Recently, I've been eagerly accompanying the revival of the show Gilmore Girls. As a teenager, Rory Gilmore had been my idol, and it even got to the point my parents were a bit worried because I had to be absolutely punctual every day in arriving home so I could catch two back-to-back episodes (in the not-so-long ago days before streaming, where I would throw a bit of a tantrum if I missed my show and then wouldn't be able to watch it anywhere else).
Now, fast forward less than a decade, and the show has been picked up by Netflix for four 90-minute episodes as a new season. It's like almost every day Netflix announces a new actor who's signed up for the show, almost everyone from the two main stars to actors with tiny but beloved recurring roles. Then I realized that this wasn't the only one: from other revivals like Fuller House to Girl Meets World, almost all of the actors have been returning to the shows that launched their careers. And for a lot of these actors, not only did these shows launch their careers, but ultimately became the pinnacle of their stardom, with work more or less flailing once their majors shows get cancelled. Are they only returning because it might be the best role they've ever been offered and will be offered?
It's a bit sad to see such talented actors like Alexis Bledel and Lauren Graham, the mother-daughter duo from Gilmore Girls, not be able to reach the same level of notoriety and get the same amount of work they did while they were on the show. There is a bit to be said about how these characters ingrain themselves in our minds from their famous roles, but it's not as though it's impossible to breakout from hit shows. However, in the above examples, it seems as though only characters from smaller roles went on to become even more famous famous: Melissa McCarthy aka Sookie St. James became a blockbuster film star, Matt Czuchry stars in The Good Wife, Liza Weil can be seen in both Scandal and How To Get Away with Murder. From Full House, Mary Kate and Ashley Olsen built an empire while some of their costars hit rock bottom. It's also notable that McCarthy and the Olsen sisters are some of the few characters that won't be returning to their former shows.
When certain shows become so beloved, is it nearly impossible for an actor to detach themselves from their character to go on and play other roles? Is their stardom too attached to people's ideas of their original character? How does Alison Hannigan, once Willow in Buffy the Vampire Slayer, go on to become Lily Aldridge in the wildly popular How I Met Your Mother while Sarah Michelle Gellar is barely seen on our screens? I wonder if hit TV shows can sometimes be more harmful to someone's career than helpful as we come to see these actors on our TVs nearly every day for years, and then are left without the ability to see them beyond these shows and in another role.