Friday, March 9, 2012

Star Making Roles Part 2: JJ Abrams

I have been watching a lot of JJ Abrams stuff lately.  What can I say, other than the man is a genius.  JJ Abrams is the mind who brought television shows like Felicity, Alias, Lost and now films like the new re- imagined Cloverfield, Mission Impossible IIIStar Trek, and Super 8.  In the last ten years the man has created, written, produced and directed countless other projects.  While I was at lunch with a co-worker at lunch they stated "I will watch anything that says from the creators of Lost."  This is a huge statement!  Abrams is becoming a branding machine like Spielberg.  My hope is that Abrams stays true to himself and takes on passion projects that interest him, unlike Spielberg who seems to do just about anything.

One of the great things about this man is the sheer talent he has helped emerge from his television shows and films.  Abrams has helped a lot of people find stardom; he his people. Abrams like most directors finds people he likes to work worth and bring them on to work with him in several different capacities.  Two people that fit the bill are Greg Grunberg and Amanda Foreman.  Grunberg played Sean in Felicity and he has had some acting role in 6 different Abrams films and television shows.  Grumburg's roles have varied from the voice of Kirk's stepdad while Kirk is stealing the car in Star Trek to a major supporting role in Alias.  Foreman has been in 4 different Abrams films; she also was part of Star Trek and had a role on Alias.  The irony of this is that these two played a couple on Felicity.  I love when director's give a wink and a nod to their fans.  Abrams is a master at this because these actors roles are something you can miss if you do not pay attention.

Abrams is not only good at using actors on revolving basis, but like Gary Marshall (in part one-read it) Abrams has launched the careers of two talented women, Keri Russell and Jennifer Garner.  While unlike Roberts and Hathaway from part one these two women are not superstars, but they are also household names who have done a lot because of their status headlining successful television shows from Abrams.

keri russell face
Keri Russell-What can you say about Felicity Porter?  There were moments when I was annoyed that  this girl picked a college because she liked a boy, and there moments where her wafish good looks seemed annoyingly perfect, but this was a great character.  Russell Felicity started out as a woman driven by her feelings for a boy, but became someone who fought to find herself.  Unfortunately Russell was never nominated for an Emmy for this role, but she was nominated for a Golden Globe during the first season and won.  After Felicity ran for four years Russell spent most of her time in film; she starred in smaller films like The Upside of Anger, and Waitress, and bigger films like August Rush and Mission Impossible III.  Russell is no stranger to being selective about both her film and television roles.  Television producers had been clamoring to bring her back to television and her fans got their wish in 2010 when she co-starred with Will Arnett in Running Wilde.  In her first comeback to television  Ms. Russell cam back to a big letdown, they show was a massive flop and did poorly in the ratings.  In recent news this week Keri Russell was attached to a new pilot on F/X entitled The Americans about KGB spies living in the US during the 1980s.  This series comes from Joe Wesiberg (Falling Skies) and Graham Yost (Justified).  Russell is at her best within the realm of drama, and I am excited to see more from her.

Jennifer Garner-3 years after Abrams brought Felicity to the WB he created and brought Alias about a female spy named Sydney Bristow to life in the form of Jennifer Garner.  Garner's role in Alias was not only kick ass but it took the spy themed concept to whole new level, with a woman at the center.  Abrams is never afraid to do something different, and Alias was a great way to highlight Garner's acting abilities.  Throughout the shows five seasons Garner was nominated for four Emmy Awards (she never won) four Golden Globe Awards (she won the first year exactly like Russell) and two Screen Actor's Guild Awards (she won in 2005).  Garner's role in Alias has landed her a wide variety of roles ranging from the romantic comedy realm with films like 13 Going on 30, Catch and Release, Valentine's Day, and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past.  Alias also helped to show that Garner was no feather weight and that she could be a bad ass action star too; she landed roles in Daredevil, which led to her role in in her own super hero film Elektra, and The Kingdom.  Garner's best film role was her supporting turn in Juno where she played Vanessa who so desperately wanted a child and to be a mother; she played this role with such quiet brilliance.  

Both of these women were given prime television gigs from one of the greatest working creative minds today, and their careers post these roles have been a bit lackluster.  I like both of these women a lot, and I hope their stars do not burn out.  It's time for JJ to create some more great roles for these two women and use them the way he uses some of his other favorite people.

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