An abundance of quality series produced an inevitable increase in good roles for actors, and a list of breakout performances as varied in terms of platform – and geography – as it was style and tone.
Settling on criteria wasn’t easy, but the scope went beyond unknowns and supporting characters to actors who stepped up in class, through a leading part that showcased them in a way they haven’t been before, or at least in a while
The selections wound up representing a dozen networks or streaming services and a number of different countries. As for how the choices were made, there was unanimity on some (Rami Malek, come on down) and one fervent champion for others. Then again, since when do two critics ever agree entirely on anything?
Here are the breakout players of 2015, from Al Massri to Zissis.
Rose McIver (“iZombie”): McIver not only had to illuminate the strange journey of her character – who inadvertently became a zombie and then kept it secret from most of her family and friends — but also had to become a different person every week (the brains she eats seep into her personality). McIver made it all look easy, even as she reeled off the kind of snappy, smart-aleck one-liners loved by executive producers Rob Thomas and Diane Ruggiero-Wright.
Rose in nominated alongside Yasmine Al Massri (“Quantico”), Aziz Ansari (“Master of None”), Shiri Appleby, Constance Zimmer (“UnReal”), Melissa Benoist (“Supergirl”), Rachel Bloom (“Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”), Tituss Burgess (“The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”), Richard Cabral, Elvis Nolasco (“American Crime”), Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”), Sharon Horgan (“Catastrophe”), Rami Malek (“Mr. Robot”), Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline”), Wagner Moura (“Narcos”), Krysten Ritter (“Marvel’s Jessica Jones”), Mark Rylance (“Wolf Hall”), Shanice Williams (“The Wiz Live”), Bokeem Woodbine (“Fargo”), Constance Wu (“Fresh Off the Boat”), Steve Zissis (“Togetherness”).