The turkey is the main course on Thanksgiving, but the side dishes are often standouts of the meal. While television’s leading stars deserve all the attention they get, Variety’s TV team is giving thanks to some of the year’s best supporting stars this holiday season.
Maura Tierney // “The Affair”
The actress has never been more sublime than in her meaty role in Showtime’s “The Affair.” In Tierney’s hands, Helen Solloway is a hot mess of a 40-something woman coming to terms with rejection, regrets and uncertainties about her post-divorce life.
Courtesy of Mark Schafer/Showtime
Holly Taylor // “The Americans”
The young actress demonstrated serious chops in season three of FX’s “The Americans.” She’ll likely have even more to do in season four next spring.
Image Courtesy of Patrick Harbon/FX
Rupert Friend // “Homeland”
Friend laid down the law in the first episode of “Homeland’s” fifth season with what has to be the most eloquent and emotional speech ever delivered in primetime about the realpolitik of half-hearted U.S. interventions in the Middle East.
Carly Chaikin // “Mr. Robot”
Chaikin’s Darlene and those beguiling eyes were a good match for the slow burn of Rami Malek’s Elliot in the USA Network drama, “Mr. Robot,” which surprised everyone this year.
Courtesy of USA
Jaime Camil // “Jane the Virgin”
As profoundly conceited telenovela star Rogelio de la Vega, Camil takes a familiar conceit and makes it utterly fresh. Whether Rogelio is feuding with a co-star or bonding with his daughter’s ex, Camil is hilarious but the character, who movingly longs to reconnect with his family, is no joke.
Courtesy of the CW
Constance Zimmer // “UnReal”
Whether you love or hate “The Bachelor,” there’s no doubt about it: viewers love-to-hate Constance Zimmer on “UnReal,” Lifetime’s dark, satirical scripted dramedy take on a reality dating show. Despite her character Quinn egging on eating disorders, sleeping with her slimy showrunner and covering up a suicide — all in the name of ratings — Zimmer’s unapologetic take-no-prisoners persona won over audiences’ hearts.
Courtesy of Lifetime
Bellamy Young // “Scandal”
Bellamy Young put on her most presidential performance yet in “Scandal’s” fifth season, with her First Lady Mellie Grant gaining more power than ever, as she split from her husband President Fitzgerald Grant (Tony Goldwyn) and set her sights on her own political gains. From scathing speeches to her scene-stealing — and headline-making — Planned Parenthood filibuster in the show’s recent midseason finale, if Young keeps the fire in her eyes, Mellie may be stepping into her own Oval Office sooner than Olivia Pope can handle it.
Courtesy of ABC
Jussie Smollett // “Empire”
Standing out amidst the kitchen sink that is “Empire,” Smollett shines with his powerful pipes and portrayal of powerful plot points. Tackling a coming-out storyline, a cheating scandal and taking the Empire throne in the first calendar year of Fox’s breakout mega-hit, Smollett’s Jamal Lyon holds his own against celebrity guest star sparring partners like Alicia Keys and Neyo — and yes, even Taraji P. Henson’s infamous Cookie.
Courtesy of Fox
Iain De Caestecker and Elizabeth Henstridge // “Agents of SHIELD”
As SHIELD’s resident science nerds, Fitz and Simmons (collectively known as “FitzSimmons” by their teammates) initially seemed to exist mostly to provide complicated exposition in charming British accents. But over the past two seasons, the two have evolved into the emotional core of the ragtag team. De Caestecker and Henstridge’s performances have been raw, brave and undeniably affecting in the show’s confident third season, as their characters have been forced to reexamine who they are both seperately and as partners.
Courtesy of ABC
Bokeem Woodbine // “Fargo”
Sometimes acting is all in the delivery. FX’s “Fargo” is acclaimed for its oh-so-sharp dialogue, and Woodbine takes those words and quietly. kills. each. one. Talk about a scene stealer.
Alan Cumming // “The Good Wife”
He’s never one to disappoint, to be sure, but this season, Cumming’s Eli Gold has soared to seriocomic heights in his power struggles with rival Ruth Eastman (Margo Martindale), who pushed him aside as the Governor’s chief of staff. And that tiny office bit still isn’t getting old.
Courtesy of CBS
Melissa Rauch and Mayim Bialik // “The Big Bang Theory”
It’s easy to forget way back when “The Big Bang Theory” was just the four guys and Penny (Penny! Penny!), but the show has become richer and deeper since fleshing out the female cast, despite some glitches, creatively and otherwise, in Sheldon and Amy’s unorthodox romance.
Tom Cavanagh // “The Flash”
In season one of CW hit “The Flash,” Cavanagh combined menace and charm to compelling effect as the villainous Reverse Flash (aka time-traveling murderer Eobard Thawne, who took on the appearance of scientist Harrison Wells to get close to our titular hero). In season two, Cavanagh has excavated new depths as the real Harrison Wells (albeit one from an alternate universe), proving that he may be the most multifaceted man we love to hate — or hate to love — no matter which alias his character is currently using.
Carrie Coon and Regina King // “The Leftovers”
They play two mothers who share a common bond: They’ve both lost their children. But their struggle to find a connection made for one of the most riveting scenes in television all season.
Courtesy of HBO
Ashley Johnson // “Blindspot”
Even while suffering a devastating loss, the board game-loving, puzzle-deciphering sleuth Patterson is the only member of the “Blindspot” team whom we’d trust to help us with a Sunday morning crossword or set our computer password. Still the biggest mystery about Patterson is if she’ll ever get a first name.
Kether Donohue // “You’re the Worst”
Sure, she doesn’t know how to pay her electricity bills or who Mary and Rhoda are, but Kether Donohue’s Lindsay is slowly and hysterically figuring out on her own how to be a good friend and an adult. And that’s feminism.
Michael McKean // “Better Call Saul”
Worst sibling of the year? Or perhaps the actions of Michael McKean’s tinfoiled traitor Chuck McGill have resulted in his little brother Jimmy (Bob Odenkirk) meeting his full potential? After all, keeping Jimmy off the straight and narrow helped him go down the path to become Saul Goodman, the best criminal lawyer in Albuquerque.
Janice in Accounting // “Last Week Tonight with John Oliver”
Jaded Janice (real name: “Last Week Tonight” writer Jill Twiss) is the lunch-stealing punchline to some of John Oliver’s best segments on his HBO news series. Not that she really gives a f–k that we think so.
Donna Lynne Champlin // “Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”
Sometimes you have to fly across country and (coincidentally) move to your ex-boyfriend’s hometown to find someone who really gets you. And while Greg (Santino Fontana) may be the obvious love connection for Rachel Bloom’s lead Rebecca, no one harmonizes with her as well as her new best friend, Paula (Champlin).