Country stars have hitched their wagons to Hollywood since the days of Gene Autry. But the trail from Nashville to Tinseltown is getting shorter, with 10-gallon talents lassoing scripts and movie deals like crazy. ”One of my first jobs was Matlock,” says Randy Travis. ”I got the bug and pursued it.” Here, a few other screen honky-tonkers. — Joe Neumaier and Zorianna Kit
Screen debut: A trucker in Red Rock West.
Other roles: Sling Blade, The Newton Boys.
Next up: HBO’s WWII drama When Trumpets Fade (June).
Critics said: In Newton, he ”upstaged four of the prettiest boys in Hollywood.”
Screen debut: A gunslinger in CBS’ Rio Diablo.
Other roles: Blues Brothers 2000, Sgt. Bilko.
Next up: CBS’ tentatively titled The Long Kill.
Critics said: Tritt was ”surprisingly okay in his thespian debut.”
Screen debut: As himself on TV’s Wings.
Other roles: The Larry Sanders Show, Maverick.
Next up: CBS’ Still Holding On: The Legend of Cadillac Jack, airing April 28.
Critics said: His turn on Wings was ”better than Tritt in Rio Diablo.”
Screen debut: A bartender in Young Guns.
Other roles: John Grisham’s The Rainmaker, Fire Down Below.
Next up: Black Dog, due May 1.
Critics said: Travis ”projects the laid-back cool of a young Clint Eastwood.”
Screen debut: A survivalist in Tremors.
Other roles: The Little Rascals, CBS’ Buffalo Girls.
Next up: CBS’ drama Forever Love, slated for fall.
Critics said: Her turn in Girls was ”ladylike and demure.”