IT’S SEEMINGLY a tradition in Hollywood for our favourite musicians to try their hand at acting. Some are more commonly known triple-threats such as Elvis Presley, Ice-T and Lady Gaga — and then there are others who really should just stick to their original profession. Adam Levine we’re looking at you. But whether they’re out to prove they’re more than just a one trick pony or hoping to widen their fanbase, the decision to put down the mic for the screen (even if momentarily) can certainly change the public’s perception. One musician who’s no doubt hoping to capitalise on this — and be taken more seriously as an artist — includes The Weeknd, who stars in and co-created HBO’s buzzy yet absolutely mind-boggling dark-drama The Idol — also helmed by Euphoria’s Sam Levinson.
In a bid to re-brand, or in his almost culty words, “be re-born,” the ‘Blinding Lights’ singer announced last month he wants to “kill” his stage name for a new chapter in the biz. After performing as The Weeknd since 2009, the enigmatic 33-year-old will now go by his birth name of Abel Tesfaye in all recordings, films and other likely ventures. He previously collaborated with Puma on a capsule collection if you didn’t know. The name change was even enshrined on social media, with the hitmaker swapping his longtime moniker for Abel Tesfaye just recently. With his first untitled feature film, starring opposite Wednesday’s Jenna Ortega, rumoured to have finished shooting, safe to assume the Canadian’s entering a dark new creative era — he even went full method for The Idol. Here’s every other musician who’s gone for an entertainment facelift by getting in front of the camera.
Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd)
Abel Tesfaye (The Weeknd) has always been an enigma — he literally creates bangers out of violence, drugs and drunk-driving. But now the Canadian performer is hoping to channel his notoriously dark aesthetic for the screen, with a new (old?) name to boot. He’s now shedding The Weeknd for his birth name, Abel Tesfaye. On his new acting career and name change, Tesfaye told W Magazine recently: “It’s getting to a place and a time where I’m getting ready to close The Weeknd chapter.”
While insisting his “last hurrah” as The Weeknd isn’t a retirement from music, he explained: “I’ll still make music, maybe as Abel, maybe as The Weeknd. But I still want to kill The Weeknd. And I will. Eventually. I’m definitely trying to shed that skin and be reborn.” Tesfaye stars as a club owner/cult leader Tedros in HBO’s controversial new series The Idol also starring Lily-Rose Depp. Tesfaye co-created the subversive new show with Euphoria filmmaker Sam Levinson, which was also filmed at the multi-hyphenate’s personal home due to tight budget restrictions (you can read all about the real-life drama here).
Aside from this, the 33-year-old is adding feature film to the resume — by starring, writing and producing an untitled project alongside Wednesday’s Jenna Ortega. No details of the plot or genre have yet to be unveiled — although, we do know Oscar-nominated and BAFTA-winning actor Barry Keoghan is also on board — but if the vibes are anything similar to The Idol, we can no doubt expect a kaleidoscope of emotions.
The former One Direction star and occasional fashion icon first made his big-screen debut in Christopher Nolan’s critically-received and Oscar-winning World War II epic Dunkirk back in 2017. Since then, Harry Styles has been building his acting credentials by starring in the star-studded and controversial psych-thriller Don’t Worry Darling (2022) — cue “Spitgate” — featuring as superhero Starfox in a cameo for Marvel’s The Eternals (2021), and even leading the cast of British romance-drama My Policeman (2022), alongside Emma Corrin. While there’s still questions marks surrounding Styles’ acting ability, it’s likely we’ll get plenty more opportunities to figure it out — and seemingly, the same goes for him.
During the 2022 Venice Film Film Festival, the 29-year-old told journalists, “Music I’ve done a little longer so I’m a bit more comfortable. What I like about acting is I feel like I have no idea what I’m doing.” Styles continued by comparing the more “personal” nature of making music versus the idea of “pretending to play someone else” while acting. “That’s what I find the most interesting about it. They can aid each other in a way. Any time you get to view the world through a different lens, it can help to create whichever way it goes. I find it really different. I think the fun part is that you never know what you’re doing in either one of them.”
While “actor” generally doesn’t come to mind when thinking of Frank Sinatra, the legendary performer also had a few memorable screen roles. Throughout the 1950s and 1960s, the New Jersey native starred in a plethora of popular movie-musicals such as Anchors Aweigh (1945), On the Town (1949), Guys and Dolls (1955), Pal Joey (1957) as well as critically-acclaimed dramas such as From Here to Eternity — which garnered him the 1954 Oscar for best supporting actor — as well as The Man with the Golden Arm (1955) — which he was nominated for best actor Oscar — and Some Came Running (1958).
Despite having some little-known acting experience as a child, Lenny Kravitz only officially entered Tinseltown in 2009 — when he starred in a modest yet impactful role as a nurse during the emotional-drama Precious. Since then, the four-time Grammy-winner has expanded his acting repertoire famously playing the role of Cinna, the mentor of Jennifer Lawrence’s character Katniss Everdeen in The Hunger Games (2012) franchise, and features in the Oscar-nominated film The Butler (2013), and musical-drama series Star (2016-). Most recently, Kravitz played the ex-fiancé of Jennifer Lopez’s character in Shotgun Wedding (2022) also opposite Josh Duhamel and Jennifer Coolidge.
On some of the benefits of acting over producing music, Kravitz revealed during a 2013 interview: “I get to leave myself behind, which is a relief. I get to collaborate with a director; I respect the director’s medium and all the actors and actresses. So at the end of the day, it’s about a character and it’s about a director’s vision. It’s a really good balance for being so intense and alone in my personal process of making music.”
Jon Bon Jovi
While he’s notably the front-man for Bon Jovi, the ’90s rockstar has also had a pretty illustrious screen career. In 1990 — 2011, he starred in some of Hollywood’s biggest hits including Moonlight and Valentino (1995), the critically-acclaimed Pay it Forward (2000) and rom-com Rockstar (2001). He even featured as a cameo during Sex and the City (1999) as one of Carrie Bradshaw’s romantic interests. After starring in the star-studded rom-com New Year’s Eve (2011), Bon Jovi decidedly quit acting to focus on his music, philanthropy and business interests in professional sports.
The 61-year-old described his acting career, rather oddly, as “a wonderful mistress,” during an interview with Mix 104.1’s Karson & Kennedy Talk with Famous People in 2021. “I’d sorta given it up quite a few years ago,” Bon Jovi began, before explaining while he stopped pursuing more roles. “Hollywood said to me, at a certain point, the reason why you’re not getting the bigger roles is because every time you catch a spark, you disappear for a year [on tour] and none of us want to invest in a guy who’s gonna take off.”
Believe it or not, but Idris Elba began his career as “Big Driis” — a DJ across some of London’s biggest nightclubs. The Oscar-nominated actor, whom many speculate to be the next James Bond, began auditioning for television roles during his early twenties — with his first feature on British soap, Family Affairs (1997).
Following bit parts in various British-based television shows, Elba cemented himself in Hollywood when he was cast as drug baron Russell “Stringer” Bell in the HBO series The Wire (2001) and then famously as DCI John Luther on the BBC psych-thriller series Luther (2010). Then in 2011, he entered the hugely-popular Marvel universe playing MCU fan-favourite character Heimdall. While he’s no doubt reached Hollywood royalty levels, Elba still makes time for music. In 2013, the star made the brave choice to put his acting career on hold to get back into the studio for his own personal enjoyment.
“This year, I’m not going to work as an actor and I’m going to put my mind into music,” Elba told the Evening Standard. “It’s a progression thing with me. I want to make music but I don’t want to shove it down people’s throats. People are just barely getting to know me as an actor. But I do it from the heart, I’m not doing it for money — I just enjoy doing it.” He even made an unlikely six-track record with Australian indie duo Lime Cordiale in early 2022 fittingly called Cordi Elba.