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Figure Skaters and the Acting Bug

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I recently saw something written about the movie "Moondance Alexander," in which Sasha Cohen has a role. It was actually released last year in North America, but I don't remember seeing any commercials or anything. It got me thinking about figure skaters who try to break into acting. So far, it seems, the results haven't been too stellar. Why can't figure skaters seem to really make it in the acting world, where even someone like Paris Hilton seems able to get consistent (albeit terrible) film roles?

I understand why anyone would want to be an actor, and acting and emoting are definitely skills that work to a figure skater's advantage on the ice, so it does seem an almost natural jump to try your hand at acting if you can.

The way I see it, there are two types of acting for figure skaters. The first type, which doesn't really count, is "playing yourself." Now, although that's not technically acting, anyone who has watched "The Hills" on MTV knows that oftentimes, when people play themselves, they are definitely acting. I would also include in this category the cameo, which, even though it entails playing a role, is essentially a wink-wink version of playing yourself.

The "playing yourself" phenomenon has been seen often with skating stars, and no example is better than 2007's "Blades of Glory," which featured Brian Boitano, Dorothy Hamill, Nancy Kerrigan, Sasha Cohen, Peggy Fleming and Scott Hamilton. (I think I got them all). Tara Lipinski and Sasha Cohen, both aspiring actresses, have also played themselves in a variety of television shows.

The next category would obviously include "serious acting," or playing actual parts. Tara Lipinski has been trying to break into the serious acting category for years now. I've seen her on a few television shows, including "Still Standing," and "The Young and the Restless." She was fine, but I can't imagine she would have been cast for any reason other than name recognition.

It appears name recognition can help and hurt skating actor wannabes. It can obviously help them get cast in bit parts and guest starring roles in television show ratings stunts, but I'm sure it's a pretty big hurdle to get over when you're trying to establish yourself as a legitimate actor. However, I feel like in that industry, you really do need a foot in the door any way you can get it.

I saw that Tara Lipinski's last credit on her IMDB listing was from 2006, which surprised me because I know she was quite serious about acting. I tried to check out her website to see what her journal entries say, but it's under construction.

Sasha Cohen is also serious about this acting thing, and I recall that she was taking an intensive acting course last summer. She also had a role in "Bratz" the movie last year, but I don't see any upcoming films.

I remember after the '98 Olympics Pasha (formerly Oksana Grishuk) was moving to Los Angeles to break into Hollywood. As you can see from her IMDB page, that never really took off.

The other Oksana, Baiul, has also made a fair career of playing herself, and has "acted" in a couple of other projects, including playing a commentator in "The Cutting Edge 2."

Scott Hamilton
has often played himself, and also has a habit of doing voiceovers, which seems appropriate with that unmistakable (and quite excitable) voice of his. Katarina Witt has also been on a few television shows, and often played herself. She has been on a lot of German television as well.

Other than that, I don't really see anyone who has been able to make that crossover from skating to (serious) acting. I wonder if it will go better for Sasha Cohen or someone else in the future...

Anyway, let me know if I've missed a very successful skater-actor, or if you can remember your favorite skater cameo, or acting work by a skater. I seem to remember a Mighty Ducks 2 one-second cameo by Kristi Yamaguchi that made me happy.