Never underestimate the power of good acting to take any show to the next level. It’s a mantra you should live by if you really love television like I do. Of course, noticing the talent of an already established star is a “given.” It’s those new (or new-ish) faces that have the real serious acting chops that are the most sought after in Hollywood.
As with previous years, we here at Crave Online have tried to find you a list of 10 actresses who we think you should keep an eye on. We feel that they are either about to break out or they are breaking for that rare second time. Perhaps we just have a hunch that they’ll be worth a few casual IMDB searches. These aren’t the old guard of greatness. Instead they are the up-and-comers whom we’re pretty sure you’ll want to follow in 2012.
This year on our “to watch” lists, we’ve reserved #10 to revisit 3 folks from last year’s list whom we feel are do for even greater things in the new year. So here we go!
10: Iliza Shleshinger, Jennifer Marsala, and Jasika Nicole –
Our look back at three of last years “lists” is really an exploration of timing. We feel like all three of these actresses would have made the break in 2011 as predicted, had the right show come along. Regardless, they all rocked the acting arts all year and we’ll slate them on to next year for the break out moment. Let’s take a look at each:
Iliza Shleshinger’s win on Last Comic Standing set her on the road to greatness, but it wasn’t until the fourth quarter of 2011 that she really found a home. CBS’s new dating show “Excused” features Iliza as the quip slinging host and with a much more glamorous new look. While we mourn her trademarked t-shirt and jeans, the show really makes a case of Iliza as America’s classiest intellectual. We hate supporting reality TV, but this is a good watch. Keep an eye on Crave Online and in the next year we promise to review Iliza’s comedy album; which is long overdue, but (spoiler alert…) we love it!
Jennifer Marsala wowed us as Anna on “Lie to Me” until it was unjustly canceled before its time. Then she was well on her way to wowing us on “Memphis Beat” until that show was also canceled, and with good reason. Regardless, we love to see Marsala on the screen as her fantastic comedic subtlety and equally good face work will land her the role that makes a name of her in 2012. Go Jennifer GO!
Jasika Nicole has very little to complain about as a cast member of the show "Fringe." However she may be getting lost in the sea of John Nobel, Anna Torv, and Joshua Jackson (he’s dreamy). Still, over the course of four seasons Nicole has only gotten better. And the writers of "Fringe" have noticed, pushing her to the forefront more and more as things progress. Her portrayal of both Astrid and red universe Astrid (who has at least some form of Autism) deserve more than subtle praise. It may have to wait until she moves on from "Fringe" (let that never happen), but Nicole will be everywhere in 2012.
9: Claire Danes –
Ok this one may not be exactly fair. Danes was easily one of the most recognizable names in the early ‘90s and clearly 2012 would not be her first BIG year. Still the question remains, where has she been for the past few years? After “My So Called Life” and “Romeo and Juliet” she seemed to fall pretty unexpectedly off the map.
Well Danes is back and in a role that is so amazingly well played that she’s almost single handedly won "Homeland" a place on most critical “best of” lists. It's more than that however, as Carrie Mathison is such a compelling and amazing character to watch that you can’t help but think that Danes’ early work didn’t do her justice. If this was a list of the best characters in 2012, Mathison and Danes would be number one.
Welcome back Claire. We had NO idea how much we missed you. Have fun owning the screen in 2012.
8: Paula Patton
Sometimes with an actress the math is just right. When you can kick butt, take names, and act yourself out of a paper bag MADE OF IRON…. Well then, you’re going to get some attention. If you happen to fill out a dress in a way that poets write about, well that helps too. Patton really made a splash this year in "Mission Impossible 4," and with a lead that strong, she’ll be all over the big and small screen in 2012.
Patton, whose early career was behind the camera, has already scored two leads and a number of sizable supporting roles in a very short time. Clearly the ground swell of talent is there to drive her into a very impressive 2012 showing. It’s not clear what Patton will do next or if that will take her to television audiences and film work. Regardless, she’s on our radar for next year and beyond.
7: Melissa Villasenor
Wowing audiences live and at home with her gifted impersonations on "America’s Got Talent," Melissa Villasenor proved that she’s just seconds away from being a household name. She can sing, she can sound like anyone she wants, and she’s been gifted with some pretty classic movie-star looks. Somebody give this girl a sitcom!
I’ve actually known Melissa as a comedian for many years. She’s got a million characters behind that self-effacing smile, and she can bring them out in a heartbeat. If the folks at "SNL" aren’t watching her then I’d be surprised. She’ll certainly have a role in almost any movie that makes even the smallest joke out of our singing celebrities, or perhaps she’ll become one in her own right.
This may be the long shot on this list, as comedians tend to take a longer path to breaking out than actresses (See Iliza Shleshinger at #10); but from where I sit it is a done deal. Villasenor will be a household name; it just may take a little longer.
6: Molly C. Quinn
Frequent listeners to our Idiot Box podcast will remember that last season I wasn’t 100% behind Molly’s performance on “Castle”. Well I’d like to go ahead and quietly backtrack from that criticism; as this season I think she’s one of the series' strongest assets. In a show like “Castle,” which could be considered a veritable sea of amazing actors and performances, Quinn is still somehow always a breath of fresh air. Plus, she’s always in scenes against Nathan Fillion and she still manages to avoid getting lost behind him.
It’s the Fillion connection that really made me realize Quinn’s excellent performance. Playing Fillion’s daughter means she has to be able to show touches of his character in her own. You find me girls that can keep up with that man, and I’ll be surprised.
Still it probably won’t be on “Castle” that Quinn really finds her own footing. An upcoming project, in a more prominent role, will put this actress in the eyes and ears of the public. We’ll all be glad she did.
5: Kate Micucci
Sorry for the small picture, but isn't this adorable?
Kate Micucci is certainly having no trouble finding work. She’s been on dozens of TV shows and in a heaping handful of movies. Still she’s not quite the big name she deserves, and this year we think that’s going to change.
Micucci’s most recent turn on “Raising Hope” was really a tour de’ force, but it’s her work in the comedy/music duo Garfunkel & Oates that’s really bringing all the boys to the yard. (We’d like to apologize for that turn of phrase.) The meteoric rise of Garfunkel & Oates, as well as Micucci’s talent for being cast as any nerdy or awkward girl in television will cement her name in America's heart for 2012.
For more on Micucci, check her out as a girl/elf in last seasons “Board to Death”. Well worth it.
4: Alexandra Breckenridge
We might be getting to this one a year late. Breckenridge has had a pretty impressive turn in 2011 with roles in “True Blood” as well as “The Ex List” and her normal gig doing supporting voices on “Family Guy.” Not too shabby.
However, her real breakout is going to come from this year’s amazing “American Horror Story;” where she used her impressive looks and staggering acting talent to own a fair amount of the episodes with a relatively minor character.
The really great part of Moira on "AHS" was how well the actresses seemed to cross-play the age of their sides of the character. Frances Conroy played the older Moira with touches of spoiled young brat and Breckenridge played her young temptress incarnation with a soul ten thousand years old. It’s pretty amazing.
Add this to her already impressive array of talents and factor in her appearance at the top of most of Hollywood’s “best looking” lists and well, it’s a good year for Alexandra. If 2011 wasn’t enough to break this amazing talent… 2012 will be.
3: Kat Dennings
One of the outstanding movies this year was “Thor,” and once you’ve gotten over the cool Norse gods and such, I think you'll end up wishing the movie contained more Kat Dennings. The girl just has something about her that makes her watchable. It may be her sardonic wit, or perhaps it’s her gift for a well-timed eye role, but Kat really chews the scenery any time she is on screen.
Sadly her most recent vehicle, “Two Broke Girls” is not nearly as good as it should be (or as it was reported when it first came out). But again, Dennings shines in a way that makes it hard to see anyone else. Apparently America loves a girl with a whole lot of sarcasm, and few do it as well as Dennings. I’d like to see Tina Fay, Kat Dennings, and Emma Stone have a big “snark-off” and see who comes out on top.
Regardless, Dennings has a long road of accolades and stardom ahead of her, but it’s not clear what she’ll do to really break out this year. Perhaps “Two Broke Girls” will find its legs, or another project will thrust her into the limelight. Maybe it will take a bit longer than it should, but Kat won’t be short on work, or quips about her situation in 2012.
2: Charlyne Yi
It’s hard to say enough about Charlyne Yi. We can dance right past the fact that she’s been blowing up stages across the country as a comedian, singer, and everything in between. We can forget her amazing turn in “Knocked Up.” We can even step around her writing, and starring in “Paper Heart;” which is a movie far too cute to be liked by cynical Crave Online writers. All we have to say about Yi is this: She single-handily made “House” watchable again this year.
If you don’t know Yi’s work, you might want to start doing the research now, as she’s going to be huge… not only this year but for a long time. It helps that she looks so young. Still she’s got a huge amount of talent, a giant stage presence (in a very small body) and big, big things in the future. Also she shaved her head on stage for the purposes of a bit. We like that.
We’ll leave you with this clip of Yi singing (sort of) on stage… overwhelmingly full of cuteness.
1: Taissa Farmiga
If you’ve seen even one episode of "American Horror Story" then you’ve probably been impressed with the amazing work of Taissa Farmiga. Not only is she impressive in any given scene, but on the show she deals with some pretty serious emotional weight and she really, really, nails it. Not many young actresses can pull off a two minute attempted suicide montage, but Farmiga handles it with ease. There’s one big twist… THIS IS HER SECOND MAJOR CREDIT.
Check out Farmiga's IMDB page and you can see for yourself. This is her second work, not just her second major work, but the second thing she has ever done (of IMDB note) EVER. She’s head and shoulders ahead of nearly every actress we’ve ever seen, and at such a young age. It’s pretty staggering. What have we all been doing with our lives?
While it’s clear to us that Farmiga will be a major Hollywood name this year, it’s not nearly as impressive as where she’s going to be in ten. When your future children ask you about a seasoned, award winning, and otherwise well decorated actress Taissa Farmiga you can say that you saw her back when she had only TWO credits. Holy hell… we can’t get over that.
We promise a whole lot of Farmiga coverage this year of Crave Online. Provided she doesn’t do something stupid like drop out of acting to go to college or something. Fingers Crossed!
Keep your eyes peeled to Crave Online for a list of ACTORS to watch in 2012, as well as lists of the best, worst, and weirdest things on 2011. We’ll see you there!