This has been an incredible year for TV, and of course one of the biggest reasons for that are the wealth of exceptional actors in wonderful roles. Sometimes the roles aren’t even that good, but a great actor will make it their own anyway. Chris Cabin and I both came up with a list of 25 actors (removing overlaps and adding back others from our huge lists) that we felt really stood out in this wonderfully crowded TV cycle.
There are lots of leading ladies and leading men in my picks: Claire Foy again does more with a moment of silent hesitation than anyone else could dream to in The Crown; Elisabeth Moss was devastating in The Handmaid’s Tale, and Kyle MacLachlan played three distinct versions of one character for Twin Peaks: The Return. But there are also many who stole the show: Louie Anderson, again, in Baskets; Rufus Sewell in a soulful Victoria role; Paula Malcolmson, who gave her character a beautifully real swan song; Mary Elizabeth Winstead, whose Fargo character would have deserved a spinoff.
2017 also brought us some potent villains, from Jack Farthing as the deliciously dastardly George Warleggen in Poldark to Josh Segarra‘s character Prometheus essentially single-handedly saving Arrow Season 5. Other actors stood out by embodying a role so completely that they changed the course of that character’s fate, like Joe Keery in Stranger Things, or how despite the choppy mess that was The Defenders, Krysten Ritter continues to shine as the most consistent of the heroes. And this is all to say nothing of the deeply emotional and revelatory performances we got from Nicole Kidman in Big Little Lies and Maggie Gyllenhaal in The Deuce.
Below, you’ll find Chris’ summary of his picks, along with our full list of the 50 best actors (unranked). My 25 picks are only a fraction of the amazing performances we saw this year, so add some of your favorites in the comments as well, and lets celebrate the positives of Peak TV with how many great roles there are for so many talented performers. — Allison Keene