Chris Evans apparently heard my desperate pleas for him to return to television for the first time in nearly 20 years, because that is exactly what Hollywood's Best Chris is now doing. Following in the footsteps of his Marvel co-star Anthony Mackie and DC alum Henry Cavill, the Captain America actor is coming to the small screen as the star of Apple's new crime drama Defending Jacob, according to The Hollywood Reporter.
The eight-episode series based on William Landay's 2012 novel of the same name will see Evans take on the role of Andy Barber, an assistant district attorney who investigates the murder of a 14-year-old boy and discovers his own son is a suspect. Evans is set to executive-produce the thriller, which is being penned by Mark Bomback (who recently worked with Chris Pine on Netflix's Outlaw King) and directed by Morten Tyldum (who not only worked with Chris Pratt on the film Passengers, but also directed the Oscar-nominated film The Imitation Game for which Benedict Cumberbatch also received a nomination).
This move back into television (Evans appeared opposite This Is Us star Milo Ventimiglia on the short-lived series Opposite Sex back in 2000) is a wise career choice for Evans, not just because TV has become the more impressive medium over the last decade or because it gives actors more time to build and deepen their characters, but because Evans unfortunately seems to be the lone Hollywood Chris struggling in terms of finding his path in a post-superhero world.
Once the untitled fourth Avengers film is released in May 2019, Evans' commitment to the role of Steve Rogers and to the Marvel Cinematic Universe will be complete, much to the disappointment of fans. But since first donning the iconic Captain America costume in 2011's The First Avenger, Evans hasn't had much box-office success outside the MCU. Snowpiercer was a very good film, and Gifted was a lovely indie movie that probably made you cry while also making you jealous that Mckenna Grace got to climb him like a tree, but the rest of his resume — from the romantic comedy What's Your Number to his directorial debut Before We Go — isn't much to look at in comparison. It's unfortunate, but it's true. And it certainly doesn't help that he's not really done much outside of Marvel over the last decade; he hasn't averaged a non-Marvel film a year since 2011.
Making matters more complicated is the fact that when you compare Evans' career history and most of what he's lined up post-Marvel — The Red Sea Diving Resort, about Mossad agents evacuating Jewish residents of Ethiopia from Sudan in the 1980s, and Neill Blomkamp's disaster film Greenland — to the career trajectories of the other Hollywood Chrises, you can see that Evans is still searching for his next defining role or even just a niche to call his own.
Chris Pine, who will reprise his role as Steve Trevor in Wonder Woman 1984, has always had the most extensive filmography of the four Hollywood Chrises. He has done everything from romantic comedy (The Princess Diaries 2: Royal Engagement) and the movie musical (Into the Woods) to TV (Netflix's Wet Hot American Summer series), big-screen sci-fi franchises (Star Trek) and Oscar contenders (Hell or High Water). Pine can do pretty much anything — he's also a successful stage actor — and be successful. He's definitely going to be the first Chris to take home an Academy Award and is the Chris with the best chance to eventually EGOT. I would hate him for it if he wasn't so damn talented.
Since becoming a household name as Thor, the Strongest Avenger, Hemsworth has gravitated toward roles that allow his self-deprecating sense of humor and natural charisma to take center stage instead of his unfairly attractive body. Although his skills as a comedic actor and his hunk image combined in director Taika Waititi's Thor: Ragnarok to give us one of the best movies to come out of the MCU yet, Hemsworth continues to undercut his former image.
Currently filming the new Men in Black alongside former Ragnarok co-star Tessa Thompson, he's also reteamed with The Cabin in the Woods director Drew Goddard on his latest film, the thriller Bad Times at the El Royale. Hemsworth appears alongside Jeff Bridges and Jon Hamm as a charismatic cult leader in the film, which comes out in October and looks fantastic. Bolstering Hemsworth's position as the funniest Chris is also his Instagram account, where he posts everything from hilarious videos of himself goofing off (the video in which he practices waving the flag for the Indy 500 is a stand out) to surfing photos that will remind you just how untalented you are.
Meanwhile, Chris Pratt, who began his career on television with roles on shows like The WB's Everwood and NBC's beloved comedy Parks and Recreation, has firmly cemented himself as a franchise leading man after appearing in three Oscar-nominated films — Moneyball, Zero Dark Thirty and Her — during the first half of the decade. In addition to the immensely successful Guardians of the Galaxy films, he also stars in Jurassic World and its 2018 sequel Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom. The former is currently the fifth highest-grossing film of all time, while the latter comes in at number 12 on the same list. His work outside Marvel and the Jurassic Park franchise hasn't been great with the exception of The Lego Movie — we all unfortunately remember Passengers — but he's done enough to apparently secure himself the "and" credit in Avengers: Infinity War.
The good news for Evans as the end of his Marvel career approaches is not just that people seem to love him or his willingness to speak out on current events and politics via his Twitter (Pine doesn't have social media; Hemsworth usually uses his accounts to promote his films or post the aforementioned videos; and Pratt's Instagram is littered with photos from his farm when he's not filming or promoting something); it's also that Evans is finally free to make decisions in his career that can show he's more than just Captain America or great at owning Donald Trump on social media.
A real theater nerd at heart, Evans made his Broadway debut in Lobby Hero earlier this year. He played against type while sporting an obnoxious mustache that made him nearly unrecognizable, and he received terrific reviews for his performance. Now, in addition to the Apple TV series, he's also signed on to star opposite Tom Holland and Robert Pattinson in the film The Devil All the Time, an adaptation of Donald Ray Pollock's 2011 novel in which he will appear as a corrupt sheriff in a small rural town in Ohio.
After nearly a decade of being defined by the role of the noble, selfless hero — one who inspired entire theaters of adults to gasp or cheer when he and his magnificent beard finally made their entrance in Infinity War — the roles Evans is taking are definitely not what a majority of his fans are used to (he memorably played a hilarious villain in Scott Pilgrim vs. the World, but that was a minor role and before Marvel came calling). But they offer him the opportunity to show what else he can do. He's finally taking ownership of his career in a way he hasn't been able to since signing a multi-picture deal with Marvel, something he's said repeatedly he was initially wary of doing.
Although there isn't much of a pattern or a link between Evans' first roles in the post-Marvel era, adding TV to his resume after tackling Broadway can only be seen as another step in the right direction as he embarks on the next chapter of his career. Not only have many film actors found success on the small screen — Amy Adams in HBO's Sharp Objects is just the most recent example of a movie star shining on TV — but the medium has already helped to launch bold second acts (never forget the role True Detective played in the larger McConaissance). Apple is certainly attracting a lot of big names to its quickly growing roster of original series — Evans' friend and former co-star Octavia Spencer has a series set up there, as do Reese Witherspoon and Jennifer Aniston — but even if Defending Jacob doesn't turn out to be a huge or memorable role, it's still something fresh and new that reeks of possibility. And after seven films (not including cameos) playing the same character, even if Steve Rogers had maybe the greatest arc of any character in the MCU (I'm willing to entertain Loki as another option), that's definitely something worth celebrating.