Newsflash: Simon Cowell is supposedly interested in booking Jennifer Love Hewitt to replace Britney Spears on The X Factor next season. Yes, that Jennifer Love Hewitt.
On the surface, this idea seems, well, sorta nuts. Despite five recent-ish seasons of Ghost Whisperer, Hewitt hasn’t been particularly relevant since her Party of Five days, and her brief early-aughts singing career was unmemorable at best. (Though you’ve got to admit, “BareNaked” is still pretty catchy.)
Dig a little deeper, though, and suddenly the rumor starts making a weird kind of sense. Hewitt’s certainly as famous as, say, Paula Abdul was in the early days of American Idol. She’s got a reputation for charming self-awareness; see, for instance, how she responded when Slate named her the worst actress of the last 25 years in 2011. And finally, though Hewitt may not be a household name on the same level as Britney, she’s still been working steadily ever since her teen idol days – proving that the cast of 1998’s classic teen movie Can’t Hardly Wait has surprisingly good staying power.
Consider this: That archetypal “one crazy night” flick featured winning turns from a bevy of reasonably big names including – deep breath – Jaime Pressly, Jenna Elfman, Donald Faison, Clea DuVall, Selma Blair, Sara Rue, Melissa Joan Hart, Jerry O’Connell, Breckin Meyer, and, perhaps most importantly, a young Jason Segel (as the stoner eating a gigantic piece of watermelon). And those are just the bit players! Read on to see how the movie’s main cast has stayed relevant – or at least what they’ve been doing since the morning after teen cinema’s best graduation party.
Jennifer Love Hewitt, a.k.a. dream girl Amanda Beckett
Hewitt faltered after her Party of Five spinoff Time of Your Life tanked in 2001, spending a few years wallowing in straight-to-DVD animated fare like The Hunchback of Notre Dame II and TV movies like Confessions of a Sociopathic Social Climber. But Ghost Whisperer upped her profile in 2005, leading Lifetime to cast her as The Client List’s lead hooker in 2010 – then subsequently creating a TV series based on that successful TV movie. And thankfully, Jen and her best assets have been back on our radar ever since.
Ethan Embry, a.k.a. lovesick Preston Meyers
Can’t Hardly Wait’s adorably geeky Romeo never fully lived up to his potential. (He could have been the Jesse Eisenberg of the pre-millennial era!) Still, Embry’s kept his nose to the grindstone for the past 15 years, nabbing lead roles on a series of unfortunately short-lived TV shows including Work with Me (1999-2000), Freakylinks (2000-2001), Dragnet (2003-2004), and Brotherhood (2006-2008). His most high-profile project in years, though, is Once Upon a Time, which recently booked Embry to play mysterious Stranger Greg. (Whose real name is actually Owen. That’s just how Once rolls.)
Charlie Korsmo, a.k.a. ubernerd William Lichter
Korsmo’s actually better known for what he did before Can’t than the movie itself: He starred opposite Warren Beatty as the Kid in 1990’s Dick Tracy, and also played Robin Williams’s Captain Hook-loving son in 1991 Hook. Unfortunately for fans of his work as a sad-eyed kid, Korsmo decided to ditch playing dorks on screen for real-life geekery – he got his undergrad degree in physics from MIT, his JD from Yale Law School, and currently teaches at Case Western. But can he feel his legs yet?
Lauren Ambrose, a.k.a. sharp-tongued Denise Fleming
While Hewitt may have better name recognition than anyone else in Can’t Hardly Wait’s main cast, Ambrose is certainly the most accomplished actress of the bunch. She won a SAG award and an Emmy nomination for her work on Six Feet Under, she won rave reviews as Juliet (2007) and Ophelia (2008) in Shakespeare in the Park productions, and she gained indie cred with roles in Spike Jonze’s Where the Wild Things Are (2009) and Mike Birbiglia’s Sleepwalk with Me. Sure, her Broadway Funny Girl revival was scrapped in 2011 – but Ambrose still has plenty going for her these days. And she is certainly not a tampon.
Peter Facinelli, a.k.a. jock jerk Mike Dexter
Wait, how did I not realize until just now that Can’t Hardly Wait’s BMOC and Liz Lemon’s dream dude share a name? Anyway: Facinelli followed his co-star Ambrose to Six Feet Under, then had a stint on another critically acclaimed cable show (Damages). And while he’s currently starring on Showtime’s Nurse Jackie, he’s probably best known today as Twilight patriarch Carlisle Cullen – or as Jennie Garth’s quasi-recent ex.
Seth Green, a.k.a. wanksta Kenny Fisher
Psst, child stars: Seth Green is living proof that you can have a career even after your voice changes. The actor, who got his start in Billions for Boris at the age of 10, was already an established presence in Buffy the Vampire Slayer and the Austin Powers franchise before Can’t Hardly Wait was released. He continued to appear in both, eventually co-creating Robot Chicken in 2005 and appearing in big screen fare like The Italian Job (2003) and Without a Paddle (2004). Green’s most lucrative role, though, has to be that of Family Guy’s hapless Chris Griffin; those residuals can buy a lot of gummy bears.
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