The 2023 Screen Actors Guild Awards ceremony will take place on Feb. 26—and with the nominees announced Jan. 11, that means the time for voters to decide who gave the most most compelling big- and small-screen performances of 2022 is almost here. Voted on by the members of SAG-AFTRA, the SAG Awards not only honor the year’s best performances in film and television—they also often offer a glimpse into the future. The ceremony is a reliable predictor for the Academy Awards, particularly when it comes to SAG’s four major acting honors. (In this case, SAG’s best ensemble category aligns with the Academy Awards’ best picture category). In the past 28 years, 83 of the 112 names and films to win Oscars for best picture, lead actor and actress, and supporting actor and actress first took home a SAG Award. In 2022, it was a perfect four-for-four match.
For film, the SAG Awards recognize lead, supporting, ensemble, and stunt ensemble performances; for TV, they recognize lead, supporting, and ensemble performances on comedy and drama series; lead performances on limited series; and stunt ensemble performances. Here’s the full list of nominees for the 29th annual honors.
- Male Actor in a Leading Role
- Female Actor in a Leading Role
- Male Actor in a Supporting Role
- Female Actor in a Supporting Role
- Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture
- Male Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series
- Female Actor in a Television Movie or Limited Series
- Male Actor in a Drama Series
- Female Actor in a Drama Series
- Male Actor in a Comedy Series
- Female Actor in a Comedy Series
- Performance by an Ensemble in a Drama Series
- Performance by an Ensemble in a Comedy Series
Austin Butler, “Elvis”
There are few acting tasks more daunting than playing Elvis Presley, one of the most recognizable entertainers in history; but Butler rises to the occasion. Though he does indeed nail the moves and the voice, his work goes beyond imitation. Filmmaker Baz Luhrmann makes the extent of his star’s immersion in the character evident by showing side-by-side footage of Butler and the real Presley. The young actor has established himself as a leading man worth celebrating.
Colin Farrell, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Farrell does some of his best work to date in this bleak 1920s Irish comedy—his third outing with writer-director Martin McDonagh. The actor tempers his trademark wiliness to play Pádraic Súilleabháin, a kind but unintelligent man who spirals when his best pal (Brendan Gleeson) decides he doesn’t want to hang out with him anymore. Over the course of the film, Farrell’s sunny disposition slowly erodes as his character grapples with disappointment and embraces bitterness.
Brendan Fraser, “The Whale”
Fraser spent four hours a day in makeup and wore 300 pounds of prosthetics to portray Charlie, a professor who’s binge-eating himself into an early grave in the wake of his lover’s suicide. It’s an extraordinary physical transformation, but that’s not what makes the actor’s performance in Darren Aronofsky’s drama so remarkable: We only need to look into Fraser’s eyes to see how haunted, vulnerable, and pained Charlie is. “The Whale” marks the actor’s first leading role in a major film in 12 years, and it’s a world away from his early star turns in “The Mummy” and “George of the Jungle.” This is what they call a comeback.
Bill Nighy, “Living”
It’s risky to take on the lead role in an adaptation of a cinematic masterpiece, but it pays off in spades for Nighy. In Oliver Hermanus’ remake of Akira Kurosawa’s “Ikiru,” the BAFTA winner plays Williams, a British civil servant who rethinks his life after receiving a terminal cancer diagnosis. What could have been a performance drenched in sadness becomes much more in Nighy’s hands, as his halfhearted grins crescendo into expressions of pure joy. The actor conveys the bittersweet heartbreak of looking back on a full life—and ultimately, of coming to an understanding of what it means to live well.
Adam Sandler, “Hustle”
You can always count on Sandler to deliver a naturalistic performance in a dramatic role, to the point where you may even forget he’s acting. This holds true for Jeremiah Zagar’s “Hustle,” in which he plays Stanley Sugerman, a weary NBA scout who discovers a promising recruit in Spanish basketballer Bo Cruz (Juancho Hernangomez). Sandler brings subtle comic timing to his emotional beats as he bonds with Bo and his family. It doesn’t take long to get attached to his everyman character—one you’re rooting to see get a win.
Cate Blanchett, “Tár”
Blanchett has more talent in her left pinky than many films even know what to do with, but “Tár” is no such project. As renowned classical conductor and composer Lydia Tár, the Oscar winner is at the height of her powers in a role that demands precise physicality and an even more varied emotional palette. That filmmaker Todd Fields wrote the role specifically for Blanchett allows her to play Lydia with abandon. She taught herself German, performs her own piano scenes, and dives headlong into a character study of toxic whims and their consequences. It’s a masterpiece.
Viola Davis, “The Woman King”
If there’s one thing this Emmy and Oscar winner will always do, it’s fully commit to a role—and her turn in Gina Prince-Bythewood’s historical epic is no exception. To play Nanisca, the leader of an all-female army defending the West African kingdom of Dahomey, Davis bulked up to make her deadly ferocity on the battlefield convincing. But she really fleshes out her character when she takes off Nanisca’s confident mask to reveal the fear, loyalty, and vulnerability that makes her a leader worth following into battle.
Ana de Armas, “Blonde”
There’s a devastating moment toward the end of “Blonde” in which de Armas’ Norma Jeane Mortenson, completely broken by Hollywood, begs her iconic alter ego to rescue her. When Marilyn Monroe does arrive, the actor’s transformation is instantaneous: shoulders straight, tears dry, winking at her reflection in the mirror. It’s a remarkable piece of acting that encapsulates the theme of Andrew Dominik’s film, with de Armas’ fully committed performance at its center. The star carries the burdens of both Marilyn and Norma Jeane, and you can see the weight of that work every second she’s onscreen.
Danielle Deadwyler, “Till”
Deadwyler strikes the perfect equilibrium as Mamie Till-Mobley, the mother of the murdered Emmett Till, in Chinonye Chukwu’s biopic. She’s stoic and perceptive, never relying on histrionics or obvious choices to convey her character’s pain and resilience. Chukwu harnesses the power of the close-up, lingering on the actor’s face as she processes and then publicizes her son’s horrific lynching. Deadwyler delivers a performance that sticks in the audience’s memory as firmly as Till-Mobley’s legacy endures in people’s minds.
Michelle Yeoh, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Few screen legends have had careers as diverse as Yeoh’s. That’s why it’s remarkable that one role could serve as a callback to nearly every movie on her résumé, spanning martial-arts action, comedy, and poignant drama. As Evelyn Wang, a disenchanted laundromat owner thrust into an interdimensional adventure, Yeoh effortlessly carries a complex, ambitious story without losing sight of the core emotional stakes. Hitting comedic beats one moment and fighting off hordes of enemies the next, Yeoh gives dramatic weight to Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s sprawling film—which is, at its heart, the story of a mother struggling to connect with her daughter.
Paul Dano, “The Fabelmans”
The chameleonic Dano disappears into every role, whether he’s playing an angsty teen in “Little Miss Sunshine” or more sinister characters in “Prisoners” and “The Batman.” As Burt Fabelman in Steven Spielberg’s latest, he’s the picture of proud, loving, paternal stability. Though he struggles to accept his son Sammy’s (Gabriel LaBelle) desire to become a filmmaker, Burt follows his own passion for electrical engineering; his devotion to the craft eventually allows him to extend the same license to his son. The Emmy nominee embodies decency and strength in his portrayal of a father holding onto his dignity in the face of adversity.
Brendan Gleeson, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Gleeson’s Colm Doherty gives Pádraic Súilleabháin (Colin Farrell) an ultimatum: If his ex-friend doesn’t stop bothering him, Colm will cut his own fingers off with a pair of shears, one by one. The magic of the actor’s performance is that even in Martin McDonagh’s violent, heightened world, you believe him. While Farrell is the film’s focal point, what Gleeson does is equally engaging. The Emmy winner tempers the irrationality of Colm’s actions with a creeping sense of desperation.
Barry Keoghan, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
For a canny performer, the village idiot can be even juicier to play than a leading role. In McDonagh’s period tragicomedy, Keoghan makes a feast of the archetype as Dominic Kearney, a man who’s unabashedly blunt, needy, and cheerful to the point of derangement. Keoghan makes his character’s abusive home life seem like a dark joke right up until he no longer can, in a heartbreaking scene that forces Dominic to face his disappointment and dashed hopes. Once the concept of “nice” gets pushed beyond its limits, Keoghan is the picture of devastation.
Ke Huy Quan, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
As “nice guy” Waymond Wang in Dan Kwan and Daniel Scheinert’s film, Quan defies audience expectations while never losing sight of the story’s core emotional truth. His likable goofiness gives way to profound sadness over the failure of his marriage with Michelle Yeoh’s Evelyn. It’s a thrill to watch Quan transform over the course of the film, playing versions of Waymond ranging from a hapless husband to a martial-arts action hero to a suave leading man. But across the multiverse, a common thread of confidence and deference connects Waymond’s many personas—proof that, as an actor, Quan contains multitudes.
Eddie Redmayne, “The Good Nurse”
As real-life serial killer Charlie Cullen, Redmayne offers a grounded, intimate depiction of the banality of evil in Tobias Lindholm’s true crime thriller. The actor’s boyish charm and disarming friendliness make it difficult to believe Charlie could be capable of the monstrous acts he commits, even as the evidence piles up against him. When his fellow nurse (Jessica Chastain) eventually confronts him, Redmayne channels the defensiveness of a cornered animal, hinting at the violence and instability lurking beneath his tranquil facade. By never going too broad, the Oscar winner creates a psychopath who’s all the more disturbing for being essentially unknowable.
Angela Bassett, “Black Panther: Wakanda Forever”
Bassett’s Queen Ramonda exudes the kind of dignity and strength that only this Oscar and Emmy nominee can convey. Bassett carries the emotional weight of Ryan Coogler’s Marvel epic the same way Ramonda bears the loss of her son, T’Challa (the late Chadwick Boseman), as well as the burden of leading an entire country in mourning. It’s beautiful and heartbreaking to watch; Bassett commands our attention even in the middle of blockbuster CGI mayhem. All hail the queen.
Hong Chau, “The Whale”
Considering that her breakthrough (in the sci-fi comedy “Downsizing” opposite Matt Damon and Kristen Wiig) happened only five years ago, Chau is already well ahead of the game. The actor delivers a seasoned, accomplished performance in Darren Aronofsky’s “The Whale” as Liz, the nurse and best friend of Charlie (Brendan Fraser). There isn’t a lot of space to shine between incredible turns from Fraser and Sadie Sink, who plays his daughter, Ellie; but Chau’s portrayal of a damaged woman quietly shouldering the weight of the world carries its own significance.
Kerry Condon, “The Banshees of Inisherin”
Condon has a long history of working with Martin McDonagh, having appeared in stage productions of “The Lieutenant of Inishmore” and “The Cripple of Inishmaan.” Now, she’s taking on her biggest film role to date in the writer-director’s “The Banshees of Inisherin.” As her clueless brother Pádraic (Colin Farrell) tries to work out why his best friend (Brendan Gleeson) no longer wants to hang out with him, Condon’s Siobhan does her best to protect him from harm. She brings a wry exasperation to the part, capturing the nuances of an intelligent woman stuck in a world that’s far too small for her. It’s a performance that sneaks up on you with its surprising sadness.
Jamie Lee Curtis, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
Curtis clearly relishes playing IRS auditor Deirdre Beaubeirdre, transforming herself physically to portray a villain who’s as grating as she is three-dimensional. Her eventual shift toward empathy paints a picture of a complex personality confined to a stifling government job, lashing out when all she craves is connection. The actor chews scenery without ever going too broad; but Curtis is also no stranger to comedy—and her deadpan emotional honesty in a scene in which her fingers are made of hot dogs is both hilarious and affecting.
Stephanie Hsu, “Everything Everywhere All at Once”
In her big-screen breakout, Hsu effortlessly holds her own against her legendary costars, turning in a pair of performances that contrast like night and day. The actor is relatable as Joy Wang, a second-generation immigrant struggling to connect with her mother, Evelyn (Michelle Yeoh), and come out to her conservative grandfather (James Hong). Then she transforms completely as Evelyn’s unhinged, universe-hopping nemesis Jobu Tupaki. Hsu’s physicality, delivery, and energy differ so vastly in each role that it’s hard to believe they’re played by the same performer.
Steve Carell, “The Patient”
On paper, many of Carell’s lines as therapist Dr. Alan Strauss read as unbearably hopeless; being chained to a basement floor by a serial killer (Domhnall Gleeson) will do that to a person. But on Joel Fields and Joseph Weisberg’s Hulu miniseries, the Oscar nominee excels at picking apart the obvious and finding surprising details to hold up to the light. With a simple change of intonation, he can make a dark line unexpectedly funny, or give his “therapist voice” an edge of panic and despair. Carell’s ability to hint at the inner workings of his character with a single piece of dialogue is a wonder.
Taron Egerton, “Black Bird”
James “Jimmy” Keene (Egerton) is a cocksure charmer with an innate talent for getting people to open up to him; it’s what lands him an undercover assignment in a maximum-security prison on Dennis Lehane’s Apple TV+ thriller. Egerton oozes the confidence of a former high school football star; but as Keene draws closer to getting a confession from convicted serial killer Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser), the actor shows us the fear creeping in. “Black Bird” only works because the Golden Globe winner masters both, letting the mask slip just long enough to reveal his terror in the face of this monster.
Evan Peters, “Dahmer—Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story”
Playing a serial killer is one thing; playing one of the most infamous serial killers in history (and a necrophiliac and cannibal to boot) is quite another. But after appearing on nine seasons of Ryan Murphy’s “American Horror Story,” Peters is more than ready for his closeup on Murphy and Ian Brennan’s biographical miniseries. The Emmy-winning actor is timid yet terrifying, unassuming yet intimidating, as the Milwaukee Monster who was responsible for the brutal murders of 17 men and boys over the course of two decades. It’s Peters’ complex portrayal that made “Dahmer” one of Netflix’s top 10 most-watched English-language series of all time.
Sam Elliot, "1883"
In this prequel to "Yellowstone," Elliot plays Shea Brennan, a former Union general in the Civil War embarking on a dangerous wagon train journey from Tennessee to Oregon. It's the type of dusty, well-weathered role practically tailor made for Elliot, one the veteran actor fills with enough gravitas to blanket the entire midwest.
Paul Walter Hauser, "Black Bird"
In "Black Bird," Hauser creates an antagonist unlike any we've ever seen. As real-life serial killer and rapist Lawrence "Larry" Hall, the performance isn't just terrifying because of what the character has done. It's Hauser's chilling calm, and the way he refuses to give the audience any easy answers as to what Hall says—or even why he's saying it—from moment to moment. With a Golden Globe already secured, there's a solid chance of a SAG win in Hauser's future.
Emily Blunt, “The English”
On Hugo Blick’s Western, Blunt tackles her demanding role—one that requires as much gun-toting, horseback-riding physicality as it does submerged emotion—with precision. As her Lady Cornelia Locke travels the American frontier, so, too, does the SAG Award winner map her character’s perilous inner journey. As a mourning mother seeking revenge, she’s equal parts vicious and tender, with a touch of playfulness to boot. Cornelia presses her fingers to her lips in shock when a man’s throat is slit before her eyes, but she has a steady trigger finger when it’s required. Blunt is as sharp as ever.
Jessica Chastain, “George & Tammy”
Chastain is in the running to win yet another award for her turn as a real-life figure named Tammy (following her 2022 Oscar and SAG wins for “The Eyes of Tammy Faye”). This time, she plays Tammy Wynette in Abe Sylvia’s Showtime series that follows the relationship between Wynette and fellow country star George Jones (Michael Shannon). Early on, the actor brings a sultriness to the role that gives way to tragedy, as Wynette struggles to keep her family together in the face of fame; it’s a remarkable journey. We stand by Chastain.
Julia Garner, “Inventing Anna”
With her phony European accent, a disdain for all things ordinary courses through every vein in scam queen Anna Delvey’s body. A woman who cons her way into a five-star hotel lifestyle is a far cry from Garner’s other leading role this year as Ruth Langmore on “Ozark.” Even though Delvey’s story about being a German heiress is full of holes, the Emmy winner makes her outlandish claims seem believable. Whether it’s demanding expensive clothing from her prison cell or assuring the bank that, yes, of course that money was transferred, Garner plays this amoral wannabe rich girl with conviction.
Niecy Nash, “Dahmer—Monster: The Jeffrey Dahmer Story”
The true-crime genre often gets criticized for shining a spotlight on murderers rather than their victims. Ian Brennan and Ryan Murphy’s series is an exception to that rule, focused on exploring the systemic failures that allowed Jeffrey Dahmer to evade the authorities for so long. We see some of the story through the eyes of Nash as Dahmer’s suspicious neighbor, Glenda Cleveland, particularly in a thrilling episode dedicated to the character (“Cassandra”). The actor’s magnificent performance is a far cry from her comedy days; it’s more in line with her Emmy-nominated turn on Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us.”
Amanda Seyfried, “The Dropout”
Forget the voice (although she does do a pitch-perfect Elizabeth Holmes). On Elizabeth Meriwether’s series, Seyfried captures something more elusive than a mere impression. Over the course of eight episodes, the actor shows us how the Silicon Valley huckster came to defraud her investors of millions of dollars without ever asking for audience sympathy. Seyfried’s Emmy-winning performance proves that sometimes, the scariest monsters can be the ones with a messy updo and a bold red lip who are convinced that they’re doing the right thing.
Jason Bateman, “Ozark”
It took Bateman most of his career to prove that he could act on (and direct) dramas as well as he could comedies; but his performance as Marty Byrde, a financial adviser whose idyllic family life became a money-laundering nightmare, was worth the wait. His trademark dryness transferred seamlessly to Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams’ unsettling world of menacing middle-class banality. The four-season slow burn showcased Bateman at his finest.
Jeff Bridges, “The Old Man”
One of the pleasures of following Bridges’ career over the past decade has been seeing him riff on his established persona. Robert Levine and Jonathan E. Steinberg’s Hulu series cashes in on the Oscar and SAG Award winner’s innate charisma. The actor stars as Dan Chase, a former CIA operative whose retirement is cut short when he’s forced to go on the run. Bridges brings a sense of time-tested wisdom to his grizzled character. He’s equally riveting whether he’s fighting hand-to-hand or engaging in tense conversations with old rivals. In both iterations, Bridges makes us wonder who the “old man” really is.
Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”
Jimmy McGill. Saul Goodman. Gene Takavic. Whatever the alias, Odenkirk played shades of his character ranging from conniving sad sack to overcompensating slickster. But on the final season of Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould’s “Breaking Bad” spinoff, Jimmy finally got his comeuppance. As his elaborate schemes unraveled, Odenkirk brilliantly portrayed a man backed into a corner, forced to reckon with his true self and the fallout of his actions. And for once, it wasn’t a grift: The Emmy nominee showed his character’s hand to extraordinary effect. Showtime’s over, folks.
Adam Scott, “Severance”
Scott’s comedic and dramatic sensibilities are both in full effect as Mark Scout, an employee at the mysterious Lumon Industries whose brain has been “severed” into two disparate identities. His central performance keeps Dan Erickson’s dystopian thriller grounded even as the show’s world becomes increasingly off-kilter. As Mark sleepwalks through life, his “innie” alter ego tries to make the most of his eerie, sterile corporate existence. Scott ensures that both sides of his character’s personality feel singular while never losing the connective thread between the two.
Jonathan Banks, "Better Call Saul"
Since his first appearance in "Breaking Bad" all the way back in 2009, Banks' fixer Mike Ehrmantraut has been one of the most dynamic dramatic characters in TV history. So it speaks to the actor's skills as a performer and screen presence that the audience could still find new layers to Mike all these years later. We said goodbye to "Saul" this year, but the impact of a performance like this will linger for a long time.
Jennifer Coolidge, “The White Lotus”
If you were going to bring just one cast member from “The White Lotus” back for a second season as the series’ action moves from Hawaii to Sicily, who would it be? Coolidge, of course! The wealthy Tanya McQuoid is just as unhinged on this season as she was when she first landed in Maui; but this time around, she has her husband (Jon Gries) and assistant (Haley Lu Richardson) around to prop her up. Between Vespa rides, opera nights, and amassing a gaggle of new gay best friends, Coolidge’s performance is as hilarious as it is affecting.
Elizabeth Debicki, “The Crown”
The challenge Debicki faces on Season 5 of “The Crown” is not only interpreting someone as historically beloved as the People’s Princess, but re-creating her most painful moments and delivering lines many viewers will recall intimately. This is the 1990s, after all, when Diana Spencer appeared on the British current affairs TV show “Panorama”—where she discussed everything from bulimia to infidelity—and agreed to be the subject of Andrew Morton’s tell-all biography, “Diana: Her True Story—in Her Own Words.” With simple but effective movements (a head tilt here, an eye flicker there) Debicki’s performance perfectly captures the Princess of Wales in all her awkward grace.
Julia Garner, “Ozark”
The fourth and final season of Netflix’s “Ozark” found ample opportunity to explore its morally bankrupt cast of characters—particularly Garner’s grifter-turned–crime lord Ruth Langmore. The actor has already earned three Emmys and two SAG nominations for the role, and this season gave her even more of the juicy material she deserves. No matter whom she was playing opposite or what heartbreaking situation Ruth found herself in, Garner’s performance was riveting to the bitter end.
Laura Linney, “Ozark”
Over the course of Bill Dubuque and Mark Williams’ ever-darkening drama, Linney’s Wendy Byrde went from dissatisfied suburban housewife to money-laundering political mastermind. On the series’ final season, the Emmy and SAG Award winner excelled at guiding us through every spot on Wendy’s map: messiness, vulnerability, shrewdness, and ultimately, a devastating sense of loss. Linney never let us forget how we got to a hard-won “happy” ending for the Byrdes—by “Ozark” standards, anyway.
To go from playing a Disney Channel darling to a drug-addled problem child in only five years isn’t the typical trajectory for our anointed teen stars; but Zendaya is anything but typical. Her full-bodied depiction of Rue Bennett on HBO’s Gen Z series “Euphoria” (which has already earned her a pair of Emmys) has planted her firmly in the big leagues of cable prestige drama. The actor gives a commanding, raw performance as a character struggling with the horrors of addiction—and we should all shed a single, glittering tear of joy for the gift.
Bill Hader, “Barry”
On the HBO series he co-created with Alec Berg, Hader stars as Barry Berkman, a hitman haunted by his military past and coping with PTSD and depression. That all changes when he gets bitten by the acting bug while on a job in L.A. and resolves to reinvent himself. Though “Barry” allows Hader to show off his comedy chops whenever a dash of relief is needed, his is one of the most nuanced dramatic performances on TV. It’s a career-best turn for the Emmy-winning “SNL” alum.
Steve Martin, “Only Murders in the Building”
Martin’s charming return to the spotlight as the co-creator and star of Hulu’s whodunit proves that the comedy legend hasn’t missed a step. As level-headed actor Charles-Haden Savage, he’s the glue that holds the series’ central trio together. The Oscar and Emmy winner’s performance is so wholesome and energetic opposite Selena Gomez (who plays it straight as Mabel Mora), and Martin Short (whose Oliver Putnam is as extravagant as they come), that it begs the question: Is a Steve Martin renaissance upon us?
Martin Short, “Only Murders in the Building”
On Steve Martin and John Hoffman’s twisting mystery, Short demonstrates how dark comedy should be done. As Oliver Putnam, a down-on-his-luck Broadway director who’s obsessed with true crime, the actor infuses silliness and lightness into the show’s heavier subject matter. Throughout the second season, the Emmy winner is adept at conveying Oliver’s heartache, expanding his character beyond goofy comic relief and making the audience root for his success.
Jeremy Allen White, “The Bear”
This Hulu series exposes the tender flesh beneath the surface of the restaurant industry; so it’s fitting that its star’s performance pulsates like an open wound. White plays Carmen “Carmy” Berzatto, a Michelin-starred chef who, in the wake of his brother’s suicide, returns home to run his family’s Chicago sandwich joint. With his frazzled hair and haunted blue eyes, White conveys a deep, dark undercurrent of sadness and anger that Carmy channels into a workaholic drive. His passion for food (paired with a crippling sense of guilt) clearly drives him, but it’s also slowly killing him.
Anthony Carrigan, "Barry"
No matter how dark "Barry" gets (and boy, does it get dark), we know we'll always have Carrigan's NoHo Hank, the endlessly cheery mafia member with a heart of rusted gold. The real crime here is that this is the actor's first SAG nominations, but it's better late than never for a performance this consistently outstanding.
Christina Applegate, “Dead to Me”
We don’t want to live in a world where Applegate isn’t on the small screen. Luckily, Liz Feldman’s “Dead to Me” is both infinitely watchable and rewatchable, thanks in large part to Applegate’s glorious turn as the widowed, wine-swilling Jen Harding. She’s as good at digging deep for emotional breakdowns as she is at muttering scathing insults under her breath.
Rachel Brosnahan, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
We never stop rooting for Midge Maisel—and Brosnahan’s portrayal of this midcentury housewife-turned–standup comedian is a major reason why. When Midge encounters setbacks in her career, the Emmy winner captures her character’s frustration with a potent mix of despair and side-splitting laughter. Whether tinkering with a new set, butting heads with her parents, or going toe-to-toe with comedy legend Lenny Bruce (Luke Kirby), Brosnahan continues to be an irresistible headliner thanks to her spot-on delivery of Amy Sherman-Palladino’s rapid-fire dialogue.
Jean Smart, “Hacks”
Smart has already won two Emmys and a SAG Award for her performance as Deborah Vance, a boundary-pushing standup comic in the midst of a transformation from washed-up, über-rich Vegas performer to fresh, honest artist reaching for new heights in the twilight of her career. On the second season, Smart reveals unseen sides of a character we thought we already knew. Even when she’s not launching crystals at her punch-up writer Ava’s (Einbinder) head, she always surprises us.
Quinta Brunson, “Abbott Elementary”
Idealism isn’t always the most compelling thing to watch on a comedy; but it’s a good thing nobody told Brunson that. The Emmy-winning creator and star of this surprise ABC hit is equal parts dedicated and floundering as second-grade teacher Janine Teagues, who inspires both side-eyes and helping hands from her more experienced colleagues. Her commitment rarely allows her to second-guess her choices—much like Brunson herself, who has casually revived the network sitcom.
Jenna Ortega, "Wednesday"
Ortega's flailing, free-flowing dance scene from "Wednesday" went mega-viral for a reason—it sums up the big, bold strangeness of the actor's performance. You simply cannot look away from Ortega's Wednesday Addams from the moment she steps on screen. All hail our new queen of the misfits.