The Wonder Years

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Young actors are constantly playing other roles within the entertainment industry, spreading laughs and music to crossover fanbases. Whether appearing on the big screen or the small, these entertainers have had the opportunities to explore comedy, music and writing. Their lesser-known projects may have once hid backstage but are now coming front and center as stand-alone careers.

Nick Knudson, junior at The Ohio State University, thinks actors intuitively want to explore other areas of their profession. “I think if you are truly passionate about the art of film, then at the very least you will have some perspective on the other aspects of filmmaking, if not try them for yourself,” he said.

The following actors have not only accomplished notoriety by age 30, but have also written their own show’s theme songs, obtained multiple personalities, and crushed the box office with powerful performances.

You may not recognize the name Donald Glover right off the bat, but hearing the name “Childish Gambino” might turn some heads. Television fans know him as Troy on NBC’s “Community,” and music lovers gush over his viral rap music, performed under his pseudonym.

At only 28 years old, Glover has already written for “The Daily Show” and “30 Rock,” aired a comedy special on Comedy Central, and released five EPs. His anxiously-awaited sixth EP, “Camp,” will be released November 15.

Katie Wampler, junior at the University of Virginia, said she first heard of Donald Glover from his sketch comedy YouTube videos. After discovering his rap music, she realized his smart and witty lyrics is what sets him apart.

"You have to be a certain type of person in order to really appreciate his lyrics," she said. "I also love the people he samples. Only he can pull off sampling Yeasayer or some other random ass indie band." Check out Glover’s website.



Actor, writer, and comedian Aziz Ansari is most known for his role as Tom Haverford on NBC’s “Parks and Recreation.” Ansari, another 28-year-old entertainer and New York University graduate, has explored multiple avenues of comedy and even made a surprise appearance at the Bonnaroo music festival. Introducing The Black Keys, Ansari presented himself as “Ken Bonnaroo,” apologizing that the Black Eyed Peas couldn’t make it to the show. Recently he hosted the 2010 MTV Movie Awards and starred the film 30 Minutes or Less with Jesse Eisenberg.

Many college students first saw Zooey Deschanel in the 2003 movie Elf as Will Ferrell’s love interest, Jovie. Not only is she famous for singing Christmas carols, but is also a part of the indie pop duo She and Him with M. Ward from Monsters of Folk. Deschanel attended Northwestern University for a short time, and most recently is recognized for her appearances in 2009 movie (500) Days of Summer and Fox’s budding show “New Girl.”

Kendra Wallace, junior at University of Kentucky, said networking and assets can fuel actors’ drive to explore different aspects of their careers. “I do think some of the people in the entertainment industry tend to explore other areas because they have the money to, as well as the opportunity,” she said.

Justin Timberlake is a prime example. Starting as a mouseketeer in The Mickey Mouse Club, “JT” became lead singer of *NSYNC and later explored a solo career. Winning both Grammy and Emmy awards for his talents, Timberlake has starred in prominent films like The Social Network and most recently, Friends with Benefits. He will also appear alongside Mean Girls’ Amanda Seyfried in the movie In Time this October.

Wallace doesn’t think Timberlake stands out as an actor like he does as a musician. “I personally like his music better than his acting,” she said. “I think his music and voice are unique compared to some other of today’s artists. I really haven’t seen him in any major movies.”

Another former mouseketeer, Ryan Gosling, has become one of the hottest film actors of 2011, starring in Crazy, Stupid Love, Drive, and The Ides of March. Looking back to high school, he was known as “that dreamy guy from The Notebook,” so his music career may be a surprise to many. His band, Dead Man’s Bones, recorded an album in 2009 with a California children’s choir. Take a look at the trailer for The Ides of March here.


Junior > Public Affairs and Journalism > Ohio State University

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