When pop stars become TV actors | Virgin Media
When pop stars become TV actors

When pop stars become TV actors

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You’d think being a globe-trotting pop icon would be enough for anyone to be getting on with, but for some stars that just isn’t enough. Take Rihanna, for instance, who makes a small-screen debut in the brand new – and final – season of Bates Motel, which airs on Tuesdays at 9pm on Universal. She plays Marion Crane, the iconic shower victim from the classic Psycho on which the series is based, and it’s a high-profile cameo befitting of her superstar status.

But she’s not the only popster popping up on telly. Here’s a brave bunch of singing stars who made the leap into television acting (and actually made a darn good job of it too).

Nick Jonas – Kingdom

Who’d pick a fight with a Jonas?

Who’d pick a fight with a Jonas?

Those of us who were fully grown adults in the mid-Noughties may have been dimly aware of the Jonas Brothers as a squeaky clean pop-rock combo aimed at the pubescent teenage girl market. In other words, an insult to all that is good and holy about music. Cut to today, and rather shockingly we’re all fans of one of the brothers – Nick Jonas – thanks to his searing, emotional, and utterly engrossing performance as troubled MMA fighter Nate in Kingdom. More than makes up for Camp Rock, we reckon.

Lady Gaga – American Horror Story

Charming and terrifying at the same time.

Charming and terrifying at the same time.

The thing about the American Horror Story franchise is that episodes often felt like prolonged Gaga videos anyway, what with their gleeful freaks, bonkers erotic hedonism, and retro aesthetics. So it made perfect sense for the lady herself to play the queen bee in AHS: Hotel. In fact, she was almost laughably well cast as an aloof blood-sucking fashionista who speaks cryptically about love, sex and pleasure while overseeing various depravities in a massive Art Deco mansion. We wouldn’t have been surprised if it was all just home video footage from Gaga’s own everyday life, to be honest.

LL Cool J – NCIS: Los Angeles

LL in NCIS.

LL in NCIS.

The Ladies Love Cool James – we know this because his name says so. TV execs clearly love him too, because the hip hop legend has carved out quite a career as the star of NCIS: Los Angeles. To be fair, the man formerly known as James Todd Smith is an old hand at the acting lark, having already starred in films like the surreal Robin Williams comedy Toys. But as former Navy SEAL and part-time origami enthusiast Sam Hanna in NCIS, he’s found the role that will surely define him (at least to people whose knowledge of rap extends no further than MC Hammer).

Billie Piper – Doctor Who (and more)

It was harder to find a suitable image from Secret Diary Of A Call Girl.

It was harder to find a suitable image from Secret Diary Of A Call Girl.

Remember how everyone scoffed when Billie Piper was announced as the first new companion of the resurrected Doctor Who? Old school Whovians were up in arms about former pipsqueak singer “Billie” – the UK’s answer to Britney Spears in the late 90s – taking pride of place in the Tardis. But she proved everyone wrong and made Rose Tyler one of the all-time iconic Time Lord companions, following it up with acclaimed roles in Secret Diary of a Call Girl and other shows.

Joss Stone – The Tudors

She fit right into the historical accuracy of the show.

She fit right into the historical accuracy of the show.

Who better to play a famously frumpy royal from 16th Century Dusseldorf than a glamorous soul singer from Devon? Well, it made sense to the casting agents of The Tudors – a show not renowned for sticking religiously to the historical facts. Stone actually proved a luminous presence in the costume drama, warm and sympathetic and rather marvellous, completely making us forget her real identity as the crooning chart-topper who once referred to Bob Geldof as “Bob Gandalf” because she literally didn’t know who he was.  

Justin Bieber – CSI

Bieber in CSI? Never say never indeed.

Bieber in CSI? Never say never indeed.

The best thing about a young and baby-faced Bieber turning up on CSI? The fact that, instead of playing some poor victim or traumatised witness, he was a psychopathic bomber and serial killer who went on a vendetta against the CSI team. Oh, how it warmed our hearts to see the cherubic pop brat as an out-and-out lunatic who ends up getting cut down in a hail of bullets. Especially as it meant he got to proudly announce to the media, “It was really cool because I get shot, like, several times.” Never a truer word spoken.

Martin Kemp - EastEnders

This much is true

This much is true

Here’s something you probably didn’t know about Martin Kemp – he was an actor long before strumming his bass in Spandau Ballet, popping up in classic shows like Jackanory and Dixon of Dock Green. Still, who’d have thought his much later role in EastEnders would be such a bona fide career-booster for an apparently washed up New Romantic heartthrob from the 80s? As blustering bad guy Steve Owen he became one of Walford’s greatest anti-heroes, a panto villain you wanted to boo and hiss whenever he strutted across the screen. To paraphrase a certain song, he was quite simply gold.

Bates Motel airs on Tuesdays at 9pm on Universal Channel (CH 137) and Universal Channel HD (CH 164). Also available for 30 days in Catch Up. Find it in Catch Up >Channels > Universal Channel.

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