In the last 12 months, there have been some fantastic performances in the land of television which saw these ten characters take the heights of popularity on the small screen. Whether it is a TV superhero, a former crook, a crooked lawyer or even a cartoon character, there is something for everyone here. Before going through this list, I want to add that barely missing this list was BoJack Horseman (Will Arnett), Carol Peletier (Melissa McBride) in The Walking Dead and Joe Potter (Rafe Spall) in Black Mirror: White Christmas.
Taraji P. Henson – Cookie Lyon (Empire)
This character has become a phenomenon worldwide since Empire debuted early in 2015, giving Taraji P. Henson her best part in her career. With Cookie Lyon coming out of prison in the pilot after 17 years, she returns to the company she begun with her ex-husband Lucious and demands her share of the record company she help put together when Lucious was a struggling artist. With this hip-hop show producing some very catchy music and outstanding performances, it is all about the sassy Cookie as she makes you laugh with her attitude and cry with her heart. With Empire coming back for season two, I wonder where she will go next after trying to kill her ex-husband.
Vincent D’Onofrio – Wilson Fisk AKA Kingpin (Daredevil)
Daredevil normally comes as a package with Kingpin, and the 2015 Netflix series was no exception. Casting the fantastic Vincent D’Onofrio, he makes Wilson Fisk a complex and fascinating villain who compares to other Marvel Cinematic Universe antagonists such as Ultron and Loki for the sheer effortless portrayal and bringing something more unique to a series where so many villains are too one-dimensional. D’Onofrio has rightfully been earning praise and award nominations for his character, all of which he deserves and more. With season two of Daredevil due for 2016, let’s hope that The Punisher isn’t the only guy going for The Devil of Hell’s Kitchen!
Peter Capaldi – The Doctor (Doctor Who)
When you take on the role of The Doctor, you have to be prepared for a lashing from the fans. Peter Capaldi brings an older perspective of the Time Lord to the 21st century and it is brilliant. Starting the first of his regeneration cycle, The Doctor begins as a confused man and eventually becomes the tough and grouchy Doctor that we had waited for. After a Doctor that was full of life and regret, he is given the chance to enjoy his old age and show a new edge. His interactions with returning companion Clara are gripping and at times hilarious. Peter Capaldi gets his second series this autumn, and I can’t wait to see him fight the evil aliens once again.
Gemma Chan – Mia/Anita (Humans)
Portraying a character that isn’t human is not easy; portraying something that isn’t actually alive is even more difficult. But, it should be said that Gemma Chan has given a breath-taking performance as synthetic Anita. She doesn’t twitch, her focus is immense and you are honestly convinced that she is not human. You wouldn’t want to be left alone with her, as you feel you couldn’t trust her intelligence. How many times have we seen androids on screen? Movies like A.I. and characters such as Michael Fassbender’s David in Prometheus couldn’t even topple this subline performance. Give this woman the BAFTA!
Grant Gustin – Barry Allen/The Flash (The Flash)
In an age where many popular heroes have been those who rely on skill and money to be at the top of their game, but you can’t keep a character that can run fast enough to travel through time out of this list. Debuting as non-powered Barry Allen in Arrow in 2013, it was then in 2014 when we finally saw Mr Allen become the superhero he was destined to be. Determined to free his father from his fate in prison and later looking to rescue his mother from her death. Barry brings heart to all the superpowered mayhem in Central City and shows he is a hero who will do anything he can to save the day, while choosing different methods to his mentor Oliver Queen. Grant Gustin went from Glee to Flash with little problem, and definitely the coolest superhero on TV today.
Robin Lord Taylor – Oswald Cobblepot/The Penguin (Gotham)
Before Gotham began, I would have barely put Penguin into my top ten list of Batman villains. But, the sheer performance and look of Robin Lord Taylor as gangster Oswald Cobblepot made me re-evaluate said list after just one episode. He is portrayed as creepy, smart, lethal and unpredictable. Showing himself as manipulating both of the main gangs of Gotham, Oswald is eventually shown as becoming one of the big players in the city after defeating Falcone and seeing the end of Fish Mooney. The main reason I can’t wait for Gotham is for this character, to see how we will next use Jim Gordon and watch him pace the city with his crippled walk.
Uzo Aduba – Suzanne “Crazy Eyes” Warren (Orange Is The New Black)
As a starring character on the Netflix original show, Suzanne – accurately nicknamed Crazy Eyes – comes across as eccentric and easy to obsess, as she does with main protagonist Piper Chapman, but her character develops as the show continues. Mainly seen with other inmates such as Poussey and Taystee, she is controlled by her friends when having a behavioural episode and protected when people try to take advantage of her because of her natural naïveté. Despite her differing due to her mental illness, she can show that she is still as humane as all others. Even if she does write erotica about alien orgies.
Estelle – Garnet (Steven Universe)
No one would decide that a character from a kids’ cartoon could have such an impact but Steven Universe isn’t a normal cartoon. Based around beings formed around gemstones saving the world from evil, one stands out among the others: Garnet. As a fusion formed from two loving gems, Garnet pushes the boundaries that those working on kids’ shows are afraid to. Especially if you split Garnet to get the gems that form her, Ruby and Sapphire, and see that the feminine characters are in love, making them Cartoon Network’s first canonical same-sex relationship – even if they are really gemstones. It’s a big step to take in the world of children’s entertainment. Well done, Garnet.
Bob Odenkirk – Jimmy McGill/Saul Goodman (Better Call Saul)
Being seen as the source of comic relief during the run of Breaking Bad, Bob Odenkirk was really given an opportunity to expand on his popular character and show that there was more to the lawyer than a number of quirks, funny henchmen and a terrible comb-over. Showing his caring side for his sick brother Chuck, his loving side for his close friend Kim and also showing the days before he was a lawyer (back when he was just a criminal). With Jimmy slowly becoming the shady lawyer which we knew from the parent series, this spin-off will soon see a more familiar Saul Goodman spread his wings very soon.
Hayley Atwell – Peggy Carter (Marvel’s Agent Carter)
2011’s Captain America: The First Avenger saw the debut of not only Chris Evans as the heroic Captain America, but we were also introduced to the charming Agent Peggy Carter, a British Agent working for the Strategic Scientific Reserve (the early version of S.H.I.E.L.D.) during World War II. What we didn’t know, was that this would soon lead to the fantastic mini-series starring Hayley Atwell once again. We see her become a hero in her own right as she looks to help her old friend Howard Stark in 1946 and save the world. She takes on the evil forces of Leviathan while looking very stylish and kicking arse with some great looking outfits and crafty gadgets.
Written by Jonjo Cosgrove with contributions from Joanna Cosgrove (Uzo Aduba and Estelle)