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12 of TV's Best Dramatic Actors Who Should Star in a Rom-Com ASAP

Many of our favorite drama stars have the chops to lead romantic comedies, and HOLLYWOOD SHOULD LET THEM.
  • Wunmi Mosaku, Idris Elba, John Cho, Victoria Pedretti, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Paapa Essiedu (Photos: Netflix/Everett/HBO/Showtime; Primetimer graphic)
    Wunmi Mosaku, Idris Elba, John Cho, Victoria Pedretti, Jasmin Savoy Brown, Paapa Essiedu (Photos: Netflix/Everett/HBO/Showtime; Primetimer graphic)

    In a recent interview with The Hollywood Reporter, Joshua Jackson admitted he needed a break from roles in twisty dramas like Dr. Death and Fatal Attraction. "I needed a love story," Jackson said. It seemed that, after leading a true-crime drama on Peacock and an erotic thriller for Paramount+, the poor guy "needed to hold hands and make goo-goo eyes at somebody.” 

    Of course, Jackson's made a part-time gig out of fawning over his wife Jodie Turner-Smith (and rightly so), but his interview was a striking reminder that he's come a long way from Dawson's Creek. Showtime's The Affair had plenty of romantic entanglements, but Jackson's character was hardly in a position to woo anyone, what with all the intrigue and death. And Jackson is so good at what striking scribe and erstwhile culture writer Alanna Bennett dubbed "The Look" — the stare that comes with finding The One. It's hard to believe he hasn't racked up the romantic comedy or even romantic drama credits.

    Jackson is already on his way to remedying this oversight in an upcoming romantic drama from Ava DuVernay, co-starring Lauren Ridloff. But his statements got the Primetimer staff thinking about all the other small-screen actors who may have found their calling in dramas, but who deserve to either cut loose or just spread their wings in a romantic comedy. Maybe they also strayed from their teen show roots; maybe they're just getting started. And maybe they've just captivated certain TV auteurs. Here's who we believe casting directors should be approaching to show off The Look in a rom-com (though, for some, we'll take a drama at this point). 

    Idris Elba

    Technically, Idris Elba has romantic comedy experience under his belt — he starred opposite Gabrielle Union in Tyler Perry's 2007 film Daddy's Little Girls — but so much has happened in his career in the past 16 years that fans have probably long since forgotten about it. The British actor is best known for his dramatic TV roles in The Wire and Luther, but underneath the hard exterior of these characters lies a complex man driven by his vulnerabilities and the emotional baggage of his past. Someone like that is ripe for rom-com exploration: The genre is filled with stories of characters who are forced to overcome their own hangups about commitment in order to sweep their soulmate off their feet. Perhaps filmmakers could even flip the script and give Elba a chance to embrace the role of the Manic Pixie Dream Boy. And when that MPDB happens to be People's 2018 Sexiest Man Alive? Even better. — Claire Spellberg Lustig

    Bella Ramsey

    Bella Ramsey was thrown directly into the prestige drama fire. Their first credited role was in Game of Thrones Season 6, which was filmed when they were just 12 years old. They had some chances to be a kid in between, starring in a TV adaptation of The Worst Witch and taking on the titular role in Catherine Called Birdy, but just as quickly they were back on HBO in The Last of Us, surrounded by death and devastation again. Ramsey is now 19 and, despite the gloom of the series at large, imbues Ellie with a sense of playfulness and wit that are right at home in the best rom-coms. And they’re no stranger to on-screen romance either, though it would be nice to see the next one play out without the threat of evil mushroom monsters ruining everything. Even beyond that, Ramsey is in the unique position to add an essential element to the genre — a nonbinary teen rom-com could be groundbreaking, heartwarming, and a whole lot of fun. — Brianna Wellen

    Jon Bernthal

    We’re definitely not the first to make this suggestion — the charm and warmth Jon Bernthal’s shown in the quieter moments of series like The Punisher and The Bear are enough to make anyone wonder why he hasn’t been cast in a romantic dramedy as a handsome carpenter who loves making things and making women smile. Hollywood casting directors have focused on Bernthal’s ability to be formidable and vulnerable at the same time, which can make it easy to forget his first series regular role was on the CBS sitcom The Class. Those qualities are also the stuff of romantic comedies and dramas, especially when they center on a lead who needs to learn to open up again. American Gigolo showed another side (or three) of Bernthal, as did Lena Dunham’s Sharp Stick, but those were just rest stops on the way to proper rom-com territory — maybe opposite a veteran like Julia Roberts? — Danette Chavez

    Victoria Pedretti

    Much like Evan Peters, Victoria Pedretti has been burdened with a series of tragic TV roles that seem to follow her everywhere. From her devastating portrayal as Nell Crain in Mike Flanagan’s The Haunting of Hill House to her manipulative performance as Love Quinn in Netflix’s You, Pedretti has a pattern of playing characters fated for an unfortunate demise. Even when she was granted a beautiful love story in Haunting of Bly Manor, it culminated in heart-wrenching tragedy. It’s high time Pedretti was offered something lighthearted. Is it too much to ask that her character doesn’t die? A rom-com like When Harry Met Sally feels up her alley, and she’d be an absolute delight in a Meg Ryan-type role. But really, just any project where she can finally experience a happily-ever-after! — Dianna Shen

    Wunmi Mosaku

    The fact that Wunmi Mosaku has appeared in limited series with two other actors on this list — she co-starred in Ridley Scott’s Guerrilla with Idris Elba, and investigated Jon Bernthal’s morally compromised cop in We Own This City — is a clear sign that the His House breakout already has a solid grip on the more serious fare. We suppose we can’t really blame casting directors for seeking out Mosaku for historical dramas and examinations of systems of power; she has an effortlessly regal presence and can command a room. But she’s also got a mega-watt smile and chemistry with everyone from Ṣọpẹ Dìrísù — who, come to think of it, should also be on this list, after Gangs of London and Mr. Malcolm’s List — to Abbey Lee, though she and her Lovecraft Country character Ruby deserved better. Mosaku could blaze her own trail as a romantic lead, possibly taking the stage in a musical comedy: she did train to be an opera singer, after all. The Black Mirror actor could even become the successor to Queen Latifah, who’s traded rom-coms for CBS crime drama The Equalizer, which is headed into its fourth season. — DC

    John Cho

    It’s ridiculous that someone as handsome as John Cho has been deprived of romantic comedy roles for so long. Despite his undeniable charm, it’s been almost a decade since his last venture into the genre as marketing rep Henry Higgs in ABC’s short-lived sitcom Selfie, where he showcased his swoon-worthy talents alongside Karen Gillan. But 2023 could be a turning point: Cho stars as the enigmatic “funcle” Ulysses in Season 2 of The Afterparty, even playing the role of the jilted lover in a Western-inspired episode. And in Freeform’s upcoming adult animated series Praise Petey, he voices Petey’s (Annie Murphy) potential love interest, a grumpy Southern bloke named Bandit. Now, more than ever, is the perfect time for Hollywood to capitalize on Cho’s devastating good looks and acting chops in a genre that clearly suits him. — DS

    Evan Peters

    Evan Peters wasn’t always Ryan Murphy’s go-to collaborator — one of the actor’s first major roles was much lighter fare, as a clumsy teen skateboarder in the YA comedy Sleepover. But ever since entering the American Horror Story universe in 2011, he’s been defined by dark, sometimes monstrous roles in which he is more often than not killed or doing the killing. Two such parts led to separate Golden Globe and Emmy wins, but at what cost? Even he seems sick of it: Murphy has admitted that Peters told him he just wanted to play someone “normal” for once, maybe in a rom-com. Let’s give him what he wants! Peters has already proven he can play romance well in his dramatic roles, just look at the sizzling chemistry he had with Kate Winslet in Mare of Easttown (you know, before his tragic end). And no one is more deserving of a break from traumatic storytelling, especially if he’s literally asking for it. In fact, he’s earned top billing in a project oozing with joy, and, dare we say, unrelenting Christmas cheer. Get this man into a feel-good, Hallmark-style, holiday-adjacent rom-com, stat! — BW

    Paapa Essiedu

    I May Destroy You didn’t just offer undeniable proof of Michaela Coel’s brilliance (as if that was needed), it was also a springboard for actors like Paapa Essiedu, who’d previously collaborated with Coel on Black Earth Rising. Essiedu has period and prestige dramas scattered throughout his resume, but after IMDY, he went on to co-star in Gangs of London and lead The Lazarus Project, which has been renewed for a second season. Essiedu readily emanates warmth, ambition, and desire — and looks damn suave while doing it — not unlike Richard Gere in Pretty Woman. Plus, the Anne Boleyn star made a striking couple with Anjana Vasan in Black Mirror’s “Demon 79,” even if they were more doomed than most (like, literally). He’s already played A Midsummer Night’s Dream’s Demetrius, a man prone to falling in and out of love, in a BBC production, but Essiedu should lead a more contemporary rom-com, possibly as the career-focused man who learns to let go. — DC

    Jasmin Savoy Brown

    Jasmin Savoy Brown has made quite a name for herself in the horror genre, with two Scream movies and Yellowjackets under her belt. Surprisingly, there’s a recurring theme of romance within both her characters’ storylines, though their respective relationships end rather tragically. In Scream 6, Mindy and Anika (Devyn Nekoda) share an adorable relationship, but their arc is cut abruptly short when Ghostface brutally murders Anika. In Yellowjackets, Taissa and Van share a sweet teen love story, but it’s inevitably overshadowed by the trauma they endured. Brown deserves a project that isn’t tainted by blood and murder. Maybe something like Hulu’s Crush — a happy, queer rom-com where both characters can navigate the ups and downs of young love without the constant threat of death. — DS

    Michaela Jaé Rodriguez

    Blanca may have gotten her happy ending in Pose, but we’re still holding out for the full romantic comedy experience for Michaela Jaé Rodriguez. Over the course of the acclaimed FX drama from Steven Canals, Ryan Murphy, and Brad Falchuk, Rodriguez took Blanca from struggling to thriving, all while fulfilling the role of “mother” of House Evangelista. That saintly portrayal earned her an Emmy nomination, but rather than stick with dramas, Rodriguez went on to star in Matt Hubbard and Alan Yang’s Loot as the principled but adorable Sofia Salinas. Her doe eyes and crack timing opposite Maya Rudolph, who stars as the holder of the titular loot, and a slew of romantic prospects were a potent combination, and made it painfully obvious she’s ready to headline a rom-com of her own. Maybe Rodriguez could team up with Paul Feig or Mindy Kaling for a modern-day riff on His Girl Friday; we know she can hold her own in a period piece and a screwball comedy. — DC

    Pedro Pascal

    It’s no secret that Pedro Pascal is charming as hell. In 2023 alone, his turn on Saturday Night Live and winning press cycle around The Last of Us have proven he has what it takes to win over almost anyone with spot-on comedic timing and unfettered enthusiasm. In his most high-profile dramatic roles, including The Mandalorian Din Djarin, he’s shown his tender and loyal side, even under a helmet. If Pascal has the emotional wherewithall to protect a teenage girl who can save all humanity and the small and innocent Baby Yoda himself, surely he could also protect someone’s heart. He’s primed to play the man who has done everything he can to show his significant other that he’s all-in, no matter how many others may be inappropriately thirsting after him. Forget about those fan cams, he only has eyes for one person, and he’ll go on a delightful romp to the ends of the Earth to prove it. — BW

    Emma D'Arcy

    In just a short amount of time, Emma D’Arcy’s made a huge impact. They have only a handful of credits to their name, but, as one of the breakout stars of the Game of Thrones prequel House of the Dragon, they hardly need any others to be top of mind. Getting locked into such a major franchise all but ensures some level of fame, but it unfortunately also means getting locked into one role for a very long time — the end of House of Dragon Season 1 is really just the beginning for D’Arcy’s Rhaenyra. Consider this a preemptive plea to allow D’Arcy time away from Westeros to step into the part of a romantic lead. Their electric on-screen relationship with House of Dragon co-star Matt Smith is evidence enough that they have the chops. And based on their viral, inexplicably seductive pronunciation of “negroni sbagliato … with prosecco in it,” and it’s clear D’Arcy can (and does) have chemistry with any and everyone. Hell, that 20-second TikTok is like a mini rom-com in itself. — BW

    TOPICS: Pedro Pascal, Bella Ramsey, Emma D'Arcy, Evan Peters, Idris Elba, Jasmin Savoy Brown, John Cho, Jon Bernthal, Michaela Jaé Rodriguez, Paapa Essiedu, Victoria Pedretti, Wunmi Mosaku