This fall, former Dawson’s Creek star James Van Der Beek returns to TV in the charming and outrageous new comedy, Apartment 23. The novelty of Dawson’s return is that he will be playing an outsized version of himself, James Van Der Beek, as the best friend to Krysten Ritter and Dreama Walker‘s apartment dwellers.
Van Der Beek gave fans a preview of this new self satirizing side of himself in a recent appearance on the Comedy Central series Tosh.0 where he dubbed himself ‘The Beek,’ a nickname fans had used for years but he has only recently embraced.
Attempting to turn public perception in your favor is one of the biggest challenges for stars who find themselves desperately typecast or anchored to one iconic role. For some actors recovery can mean glory and newfound celebrity. For others it can mean sadness and depressing public spectacle. Here are five stars who have attempted to turn their careers around by playing themselves.
It took a good deal of time away from the spotlight for Neil Patrick Harris to get away from his iconic role as teenage doctor Doogie Howser but when he finally shed his squeaky clean image, Harris found wild new success. NPH didn’t merely leave his Doogie Howser persona behind with his cameo in the cult stoner comedy Harold and Kumar Go to White Castle. The actor gutted and filleted his Doogie persona by playing Neil Patrick Harris as a cocaine sniffing, stripper loving, tripping b***s version of himself that left fans and critics alike rolling in the aisles.
The success of Harris’s immolation of Doogie Howser in Harold and Kumar directly led to his being cast in the hit CBS series How I Met Your Mother for which Harris has been nominated for an Emmy and a Golden Globe while a guest starring role on Fox’s Glee and his role as host of the Tony Awards each won him an Emmy. Comeback complete.
The other side of the fame coin to Neil Patrick Harris is David Hasselhoff whose sad attempts to own the mock nickname ‘The Hoff’ have only made him a bigger and sadder joke. The star of Knight Rider has never recovered from his worldwide fame in the 1980’s and his sad attempts to be in on the joke of his persona have become an unfortunate public spectacle on the hit reality competition series America’s Got Talent, on the internet in an embarrassing viral video and on Hasselhoff’s own truly unfortunate and short lived reality series The Hasselhoff’s on which David dragged his poor family into the joke.
Jennifer Grey – It’s Like You Know
James Van Der Beek‘s return to television closely resembles that of another former teen idol, Dirty Dancing star Jennifer Grey. In 1999 Grey played a version of herself, post nose-job, on the ABC series It’s Like You Know. The show won a few positive reviews for its Seinfeld in Los Angeles vibe, but fans remained confused as to who the actress was that was playing Jennifer Grey. Though Grey openly mocked her nose job and how it affected her career it didn’t help the show which only lasted seven episodes. Jennifer Grey‘s real comeback, once again playing herself, would have to wait 10 years until she won the ABC reality competition Dancing with the Stars.
In one of the most remarkable and little noticed acts of self satire ever put to film action star Jean Claude Van Damme skewered himself in the indie movie JCVD. While the film went mostly unnoticed those who gave JCVD a chance were shocked by Van Damme’s candor and his willingness to skewer often true details of his career and personal life while delivering an agonizingly neurotic, even tortured performance. Though the thin wall between truth and fiction in JCVD kept many from praising Van Damme’s performance it was the lack of box office that kept Jean Claude Van Damme‘s comeback in check.
Lou Diamond Phillips on Cougar Town
The star of Labamba and Young Guns, Lou Diamond Phillips could be a series regular on Cougar Town and fans would eat it up. In three stellar comic cameos Phillips has mocked his ethnicity, his fashion (Bolo ties?), his celebrity and most pleasingly his hatred for Young Guns 2 of which he mocked in a most recent Cougar Town cameo with the line “It’s like Young Guns 2: Let’s take all the cool stuff from the first movie and puke Jon Bon Jovi all over it. Travesty.” Whether a few more appearances on Cougar Town can rescue Lou Diamond Phillips from the fate worse than death that is the SyFy Original Movie is yet to be seen. For now, Phillips is gaining a little comic cred while still toiling in the direct to video ghetto.
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