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Music Business

Musicians Who Became Actors

Photograph of the blog post author, Georgia Carter

Georgia Carter

25.11.2022

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Musicians who are actors, we all can think of a few, and some more successful than others. They are a rare breed who can sing to the top of their lungs & carry a tune but also give the performances of their lives which sometimes leads to an Oscar nomination. What can I say, making the leap from the stage to screen takes some guts, but if you have the talent like this lot, then it’s inevitable they would be good at both. Let’s see who is on our list. 

Beyoncé

We all know that this incredible woman earns her place in the music industry and nothing would have been the same without Destiny’s Child, but she has had a thriving film career ever since she starred in Austin Powers in Goldmember in 2002. She then went on to be cast in films such as The Fighting Temptations in 2003 and The Pink Panther in 2006. In that same year, she landed the role in the Academy Award–winning Dreamgirls, starring alongside Jamie Foxx and Jennifer Hudson – who also makes it onto our list of famous actors who are also musicians. In 2008, she was in Cadillac Records, Obsessed in 2009 and to the joy of her fans, she starred as the voice of Nala in the Lion King remake in 2019. There is nothing she cannot do and so may  she continue to release groundbreaking records and star in as many films as she wants. Her music career knows no bounds, and so it appears a similar story with her acting career. If you haven’t listened to Renaissance yet, I implore you to do this right now.  

Justin Timberlake 

Justin Timberlake started out in a band called Nsync in which he shot to fame, but before this he was in The Mickey Mouse Club with the likes of Britney Spears, Ryan Gosling and Christina Aguilera – who has also had her share of acting roles. So he has certainly had a passion for acting from a very young age. As well as winning 4 Emmy awards, 10 Grammy awards and 3 Brit awards for his music career, he has been in just a few films including; The Social Network, Bad Teacher, Friends With Benefits, Alpha Dog, and Inside Llewyn Davis. If you are looking for examples of actors who are accomplished musicians, then need you look any further? 

Jennifer Hudson

Jennifer found fame on American Idol and even though she did not win the competition, she has carved out a very successful career as a singer/actor since then. She went on to win an Oscar for her role in Dreamgirls, alongside Beyoncé. She went on to play Aretha Franklin in the biopic Respect, which was released in 2021. Her voice is out of this world and her presence is second to none. She is one of the actors who are also amazing musicians and don’t we know it. I am very excited to see what she does next.  

Lady Gaga

Another voice to behold, another star to be included on the list of actors who are musicians in their own right, Lady Gaga certainly deserves every accolade that she is given, because she works hard for every single one. She is more well known for her bold style of music and so when she took on the role in A Star Is Born, we saw a more stripped back version of Lady Gaga, aka Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta. A portrayal of a singer who finds fame singing in bars and clubs parallels Lady Gaga’s own rise to fame as she performed as a teenager, singing at open mic nights and acting in school plays before everybody knew her name. She won an Academy Award for best song, and also a Grammy, BAFTA and Golden Globe Award. 

Harry Styles

Now, if you don’t know about One Direction, where were you? Harry really has Simon Callow to thank for his career, as it was his idea to create the 5 piece band back in 2010. He entered as a solo contestant, but Simon and the rest of the X Factor panel thought that it would be best if talents were combined and boy was he right? Harry, now a solo artist in his own right, performs to sold out stadiums and arenas and can add acting as another string to his bow. He made his debut in Christopher Nolan’s war film Dunkirk, in July 2017, playing a British soldier named Alex in the Dunkirk evacuation during World War II. He has gone on to play further roles in films such as Don’t Worry Darling, and My Policeman, both released in 2022. 

Alana Haim

Any Haim fans would have been interested to see one of their favorite sisters up on the silver screen, and she proved that actors are good musicians too. Whether it be performing piano, guitar and vocals in her band alongside her sisters or playing a starring role in the film Liquorice Pizza, – also with her two sisters – she is a poster girl for both, crossing over between the two industries. The film earned three nominations for best picture, directing and original screenplay but she was not nominated for lead breakout role, which disappointed her fans. 

Rihanna

Rihanna can sing, there is no doubt about it and she even has her own lingerie line. What you might not know about her is that she started acting early on in life, as her first role was in Bring It On: All Or Nothing in 2006. There followed 2012’s Battleship, 2014’s Annie, the Bates Motel television series, 2017’s Valerian and the City of a Thousand Planets, and then 2018’s Ocean’s Eight. Most recently, she appeared alongside Donald Glover in the 2019 musical film Guava Island. 

Mandy Moore

Releasing an album at only 15 years old in 1999, this pushed Moore’s career in the acting world up a few notches as she then was cast in film roles in Princess Diaries in 2001 and A Walk To Remember in 2002. Her work in This Is Us brought her popular and critical acclaim and in my opinion, it is much deserved. She has brought out many albums in the last few years, including Silver Landings in 2020, and Real Life in 2022 this year. 

Queen Latifah

Many may know her from acting roles in Chicago, Barbershop 2: Back in Business, Beauty Shop, Hairspray, and Girls Trip. But before she found fame with any of these projects, she signed with Tommy Boy Records in 1989 and released her debut album All Hail the Queen on November 28, 1989, featuring the hit single Ladies First. 

Madonna

Her music career was the springboard for Madonna’s acting career and only after she released Like A Virgin, she was given a role in Desperately Seeking Susan alongside Rosanna Arquette. One role that won her an award, was Evita in 1997, for which she won a Golden Globe for best actress. She also memorably played Mae Mordabito in A League of Their Own in 1992, co-starred with Rupert Everett & Benjamin Bratt in a 2000 dramedy called The Next Best Thing, and had a cameo in the 2002 James Bond film Die Another Day. As a musician who made it as an actor, she had a pretty great career.

Cher

Cher’s first foray into the acting industry was as a model in the tv series The Man from U.N.C.L.E. in the 1960s. Broadway was calling not long after and she was cast in Robert Altman’s Come Back to the Five and Dime, Jimmy Dean, Jimmy Dean. For the film version she was nominated for a Golden Globe award. Even before Mamma Mia! Here We Go Again in 2018, she had worked with Meryl Streep in the film Silkwood in 1983. She even won the Best Actress prize at the Cannes Film Festival for her role in Peter Bogdanovich’s 1985 film Mask. She was cast in such films as The Witches of Eastwick, Moonstruck, Mermaids, and also in Burlesque in 2010, which also starred Christina Aquilera. 

Barbra Streisand

What a voice, what a woman?! Her singing career took off first but acting was always going to play a part in her life. The theatre director and playwright Arthur Laurents saw her audition for I Can Get It for You Wholesale, the show in which she’d make her Broadway debut. After her third studio album, she took on one of her most famous roles, the role of Fanny Brice in Funny Girl. The film adaptation – after another 7 studio albums – made her a global star. 

Frank Sinatra

Sinatra will always be known for this musical talent and rightly so, but it would be amiss of me to not mention the numerous films in which he was cast, in the 1950s and 1960s. He appeared in both in musicals—Anchors Aweigh, On the Town, Guys and Dolls, Pal Joey—and dramas like From Here to Eternity, for which he won the 1954 Oscar for best supporting actor, The Man with the Golden Arm for which he got a best-actor nod, and Some Came Running. 

Mandy Patinkin

He graduated from Juilliard, and he is an actor who sings extremely well. But maybe these vocal talents of his are slightly less known than his roles he has been cast in, such as The Princess Bride, Criminal Minds, Homeland, and The Good Fight. His musical theatre background secured his role as Che in Andrew Lloyd Webber’s Evita and Georges Seurat in Stephen Sondheim’s Sunday in the Park with George. He is a critically acclaimed Broadway performer, having received three Tony Award nominations, winning for his leading role in Evita, and seven Drama Desk Award nominations. On Children and Art, his first new album since 2002, Mandy Patinkin performs songs by Randy Newman, Laurie Anderson, Lyle Lovett, Taylor Mac, Stephen Sondheim, Tom Waits, Rufus Wainwright, Taylor Mac, Teitur, and Patinkin himself.

Some Honorable Mentions

There were so many we could mention in this article, so for those that didn’t make the main list, here is a shout out to those musicians who are actors and have a name for themselves jumping between the different industries. 

  • Dolly Parton
  • Zooey Deschanel 
  • Jack Black
  • Kevin Bacon
  • Ice Cube
  • Mark Wahlberg
  • Jennifer Lopez

Closing Thoughts

Do you agree with our list? Did we forget someone? What skills do you think it takes for those musicians who are also actors or actors first and foremost join the music scene to showcase their talent? Are you yourself a musician that would like to make the side move into acting just like the talented people above. Or are you an actor who plays guitar in your spare time, and want to build on what skills you already have? At Music Gateway, we can help you publish and promote your music. Like Marcus Miller said, “A great thing about being a musician; you don’t stop until the day you die, you can improve. So it’s a wonderful thing to do.”


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