It’s officially Emmy season with this years nominations being announced this Thursday and then, shock, dismay and maybe some excitement to follow. Not one to go against the grain all too much I’m expecting a lot of unsurprising inclusions (so hello Game of Thrones, Modern Family and Orange is the New Black) but, hopefully, there will be a few names scattered in there that will sneak in despite a lack of wide spread popularity. In the meantime though, here are ten actors and actresses that would make my ballot and hopefully some of the actual voters ballots too. Some are more likely then others (paging one Mr. Poe Dameron) and others not so much (my poor, sweet You’re the Worst) but all have given some of the more terrific and nuanced performances of the last year and all deserve to be recognized as such.
Who would make your ballot?
As Jessica on the increasingly great Fresh off the Boat Constance Wu is something of a genuine breakout. Broad without every playing a caricature and consistently adding subtleties to her line deliveries, Wu can make every piece of dialogue of hers sing. She’s a talent that while great on the show she’s currently on (and in no way a knock against said show-it’s superb) we can’t help but be curious to see what she’ll be able to do next. Luckily for us, it would seem that Wu could be poised to be a breakout in Hollywood soon and with her deadpan delivery, icy cold stare and subdued physical humor, we all couldn’t be luckier.
While season two was considered by and large an even greater success than it’s predecessor, the one aspect where it faulted was failing to create a character we as the audience could latch onto as easily as we connected to Molly. Woodbine wasn’t so much a direct answer to this need but instead the complete antithesis. Detached in his own apathy, cool under pressure and distinct in his mannerisms and body language, Woodbine’s Mike Milligan was the best, most surprising performance of season two and delivered one of the most intriguing villains of the last television year.
Is there any other performer currently on television quite like Rachel Bloom as Rebecca. Neurotic, enthusiastic and chalk full of show tunes, Rebecca would have been nothing more than an aggravating stereotype had it not been for Blooms empathetic performance. Whether she’s singing about having heavy boobs, lost love or self-loathing, she’s always a magnetic presence with offbeat humor and sad eyes.
Gina Rodriguez continues to impress and with Deepwater Horizon and Annihilation all coming up in the foreseeable future for this actress, her career seems primed for blossoming, but her costar, Jamie Camil, has also been doing some wonderful work on Jane the Virgin. Charismatic, dopey, earnest and self-centered, his performance, like Bloom’s, easily could have strayed into the cartoonish territory, but his good nature keeps him in check from running amok. He provides the biggest laughs on the show but also a lot of heart, as his character continues to develop from simply a narcissistic telenovela star to a worried and caring father.
I could have easily left Chris Geere in this place too as he and Aya Cash continue to wow as Jimmy and Gretchen, two of the most unlikable characters on television that we all just so happen to love. However, season two was Gretchen’s story as her depression ate away at her and her and Jimmy’s relationship. She’s so good that we realize, episodes in, that her spiral was being telegraphed from episodes earlier and by the time she lays into her friends after the booze has dried up and she has no more distractions, that it’s heartbreaking to watch. She’s funny, sure, but what made You’re the Worst so good in it’s second season was it’s honest depiction of clinical depression and much of that is due to Cash’s raw and captivating performance of a woman both not wanting help, but also crucially, not knowing how to ask.
I’ve gone on the record about how I truly believe Oscar Isaac’s performance as Nick Wasicsko was the very best of 2015, across both television and film landscapes. Cocky and insecure, on top of the world one moment and cripplingly lonely the next while portraying a youthful exuberance and sense of tragedy, Isaac’s performance was a play on duality, conveying his hearts longing and aching in a single scene. Portraying the slow descent of a broken spirit with first gusto than fragility, Isaac’s run in the six episode mini series is proof that he’s one of the very best actors this generation has to offer.
Shiri Appleby was an under the radar actress up until her turn on Lifetime’s UnReal and as Rachel she soars, creating one of the most complex female characters to grace our screens. Monumentally emotionally compromised and capable of pulling off truly nefarious acts of callousness, loosing any empathy if it means improving ratings, it would be easy to dismiss her as a villain lite role. Instead, unlike Quinn (Constance Zimmer-also great) there’s something worth rooting for in Rachel and that’s all conveyed through Appleby’s expressive eyes. Through them she conveys small moments of hope and joy and through it we find a character worth celebrating.
Don’t make me choose! Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan are superb in the little seen Catastrophe about two adults who meet, hook up, have a child and the rest is history. Season two brought the two down darker, almost tough to watch paths as they both resorted to old vices in order to escape some of the mundanity of their everyday life and both performers nailed it. Tangible and wickedly charming, they give two of the most lived in performances on TV.
Any other year if I’d had to choose it would be Abbi Jacobson’s name on my list as I find she’s the underrated performer of the pair (and she’s hilarious) but Ilana Glazer stole this season. From her impersonation of Abbi, her thrill at the idea of having a threesome with Lincoln and his new girlfriend to her genuine heartache at him leaving her and cutting off their friendship, season three gave the actress more room to grow as a character and performer and she excelled.
Can I just come out with it and say that I believe Bill Hader to be one of the most interesting actors working today and I’m just waiting to see what he does as a leading man? Proof of this can be seen from his character work in comedy films, his days back in SNL as an impersonation wizard to recent supporting but memorable turns in films such as Maggie’s Plan but it might just be Documentary Now! that truly captured what makes him such a fascinating actor. Taking what could have been strictly broad satire and embodying characters with a sense of personality and subtleties allowed for the series to leave a much more heady mark on the comedy platform. Hader was terrific not just because he’s good at mimicry but because he’s particular about the details, so much so that we find ourselves engaged in characters that in any other hands wouldn’t be more than sketch fodder.