There are times in a performer’s career when the roles that come along may lack substance or intrigue. That’s when the fascinating stories they’ve lived or seen may just be a ticket to success.
Check out this list of actors who decided to take matters into their own hands and create and star in their own shows:
Quinta Brunson – “Abbott Elementary”
Comedian, actress and writer Quinta Brunson had her freshman comedy series “Abbott Elementary” premiere in 2021, resulting in multiple Emmy nominations for Brunson and the show. “Abbott Elementary” follows a group of teachers at a public elementary school in Philadelphia while a documentary crew films them. A comedic approach is taken on hard issues such as the lack of funding for teachers and supplies in the public school system. Brunson detailed that she took inspiration from her own life when creating characters and stories.
Tina Fey – “30 Rock”
Multi-talented comedian, actress, writer, and producer Tina Fey created and starred in the hit NBC comedy “30 Rock” from 2006-2013. The show, which also starred Alec Baldwin, told the story of a head writer of an NBC sketch show and the comedic hijinks that the cast of the show often displayed. With guest stars that included Matt Damon, Tom Hanks, Jennifer Aniston, Salma Hayek, and Oprah, this show had a satirical feel that everyone welcomed and embodied.
Lena Dunham – “Girls”
Actress Lena Dunham created an impressionable piece of art with her HBO show “Girls.” The show follows a 24-year-old aspiring writer in New York, along with her circle of friends, as they navigate the major mistakes they make in their young adult lives. With a cast that included Allison Williams, Jemima Kirke, Zosia Mamet, and Adam Driver, “Girls” proved that Dunham is not afraid to jump off the deep end with characters that can be seen as neurotic and unlikeable.
Jerry Seinfeld – “Seinfeld”
Comedian Jerry Seinfeld, with Larry David, co-created the NBC comedy “Seinfeld,” which aired from 1989-1998. The show followed a fictionalized version of himself, along with his three friends, and centers around Seinfeld’s apartment. Often described as “a show about nothing,” Seinfeld presents a unique format that features bookend cuts of Jerry performing stand-up at a comedy club. “Seinfeld” has been featured in multiple entertainment lists as one of the greatest sitcoms of all time and continues to run in syndication.
Larry David – “Curb Your Enthusiasm”
The co-creator of “Seinfeld,” comedian Larry David, truly puts his tonal stamp on every project he creates, including his HBO show “Curb Your Enthusiasm.” In the show, David plays himself as he deals with everyday annoyances that push his buttons to the point of awkward, cringe-worthy exchanges. David is famous for providing an episode guideline while allowing actors to improvise full episodes. The series, which co-stars Cheryl Hines, Jeff Garlin, and Susie Essman, has received a whopping 51 Emmy nominations.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge – “Fleabag”
The British comedy-drama series “Fleabag” was created and written by actress Phoebe Waller-Bridge and is adapted from her 2013 one-woman play. The show follows Fleabag, a woman who navigates her life and relationships in London. Waller-Bridge took home the Emmy for writing and acting in the series, which also starred Olivia Coleman and guest-starred Fiona Shaw and Kristin Scott Thomas.
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson – “Broad City”
Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson came together to create the hilarious Comedy Central show “Broad City.” The show is adapted from a web series that Glazer and Jacobson created at the Upright Citizens Brigade about two Jewish independent young women and their misadventures in New York City. The dynamic duo produced five seasons of the show, which has received critical acclaim, with Karen Valby from Entertainment Weekly calling the show “weird, weirdly sweet, and completely hilarious…”
Martin Lawrence – “Martin”
Comedian and actor Martin Lawrence co-created “Martin” from 1992-1997. The show centered on a disc jockey (Lawrence), and his girlfriend (Tisha Campbell), as they worked at a radio station. “Martin” also featured appearances from Snoop Dogg, the Notorious B.I.G, and OutKast, with Snoop stating on the 30th anniversary of the show in 2022, “We would watch the show more than we would make music.” Lawrence’s physical comedy, along with an array of catchphrases, made this show a ’90s hit.
Mindy Kaling – “The Mindy Project”
Actress Mindy Kaling created the romantic comedy series “The Mindy Project,” which starred Kaling as an obstetrician/gynecologist as she developed relationships in her personal and professional life. The show featured a gang of quirky characters who worked at a small medical practice in New York and found themselves in extreme comedic situations. Kaling told the Daily Beast, “It’s always exactly the same to be the boss of my own show, which is a mix of incredibly rewarding with its frustrations, but I wouldn’t have it any other way.”