Could This HBO Miniseries Be a Comeback for Winona Ryder?

Imeh Akpanudosen / Getty Images

Imeh Akpanudosen / Getty Images

Winona Ryder is one of the most acclaimed actresses of the 1990s, but after a public breakdown in 2001, the star stepped out of the limelight and it seemed we’d lost the quirky beauty with a penchant for dark roles. A small but haunting role as an aging ballerina in 2010′s Black Swan brought Ryder back to our attention, and since then the actress has appeared in a select few projects but still stayed more or less under the radar. Now it’s been announced that Ryder is set to star in a new, six-episode HBO miniseries Show Me a Hero alongside Alfred Molina and Walking Dead star Jon Bernthal, The Hollywood Reporter has said.

Show Me a Hero addresses the contemporary civil rights struggles in the small city of Yonkers, New York where the young mayor Nick Wasicsko (played by Oscar Isaac) is required to build a number of low-income housing units in white neighborhoods by a federal court order. Based on a nonfiction book by Lisa Belkin about low-income housing being built around the country, the show will tell the story of how the decision as to where the units must be built tears apart an entire community and ultimately ruins both Wasicsko’s career and his personal life.

Ryder will play Vinni Restiano, a member of the city government who loses her city council seat after her housing vote only to make a comeback four years later and get elected city council president. Alfred Molina will play councilman Henry J. “Hank” Spallone, a former detective for the NYPD from the Bronx who was the most vocal opponent of the housing project. Bernthal will play the Harvard-educated lawyer for the NAACP that fights in the government’s anti-segregation case against the city.

Show Me a Hero will be Ryder’s biggest television role to date, after appearances on Drunk History, Friends, and The Simpsons. In recent years, television has proven to be the desirable place for serious actors to work, with movie stars from Maggie Gyllenhaal to Billy Bob Thornton going to television for what many consider to be superior writing in comparison to the current landscape in film. An HBO miniseries could be the perfect place for Ryder, like the character she’s playing, to stage a comeback.

The show could work for Ryder similarly in the way True Detective did for Matthew McConaughey. No, Ryder is not just coming off of an Oscar win, but True Detective was such a success because of McConaughey’s powerhouse performance, which his own co-star Woody Harrelson called the best of his career. It was on HBO. Quality TV is earning the reputation of being not only the place where the best writing is, but where actors can go to take risks and change their careers.

A bit of a career change is what Ryder needs. In 2001, she was arrested for shoplifting — it was later revealed she was under the influence of prescription drugs at the time — and afterward, withdrew from the public eye for five years. The film that broke her hiatus was Richard Linklater’s A Scanner Darkly in 2006, which received decent reviews. She’s been in small films since then, but her biggest part in the intervening years was the ballerina Natalie Portman’s character usurps in the thriller Black Swan.

Ryder hasn’t been completely inactive recently, having just wrapped production on the indie biopic Experimenter about the social psychologist Stanley Milgram. Milgram invented a controversial experiment, performed at Yale in the early 1960s, in which subjects falsely believe they are delivering painful electric shocks to friendly strangers. “The experiments were about conformity and authority, and their implications continue to be deeply unsettling and resonant,” the film’s producers told The Hollywood Reporter. Peter Sarsgaard plays the scientist, while Ryder plays a student assistant that he falls in love with.

Black Swan proved that Ryder hasn’t lost her game in the years since her most famous movies. The actress is known for being picky about her choices as well as not very prolific, but this show could be just what she needs to pull off a rightful return to the front of people’s minds as one of the best actresses working at the moment.

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