Katie Holmes' Career Comeback: Experts Weigh In

'All people wanted to know about was her relationship with Cruise,' film critic Scott Mantz says of Holmes' career since meeting Cruise.

Now that the dust has begun to settle after the news broke last week of Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes' surprising split, we can turn our attention away from the "how" and "why" questions and instead focus on "What's next?" for both parties. Speaking of Holmes' future, the actress/mom has already gone back to work, so it's time to start thinking about her next steps in reintroducing herself to Hollywood, since so much of her identity during her five-year marriage to Cruise was all about her husband.

"At the time that she landed what was at the time the biggest film role of her career, in 'Batman Begins,' that's when she started her [relationship with] Tom Cruise," "Access Hollywood" film critic Scott Mantz reminded us of Holmes. "When she was promoting that movie, at least from the standpoint of entertainment shows and the gossip sites, all people wanted to know about was her relationship with Cruise. So right when she's at the cusp of her movie stardom, the focus is on something else for all the wrong reasons," he said. "It has not been about her career."

"Katie Holmes can now take her career off of pause," said Boxoffice.com editor Phil Contrino. "All she has to do is make sure that she picks interesting projects with talented directors behind them. She doesn't need to do roles for paychecks, considering that she'll be well taken care of after the divorce. She should take risks and go outside her comfort zone."

Jen Yamato, West Coast editor of Movieline, agreed that Holmes should go the risk-taker route.

"Holmes should take this opportunity to come back with a vengeance, taking on the type of ballsy roles she avoided during her marriage to Cruise," she said. "I'd like to see her work with a director like Lars von Trier — he's a provocateur, but one who works outside the safety zone of the mainstream and pushes actresses to their limits, getting career-defining performances in the process.

"Should Holmes listen to public opinion to inform where she goes next? Yes and no. She should take into account that for the most part, the public has her back," Yamato continued. "Fans want to see her break out of her cocoon in the wake of her divorce; they're rooting for her. She only needs to choose her projects wisely and fearlessly — I'd rather see her in the next 'Melancholia' than another 'Jack & Jill.' "

Mantz added that no matter what roles she chooses initially, the public will be interested in seeing what she will do in her work, as will movie studios.

"These last few days, she made a clean break in many ways," Mantz said of Holmes' new beginning. "She let go of her husband, she let go of her bodyguards, she let go of her publicist. She is cleaning house. Obviously and rightfully so, her focus should be on her daughter, but what should she do about her career? She's going to be in demand," he said. "Just having her name on a film is going to get interest in that movie. With Katie Holmes, does she go back and do indies to build her acting credibility back? Or does she take on these big movies? The answer is, she should try to do both.

"She has a completely different look and a completely different acting style," Mantz continued. "She still has a girl-next-door quality look to her and I feel that that will take her far in getting roles."