Why Hollywood Won't Cast Jenna Elfman Anymore

In 1999, Jenna Elfman won a Golden Globe for playing Dharma Freedom Finkelstein Montgomery, the upbeat yoga instructor on ABC's sitcom Dharma and Greg. The show was nominated for six Emmys, ran for five seasons, and outpaced everybody's expectations. Unfortunately, the same can't be said for Elfman's post-show career, but maybe there's still hope: millions of viewers loved her as Dharma, and many—us included—miss her and would love to see her back on our screens. Here's why she's been forgotten by Hollywood, and how she might make her ways back.

She's focused on her faith

Jenna Elfman was introduced to Scientology by her husband Bodhi in the mid-'90s, and she's been heavily involved ever since. Dedication to Scientology is a full-time job in itself, and the aspirations of its parishioners are expansive. In the past, members have spoken about its goals, most publicly in this leaked internal video of Tom Cruise. Elfman mirrored Cruise's sentiments in a 2015 tweet, saying, ""What is important to me? I give a damn about making the world a better place. I'm interested in seeing other people do well. And spreading kindness, warmth and sincerity." Elfman's roughly 20-year affiliation with Scientology implies a dedication that understandably has shifted her focus away from personal or professional success and toward furthering very different set of goals.

She's a podcast host

In 2012, Elfman teamed up with her husband to create a podcast about their marriage, called Kicking and Screaming by Jenna and Bodhi Elfman. What began as a playful digital discourse exploring the topic of marriage and annoyance has blossomed into a hit show for the duo that's moved into its fifth year on air. Elfman hasn't exactly been off-screen since the podcast started, having starred in two sitcoms and made several cameos on various television shows, but Kicking and Screaming does require a considerable amount of time and creative energy to keep going. And it could explain, in part, why Elfman's acting output over the past five years has mellowed.

She's focused on her home life

Jenna and Bodhi have been married for more than 26 years, and as their podcast attests, it's taken quite a bit of effort on both of their parts to make the union last harmoniously. During an interview with ET last year, Elfman cited humor as the catalyst for a healthy marriage. But one thing is clear: between Scientology, acting, their podcast, and just day-to-day life, the Elfmans spend a tremendous amount of time together, often collaborating. They have two sons as well. That kind of closeness can be a moving target for some couples, and the time spent to make it work is time spent away from the camera.

She's pursued stage work

Hollywood never forgets. Elfman, who in 2002 faced the monumental challenge of reinventing herself as an actress, had a fraught post-Dharma decade. Right out of the gate, she was involved in a public incident that may have contributed to her somewhat stunted comeback: soon after Dharma and Greg ended, she was cast as the lead in Roundabout Theater Co.'s 2003 Broadway musical, Nine; however, on opening night, it was Elfman's understudy, Sara Gettelfinger, who took the stage instead. According to insiders, Elfman showed a lack of confidence and theatrical flair. Eventually, she vacated the role entirely.

She's been good luck for other actors

Elfman has picked the wrong project as often as any professional actor, but even when her work has been quite good, it's usually her male co-stars who move on to bigger and better things. For example, Elfman's Dharma and Greg costar, Thomas Gibson, enjoyed an 11-year run on CBS's stable procedural Criminal Minds. That kind of job security for an actor is rare—and it's been earned by Elfman, who was arguably the more charismatic character on their show. Matthew McConaughey played alongside Elfman in Ron Howard's 1999 comedy EDtv, and we all know how that ended up for him. Even more recently, actor J.K. Simmons was on the short-lived 2013 sitcom Growing Up Fisher with the actress, and a year later he'd won an Academy Award for Best Supporting Actor for Whiplash.

She's had several shows canceled

Television networks continue to try Elfman out in new sitcoms, though for various reasons they never make it past a single season. Before Growing Up Fisher, which itself only lasted 13 episodes, Elfman had been prominently cast in three other television series, all which suffered early cancellation. Whether she was on Courting Alex, Accidentally on Purpose, or 1600 Penn, audiences didn't show up. With the money and energy that goes into the development of television shows these days, continuing to cast Elfman as a comedic lead starts to look like a bad investment at a certain point.

Prestige TV limits her opportunities

Prestige television (shows like Game of Thrones or Stranger Things or True Detective) has become increasingly popular, and in turn has shifted the focus of television studios away from 30-minute network comedies. Through big budgets, great acting, dark storylines, and the rise of streamable content, the sitcom is being swallowed up by binge-watchable dark dramas. There are exceptions, of course—The Big Bang Theory has been humming along for 10 seasons—but the opportunity for a comedic television actress like Jenna Elfman to get in on the ground floor of a hit network sitcom seems to be dwindling. All is not lost, however: as Netflix hits like Fuller House and One Day at a Time have proven, viewers enjoy binging comedies as much as they do gritty dramas.

She's still dedicated to dance

One less publicized element of Elfman's life is the importance of dance. During an interview on the set of So You Think You Can Dance, where she was a guest judge, Elfman discussed her background, saying, "I started ballet as a five-year-old girl. I trained six days a week, four hours a day, for about 16 years and got a full scholarship to Pacific Northwest Ballet." Today, she spends time away from sets to invigorate her passion for dance. For instance, Elfman is on the board of trustees of the Dizzy Feet Foundation, whose mission is "to improve and increase access to dance education in the United States."

She has another show on the way

Even after being involved with multiple cancellations, Elfman's still a name brand with fans and decades of Hollywood equity—which is why in May of last year, it was announced that ABC would be picking up yet another Elfman vehicle, Imaginary Mary, set to premiere in March of 2017. The plot is as old as time: A CGI entity (voiced by Rachel Dratch) returns from a long hiatus to guide and/or disrupt the average life of a public relations executive (played by Elfman). We'll have to wait and see whether the show succeeds, but by September of 2016, it had already been cut down from 13 episodes to 9—which doesn't look like a good sign.

She can still make a comeback...if she wants to

It's difficult to imagine Dharma and Greg finding the same success as a new show today. The entertainment landscape has significantly changed, and most would argue for the better. It might benefit Elfman to get out from playing the same kinds of characters that she's played in multiple shows, but it's possible she isn't especially eager to "come back" to the spotlight—and with a successful podcast, marriage, family, and spiritual life, who can blame her?