‘Dawson’s Creek’: Who Is the Most Successful Actor From the Series?

Paula Cole didn’t want to wait for our lives to be over when she sang the theme to Dawson’s Creek, but all TV shows must come to an end, as Creek did in 2003. During its five-year run, the show made household names of James Van Der Beek, Katie Holmes, Michelle Williams, Kerr Smith, and Joshua Jackson.

As the series ran its course, its stars seemed poised to go on to bigger and better things. However, success after Dawson’s Creek turned out to be highly variable. 

What was ‘Dawson’s Creek’?

'Dawson's Creek' star James Van Der Beek stops by WarnerMedia Lodge: Elevating Storytelling with AT&T during Sundance Film Festival 2020 on January 24, 2020 in Park City, Utah
‘Dawson’s Creek’ star James Van Der Beek | Vivien Killilea/Getty Images for WarnerMedia and AT&T

RELATED: Were Katie Holmes and Michelle Williams Better Friends off Screen Than Joey and Jen in Season 1?

It might surprise some people to learn that Dawson’s Creek came about partly because of a horror movie’s success. That would be Scream, the 1996 flick that deconstructed the horror genre with its canny insights into horror movie clichés, such as having sex leads to certain doom. 

That movie was written by Kevin Williamson, who parlayed its success into other venues, including television. He made an autobiographical pitch about an aspiring filmmaker growing up near a bucolic creek with a group of friends/lovers. The creek Williamson remembered was in North Carolina; the show transplanted it to the fictional Capeside, Massachusetts.

The writer, with his pop-culture acumen, described the show as “Some Kind of Wonderful meets Pump Up the Volume meets James at 15 meets My So-Called Life meets Little House on the Prairie.” The show premiered on January 20, 1998, running for six seasons on the WB through May 2003. 

James Van Der Beek played the title role of Dawson, the filmmaker, while Katie Holmes played Joey, the girl caught between Dawson and his friend Pacey, a slacker type played by Joshua Jackson. There was also Kerr Smith’s Jack, one of the first gay characters who was a series regular And then there was Michelle Williams’ Jen, the girl from the city who turned out to be a major linchpin in storylines. 

What happened to Dawson, Pacey, and Jack?

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After the castmates went their separate ways, ongoing stardom seemed more elusive for the men of Dawson’s Creek. But Jackson has been involved in some high-profile projects recently. According to Newsweek, he has appeared in Hulu’s Little Fires Everywhere, Showtime’s The Affair, and Netflix’s When They See Us. He also starred on Fringe for five years. On deck is Dr. Death, a Peacock show with Jackson in the title role.

Smith’s post-Dawson credits include Charmed, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and The Fosters. One of his most recent credits was Riverdale, where he played a school principal who met a nasty end. 

One could argue Dawson himself had the lowest profile after the show. Van Der Beek’s post-Creek credits include mostly TV work, such as One Tree Hill, Don’t Trust the B**** in Apartment 23 (where he played a version of himself), CSI: Cyber, and Pose. He also competed in Dancing With the Stars. 

What happened to Joey and Jen?

On the other hand, Holmes and Williams seemed to have the easiest time moving on from Dawson’s Creek. Holmes scored some early success with movies like Go and The Gift, and she landed a prominent part in Batman Begins. But as the decade progressed, she seemed to make more tabloid headlines for her marriage to and divorce from Tom Cruise than for her work. Her most recent acting credit was last year’s The Secret: Dare to Dream.

Her co-star, Williams, seemed to get off to a slower start than Holmes, but Williams ended up topping everybody. She has been nominated for four Oscars, including acting roles in Brokeback Mountain, Blue Valentine, My Week With Marilyn, and Manchester by the Sea. She also won an Emmy for her turn as Gwen Verdon in the miniseries Fosse/Verdon