1. Carrie Preston
If you only know Carrie Preston from one thing, you don’t know Carrie Preston. From her seemingly-addled but disarmingly brilliant lawyer Elsbeth Tascioni in The Good Wife to the proud, battle-scarred mother and waitress Arlene Fowler in True Blood, Preston exhibits a range and ability that is rarely seen among television actresses today. She’s so good at disappearing into her characters that you may not realize how often you’ve seen her, as she’s played often minor but never forgettable roles in such shows as The Following, Person of Interest, Lost, and even Arrested Development, among others. She may be a victim of her own success, as her ability to fall so seamlessly into her roles may be why she hasn’t been given a nod for a front and center role on T.V. YET.
2. Rick Hoffman
Rick Hoffman has been around for a while, but he just may have found the role he was born to play in ladder-climbing, underappreciated legal genius Louis Litt on USA’s Suits. When we first meet Louis, he’s a petty tyrant, terrorizing the associates under his command while making clumsy, desperate power grabs at those above, but Hoffman’s ability to humanize the character has been unparalleled, providing us a window into that kid who got picked last for gym in a man’s body, just wanting the respect of the cool kids and willing to do anything to get it. The last season of Suits has seen Hoffman with the opportunity to take Louis though a wide swath of pathos, losing the love of his life, his self-respect, and his job, before rising from the ashes to march forward and attempt to take the power that (at least he believes) has always been rightfully his. Hoffman has been more than up to the task, and his performances this season have easily been Emmy-worthy.
3. Eddie Marsan
There aren't any weak performances on Showtime’s Ray Donovan, but Eddie Marsan, as washed up boxer Terry Donovan, may be the least appreciated. British actors playing Americans is nothing new, but this London native who has won a mantel full of awards and has won distinction on both stage and screen brings a humanity to this working-class Boston guy that is both extremely moving and quite subtle. Marsan’s Donovan, with a Parkinson’s condition possibly brought on by his father’s poor management of his boxing career, and a fragile dream of running a boxing gym in Ireland, evokes sympathy, but at the same time, projects great strength. There’s a raw honesty to Terry that’s very appealing, and it’s to Marsan’s credit that he allows this character to shine a bit, but just enough as is appropriate among the larger-than-life characters that inhabit this show.
I’m of course, partial to the great writers who are populating the T.V. landscape in this “Golden Age,” but let’s never forget that T.V. is a collaborative art, and without great performances by strong acting talents, it wouldn’t be nearly what it is today.