Americans Rank Their Favorite Musicians-Turned-Actors

The public perceives most musicians-turned-actors as musicians first, even after some have stopped making music, per a new Morning Consult survey
March 30, 2023 at 5:00 am UTC

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For as long as there have been movies and TV series, there’s been the musician-to-actor pipeline. Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley each dabbled in Hollywood, while others like Dolly Parton, Barbra Streisand, Cher and Madonna all made jumps of their own throughout the last half century.

Today, it’s become the expectation that major artists will try their hands at acting. And Hollywood — always in search of big-name talent to boost the profiles of its projects — has been more than happy to oblige. A new Morning Consult survey found that, among a list of 36 of pop stars, rockers and rappers who also act, Americans selected Lady Gaga and Jennifer Lopez as the two who have made the transition the best. 

The survey also asked Americans how they perceive each of these musicians-turned-actors, finding that for nearly all of them — including those who have mostly stopped making new music or performing on stage and act more than they sing — the public still considers them to be musicians first.

Lady Gaga, Jennifer Lopez Are America’s Favorite Musicians-Turned-Actors

The share of U.S. adults who selected the following musicians as the best actors among a list of 36 musicians-turned-actors:
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Survey conducted March 24-26, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-2 percentage points.

Lady Gaga, J. Lo are good actors, Americans say

  • Lady Gaga (25%) and Lopez (25%) tied as the musicians Americans said are the best actors. Lady Gaga won a Golden Globe for her performance in “American Horror Story: Hotel” and has received other acting nominations, including an Academy Award nod for 2018’s “A Star is Born.” Lopez made her lead acting debut in 1997’s “Selena,” for which she earned a Golden Globe nod, and has since starred in several films including 2019’s “Hustlers,” which earned her another Golden Globe nomination.
  • Among generations, Gen Z adults (32%) and millennials (31%) were more likely to say Lady Gaga is the musician who best acts, compared with 23% of Gen Xers and 21% of baby boomers.
  • Barbra Streisand (18%), Queen Latifah (16%) and Halle Bailey (14%) also ranked highly as actors. Bailey will star in Disney's upcoming live-action adaptation of “The Little Mermaid.” Before that, she and her sister Chloe co-starred in ABC’s “Grown-ish.”
  • Harry Styles (6%), who starred in “Don’t Worry Darling” and “My Policeman” last year, ranked lower on the list. His performances received mixed reviews from critics, though Gen Z adults were much kinder, with 17% of the cohort picking the pop star as the best actor of the bunch.

It's Tough for Musicians-Turned-Actors to Shed 'Musician' Label

The share of U.S. adults who consider each celebrity to be an actor who sometimes performs music or a musician who sometimes acts
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“Heard of/No opinion” responses not shown.
Survey conducted March 24-26, 2023, among a representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults, including a subset of 855 to 975 adults who were shown a portion of a complete list of 36 celebrities, with an unweighted margin of error of +/-3 percentage points.

Musicians are always musicians

  • Taylor Swift (47%), Billie Eilish (43%), Rihanna (39%), The Weeknd (35%) and Lenny Kravitz (29%) were the figures whom respondents most perceived as “only musicians.” Swift made appearances in the films “Cats” and “Amsterdam,” and Rihanna co-starred in “Ocean’s 8,” while Kravitz had a supporting role in “The Hunger Games: Catching Fire.”
  • The celebrities whom the most respondents considered to be primarily actors who sometimes do music were Queen Latifah (31%), Ice T (28%), Lopez (27%), Ice Cube (23%), LL Cool J (22%) and Mandy Moore (22%). Moore, one of the stars of NBC’s “This Is Us,” was the only figure whom more Americans said was an “actor who sometimes performs music” than a “musician who sometimes acts.”

The musician-to-actor pipeline

It’s clear that Americans want to see their favorite musicians act in films and TV shows. About two-thirds (67%) of the general public said they at least “somewhat” enjoy seeing musicians act, with 21% saying they enjoy it “a lot.” About 1 in 4 (23%) said they prefer to see more musicians make the transition to acting.

Those Americans are getting their wish. A roster of young stars, including Eilish, have recently started acting. Fans are already praising Eilish’s acting debut in Amazon.com Inc.’s thriller “Swarm,” while pop star Rina Sawayama is garnering rave reviews for her acting turn in “John Wick: Chapter 4.” 

Next up, fans can expect to see Lady Gaga as Harley Quinn in “Joker: Folie à Deux” alongside Joaquin Phoenix. Rapper Jack Harlow will make his acting debut in the upcoming remake of “White Men Can’t Jump,” while The Weeknd, who appeared in 2019’s “Uncut Gems,” will star in HBO’s controversial series “The Idol,” which he also co-created.

The March 24-26, 2023, survey was conducted among a representative sample of 2,200 U.S. adults, with an unweighted margin of error of plus or minus 2 percentage points.

A headshot photograph of Saleah Blancaflor
Saleah Blancaflor
Data Reporter

Saleah Blancaflor previously worked at Morning Consult as a data reporter covering the business of entertainment.

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