Television producers have begun to wise up: The best TV actors come from the stage. From The Good Wife and True Blood to 30 Rock and Glee, Emmy-bait series tend to be top-heavy with theater vets. To help you get ready for the fall season, here’s a tip sheet on 10 stage stars who’ll get their prime-time moment in the coming weeks:
Laura Benanti, The Playboy Club
Stage Past: A stellar Broadway pedigree, including a Tony Award for Gypsy and Tony nominations for Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown, Into the Woods and Swing!
New Role: Carol Lynne, “Bunny Mother” in the already-banned-in-Utah series set at Chicago’s original Playboy Club. Benanti has been front and center in the publicity campaign for this new Mad Men-era drama, including a drool-worthy cover of Playboy in full Bunny drag. And she’ll get to sing!
Watch: Mondays on NBC, 10:00 PM ET; premieres September 19.
Katie Finneran, I Hate My Teenage Daughter
Stage Past: The go-to actress for roles requiring comedic fearlessness—which led to a pair of Tony Awards for her performances in Promises, Promises and Noises Off.
New Role: Nikki, a former high school loser who grows up to become the permissive mother of a teen Queen Bee. Finneran will look for laughs as she and co-star Jaime Pressly struggle to rein in their manipulative spawn. (Broadway extra: Finneran’s ex is played by Chad Coleman of Joe Turner’s Come and Gone.)
Watch: Wednesdays on FOX, 9:30PM ET; premieres November 30.
Patrick Wilson, A Gifted Man
Stage Past: A versatile Broadway all-star, whose resume spans musicals (Tony-nominated performances in The Full Monty and Oklahoma), as well as comedy (Barefoot in the Park) and drama (All My Sons).
New Role: Dr. Michael Holt, a handsome neurosurgeon whose life gets an existential jolt when his dead ex-wife (two-time Tony winner Jennifer Ehle) pushes him from the Great Beyond to change his priorities. One of 23 series being filmed in New York, Gifted taps what Wilson describes as “the best of the theater scene,” including Raul Esparza and Margo Martindale. Yes!
Watch: Fridays on CBS, 8:00PM ET; premieres September 23.
Christina Applegate, Up All Night
Stage Past: An endearing Tony-nominated Broadway debut performance as Charity Hope Valentine in Sweet Charity, plus stage work in her native L.A.
New Role: Reagan, a late-in-life first-time mom who decides to go back to her TV production job while her husband (Will Arnett) stays home. If anyone can make the career vs. parenting struggle funny, it’s Applegate, with help from Maya Rudolph as her oblivious boss. Now, go the f**k to sleep, baby!
Watch: Wednesdays on NBC, 8:00PM ET; premieres September 14.
Denis O’Hare, American Horror Story
Stage Past: Another Broadway triple threat, including musicals (Sweet Charity, Cabaret, a Tony-nominated performance in Assassins) comedy (a Tony-winning turn in Take Me Out) and drama (Inherit the Wind).
New Role: Larry, a burn victim who spies on the new owners of a possibly haunted house. This new creep-fest and sex romp from Glee’s Ryan Murphy is chockful of Broadway vets, from O’Hare (who scared the bejesus out of us in True Blood) and Lily Rabe to Frances Conroy and Jessica Lange.
Watch: Wednesdays on FX, 10:00PM ET; premieres October 5.
Hank Azaria, Free Agents
Stage Past: A Tony-nominated performance as Sir Lancelot, the Knight of Ni and two other roles in Spamalot, followed by a dramatic turn as TV pioneer David Sarnoff in Aaron Sorkin’s The Farnsworth Invention.
New Role: Alex, a divorced public relations exec who falls into an ill-advised hookup with a grieving co-worker (Kathryn Hahn). Sad-sack comedies can get old quickly, but with Azaria and Hahn (a show-stopper in the Broadway farce Boeing-Boeing) in the lead, these Agents may beat the odds.
Watch: Wednesdays on NBC, 8:30PM ET; premieres September 14.
Karen Olivo, Harry’s Law
Stage Past: Memorable musical turns in In the Heights and the Broadway revival of West Side Story, in which her fiery take on Anita earned a Tony Award.
New Role: Cassie, newly hired associate of defense lawyer Harriet Korn (Kathy Bates). Olivo is a key element in the reboot of this drama series, which will open the season with Tony nominee Alfred Molina as an accused murderer. After playing a law student on The Good Wife, Olivo is ready to approach the bench.
Watch: Wednesdays on NBC, 9:00PM ET; premieres September 21.
Michael Emerson, Person of Interest
Stage Past: An unforgettable title performance in Gross Indecency: The Trials of Oscar Wilde, plus unhappy husband George Tesman (opposite Kate Burton) in Broadway’s Hedda Gabler.
New Role: Finch, an eccentric tycoon—and when Emerson is cast, is there any other kind?—who creates spyware designed to prevent crime. Filmed on the streets of New York, this new conspiracy-theory drama from J.J. Abrams (who made Emerson a star in Lost) is a good bet to spotlight stage stars.
Watch: Thursdays on CBS, 9:00PM ET; premieres September 22.
Dan Fogler, Man Up!
Stage Past: A Tony-winning performance as champion foot-speller William Barfee (“Bar-FAY!”) in The 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
New Role: Kenny, one of a trio of video game-obsessed pals who question what it means to “man up” circa 2011. “What would Tobey Maguire do?” Fogler asks himself when his ex starts dating a handsome new guy. Here’s hoping the answer has something to do with Broadway, during TV Fogler’s hiatus.
Watch: Tuesdays on ABC, 8:30PM ET; premieres October 18.
Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
Stage Past: A superstar theatrical career spanning three decades, from his Tony-winning performance as Che in Evita to Sunday in the Park With George to forthcoming Broadway concerts in An Evening With Patti LuPone and Mandy Patinkin.
New Role: Saul Berenson, a CIA division chief who mentors Broadway vet Claire Danes as an agent investigating a veteran she suspects of plotting a terrorist attack. Nobody plays authority figures better than Patinkin (see: Criminal Minds, Chicago Hope) and with Showtime’s abbreviated season, he’s likely to remain content.
Watch: Sundays on Showtime, 10:00 PM ET; premieres October 2.