Picture this… May, 1992, John Goodman, star of TV’s top-rated Roseanne is cast as the lead in Cliffhanger, narrowly beating out Stallone for the role. Goodman had already started an intense diet/workout regime weeks before the series wrapped. By the June 15 filming start date, Goodman was ripped. His biceps had biceps. When the film shoot ended weeks later, he raced back to the set of Roseanne. The cast was startled, maybe titillated by this newly muscled hunk. But Goodman was at a crossroads. Does he head to the craft services table and devour a box of jelly donuts or stick with his skinless chicken breast omelette, side of steamed broccoli?
An actor’s physicality speaks volumes about the character he’s portraying. It would make zero sense for Goodman’s blue collar, odd-job-taking, bear daddy character “Dan Conner” to suddenly be rockin’ a buff Nicolas Cage-circa-ConAir body. Fast forward to 2014, Parks and Recreation co-star Chris Pratt ditches his “dad bod” for a rad bod and hardly anyone raises an eyebrow.
In our selfie-obsessed culture, can an Instagram-dependent, Efron-shredded actor give true representation to a role outside of stripper/lifeguard/boxer and should we care? It’s fantasy, right?
Even though Orange Is the New Black has dropped occasional eye candy—in the form of boner-inducing, all-sinew Evan Hall (America’s answer to Tom Hardy) as prison guard CO Stratman doing a bachelorette-party-style striptease—the series is a welcome sight of earthy human (often exposed) body types in the cluttered world of gym-attentive television stars.
But mainstream TV characters are seldom as intelligently hewn as those from OITNB. Commercials sponsors want viewers to stick around, so awesome pecs and drool-worthy six-pack abs stay put for couch potato subconscious. Still, that networks dangle Adonises or Baywatch body types on the small screen is annoying and discouraging. There is no shortage of sumptuous beefcake tempting us to stay tuned, so let’s kvetch about several actors currently getting good money for having maintained muscle during filming.
Kevin in The Leftovers played by Justin Theroux
Justin’s character Kevin is a police chief and is totally ripped. This kind of muscle could work on lower level law enforcement, but for a busy police chief? Usually the ones holding press conferences remind us of Tweedledum. And Kevin smokes, drinks heavily, is generally unhealthy, which runs counter to the tiptop shape Theroux presents.
Sherlock with Benedict Cumberbatch in title role
The cult of Benedict Cumberbatch. As Sherlock he disrobes and he’s ready for Fight Club. Obviously he’s gotta be well defined: he’s BENEDICT CUMBERBATCH, and his time is now or never.
Nearly all male physicians in Grey’s Anatomy
In real life, doctors in hospital ERs, male and female, are often young interns, so they’re generally spry and on the slim side. But they’re there working, not working out, for days at a time. Surgeons who move beyond supervised training are still on-call, not leaving a lot of “me time” to fondle the weights or attend cycle class. Whatever, Grey’s Anatomy, for pushing unreal supremely buffed actors as the images of a professional medical staff. Most of the male actors are delectable studs, as if fresh off the runway. This frustrates on many levels.
Jesse in Preacher played by Dominic Cooper
Dominic Cooper (on right) is the male lead, Jesse, in the adventure fantasy Preacher. He’s sexy. He looks rough and dangerous, standing in front of the camera in a story involving God and vampires. Cooper was the juiciest part of Mamma Mia! (look out for Mamma Mia: Here We Go Again!) Though it’s probable he works out during his non-acting time, his physique isn’t completely farfetched for a rascal preacher who engages in barroom tussles.
Andy in Parks and Recreation by Chris Pratt
Pratt was one of the breakout stars on Parks and Rec. Adorkable Andy Dwyer was a relatable Pillsbury Doughboy-bodied slacker. As Pratt’s star power climbed, and “A” list feature film roles came his way, his upper trunk became more defined, less spare tire. Now he’s a hot Hollywood tentpole player with chiseled bod, no doubt pressured by the studios. His new physique totally makes sense if he’s running from genetically modified dinosaurs or fighting his way across the galaxy as Star-Lord. Parks and Rec ceased production a couple years ago. If and when the show is re-booted (see Will & Grace, Roseanne, etc) maybe then Andy will have a job that better corresponds to his superhero physique. Lumberjack? Pro Body Builder? TV Actor?