Thomas McDonell To Star As Young Johnny Depp In ‘Dark Shadows': 5 Ways To Keep That Star Rising

The term “The Next…” gets thrown around a lot in Hollywood, particularly when it comes to Johnny Depp. From Orlando Bloom to Robert Pattinson, the industry has long been hoping they’ve found this generation’s Depp (though we think the original is still pretty damn great.)

So when reported that actor Thomas McDonell was cast as a young Depp in Tim Burton’sDark Shadows,” it was inevitable that comparisons would be drawn. After all, he’s a hot up-and-comer with Disney’s “Prom” on the way, and he just so happens to look exactly like a young Johnny Depp.

But will McDonell, who plays the early version of Barnabas Collins in the film, be able to hold the momentum? After the jump check out five ways McDonell can, in fact, become the next Johnny Depp.

Hold Off On “The Hunger Games”
Sure, it sounds like downright career suicide to pass up on one of the most eagerly anticipated film adaptations of 2012, but hear us out. McDonell, like almost every other actor under the age of 25 in Hollywood, has had his name thrown into “The Hunger Games” casting ring for the coveted role of Gale. In fact, McDonell has already read the script! So why even think about saying no?

While playing Katniss’ best friend and first real love would no doubt propel him to super stardom, you’ll recall that Depp didn’t start doing major franchise flicks until the first installment of “Pirates of the Caribbean” in 2003. Not only did Depp’s now-iconic Captain Jack Sparrow help the “Pirates” movies see huge box office returns, but it further solidified his place as one of the biggest stars in the world (not to mention it garnered him his first Oscar nod).

But would he be the star that is he today if he’d taken on a role like this twenty years earlier? It could be in McDonell’s best interest to pursue a slow burn, too, which brings us to…

Get Indie, Go Big
While we’re certainly not suggesting that McDonell turn down every big role/film that comes his way, there’s something to be said about appearing in indies to become a bankable and respected star. Just take a look at Ryan Gosling, one actor who is possibly closest to being the next Johnny Depp. He’s managed to flawlessly combine being a heartthrob (thanks to “The Notebook”) and an Oscar-nominated actor because of his work in daring films like “Half Nelson,” “Lars and the Real Girl” and “Blue Valentine.”

McDonell will no doubt pay his dues with a “Remember the Titans” here and there, but if he sets his sights on quality indies (as well as the ability to keep people guessing), he’ll build the cred that comes hand in hand with longevity.

Stick With Burton
It sounds like obvious advice, but imagine what Depp’s career without Tim Burton would be like. No “Edward Scissorhands,” no “Ed Wood,” no “Sweeney Todd.” No, we can’t imagine it either.

The visionary director clearly sees a Depp quality in McDonell that goes beyond the physical to put him in “Dark Shadows.” If McDonell wows Burton, the roles that Depp is “too old” for could very well go to him from here on out. While directors tend to have a loyalty to certain actors (i.e. Burton with Depp, Scorcese with DiCaprio), it doesn’t mean they won’t keep an eye out for a new crop of talent or call on them again.

Don’t Be Afraid Of TV, Though
When it comes to a blossoming movie career, it’s easy to brush off television. But then again, Depp got his start on TV. While McDonell, who appeared in an episode of “Law & Order: Criminal Intent” in 2010, may want to lay off on teen-driven programming, nabbing a part on, say, an HBO, Showtime, or AMC series could be just the ticket. Not only could he quickly become awards season bait, but doing a respected show for three to five seasons could build up a devoted fan base (case in point: Jon Hamm, just like Johnny Depp, we’ll follow you wherever you will go.)

Don’t Become Tabloid Fodder
Nothing kills a promising career quite like becoming more famous for who you date or which club you caused the biggest stir at. And while it’s nearly impossible these days not to be snapped by the paps, McDonell should attempt to aim for friendly and accessible to the press, all while maintaining his distance and his dignity. Sure, it’s easier said than done, but if Depp and Matt Damon and Brad Pitt can do it, McDonell can sure try.

Do you think Thomas McDonell has the potential to be the next Johnny Depp? Are you excited about his upcoming turn in “Dark Shadows”? Tell us what you think in the comments section and on Twitter!