This is the sixth in a multi-part series, The Year in Television 2011.
Not everyone can be a TV actor MVP. You have to have charisma, talent, and you need a memorable part that plays to your particular strengths on a well-written show. Also, good lighting helps. This year we surveyed the television landscape to come up with ten people – both male and femaile – who we really thought broke out from the pack and made inordinate contributions to their respective shows. Some are newcomers, others have been acting for years. These are the break out TV actors of 2011 and, speaking of lighting, we’d like to shine a little more on them.
Aaron Ashmore, Warehouse 13
After years playing Jimmy Olsen on Smallville, Aaron Ashmore joined season 3 of Warehouse 13 as Steve Jinks, a gay ATF agent with the unique ability to tell whether someone is lying.
It’s not easy trying to join an already-established cast, but Aaron was an instant hit, as Steve became BFF’s with the guarded Claudia, and was part of one of the greatest scenes of any show this year.
Unfortunately, Steve’s future is very much up in the air, but it’s a tribute to Aaron’s charisma and likability that Steve was able to make such an impact with just one season.
But a lot of people are going to be pissed if he doesn’t come back.
Max Greenfield, New Girl
Successful sitcoms often make room for supporting players to break out. That’s probably why this year, on the delightfully sunny New Girl, Schmidt Happened.
Schmidt is the delightfully un-sunny character played by Max Greenfield, who believes that the most sexy holidays are “the Fourth of July, Independence Day obviously, Women’s History month, and Christmas.” Greenfield plays Schmidt – a young professional climbing the social ladder and becoming a ladies’ man – as flawed, but with his heart in the right place.
With dozens of TV series appearances to his credit (including a one-time date with Adam Pally’s Max on Happy Endings), Greenfield has finally landed the role that will define him for years to come. As long as he continues to take off his shirt, viewers will no doubt agree.
Bill Hader, Saturday Night Live
Can an SNL cast member in his seventh season seriously be considered a break out actor? He most certainly can when he is Bill Hader, co-creator and performer behind Stefon, the flamboyant and bizarre Weekend Update New York City Correspondent.
Introduced in a sketch two seasons ago, Stefon grew this year to be one of SNL’s most popular reprising characters, whose recommendations for tourists consist of unusual nightspots populated with sideshow denizens. He claims to be in love with Update host Seth Meyers and often cannot get through a Stefon segment without bursting into laughter. Not all that surprising, as a Stefon appearance might be the only funny thing on SNL on certain nights. (Case in point, the recent Katy Perry-hosted episode).
Hader, at age 33, is a veteran comedy professional who has proven to be an indispensable SNL player thanks to his numerous impressions (Vincent Price, Julian Assange, Alan Alda). SNL has not been a forge of comedy creativity in a few years. Stefon, however, is a welcome addition to a show that often ignores the potential of LGBT comedy.