See how TV stars like Courteney Cox, Joshua Jackson Gillian Anderson and Katie Holmes spent the summer hiatus

Ah, summer: a time for tanning and umbrella drinks. But for television actors, it’s becoming a season to strut your stuff—acting-wise, that is. More than ever, small-screen celebs are using their downtime (TV’s hiatus usually runs from May through July) to turn in big-screen performances. Occasionally, they even hit pay dirt. “Helen Hunt clearly indicates that the sky’s the limit in this area,” says As Good as It Gets executive producer Laurence Mark, who helped steer the Mad About You star to her first Academy Award this spring. With Hunt’s victory still lingering, here’s a look at what TV stars are doing on their summer vacations.


Director Mike Judge (Beavis and Butt-head Do America) snagged Friend Jennifer Aniston for Office Space, his riff on corporate culture. “I play a low-key girl without a lot of expectations,” Aniston says of her undereducated character. Following up her Scream-ing success, Aniston’s TV roommate, Courteney Cox, joins the sci-fi flick Alien Love Triangle. And Matthew Perry will try once again to escape movie mediocrity (remember Fools Rush In?), by starring opposite The Practice‘s Dylan McDermott and Party of Five/Scream queen Neve Campbell in the ensemble comedy Three to Tango. “I wanted something where it wasn’t about me,” says McDermott, “because I’m exhausted from the show.”


Also on the ensemble trail: The X-FilesGillian Anderson plays a commitment-phobe in Dancing About Architecture, costarring Sean Connery, Dennis Quaid, and Madeleine Stowe. “I wanted to do something different and something I really cared about,” says Anderson. And Fox’s Monday-night breakout star Calista Flockhart (Ally McBeal) just shot A Midsummer Night’s Dream in Italy with Kevin Kline and Michelle Pfeiffer.


These days, the Clearasil set is as popular as the Taco Bell Chihuahua. Witness the Dawson’s Creek craze: After only a few months on the air as a mid-season replacement, the show caused a riptide among directors and casting agents. The result? The four principal actors are working on at least seven movies this summer. Katie Holmes scored Killing Mrs. Tingle, directed by Dawson creator Kevin Williamson, and Go, costarring Party of Five‘s Scott Wolf. Michelle Williams just wrapped Halloween: H20 (see page 42) and is now in Toronto shooting Dick, a comedy she likens to Romy and Michele’s High School Reunion. Dawson himself, James Van Der Beek, will play a high school football quarterback in Varsity Blues, and Joshua Jackson has a part in Urban Legend and a cameo in Cruel Inventions with WB diva Sarah Michelle Gellar, a.k.a. Buffy the Vampire Slayer. Speaking of Gellar, she’s also starring in Vanilla Fog. “For a long time, there were no movies being made for young people,” director Williamson says of the teen phenomenon, “so all of these talented kids went to TV. Now Hollywood is going to TV to get them back.”


Hot hiatus projects are nothing new for NewsRadio‘s Maura Tierney, whose past supporting roles include parts in Primal Fear and Liar Liar. Now she’ll work on the indie psycho-thriller Oxygen, then play Ben Affleck‘s fiancee in Forces of Nature. Tierney’s NBC network mate Kelsey Grammer has also been busy. The Frasier star has been working 15-hour days playing a flamboyant basketball-team GM in the mockumentary The New Jersey Turnpikes. Also spoofing is Dharma & Greg‘s Jenna Elfman as Matthew McConaughey‘s love interest in Ron Howard‘s ed TV—a Truman Show-like satire. And, lastly, 3rd Rock From the Sun‘s French Stewart is taking the lead in the “antiromantic comedy” Love Stinks. “I was getting offered scripts where the one common denominator was that the character was all but retarded,” he says. “This was my opportunity to do a more regular guy.”

So far, the relationship between filmdom and TV has become increasingly neighborly. “We try to give [actors] as many chances as possible to do other things,” says Party of Five exec producer Christopher Keyser. “It’s good for them, but it’s also good for the show. When Scott or Neve opens in a movie, there’s all that cross promotion.” And TV actors have helped contribute to big-screen payoffs. “They’re often more famous than movie actors,” says director Ivan Reitman, whose Six Days, Seven Nights costars Friend David Schwimmer. “Twenty or 30 million people will watch them every week all over the world. It’s an advantage to the movie.”

The downside? Well, there is giving up that summer vacation. “You don’t get a mental break,” says Tierney. “You don’t get a chance to not worry about what you look like.”

(Additional reporting by Stephen Schaefer and Dan Snierson)