What has the cast of The Greatest Showman done since appearing in the beloved movie musical? The film, which followed the life of Hugh Jackman’s circus producer P.T. Barnum, featured both well-known Hollywood stars like Jackman and Zac Efron as well as upcomers like the then-mostly-unknown Zendaya and Broadway stars. After the film became a box office success, some of its cast members went on to more Hollywood hits, while others took on projects that were less in the spotlight like independent films, miniseries and animated works.
Hugh Jackman (P.T. Barnum), Michelle Williams (Charity Hallett-Barnum), Rebecca Ferguson (Jenny Lynd) and Zendaya (Anne Wheeler) all went on to appear in big movies or major Hollywood franchises after appearing in The Greatest Showman. Other actors like Zac Efron (Phillip Carlyle) and Paul Sparks (James Gordon Bennett) continued work in television and film, appearing in lesser-known projects that received mixed reviews. Finally, major members of the ensemble like Keala Settle (Lettie Lutz) and Sam Humphrey (Charles Stratton) disappeared almost entirely from the screen, with Settle returning to her theatrical roots and Humphrey moving into voice acting.
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Even after appearing in a popular film like The Greatest Showman, finding new acting work as a little-known name can be challenging. Exploring what actors went on to do in their careers can say something about their fame, their fortune, and their priorities. So, what have the actors behind the colorful personalities in The Greatest Showman been up to in the last three years?
Hugh Jackman (P.T. Barnum)
Consummate entertainer Hugh Jackman has released three more Hollywood films after his starring role as P.T. Barnum in The Greatest Showman. About a year after his appearance in the movie musical, Jackman starred as U.S. Senator Gary Hart in The Front Runner, a 2018 drama that follows the political fallout of a personal scandal on Hart’s presidential campaign. Based on real-life events, the dramatic and sober role was a reversal from Jackman’s exuberant Barnum.
Following The Front Runner, Jackman appeared in another film about a political scandal, Bad Education, which premiered in April 2020. As school district Superintendent Frank Tassone, Jackman plays a charming public official who is secretly involved in one of the largest embezzlement schemes in the history of U.S. education. Also based on a true story, the film is a hard-hitting look at American crime.
In 2019, Jackman kept up with his comedic roles by voicing Sir Lionel Frost, an investigator of mythical creatures, in Laika’s animated adventure Missing Link. Nominated for Best Animated Feature at the 92nd Academy Awards, the lighthearted and touching movie ultimately lost out to Toy Story 4. In 2020, Jackman also appeared as Prince Humperdinck in a star-studded remake of The Princess Bride, filmed during the coronavirus pandemic and released on Quibi as a TV mini-series. The low-key production, directed by Jason Reitman, involved celebrities filming on their own cell phones.
Zac Efron (Phillip Carlyle)
Similarly, Zac Efron departed from his ringmaster role as Phillip Carlyle in The Greatest Showman following the film. In 2019, Efron played American serial killer Ted Bundy in Extremely Wicked, Shockingly Evil and Vile, as told from the perspective of Bundy’s girlfriend Liz Kendall. Efron also had a supporting role in the comedy The Beach Bum that year, playing a friend, Flicker, of the stoner main character Moondog (Matthew McConaughey).
In 2019, Efron turned to vocal work, voicing a caveman named Gary in Human Discoveries, a comedy airing on Facebook Watch. He followed that up by becoming the voice of Fred Jones in Scoob!, the poorly-received remake of Scooby Doo that premiered in May of 2020. Efron’s role as Fred took advantage of his leading man charisma more than his role as Gary, although neither project was a breakout success like The Greatest Showman. In short, although Efron continued his effort to explore different roles after The Greatest Showman, the highlights of his career still show his roots as a theatrical performer.
Michelle Williams (Charity Hallett-Barnum)
Following The Greatest Showman, Michelle Williams, who played Barnum’s wife Charity Hallett-Barnum, continued her prolific acting career. In 2018, she had supporting roles in romantic comedy parody I Feel Pretty, starring Amy Schumer, as well as in Sony’s Marvel supervillain film Venom, starring Tom Hardy. In Venom, Williams played Eddie Brock’s ex-fiancee Anne Weying, who is also briefly transformed into She-Venom. Her role in the blockbuster was a departure from her usual pattern of appearing in independently produced films and Williams is set to reprise the role in a sequel, Venom: Let There Be Carnage.
In 2019, Williams starred in After the Wedding alongside Julianne Moore. Williams’ character Isabel Andersen is the co-founder of an orphanage in India, and after traveling to New York to meet Moore, a potential benefactor, discovers that she is more closely connected to the woman than she ever thought. Williams continued her dramatic work in TV mini-series Fosse/Verdon, which explores the real-life partnership between choreographer Bob Fosse and Broadway dancer Gwen Verdon, played by Williams.
Rebecca Ferguson (Jenny Lind)
Rebecca Ferguson, who played Swedish nightingale Jenny Lind in The Greatest Showman, landed supporting roles in several action films following the film, as well as a children’s movie and horror flick. In 2018, Ferguson reprised her role as former MI6 agent Ilsa Faust in the Mission: Impossible franchise. Her first appearance as the female spy was in Mission: Impossible – Rogue Nation and she is set to again appear as Ilsa in two more Mission Impossible movies, perhaps hinting at a larger role for her character.
In 2019, Ferguson switched tracks and played Morgana in family action adventure film The Kid Who Would Be King. She followed that up with a role as Riza, an alien arms dealer, in Men in Black: International, the fourth movie in the franchise. The two family-friendly movies were fun, but neither rated particularly well critically.
Ferguson had a larger role in her next project, Doctor Sleep, the horror spin-off based on Stephen King’s novel following adventure of an adult Dan Torrance (from The Shining). Ferguson plays Rose the Hat in the film, the leader of a cult, and the primary antagonist. Looking ahead, Ferguson is set to appear in Denis Villeneuve’s adaptation of science-fiction classic Dune as Lady Jessica, the mother of the main character Paul Atreides(Timothée Chalamet).
Zendaya (Anne Wheeler)
2017 was a big year for Zendaya, who started her acting career in the mid-2000s as a Disney Channel pop star. Only a few months before her appearance as acrobat Anne Wheeler in The Greatest Showman, Zendaya landed the role of a lifetime as she was cast as MJ in Marvel’s reboot of Spider-Man. Zendaya’s first appearance as the high school love interest of Peter Parker was in Spider-Man: Homecoming, which premiered just five months before The Greatest Showman landed in December.
Zendaya’s acting career took off after her inclusion in the Marvel franchise. In 2018, she finished work on Disney Channel show K.C. Undercover and went on to star in two animated films. Zendaya voiced Chinese duckling Chi in Duck Duck Goose, a bird-filled adventure that aired on Netflix. In the vastly more successful animated film Smallfoot, Zendaya voiced Meechee, a young female yeti and the love interest of the main character.
In 2019, Zendaya took on a more serious role in the HBO drama Euphoria, in which she plays teenage drug addict Rue Bennett. Her powerful performance in the series earned her her first Emmy nomination and win, for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. Her performance in Euphoria, which has been renewed for a second season, is understated, sincere, and honest and the well-deserved award reflects Zendaya’s skills as a dramatic actress.
Zendaya also appeared in three episodes of The OA, a Netflix drama, before reprising her role as MJ in 2019 in Spider-Man: Far From Home. She will again appear as MJ in the so-far untitled Spider-Man sequel, which is currently filming. Coincidentally, like Ferguson, Zendaya is also set to appear in Dune as Chani, the love interest of main character Paul.
Keala Settle (Lettie Lutz)
Despite Keala Settle being one of the standout memories of The Greatest Showman’s thanks to her performance of pop hit “This is Me”, the actress hasn’t done much film or TV work following the movie. That much makes sense, given that Settle is primarily a Broadway performer. Her one major role after The Greatest Showman was in a live TV adaptation of the classic musical Rent in 2019 in which she played Cy, Mrs. Davis and others. The actress also has a supporting role in All My Life, a romantic drama set to premiere in December 2020. Settle’s career began on Broadway, in the likes of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert and Waitress, but her strong performance in The Greatest Showman and a potentially good reception after All My Life could see her cast more on-screen.
Paul Sparks (James Gordon Bennett)
Paul Sparks’ television career, which had already spanned more than a decade when The Greatest Showman was released, continued uninterrupted after his appearance as critic James Gordon Bennet in the musical. Following The Greatest Showman, Sparks went on to appear in Waco, Starz’s Sweetbitter and Castle Rock on Hulu. Sparks also appeared as writer Tom Yates in seasons 3, 4 and 5 of once-dominant Netflix drama House of Cards. In 2019 and 2020, Sparks continued to land supporting roles in film, playing Jon in crime drama Human Capital and Moustache in comedy The Lovebirds.
Sam Humphrey (Charles Stratton)
While he made a big impact in the musical, Sam Humphrey hasn’t made any appearances in TV or film since his role as General Tom Thumb in The Greatest Showman, but he regularly appears on his social media platforms to talk directly to fans. Humphrey has also been cast as a voice actor in several projects. In addition to his role as the narrator in a new animated comedy series Reso Rocket, he will star in two new animated series created by Gary K. Wolf. Humphrey is set to voice Ranger Raccoon in a series of the same name and T.K. Wayne in Killerbowl, a science-fiction comedy.
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