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14 Sitcom Stars Who Switched To Dramas

April 6, 2021 810 votes 127 voters 6.8k views14 items

List RulesVote up the sitcom stars who took dramatic turns and didn't miss a beat.

One might assume that sitcom stars who are great actors would have no trouble finding work after their shows go off the air. Sadly, for a lot of sitcom stars, they become incredibly wrapped up with the character they played in the minds of the audience. If an actor has played a beloved sitcom wack-job for years, it can be hard for them to suddenly show up in a different show without giving the audience whiplash. For this reason, it's incredibly common for actors to take on a vastly different route after their sitcom success and head into the world of TV drama. 

Actors who started in sitcoms generally have an easy time performing on other shows. As most actors and writers will readily admit, comedy is harder than drama. So, an actor who starred in a '90s sitcom will find they are already quite suited to star in some 2000s HBO prestige drama. 

  • Photo: CBS / HBO Max

    The Big Bang Theory was one of the most popular shows ever, and it has proven a bit hard for any of the actors to shake. With that said, Kaley Cuoco, who plays Penny, the next-door neighbor to the nerdy main cast, has done the best job of separating herself from her iconic role. 

    Penny was something of a "straight person" to the boys on The Big Bang Theory, but in the aftermath of the show, Cuoco immediately found a place for herself to flex her comedic muscles front and center. That place was voicing Harley Quinn on HBO Max's Harley Quinn

    As far as live-action roles, Kaley Cuoco took her career in a very different direction from network sitcom and is currently starring in The Flight Attendant. Cuoco said that this show is her "coming-out party in the sense of showing everyone I can do something other than comedy. It gets quite dark, quite emotional," she says. "This is my way of pushing the door down and going, 'I can do more and I love doing more.'" In The Flight Attendant, Kaley Cuoco plays an alcoholic flight attendant who regularly sleeps with strangers - that is until the day she wakes up to one of these strangers' dead bodies. 

    Great at drama?

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  • Photo: NBC / FX

    On Parks and Recreation, Nick Offerman brought to life one of the most beloved sitcom characters in recent memory. Offerman played Ron Swanson, the incredibly manly and libertarian director of the park district. He acted as a comedic foil to the far more jovial Leslie Knope, but at the end of the day, Swanson had a heart of gold. 

    After Parks and Recreation, Offerman had apparently had his comedic fill for a bit, and the actor signed on to portray a deadbeat lawyer named Karl Weathers on Season 2 of Fargo. He signed on to this role before the seventh season of Parks and Recreation had even aired, and he seemed more than a little excited to change things up a bit for himself. 

    Great at drama?

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  • Maura Tierney played the uptight Lisa Miller on NewsRadio. Her character didn't quite fit in with the rest of the newsroom in regards to her education levels and overachieving personality. Apparently, the behind-the-scenes reality paralleled this, as Tierney didn't fit into the world of the sitcoms and decided to make the switch to ER.

    It wasn't too much of a jump for her - same network, just a different night. NewsRadio came to an end in 1999, and the very same year, Tierney started on ER. The world of drama suited Tierney, and she became much better known for starring on ER

    Great at drama?
  • Photo: NBC / Starz

    Kelsey Grammer will forever be linked to his role as the titular star of Frasier. The beloved sitcom found Frasier hosting his radio call-in show and having misadventures with his father and brother. The show ran for 11 seasons and made Grammer a household name. Still, after the show finished its long run, Grammer seemed to not know his next move. He briefly had a sketch show, appeared as Beast in the X-Men movies, and starred in multiple one-season failed sitcoms. Grammer is no one-trick pony, though; he also starred in multiple failed drama projects. 

    Kelsey Grammer's most prominent dramatic role was as the Mayor of Chicago in a TV show called Boss. The Chicago Tribune stated: "Fans will forget Grammer the Emmy-winning comedic actor in the opening moments of Boss, during a scene in which Kane listens silently as his doctor informs him he has a degenerative brain disorder that eventually will take his life."

    Great at drama?

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