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Is Jennifer Aniston about to get her hands dirty in a soap opera?

If the rumours are true, Jennifer Aniston is about to take a bit part in a US soap. Which British stars should do the same? Helen Mirren in Emmerdale? Hugh Grant in Coronation Street?

Movie stars are notoriously faddy. If one of them gets a little dog to carry around in their handbag, they all have to have one. If one starts subscribing to the tenets of a spurious quasi-religion, they all have to. And if one decides to play an elaborate meta-joke on the vagaries of fame by appearing in a daytime soap opera, others will, inevitably, decide that they want in, too.

This is all James Franco’s fault. Since 2009 he’s had an occasional role on General Hospital, playing a murderer called Franco. He explained his motivation for this to the Wall Street Journal in 2009, by talking about performance art and his ability to disrupt everyone’s suspension of disbelief because of how famous he is. And where Franco goes, others will follow. This week alone it was reported that Sarah Michelle Gellar will appear in the final episode of All My Children next month, while Jennifer Aniston is apparently close to signing up for a stint on Days of Our Lives, playing her real-life father’s wedding planner.

Although there’s something slightly patronising about a bunch of millionaire A-listers slumming it in a medium that’s perceived to be below them, it’s an interesting development, nonetheless. It’s just a shame that it’ll never cross over to this side of the pond.

Movie stars who appear in American soaps know they’ll invariably get to play a jet set millionaire called Chad or Crystal with an outlandish storyline about face transplants or long-lost twins or cranial microchip implants, but it’s a completely different story over here. Our soaps are all about poor people in bad clothes glumly acknowledging the tragic fate of their miserable lives. And that means that when a big star takes a role on one of them, as Ian McKellen did when he appeared on Coronation Street in 2005, they’ll have to be swaddled in unflattering clothes and NHS glasses and will be asked to trade banalities with Ken Barlow for days at a time.

But even that shouldn’t put anybody off. British soap operas are crying out for some A-list action, and it’s a shame that none of our homegrown talent has taken the bait yet. I’m specifically thinking about EastEnders signing Jason Statham to play a mysterious third Mitchell Brother who spends three or four episodes blowing up Turpin Road and headbutting Ian Beale at every opportunity. But the possibilities are endless.

For the last few years, for instance, Emmerdale has always had a flinty-eyed older sexpot character, be it played by Patsy Kensit or Linda Lusardi or Corrinne Wicks. Surely it wouldn’t be impossible to imagine Helen Mirren taking up this mantle for a short time to helicopter in, obliterate a couple of marriages, cackle into her hands and then helicopter out again. And since Michelle Collins has opened up a brand new world of southern actors doing terrible northern accents on Coronation Street, maybe someone as well spoken as Hugh Grant could also zoom up to Manchester and mangle his vowels for the delight of the world, too. And, obviously, Sean Connery needs to appear on Hollyoaks at the earliest possible convenience.

Which other British movie stars should bite the bullet and appear on a soap? Or perhaps you’re against the idea completely, and believe it to be an affront to all you stand for that the female lead of Just Go With It could ever stoop to appearing in a soap opera? Either way, leave your thoughts below. © Guardian News & Media Limited 2011 | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds