a guy.

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Maura Tierney
From 1995 to 1999, Maura Tierney played Lisa Miller, a reporter, news producer and on-air personality at NewsRadio‘s fictional WNYX where she exchanged quips with the funny cast of characters including Dave Foley of Kids in the Hall Fame and the late Phil Hartman whose credentials included Saturday Night Live and The Simpsons. Tierney then went on to play nurse Abby Lockhart on NBC’s successful medical drama, ER.