Comedic actors take on dramatic roles, may earn Oscar nominations

Drew Pendleton

Fittingly enough, every acting category has someone breaking out, if not multiple people. It’s a switch that can be surprising depending on the performance, but then again, maybe it shouldn’t be.

Comedy has a rough track record with the Oscars and sometimes the popular actors and actresses who make their name in the genre have a harder time being taken seriously in dramatic roles. However, that’s not always the case, as many times – including the contenders in this Oscar race – the actors and actresses in question have done drama before, but it hasn’t reached the public eye.

In Best Actor, a famous TV face is in the hunt: Steve Carell, who’s fighting for the fifth spot in the lineup. Carell is known primarily as portraying Michael Scott on “The Office” and for his comedic roles in “Anchorman,” “The 40-Year-Old Virgin” and “Get Smart,” among others. He dipped into drama with “Little Miss Sunshine,” delivering a subdued and heartfelt performance that was overshadowed by co-star Alan Arkin. He has done dramedies like “Dan in Real Life” and “Crazy, Stupid, Love” to good reception. His role in this year’s “Foxcatcher,” however, is his darkest yet. He plays a schizophrenic millionaire who becomes a mentor to two Olympic wrestlers. Based on a true story, “Foxcatcher” has its fans in the Academy, and Carell is deep 
in contention.

In the Best Actress category, the year’s major dark horse contender has emerged, and it’s a name that may be surprising – Jennifer Aniston. Best known as Rachel from “Friends” and her roles in studio comedies (“We’re the Millers,” “Horrible Bosses,” etc.), Aniston took on a dark and dramatic role in the independent dramedy “Cake,” in which she plays an acerbic, sardonic woman suffering from chronic pain and searching for redemption after a traumatic car crash. While the film itself has received a lukewarm reception since its Toronto Film Festival premiere in September (it hits theaters on Jan. 23), the critics who have seen it – even those who don’t like it – have given her acclaim for her raw and heartfelt performance.

Having earned nominations at the Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild, Aniston seems prime to take the final slot in the Best Actress lineup. However, because of her track record, many have questioned whether or not she deserves a nomination. Much has been made of the fact that she wore no makeup for this role and that she has been on the campaign trail trying to get her film seen and considered. Some critics have been surprised by Aniston’s display in “Cake,” but she’s been good in dramatic roles before, such as “The Good Girl” and “Derailed.” If Steve Carell can transform himself and be in the hunt for a nomination with no complaints, then Aniston deserves the same respect.

This year’s Oscars look to be an interesting race. With comedic actors making the switch to drama, it’ll be interesting to see if they can pull off a win and bring a fresh new element to the Oscars that can break them out of their public molds.