The U.S. political climate is heating up as we draw closer to the 2016 elections, and it’s time to honor some fellow actors who made a name for themselves in Hollywood and in Washington. Is a career in politics in your future? Draw inspiration from these 15 performers who served our country in various political seats.
Certainly the most famous performer-turned-politician in history, actor Reagan became the POTUS in 1981 after serving as the governor of California. Prior to his political career, Reagan had a seven-year contract with Warner Brothers Studios where he worked on numerous films; he also served in the U.S. Army Air Force’s Motion Picture Unit, and was president of the Screen Actors Guild for seven terms between 1947 and 1960!
John Davis Lodge
A star of stage and screen from the 1930s to the 1940s (“Little Women,” “The Scarlet Empress”), Lodge made a new name for himself when he was elected into the U.S. House of Representatives in 1947. He later became the Governor of Connecticut from 1951 to 1955, and was a U.S. Ambassador to Spain, Argentina, and Switzerland throughout the next three decades.
Predating Reagan and Lodge was Murphy, a star of numerous musical movies during the earliest days of talking pictures. Murphy was awarded an honorary Oscar in 1950 for “services in interpreting the film industry to the country at large,” and was SAG President from 1944 to 1946. Murphy became a Republican senator from California in 1964, and is the only senator to date with a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
Helen Gahagan Douglas
This 1920s Broadway actor (and star of the 1935 film “She”) made history as the first Democratic woman to be elected to Congress from the state of California. She served in the U.S. House of Representatives from 1945 to 1951, and worked to support women’s and civil rights. She ran for U.S. Senate in 1950 and lost the election to Richard Nixon, but not before gifting him with the enduring nickname “Tricky Dick.”
A popular sitcom actor throughout the 1970s and ’80s—he recurred on “Maude” and played Gopher on “The Love Boat”— Grandy was elected to the U.S. House of Representatives in 1986, where he remained for four terms. He ran for Governor of Iowa in 1994, but lost the election by a small margin. As an actor, Grandy was recently seen on Season 3 of “The Mindy Project.”
Once known as Cooter on long running tv show “The Dukes of Hazzard,” Jones had a second career as a Democrat representing Georgia in the U.S. House of Representatives. Jones served from 1989 to 1993, and returned to acting, writing, and other pursuits after losing his seat in 1994.
Shirley Temple Black
No one could have guessed that this iconic child actor would one day have a reach far beyond her dozens of family films. The great ringlet and tap-shoe-donning star of 1930s and ’40s took a step back from show business around 1950, and began a career in foreign service with the UN General Assembly in 1969. She became a U.S. Ambassador to Ghana in 1974, and was later named the 18th Chief of Protocol of the United States and the U.S. Ambassador to Czechoslovakia.
A screen legend for decades, this four-time Oscar winner (two for directing) is also a respected politician. Eastwood became mayor of Carmel-by-the-Sea in 1986, and was appointed to the California State Park and Recreation Commission in 2001 and the California Film Commission in 2004.
A long-time politician and actor, Thompson’s dual careers worked in tandem in 2002 when he played District Attorney Arthur Branch on “Law & Order” while still serving as a U.S. Senator from Tennessee. He took a break from show business in 2007 to try for the Republican nomination for president, but left the race the following year. He was Chairman of the Senate Committee on Governmental Affairs in 2001, and Senator from 1994 to 2003.
Nicknamed “The Governator,” Schwarzenegger surprised fans when put his action career aside to become the 38th Governor of California from 2003 to 2011. The former Mr. Universe was initially elected to replace Gray Davis after Davis was famously recalled from his position, and was re-elected in 2006.
Known as a writer and performer on “Saturday Night Live,” Franken left the world of comedy behind (mostly) when he was elected a U.S. Senator from Minnesota in 2009. He is a member of the Democratic–Farmer–Labor Party, and is currently representing Minnesota in his second term in office.
Another performer who made political waves in the state of Minnesota, former pro wrestler (and actor in such gems as 1987’s “Predator”), Ventura became Governor Ventura in 1999. He began his career as a member of the U.S. Navy before rising to fame with the WWF, and later lent his chops to numerous action films. The star became involved in politics as the Mayor of Brooklyn Park, Minn., in 1991.
Though primarily known for hosting the ultra-trashy “The Jerry Springer Show,” Springer has appeared on several TV shows as an actor and on Broadway in “The Rocky Horror Show” and “Chicago.” Before hosting America’s most embarrassing (if iconic) television show, Springer served as Mayor of Cincinnati from 1977 to 1978.
Did you know that Kumar worked for Obama? The star of the silly “Harold & Kumar” series and numerous other films and TV shows including “House M.D.” and “Battle Creek,” Penn had a secondary career as the associate director of the White House Office of Public Engagement from 2009 to 2011; he even briefly left his position at the White House to film “A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas” in 2010 before returning to his post.
As if 205 episodes of “Little House on the Prairie” wasn’t enough, this long-time actor and director recently announced her bid for U.S. Congress. She will be running as a Democrat in the 2016 election in Michigan, and is hoping to beat incumbent Republican representative Mike Bishop. Gilbert is calling her campaign a “fight for working families.”
Inspired by this post? Check out our audition listings!