Ed Sheeran's having a big month. His latest album, Divide, has raced up the charts to No. 1 on both sides of the Atlantic, and he broke a Spotify streaming record for number of first-day streams. But for Sheeran fans, perhaps the most exciting development is his upcoming role on season seven of "Game Of Thrones."
"Game Of Thrones" executive producers David Benioff and D.B. Weiss made the announcement at a SXSW panel on March 12. The details of Sheeran's role have yet to be announced, but the producers originally extended an ask in season three. The reason? "Game Of Thrones" star Maisie Williams, who plays Arya Stark, is a big Sheerio.
"For years we were trying to get Ed Sheeran on the show to surprise Maisie and this year we finally did it," said Benioff.
Sheeran will join a line of previous musical "Game Of Thrones" guest stars, including Snow Patrol's Gary Lightbody, Coldplay's Will Champion and three members from GRAMMY-nominated metal band Mastodon. But Sheeran is just the latest artist to take his talents from the stage to the screen. The Best Picture Oscar nominees this year had no shortage of musician actors.
GRAMMY-nominated R&B singer/songwriter Janelle Monáe had supporting roles in both the Best Picture Oscar-winning Moonlight and Best Picture-nominated Hidden Figures. She studied acting before her music career took off, so the smooth transition she's made into the film world makes sense.
She was called to her surrogate mother-figure role in Moonlight, a coming of age film about a young black man growing up in a rough Miami neighborhood, because of her understanding of what it means to be "other."
"As a black woman who has experienced sexism and racism, I feel obligated to say something," Monáe told Billboard. "The script had me crying as soon as I read it — I knew these characters."
Monae felt similarly called to her role in Hidden Figures, which tells the story of female African-American mathematicians, called "computers" in the days before such technology existed, who served vital roles in the U.S. space program in the 1960s, but were largely left out of history. GRAMMY winner Pharrell Williams, who served as a producer on the film, told Billboard, "Janelle poured her heart and soul into this role — this story was important for her to get right."
Another Best Picture-nominated film, La La Land, which was mistakenly announced as the winner during 2017's Academy Awards ceremony, stars GRAMMY winner John Legend, who plays a musician with aims to modernize jazz and bring it to the silver screen.
Legend identified with his character, Keith, on innovation in music. "As much as you can be influenced by the past or have heroes from the past, it's important to carry that forward and create something new," Legend told Entertainment Weekly. "Any artist that's been successful, no matter how much they've been influenced by other artists, they do something innovative."
For artists such as Sheeran, Monáe, Williams, and Legend, perhaps that innovation in our modern multimedia landscape means branching their talents out to roles large and small onscreen.