5. Claire Foy, “The Crown”
Netflix’s original series “The Crown” tells the dramatic tale of Queen Elizabeth II’s political and personal life from the 1940s to current times. Young Queen Elizabeth is played by Claire Foy (“Season of the Witch”), whose portrayal is poised, glamorous and revered. Acting as one of the most famous and classy women in history is no easy feat, but Foy managed to walk away with a Golden Globe for it.
Her commitment to the role involved a dialect coach, even though Foy is English. Queen Elizabeth had a certain way of talking in the ’40s, and to nail her as a character, perfecting her accent was crucial. The accent elevated the performance, displaying the Queen’s true royalty. The dedication went beyond her accent, but it mirrored how Queen Elizabeth actually spoke — barely opening her mouth.
Foy breathes life into the seemingly abstract and fabricated life of Queen Elizabeth. Her acting shows the complicated yet heartfelt struggle Queen Elizabeth faced of ruling her country while attending to demands of others, especially men. Although Foy excelled at her job, the intention of “The Crown” is to show Queen Elizabeth’s progression through her life, meaning that Foy will not be returning for the third season. Queen Elizabeth’s role will be passed on to an older actress, but will hopefully maintain Foy’s esteemed execution.
— Olivia Asimakis, Daily Arts Writer
4. Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things”
Despite being the on-again-off-again added member of “Stranger Things”’s starring trio, Millie Bobby Brown (“Once Upon a Time in Wonderland”) has become the face of the show with her powerful yet restrained performance as Eleven. Playing an orphan exploited by shady government scientists for her special ability to do utterly-impossible things with her mind, the 13-year-old Brown wildly impresses with her range and ability to subtly adapt her character to the show’s simultaneously ominous yet somewhat lighthearted tone.
It’s these slight nuances that Brown brings to the series that led to her to receiving the youngest Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Emmy nomination in history, in all of her Eggo waffle-obsessed glory. Brown offers what some actors three times her age can’t do — strike an ideal balance for her character between regularly likable and infinitely frustrating, vanity and selflessness. Great acting requires an acute awareness of the existence of such crucial lines, and Brown reveals through her role that she understands these distinctions well.
Along with starring in “Stranger Things,” Bobby Brown is a United Nations humanitarian who’s already buddies with Drake. Oh, and did I mention she’s only 13? Seriously, what’s not to love?
— Connor Grady, Daily Arts Writer
3. Nicole Kidman, “Big Little Lies”
Based on the best-selling book by Liane Moriarty, “Big Little Lies” is a darkly comedic drama on HBO centering the seemingly quiet lives of the residents of a quaint beach town in California. Nicole Kidman (“Moulin Rouge!”) plays Celeste Wright, one of the mothers with picture-perfect marriage, well, at least on the outside. Her apparently happy marriage with her husband Perry (Alexander Skarsgård, “The Legend of Tarzan”) turns out to be extremely abusive and violent. He is controlling, manipulative and makes Celeste fear for her life on more than one occasion. Kidman successfully portrays her character — consumed by fear and silenced by it.
Kidman’s character is at the core of an important but sensitive topic. Kidman’s execution of Celeste begs for domestic abuse to get more attention. Her acting is raw and vulnerable, especially noted through her acting in the abuse scenes herself rather than using a stunt double. Her commitment to the character paid off as she was nominated for a Golden Globe for Best Performance by an Actress. The show itself was nominated for six Golden Globes.
Kidman is not only an actress, but also an executive producer for “Big Little Lies.” The show is simply seven episodes, but Kidman’s rage and pain translated into her actual life, as she has reported to feel humiliated and devastated after acting in violent scenes.
— Olivia Asimakis, Daily Arts Writer
The made-for-Hulu adaptation of author Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” is arguably the best Hulu Original to date. Of the many things that the show had working for it, the strength of its leading lady is definitely to thank in part for the show’s wide success. Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) gave a dynamic and realistic portrayal of the show’s protagonist, Offred. Moss was tenacious in moments of heightened emotion — like when she was first separated from her daughter — and by contrast, was believably placid and docile under the eye of her controllers. With Offred going through such a tumultuous and trying experience, this wide spectrum of emotions in this role called for a skilled actress to properly portray it, and Moss delivered.
Going from forced, silent obedience, to subtle, rage-fueled efforts to fight against the system, Offred as a character is consistently having to show different shades of herself, and Moss transitioned between these peaks and valleys of portrayal seamlessly. The story unfolds as a first-person narrative, in that Moss’s narrations of Offred's inner monologue serve as the only internal perspectives the audience receives. This intimacy with Offred made the strength of the performance by Moss all the more crucial to the viral success of this series. Through Moss’s authentic portrayal, the viewer taps into the true pain of what Offred is living through, and the mental strength it would take to preserve as she does.
— Sofia Lynch, Daily TV/New Media Editor
1. Carrie Coon, “The Leftovers”
Few actors can provide two virtuoso performances in one year in two widely different roles. Carrie Coon accomplished that feat in “Fargo”and “The Leftovers”with such brilliant and emotional acting and depth that she will fully deserve all the accolades that should be thrown her way in the coming months. In particular, her performance as the tortured Nora in “The Leftovers”is one of the most memorable in recent memory. She loses her entire family in the “Sudden Departure”that catalyzes the show's plot and ever since, she struggles to maintain hope in the face of losing everything. This could have easily been one-note, but her nuanced performance, combining a healthy dose of skepticism and a brutal sense of sarcasm, adds tremendous depth to Nora and makes her arguably the most captivating character in the series. She ends the season with an epic 10-minute monologue that attempts to explain what happened to all those who disappeared. The brilliance of it is that we can't be sure whether her story is true or if she is trying to convince herself and Kevin (Justin Theroux, “The Girl on the Train”) in order to deal with the tragedy.
— Sayan Ghosh, Daily Arts Writer