When a show has been on the air for a few seasons, its stars often take a turn or two behind the camera. For some, it's probably mostly an ego boost, but others find new careers as directors once their TV star days are over. For example, since The Wonder Years ended its run, star Fred Savage has become one of television's most in-demand comedy directors, helming episodes of It's Always Sunny In Philadelphia, Happy Endings, Modern Family, 2 Broke Girls and Best Friends Forever, among others. Will any of these TV stars find a similar second career?
Roger Sterling has directed three episodes of Mad Men: "The Rejected" (season 4/episode 4), "Blowing Smoke" (season 4/episode 12) and "Signal 30" (season 5/episode 5). All three are solid episodes, but "Signal 30" deserves particular praise: the evocative, atmospheric episode turns Pete Campbell (Vincent Kartheiser) from a pushy little sleazeball into someone who's beginning to doubt whether he actually wants everything he's been pushing so hard for.
Barney Stinson has directed one episode of How I Met Your Mother: "Jenkins" (season 5/episode 13). Barney is a fairly minor on-screen presence in this episode, in which Marshall (Jason Segel) hasn't told Lily (Alyson Hannigan) that his gregarious new office buddy Jenkins is a beautiful woman. Re-filming the same scenes with a male Jenkins (Edward Flores) and a female Jenkins (Amanda Peet) to illustrate the different spin that fact puts on Marshall's workplace anecdotes is a clever directorial premise that fits perfectly in the clever style of this series.
Parks and Recreation, directed by Amy Poehler
Leslie Knope has directed one episode of Parks and Recreation, which she also wrote: "The Debate" (season 4/episode 20). Actors who direct often have to limit their own onscreen duties so they have time to do their directorial labors, but this episode cannily works around that: just about all of Leslie's scenes are shot in one location, the auditorium where Leslie is debating her city council opponent Bobby Newport (Paul Rudd). That way, Poehler is free to focus on the direction in all the other scenes.
Walt White has directed two episodes of Breaking Bad, "Seven Thirty-Seven" (season 2, episode 1) and "No Mas" (season 3/episode 1). Both episodes are season premieres, which makes sense: especially on a complex hour-long drama like this, the creative process overlaps, so that one episode is being prepped while another is shooting and a third is in post-production. Season premieres are therefore more focused than later episodes in the season.
Cranston also directed seven late-season episodes of his previous series, Malcolm in the Middle, as well as a recent episode of Modern Family, "Election Day," in which he did not appear. Earlier in his career, he wrote and directed a low-indie drama called Last Chance, co-starring himself, standup comic Tim Thomerson, and his wife, actress Robin Dearden. He likely has the most chance out of these actors to transition fully into directing.
FBI Special Agent Seeley Booth has directed four episodes of Bones: "The Bones That Foam" (season 4/episode 14), "The Parts in the Sum of the Whole" (Season 5/episode 16, also the show's 100th episode), "The Bullet in the Brain" (season 6/episode 11) and "The Blackout in the Blizzard" (season 6/episode 16). It's hard to ascertain whether Boreanaz brought any personal style to the episodes, because while this darkly comic crime procedural is undeniably entertaining, the house style of pacing and structure is so ingrained that pretty much all episodes look alike. Boreanaz also directed an episode of his previous series Angel and another of Bones creator Hart Hanson's other show, The Finder.
The Office, directed by The Office
Six castmembers of The Office have directed episodes: Paul Lieberstein has directed six, B.J. Novak five, Steve Carell and Rainn Wilson three apiece, and Mindy Kaling and John Krasinski two apiece. Given the structure of how The Office works -- Kaling, Lieberstein and Novak were all originally hired as writer/producers and then put on screen -- it makes sense that this is the show with the most fluid crossover between acting and directing. Although again, given that the show's mockumentary style has long since become completely visually defined, what exactly does the director on this show have to do after "Action!" is called?