It’s been one helluva year for TV — from dark comedies on Netflix to a dystopian society on the CW, viewers and critics around the world faced a near impossible task: choosing which shows to cozy up to during primetime slots, and man was it tough. And if you thought the competition for Top Shows of 2015 was fierce, wait until you get a look at my list for this year’s Breakout TV Performances. This list, which varies from Aziz Ansari to Shiri Appleby truly encompasses some of the most hilarious, electrifying, gut-wrenching, and downright awesome acting I’ve seen all year. I’m not kidding when I tell you that the entertainers in the industry were on their A-game, overflowing with flair, and just killing it (some quite literally). And as a result of their mad acting skills, we wholeheartedly invested in, and obsessed over those captivating fictitious characters displayed on our screens each week.
Now with 2015 rapidly coming to a close (hot damn, where did the time go?) I’ve taken the liberty of breaking down some of the best performances on TV… which also happens to be some of the most underrated performances of 2015 (I’m looking at you CW, you had some real winners this year!) Let’s not get it twisted though, there were a whole lot of mind-blowing performances this year but this core group of talented actors/actresses really took it to the next level and presented the small screen with larger-than-life characters we’ve come to know and love.
Drum roll, please…
You might know this 22-year-old Aussie from a little show called Fear the Walking Dead, where she plays Alicia Clark, a young, and naive teen whose life is turned upside down after an infectious outbreak develops in Los Angeles. But before she was fighting off zombies, she was fighting wars (and kicking ass) as Lexa on the CW’s post-apocalyptic series The 100. From commanding a whole grounder nation, to portraying a much-needed strong gay female character on TV, it’s great to see a character that isn’t going through the stereotypical process one would go through if their sexuality were in question. The 100 has given this young actor the opportunity to show her versatility and man, she is magnetizing. Debnam-Carey might not be a series regular (yet) but has delivered some of the best scenes on the show, and to overlook her obvious knack for taking on these layered characters would be a giant mistake on our part.
What’s a telenovela without an over the top actor-turned-father? Well, Jaime Camil fills that role perfectly! Camil, who plays Rogelio De La Vega on one of the most talked about comedies out right now, delivers hilarity with every breath. The show might focus around Jane (Gina Rodriguez) and her accidental insemination, but the character of Rogelio consistently provides the humorous element you didn’t even know you needed. Between his characters funny assertiveness, on-set rivalry, or his bromance with one of his daughter’s suitors, this brogelio has an energy unmatched by the majority of characters on TV this year.
Krysten Ritter, Marvel’s Jessica Jones
Now, you might say– hey! Krysten Ritter already broke out onto the scene with her roles in Breaking Bad or Don’t Trust the B—- In Apartment 23, but you ain’t seen nothin’ yet, guys. The reality is that before Marvel’s Jessica Jones, Ritter did drama– but not quite like this. The role of Jessica Jones is a complex one, she’s a damaged anti-hero who quite frankly has a blatant drinking problem. We’re not complaining, but there’s no denying the girl has issues… perhaps that’s why viewers find her so oddly relatable.The fact that this hero turned Private Investigator has resonated with so many viewers is a testament to Ritter’s perfect portrayal. She was really able to sink her teeth into a fictitious gal full cynicism and resilience, which is not usually a role people would take, considering an unknown payoff with such a rough-around-the-edges character. But despite her character’s tragic backstory: survivor of physical and mental abuse, plagued with her failed attempt at being a hero, Ritter shows compassion and brought to the forefront a memorable champion in Jessica Jones.
Shiri Appleby, UnREAL
You can’t miss Shiri Appleby in this career boosting performance as Rachel, reality TV producer extraordinaire on Lifetime’s reality show within a show. And although Appleby has had a few other noteworthy roles over the years, 2015 has been extremely kind to this actress and totally catapulted her to the front line of all of our lists. The science is simple, when you mix a career-driven, hard-working, ethically challenged character on a super meta series, it’s hard not to stay glued to your TV screen. Appleby’s nuanced performance lands her on our list and has turned her into an on-screen producing genius. From manipulating relationships on “Everlasting” (a dating show) to dealing with her own romance drama on set, Appleby’s execution of a troubled feminist trying to make a name for herself is what keeps me coming back for more!
Ravi Chakrabarti is funny, handsome, smart, and totally on my list for obvious reasons. It’s safe to say that this show would feel a little odd without an adorable forensic pathologist who works in the morgue with his zombie-assistant. Sure, iZombie follows Liv (Rose McIver), who is turned into a zombie by some tainted Utopium at a boat party… the show is surprisingly filled with many quirky moments, but Kohli seems to be the one doing most of the delivering with his take on a somewhat stereotypical brainiac who just happens to believe in zombies. The show packs a good murder-mystery and an abundance of comedic elements, and Kohli is the icing on our brain-filled cake. I wouldn’t be surprised if we started seeing him in more things– being witty, and nerdy and just totally cool all around. If you enjoy one-liners, bad puns and brain jokes, Kohli is your guy!
People can’t seem to get enough of the latest hit from Shondaland, and how can you blame them? Although many people might have come for the electrifying performance of Emmy award winner Viola Davis, they certainly stayed for Karla Souza’s portrayal of Laurel Castillo. She really is a secret weapon in the making– surely fit to be Annalise Keating’s new right hand. Souza gives a profound performance of an underestimated classmate who isn’t afraid to get her hands dirty in order to solve a case. And just like her character, who is often overlooked– it might be easy to write off Souza due to the wide-variety of talent on the HTGAWM screen, but one thing’s certain– you’d be a fool not to commend her for kicking serious ass and taking names! Oh, and not to mention she has some of the most steamy sex scenes between her character and Charlie Weber’s. Va va voom.
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Sure, Aziz Ansari was amongst some brilliant company on Parks and Recreation, but I was more impressed by the way he stepped up his game this year when he co-created the Netflix original series Master of None. Ansari plays Dev, a 30-year-old actor trying to make it big, while dealing with obstacles. Lots and lots of obstacles. This guy has no trouble carrying the show and I assure you you’ll be pleased with his dark, unapologetic and welcomed humor. Ansari was able to build upon an already solid writing foundation, and when it came to performing his own work he truly stepped up with a wide range of scenes and content that will undoubtedly keep you interested throughout the entire binge-watching process. From romance to diversifying Hollywood, Ansari’s Dev was not only a pleasure to watch but captured the trials and tribulations of a struggling actor just trying to navigate life (with impeccable comedic timing.)