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James Franco: A Look Into His TV Work

by Conor O'Brien

James Franco has starred in a number of successful films encompassing Hollywood blockbusters, smaller independent work and raunchy comedies. However, this is at look at Franco’s work on television.

If you don’t necessarily know James Franco’s name, his face is definitely familiar. Since starting his acting career in 1997, James Franco has appeared in over 90 films, not including his unreleased projects. Most notably, this includes Sam Raimi’s Spider-Man franchise, 127 Hours and Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Both before and after Franco found success on the silver screen, he has supplemented his resumé work work on television, both as a series regular and a guest star.

Considering that some of the more recent television projects from James Franco came after becoming an established film star, he has played roles in multiple miniseries, a short-term commitment.

This is a look into the roles that Franco has played on television. We will also look at the storyline of those series and whether the show itself was successful or lasted for a long time.

Freaks and Geeks (1999-2000) – “Daniel Desario”

James Franco and Busy Phillips in Freaks and Geeks (NBC)

Franco’s breakthrough role was as ‘bad boy’ Daniel Desario on short-lived NBC series Freaks and Geeks. The teen comedy-drama was created by Paul Feig (Bridesmaids) and produced by comedic titan Judd Apatow.

Freaks and Geeks, set in Michigan during the 1980s, followed the lives of the titular school cliques – the Freaks (which included Franco’s Daniel) and the Geeks, who were younger characters. Although critically acclaimed, the show ended after one season. This was due to the series having low viewership.

Aside from Franco, the main cast also included Linda Cardellini (Dead to Me), Jason Segel (How I Met Your Mother), John Francis Daley (Bones, co-writer of Spider-Man Homecoming), Seth Rogen (Superbad, numerous comedy films) and Martin Starr (Silicon Valley).

Noted actors such as Ben Stiller, Shia LaBeouf, Leslie Mann and Thomas F. Wilson also made appearances, as well as many others making their professional debuts.

General Hospital (2009-2012) – “Franco”

James Franco in ‘General Hospital’ (ABC)

From 2009, James Franco joined the cast of the long-running ABC soap opera General Hospital. He played a recurring character named Franco; which the actor co-created for himself to play.

Franco continued to play this role intermittently until 2012. He was written out of General Hospital and the character of Franco supposedly killed off.

However, a year later, it was revealed in true soap opera fashion that Franco was still alive – and had a new face. Roger Howarth (One Life To Live, The Flash) was hired to play the part on a full-time basis.

11.22.63 (2016) – “Jake Epping”

James Franco in ‘11.22.63.’ (Hulu)

In 2016, Franco produced and starred in Hulu’s miniseries adaptation of 11.22.63, based on Stephen King’s book of the same name. Additionally, he also directed an episode.

The show ran for 8 episodes and followed Jake Epping (Franco), an English teacher who travels back in time to prevent John F. Kennedy’s assassination in 1963. More specifically, on November 22 1963, hence the series title.

However, as expected, this is not smooth sailing for Jake (known as “James Amberson” in the past) as he faces several complications – emotional and physical.

Sarah Gadon, Chris Cooper, Cherry Jones, George MacKay, Lucy Fry and Daniel Webber also appeared in the ensemble main cast. Meanwhile, Josh Duhamel and Grey’s Anatomy alum T.R. Knight each played a recurring character.

The Deuce (2017-2019) – “Vincent Martino / Frankie Martino”

James Franco in The Deuce (HBO)

Between 2017 and 2019, Franco starred in, executive produced and directed episodes of The Deuce, a period drama series on HBO. It is set during the legalisation of pornography in 1970s New York. Franco plays Vincent and Frankie Martino, twin brothers from Brooklyn.

The Martino brothers are based on real twins who have remained anonymous throughout the release of The Deuce. Creators David Simon and George Pelecanos met with 1 of them and his anecdotes formed the basis for this series.

Throughout its three seasons, The Deuce featured an eclectic, diverse cast including Maggie Gyllenhaal (Donnie Darko), Gary Carr (Downton Abbey), David Krumholtz (Numb3rs) and Lawrence Gillard Jr. (The Wire/The Walking Dead).

The Deuce finished its run on HBO in October 2019, having aired 25 episodes.

Follow Editor in Chief Conor O’Brien on Twitter & Instagram: @CourageousConor

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