Top 5 Female Characters/Performances
1. “Eleven” portrayed by Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things)
From the moment Eleven stepped onto the screen barefoot and wide-eyed, I knew this was going to be quite the character. A resonant, captivating character indeed, and a remarkable performance, Brown was 11 years old herself when she filmed the first season of this nostalgic show, as the sufferer abuse and control, but strong and fierce child “Eleven.” As the girl with powers of telepathy and telekinesis, Brown exhibits a talent and depth well beyond her years and beautifully showcases Eleven’s signs of trauma, her bravery, and her vulnerabilities with such stunning believability proving that you can be moving with very few words. From the moments skittishness, fear and sadness as she escapes from her captors, to learning what a friend is and wondering if she needs a wig to be “still pretty,” to the intensity of her saving her friends from the “bad men,” bullies, and ultimately a terrifying monster, Brown is an absolute revelation, and Eleven a character of great heart and strength despite her circumstances. And she deserves all the Eggos her brave soul desires.
2. “Emma Swan” portrayed by Jennifer Morrison (Once Upon a Time)
2016 was in an intense year for Emma Swan filled with heartache, love, and the truth about the fate of all Saviors which manifested itself with tremors and disturbing visions of her impending death, making her hope for her own a happy ending seem like an elusive dream. And yet through it all she remains courageous and noble, finding that fight within herself and a desire to embrace the happiness and beauty of the present without the fear of the future. She embraced love with all of her heart, ready to share it with the man she now knows is her true love, said a heartbreaking goodbye to him and then was miraculously reunited, and in the end was finally able to tell him she loved him in a moment of normalcy – a huge step for her character. We may not have seen the duality the Dark Swan arc gave us, but Morrison was no less brilliant, exquisite, and touching especially in moments that demonstrated very raw and vulnerable emotions of love and courage with her two true loves. As Emma said goodbye to Killian for what she believed to be the last time, Morrison brought such a powerful sense of heartbreak and selflessness wanting him to move on and be at peace. And when she tries to comfort her son Henry who was fearing his mother’s impending death and blaming himself for her fate, she showcased the bravery of a mother shouldering the sadness and fear for the sake of their child. One could not help but be moved and astounded at the unencumbered joy of seeing her true love Killian come back to life, the sweetness and softness of the way she finally asked him to move in with her, and the way she works through her trembling hand tremors and grabs the sword then fated to kill her, ready to fight for her future. And I eagerly anticipate watching Emma’s continued journey of what it means to be a Savior and her finding her way towards her own happy ending in 2017. Through her tears, smiles, and fierceness we see that Emma, and Morrison’s performance, remains one of the most beautiful, brilliant and remarkably moving of all time.
3. “Lorelai Gilmore” portrayed by Lauren Graham (Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life)
As someone who watched and adored Gilmore Girls during its initial run and has watched the reruns frequently, I was anticipating the revival of the series with fervor and excitement; and when it came to Lorelai’s character and Graham’s performance, A Year in the Life did not disappoint. I may have had some issues with the revival, but not with our beloved Lorelai. Just like the original series, she was relatable, likable, funny and touching. Lorelai is a type of woman who is far from perfect but we still admire tremendously. She is strong, but not too proud, and a woman who makes mistakes but learns from them and overcomes them with authenticity and warmth. Dealing with the loss for father, tensions with her mother and daughter, and a feeling of complacency and uncertainty in her romantic life, her journey was beautiful and touching and Graham seamlessly slips back into the role as if it was yesterday that she was in Lorelai’s fast talking, coffee guzzling shoes. Many wonderful moments abound, it was her phone call to her mother about her best memory of her father that was the most poignantly performed and one that I will not long forget.
4. “Lucy Preston” portrayed by Abigail Spencer (Timeless)
Stepping into different time periods each week must be great fun for an actress, from adapting a different persona and manners to the vastly different costumes. These are just one small part of why I love Timeless and its characters, most especially our lead heroine. What makes Lucy such a wonderful character is her intelligence, her reverence and awe of history, her caring heart, her tenacity, and her courage. Each person in the Timeless team serves a purpose and Lucy is arguably the most crucial as they rely on her vast knowledge and ability to adapt and think on her feet as they enter worlds so different than the one they live in. Suffering a great loss, Lucy remains steadfast in her determination amidst the uncertainty of the future they will return to. She is strong, smart and inspiring and the kind of real woman to look up. Showcasing that knowledge is indeed power, Spencer portrays Lucy with a grace and passion that is beautiful to witness.
5. “Liv Moore” portrayed by Rose McIver (iZombie)
Getting to be essentially a different character each week is not only a wonderful opportunity for an actor to showcase their range, but also endlessly entertaining to watch. It takes an actor of high-caliber to showcase a new persona with each episode while keeping the essentials of their true character intact. McIver does this brilliantly, making Liv’s suffering and strengths something we can all relate to despite the wildness of the situation. She may be a zombie but she is no less real in her relationship and personal struggles, and no less warm despite her less than alive state. And as far as each different brain she consumes, McIver continues to shine with varied material to sink her teeth into – pun intended – as Liv takes on the personalities this year of a the writer of erotic fiction, a pathological liar, a social media obsessed woman, and my favorite, the eternally positive owner of a coffee shop. Liv’s character and McIver’s performance is often funny and heartbreaking, brave and sweet, making her character feel as real and alive as any on television.
“Peggy Carter” portrayed by Hayley Atwell (Agent Carter)
In 2016 we bid a sad farewell to one of my favorite shows and a character I find tremendously inspiring in so many ways. Peggy had mourned her great love, ready for romance once again, as an assignment to LA entangles her in a series of adventures and a very dangerous threat, and did so with the same intelligence, ingenuity and strength that makes her so unbelievably fantastic. The show may be over, but Atwell’s tenacious performance of the remarkable Agent Carter will live forever.
“Emily Gilmore” portrayed by Kelly Bishop (Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life)
Like Graham, Kelly Bishop stepped back into the role of Gilmore matriarch Emily as if no time had passed. She went through quite the transformation as she grieves the loss of her beloved husband Richard and found a new lease on life with raw believability. Seeing her find a new “family “to look after it with the one maid she finally kept, to her finding a new understanding with her daughter and a new purpose and sense of self was such a joy to watch and something that could only be accomplished by someone aof Bishop’s talent. And her the moment she finally lets loose at the DAR will go down as one of Emily Gilmore’s crowning moments!
Top 5 Male Characters/Performances
1. “Jack Pearson” portrayed by Milo Ventimiglia (This Is Us)
Every single character on this moving family drama feels real, relatable and can illicit tears each and every episode; but if I were to choose my favorite it would be that of Jack, the endlessly loving, stalwart, strong father and husband who always tried to do what was best for his family. Although he wasn’t perfect – dealing with the drinking problem early on, through him we see that personal demons can be overcome as he showed his family that with harsh realities and the simple every day conundrums, life can still be fun, beautiful and good. Ventimiglia has always always been so talented, but he has matured into such a performer of vitality, nuance and great warmth and portrays so beautifully who Jack is in his simplest form – a truly good man. With scenes with each of his three children he showcases the depths of his love for them, and the wisdom and comfort that we all long for in a father. He passionately loves his wife and endlessly loves his children and teaches us that the sourest lemon can inspire a strength we never knew we had. It makes the fact that his character is not alive the present-day hurt so much more, but ultimately appreciate witnessing the well lived life he had.
2. “Killian Jones” portrayed by Colin O’Donoghue (Once Upon a Time)
2016 began in a dark place for Killian Jones. After overcoming his demons and sacrificing himself to save Emma and his friends, believing he was helping destroy the darkness forever, Killian began the year trapped in the Underworld, being mercilessly tortured by the God of Death Hades. His suffering was acute, and his heroic status position was undeniably solidified, from helping another prisoner escape, to making sure Emma and her family could leave the Underworld even if he could not, to working with the man responsible for his death to help Emma and everyone defeat Hades. He proved to be a true hero once again and miraculously and was sent back to where he belonged- with his True Love Emma Swan. And given a second chance at life, he may not believe he is the hero he is, but further proves to be as he continues to atone for his past wrongs helping Belle, his long-lost brother, and working to become someone worthy of being a part of a family with Emma and Henry. It’s been truly amazing journey in 2016 for our dear Captain and O’Donoghue continues to breathe vigorous life into the dashing pirate hero with sincerity, brevity and great depth. All one has to do is watch the moment he says goodbye to Emma in the Underworld to understand his great talent. But in each and every scene we see that he can break our hearts one moment and make them soar the next, sometimes with a single look and I can’t wait to see what 2017 brings for his character. There will never be another Captain Hook quite like O’Donoghue’s Killian Jones.
3. “Lucifer Morningstar” portrayed by Tom Ellis (Lucifer)
There’s an old saying “the Devil made me do it” and when it comes to the title character of the Biblical procedural drama that phrase certainly applies. This Lucifer is a fascinating character. He is strikingly handsome, debonair and charismatic and has the ability to make people admit their deepest desires – all except one, and that is what fascinates him. The straight-laced, fiercely caring and brave detective Chloe Decker becomes his friend and partner, giving the character a perfect sparring partner. But on his own, Lucifer is layered and flawed as he becomes more and more like the humans he’s found a home with. And although his behavior is far from saintly and very much the devil may care attitude, he’s not evil. Rather, he wants to punish those who are, and while not admitting it, protect others as well. Quite the interesting take on the character, it’s very refreshing especially made that way by the magnetic and enthralling performance of Tom Ellis, who has a brilliant ability to let us see into his soul, sometimes with a single change in his expression. His eyes can go from manic and scary, to soft and suffering in the blink of an eye. This Lucifer can be funny, chilling, sympathetic and bring us to tears and that is an accomplishment of epic proportions.
4. “Randall Pearson” portrayed by Sterling K. Brown (This Is Us)
Much like the other This Is Us character and performance on this list, Randall, portrayed by Sterling K. Brown, is above all a very good man and his performance is deeply real and moving. He always had to deal with things his siblings and not have to – not always feeling like he truly belonged with his family, wondering who his birth parents were, and not wanting to be different when he realized how smart he was. But just like his father Jack, this made him try even harder – to endeavor to be the best man he could be, and pour all of his love from his unbelievably strong and giving heart into his family. He works hard to be a good husband and father, demonstrates forgiveness towards the father who gave them up, and in a very heart-wrenching scene helped a coworker realize that ending his life will only hurt those he loves. Yet Randall is not perfect. When he learns about a lifelong secret from his mother he demonstrates that sometimes we can’t always forgive instantly, and when he and his brother Kevin fight, he recalls how he often felt like he wasn’t accepted. It’s all very touching and viscerally relatable with so much heart poured into the performance by Brown. There is not one false moment, and not one instant where you can’t empathize or completely understand what Randall’s going through with his family or himself. Brown is a gifted actor who exudes sincerity with every single breath.
5. “Rufus Carlin” portrayed by Malcolm Barrett (Timeless)
I adore every character on this time traveling adventure series, but if I had to pick one favorite it would be the caring, vastly intelligent, often funny scientist and pilot Rufus. As mentioned early on, there is not a single point in American history that they could be traveling to that is going to be particularly kind to a black man. But that doesn’t deter him from risking his life for their missions and his new friends. He displays a great sense of morality not wanting to spy on Lucy and Wyatt, ingenuity and courage when each mission proves to be more difficult than last, and retains a sense of goodness despite everything. Rufus makes me laugh, cry and frankly sometimes I just want to hug him for his sense of true courage and friendship. It’s often his ideas that help bring them home, and from learning black-smithing in mere hours, to figuring out how to repair the damaged lifeboat, to saving his friends from being killed, to the simple gesture of helping a little girl reach a water fountain, and finally to him questioning his own character after shooting someone that was threatening them, Rufus is a character to love, admire and root for thanks in no small part to the genuineness from Barrett’s performance. He is simply fantastic and showcases a real sense of humor, authenticity and steadfast bravery into his character. I eagerly anticipate where Rufus travels to next.
“Ravi Chakrabarti” portrayed by Rahul Kohli (iZombie)
Ravi- the charming, funny, brilliant and brave Doctor is so much more than Liv’s trusted ally and closest friend. He’s even more than what could possibly be the zombie’s saving grace as he tirelessly is trying to find a cure for their condition. Ravi is a truly wonderful person. He is loyal and a good friend and someone who will fight even the darkest of villains even when he’s frightened or outgunned- the mark of true courage. My heart broke for him as the girl he pines for embraced another man, and when another said she’d never seen Star Wars – for shame! Rahul is completely charismatic, funny and sincere in his performance making Ravi’s one of this year’s brightest spots.
“Luke Danes” portrayed by Scott Patterson (Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life)
Like Graham and Bishop, Patterson stepped back into the role of Luke Danes with the greatest of ease as if time had not passed at all. Luke was always the character we rooted for as he was undeniably good, and steadfast, patiently waiting and willing to go above and beyond for the woman he loved. In A Year in the Life, not much has changed. He still has a bit of a curmudgeon in him, but still loves Lorelai deeply and Rory as if she’s his own daughter, and still demonstrates a stalwart heart and determination. Like Lorelai, he makes mistakes, but there’s no better man in Stars Hollow than this man. And much like his speech when Roy was leaving college, his impassioned promise to Lorelai about willing to do anything to make their relationship the best it can be forever, will forever move me to tears while also bringing a smile to my face. And only Patterson can make a line like “the only way out is in a body bag” sound completely romantic.