Once upon a time, when movie stars were still the highest form of celeb royalty, Julia Roberts was the ultimate movie star. Luckily, Roberts continues to be an icon thanks to her continuing roles in rom coms and heavy dramas alike. She's regal and stunning, with a smile that lights up the room. But it's not often that Roberts is though of as a TV star and now that Roberts has an Emmy nomination for The Normal Heart, it makes you wonder: Has Roberts been on that Emmys stage before? Oh, but of course.
But you'd be right to think there were few opportunities: Including The Normal Heart, Roberts has only appeared in seven TV projects (out of over 50 credits), nearly all of them for just a single episode. Of course, Roberts became a star in the '80s and '90s, when TV acting wasn't nearly as respected as performances in films, so it makes sense that she's only appeared in a handful of television episodes over her four decade career. But Roberts took her talents to the small screen this year with The Normal Heart, in which she played Dr. Emma Brookner, a polio-stricken physician fighting the government's refusal to acknowledge the existence of AIDS. But before that clearly Emmy-worthy performance, Roberts was nominated for an Emmy once before, in 1999, for a guest role on Law & Order.
The Emmy-Worthy Guest Role
On Law & Order Roberts played Katrina Ludlow, a party planner who, the detectives discover in classic L&O fashion, slept with a murder victim just before his death (see the jokey "trailer" above). Roberts appeared on the show alongside her then-boyfriend Benjamin Bratt, who played Detective Rey Curtis for 15 seasons, and they attended the Emmys award ceremony together that year.
HBO Original: Round 1
However, Law & Order wasn't her only dramatic television job. The actress starred in another HBO original movie before The Normal Heart: Baja Oklahoma , a 1988 film featuring Lesley Ann Warren as a waitress who dreams of becoming a country songwriter. Roberts played Warren's daughter. But she got her first TV role a year earlier in another cop drama, Crime Story. It was her very first professional job. Roberts appeared for one episode, playing Tracy, the daughter of a divorced man who was plotting to regain custody.
A Brief Trip to Miami
After Baja Oklahoma aired, Roberts' very next role was, you guessed it, another episode on a show about cops. This time it was Miami Vice, the show that tried to make white sport jackets happen for seven years. Roberts played a drug dealer's assistant — because in the world of Miami Vice, high level crime lords work out of office buildings. At this point in her career, the actress wasn't yet a household name, so she only appeared in a few scenes. Her outfit, however, was magnificent. Check out those shoulder pads.
The One With Julia Roberts
Perhaps Roberts was scarred by her appearance on Miami Vice (or, more likely, her career blew up. She appeared in Mystic Pizza just five months later), because she didn't return to TV for another eight years. The next time she showed up on the small screen, she was a big deal. She guest-starred on an episode of Friends in 1996, playing one of Chandler's old elementary school classmates whom he briefly dates. The part allowed Roberts to poke fun at her own actress persona (her character and Chandler were in a school play together), and to get a little kinky: she asks him to wear her underwear on a date (above).
So far, Roberts has no upcoming projects announced. But if she can nab an Emmy for The Normal Heart, perhaps she'd consider returning to TV once again. Maybe she could team up with Matthew Perry and give both their careers another act.
Images: NBC (Screengrab)