8 Movie Roles That Turned Musicians Into Blockbuster Actors

Zendaya is next in line for the coveted career makeover.

Pop singer Zendaya has been making waves since her self-titled album debuted in 2013. The 19-year old has always dabbled in acting, even taken lead roles in a couple Disney Channel movies and TV shows, but now she’s stepping into the roles of a serious actor. A brief cameo on ABC’s Blackish last year introduced the Disney princess to a more grown-up audience. Apparently, it brought new opportunities too.

The Oakland-born beauty landed a major part in the upcoming remake of Spider-Man. She will be joining Robert Downey Jr, Marisa Tomei, and Michael Keaton on the big screen in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which will surely be a summer 2017 blockbuster. The part has already stirred up some controversy from diehard Spider-Man fans who are outraged that Peter Parker’s love interest will be Zendaya’s character “Michelle,” instead of “Mary Jane” from the comic books.

Clearly, Zendaya is well on her to way to making the total transformation from pop star to thespian. She’ll be joining the ranks of several musicians who have made the same career change a permanent one. Here are 8 other music stars who dropped the mic in favor of the camera, and the breakout roles that made them actors.

Don’t forget to tune into VH1 now for our Throwback Thanksgiving movie marathon!

  • Justin Timberlake: Alpha Dog (2007)

    When NSYNC declared a “temporary hiatus” in 2002, nobody knew if they would eventually regroup or if it would be the end of an era. Five years later, Justin Timberlake got a lead role in Alpha Dog, and it was clear that his teenybopper years were over. The 2007 drama is based on the life of Jesse James Hollywood, a drug dealer who became one of the youngest people ever to be on the America’s Most Wanted list. Justin’s portrayal of misguided youth Frankie received critical acclaim. That year he was nominated for an MTV Movie Award for Breakout Performance and the Teen Choice award for Breakout Male. He won the Young Hollywood Award for Breakthrough Performance, and successfully broke into the world of acting.

  • Jennifer Hudson: Dreamgirls (2006)

    As we all know, Jennifer Hudson was a contestant on American Idol season three. The powerful songstress gathered a huge following and then everyone was shocked when she only came in seventh place. Her fans eagerly awaited her next move, knowing she was too talented to fade into oblivion. And they were right. The singer landed the role of Effie White in the 2006 musical drama Dreamgirls. She held her own next to co-star Beyoncé and went on to win the Academy Award for Best Supporting Actress that year. JHud has since become a force to reckon with onscreen.

  • Queen Latifah: Set It Off (1996)

    Queen Latifah’s music career really began in 1989 when her first album, All Hail the Queen, was a success. After a brief stint singing and taking some cameo roles, she was handed the part of “Cleo” in the 1996 film Set It Off. Since then, the former MC has dedicated her time to acting in various types of projects including the Ice Age franchise and Chicago. Her performance in Chicago earned her the nomination for Best Supporting Actress. Latifah is one of two hip-hop artists to ever be nominated for an Oscar for acting. The other is Will Smith. Which, actually reminds us…

  • Will Smith: Independence Day (1996)

    The two-time Academy Award nominee started out as a rapper in West Philadelphia, born and raised. He was the first rapper to win a Grammy in 1989, then his life changed when he was given the lead in The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air. Then he exploded into movie superstardom when Independence Day hit the theaters in summer 1996. The film was a massive blockbuster and kicked off Smith’s Men In Black reign as action flick king. Today, you can still find him taking roles in big hit movies like Suicide Squad.

  • Mark Wahlberg: Boogie Nights (1997)

    After brief run as rapper Marky Mark in the “Marky Mark and the Funky Bunch,” the Boston native decided to drop the nickname in favor of his government. He wet his toes acting in The Basketball Diaries in a supporting role, but his breakthrough was really Boogie Nights. Wahlberg was cast as the well-endowed lead in the 1997 flick about the ’70s porn scene in California. Since then he’s taken on many lead roles including the 2012 raunch-filled rom-com Ted.

  • Ice Cube: Friday (1995)

    The N.W.A member wrote most of the tracks on the rap group’s 1988 hit album Straight Outta Compton. When money tensions caused him to leave the group and sue their manager, he branched out and took a movie role in the 1991 classic, Boyz n the Hood. Four years later, Cube combined his writing talents with his acting skills and wrote and starred in Friday. The rest was history. Friday solidified Cube as a reputable actor and he’s been in many films like Barbershop and 21 Jump Street.

  • Common: Selma (2014)

    The Chicago southsider started getting attention for his music in the ’90s. Common collaborated with everyone from Lauryn Hill to Kanye West over the years, and he dabbled in acting for a good decade before landing a big role in 2014 film Selma. He received critical acclaim for his role as civil rights leader James Bevel. The film was nominated for Best Picture and Common’s collab with John Legend, “Glory,” won Best Original Song at the Academy Awards. He’s since held down a role in Suicide Squad and will be featured in the upcoming action flick John Wick 2.

  • Tyrese: Baby Boy (2001)

    The handsome crooner’s musical hits topped the Billboard charts multiples times in the late ’90s and early 2000s. He decided to try his hand at acting the part of Jody in the 2001 coming of age drama Baby Boy—a role originally written for Tupac but released five years after his death. The quick follow-up of Tyrese appearing in 2 Fast 2 Furious in 2003 nailed down his new title of actor and he’s been in many blockbusters since, including Transformers, and all 12 million movies in the Fast franchise.