Whilst starting off as a performer, tutors and teachers often encourage you to be a ‘triple threat’. Many performers pride themselves on being this- combining singing, acting and dancing into your skills database can really set you apart from other entertainers in your field. However, singing and acting both require two very different skill sets and not all can master both (Pierce Brosnan in Mamma Mia anyone?). For many reasons, some musicians decide to take a quick change in career path, and try their hand in the wonderful world of acting- so here are our top 5 musicians who attempted (not all successfully) a spell in the acting limelight to become a musician-actor.
Now this musician-actor may come as a surprise to most, as we all know the Philly born Fresh Prince as the star of hit movies such as; Men in Black, I am Legend, Suicide Squad etc. yet he started off his extensive showbiz career as a young rapper, teaming up with childhood friend Jeff Townes, to form the dynamic duo ‘DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’ at the age of just 16. The pair met by accidental circumstances as Townes was performing at a house party down the road from Smith- and after his rap partner failed to show up to the event, Smith filled in and the pair felt strong chemistry whilst performing together. After creating a formidable partnership, their debut album ‘Rock the House’ hit Billboard’s top 200- making the Fresh Prince a millionaire by age 18, alright for some.
After receiving their first Grammy Award for Best Rap Performance (for 1989’s ‘Parents Just Don’t Understand’), the world seemed to be the duo’s oyster. Soon however, the world would come crashing down on Will Smith, after it emerged he had underpaid his income tax and was assessed to be in $2.8 million tax debt, wow. It’s fair to say that this humongous debt almost bankrupt Smith, but NBC were there on hand to offer him a lifeline with a contract for a new sitcom ‘The Fresh Prince of Bel-air’ and the rest is history for the musician-actor…
Titled the ‘Queen of Pop’, Madonna is one of the music industry’s biggest stars, a name that is known across the globe- interestingly, she’s one of the few artists to go by a mononym (one name). Having received over 290 music awards (with a whopping 637 nominations), it’s safe to say her musical career has been a huge success. But what of her musician-actor career? Well, let’s just say the Vogue singer didn’t quite hit the heights of her music profession…
Most renowned for her performance in 1996 film version of musical ‘Evita’, the singer/actress loved every second of acting and gained motivation (for both careers) from the tragic death of her mother at the age of 5. Madonna openly tells of how this awful event gave the Michigan born performer the determination to have her voice heard. In 2002, her first big screen production, in which she starred alongside How I Met Your Mother’s very own Neil Patrick Harris, didn’t do quite as well as expected. ‘The Next Best Thing’ saw Madonna play a straight woman who decides upon having a baby with a gay man- with many complications of course. Cameos in films such as James Bond’s ‘Die Another day’ and popular sitcom ‘Will and Grace’ didn’t quite boost her acting career as she had hoped, but to call her whole acting past a failure would be very harsh indeed.
JT will always be known for his pop classics such as ‘Cry Me a River’, ‘Sexy Back’, ‘Mirrors’ etc.- it’s hard not to know the tune to at least a few of his catchy bangers. The public were fairly surprised by his decision to join the likes of Tom Cruise and Jennifer Aniston on the big screen. His first role saw him star as a journalist, in David J. Burke’s Edison Force (to which he worked alongside Morgan Freeman). A smaller role to the future ones he would eventually audition for, but hey, we all have to start somewhere- even if you are one of the biggest pop stars in the musician-actor world.
It wasn’t until 2011 when he made a name for himself in the musician-actor world, gaining a lead role in futuristic film ‘In Time’. This was met with rave reviews and it was hard to believe this emerging actor was new to the scene. Oh but he didn’t stop there, within the same year he starred alongside the glamorous Mila Kunis in the very tongue in cheek film ‘Friends with Benefits’ (yes, it is as the title describes). His acting career has been nothing less than a hit with critics, and his latest role sees him take on animation- as the voice of Branch in DreamWorks’ ‘Trolls’.
The Barbadian singer is well known for her variety of music genres, throughout her illustrious career, she has created tracks dedicated to Reggae, Hip Hop, R&B, Pop and even Electronic dance music. The iconic singer has won a staggering 173 awards in her time, including 10 Grammy awards, 6 MTV Video Music awards and even 12 Billboard Music Awards. After bossing the music scene, it’s safe to say she desired a new challenge and grabbed it with both hands. Not so much a shock inclusion anymore, with her recent appearance in Ocean’s spin off film ‘Ocean’s Eight’ as badass hacker Nine Ball. If you’re going to create an all-female cast of strong, independent and talented women, then Rihanna has to be there!
The stunning singer also starred in the 2012 Sci-Fi movie ‘Battleship’, (you could say she needed her ‘Umbrella’ for that one…) in which she began to make waves (quite literally in this case) on our screens as an actress. Her film genre range is quite impressive, starring in comedies, animated films and even teen dramas. To this day, she’s still progressing with her musician-actor career both at the same time, an impressive feat for any person – never mind a star as huge as herself.
Ice Cube, real name O’shea Jackson, Sr. began his career with controversial gangsta rap group NWA. Producing hits such as the well-known ‘Straight Outta Compton’ and ‘Dope Man’, the rapper left the group after a fallout with group member Easy-E and then manager Jerry Heller (for a more detailed account of this event, check out the film itself ‘Straight Outta Compton’- a great watch that you won’t regret). After leaving on bad terms, Ice Cube’s solo career was launched and he continued to produce hits such as ‘Today Was a Good Day’ and 2002’s ‘Check Yo Self’- in the midst of his newly found acting passion.
Critically acclaimed ‘Boyz N The Hood’ shoved Cube’s musician-actor name onto big lights and the American teen hood drama film role came naturally to him as he portrayed a character with very similar traits to himself. Nonetheless, his performance was considered outstanding in this emotional roller coaster of a film, and he has since gone on to star in over 50 movies, TV shows and even games. This musician-actor has hit big roles (and vast genres), ranging from the hilarious 21 Jump Street, to a voice over role in Treyarch’s Call of Duty: Black Ops.