Lee Pace ("Pushing Daisies")
I always thought of Pace as your average hopelessly romantic boy-next-door because of his recently cancelled series, but then I started to take notice of his other projects. Most recently, I’ve seen the fantasy drama The Fall, where he showcased an unbelievable amount of range, channeling a manipulative, lovelorn, suicidal storyteller. While he doesn’t have any plans for a televised future, he will have a supernatural horror thriller called Possession in theaters January 23rd, where you’ll get to see him play a dual personality opposite Sarah Michelle Gellar.
Ed Westwick ("Gossip Girl")
Young adults rarely get recognition for their acting prowess in television shows, but Westwick isn’t just impressive because viewers love to hate him. Just when you think he can’t seem more evil or more damaged, he finds a new facial expression even more insanely twisted and depraved than the last. He’s one of those actors who can speak volumes without uttering a sound. While I’d prefer him to concentrate on “Gossip Girl,” he did just wrap up the sequel to the sci-fi drama Donnie Darko, which has been dubbed S. Darko. He’ll star alongside Jackson Rathbone of the Twilight franchise and fellow CWer James Lafferty (“One Tree Hill”).
Christian Slater ("My Own Worst Enemy")
I wasn’t exactly rooting against Slater’s return to Hollywood, but I was open to it. I gave his NBC series a fair shot, and was surprised that the young 80s/90s heartthrob who won over teen audiences with Heathers and Pump up the Volume could actually act. I was always amused by his juvenile antics, but I never thought I could see him as a vengeance-seeking badass or even as a clumsy father-of-two. Even though his series was cancelled, I’m pretty sure his comeback isn’t. I’m confident that producers and directors have taken notice and won’t forget how far he’s come. In March, he’ll team up with Cuba Gooding Jr. for the comedic action thriller Lies & Illusions, and then he’ll get cryptic in Stephen King’s thriller Dolan’s Cadillac.
Jim Parsons (“Big Bang Theory”)
Every comedian has his own shtick, whether it’s cockiness (Ricky Gervais) or deadpan sincerity (Steve Carrell). Parsons’ is the innate ability to go off on long and insightful tangents, while sounding superior, well-informed, and absolute. Every viewer must think that Parsons is a carbon copy of Sheldon, since he’s made it rather difficult to believe that any such character could be faked.
John Noble (“Fringe”): The older generation of actors, like Sally Fields ("Brothers & Sisters") and Ray Wise ("Reaper"), fall to the wayside when it comes to mass worship. But I just can’t help at marvel at the concentrated insanity that Noble manages to express every week in his NBC scifi series. In his 30+ years of acting, I’ve never even noticed him, despite the fact that I’ve seen films (Lord of the Rings: Return of the King and Running Scared) that he’s been in. Next year, he’ll fly under the radar once again in the boxing bio Risen.
Joanna Garcia ("Privileged")
I thought she was pretty funny as the dimwitted blonde on “Reba,” but it wasn’t until she starred in her own CW series that she got to showcase her comedic talent. Women tend to be pigeon-holed into unfunny, romantic roles, like she was in the CBS series “Welcome to the Captain,” but luckily someone had faith in her enough to allow her to carry an entire series on her own. Almost thirty, it’s time she parlays this into a big screen career, in the event her series gets the boot.
Kyra Sedgwick ("The Closer”)
The press loves talking about strong female characters that grab life by the balls, but the reason I love Sedgwick’s performance on her TNT cop series is because of how seamlessly she can go from being a hard ass to a girlie girl to a whiny child to a nagging fiancé in just one hour. She truly shows the different facets of women who are a whole lot more three dimensional than TV allows them to be. In September, she’ll appear in the scifi thriller Game that’ll star a quartet of testosterone: Gerard Butler, Milo Ventimiglia, John Leguizamo, and Michael C. Hall (“Dexter”).
Natalie Morales (“The Middleman”)
There’s still no word on whether her ABC Family summer action series will be renewed, but at least viewers got to witness the resurgence of the adventurous, humorous, and gorgeous heroine that Buffy used to embody. But best of all, Morales’ comedic timing was refreshing for a network that usually pegs their funny females as airheads (i.e. Ashleigh on “Greek”). Up next, you can see her in Glenn Howerton’s (“It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”) made-for-TV comedy Boldly Going Nowhere alongside Tony Hale (“Arrested Development”), and in Josh Schwartz’s (“The O.C.” and “Gossip Girl”) music web series “Rockville, CA” with Michael Cassidy (“Privileged”).