We are living in an era of great ensemble television. As viewers we are being spoiled not only with their work on screen but with cast interaction on social media platforms like twitter. It has the effect of making you feel included in their TV family, and as a result you the viewer feels a sense of loyalty to them. Shows like Chicago Fire, Chicago PD, Grimm & Revenge have been excellent at this. Though nothing could rival the social media power of CW stars, a class on which should be taught at the LaineyGossip Faculty of Celebrity Studies. The best part for me is getting to hear from the cast members who aren’t necessarily the face of the show. The actors who go to work every day and do a great job even though they don’t always have their own storyline. The ones who aren’t going to be promoting it on talk shows. The ones whose names you may not have heard.
I thought it was time to fix that. Here are 12 people doing consistently good work that you need to know the names of.
1. Elias Koteas – Detective Alvin Olinsky Chicago P.D. (NBC)
The entire idea for writing this piece is because of Elias Koteas. To be honest the entire cast of Chicago P.D. could be highlighted for the work they’re doing. Every last character is detailed, funny, flawed and believable. There is not a single member of that group I don’t care about when the writers decide to put them in danger. But Koteas is special. He often says very little with his mouth but gives you paragraphs with his face. His character’s past has had a lot of moral ambiguity but still you take his side. His is the voice of justice if not always one of the justice system. On paper it would be understandable to have him be the grizzled cop, but Koteas brings a warmth to Olinsky that instead makes him feel like a tough love father figure.
2. Joe Minoso – Joe Cruz Chicago Fire (NBC)
You really can’t mention Chicago P.D. without talking about the show that came first Chicago Fire. In my opinion you can’t watch one without the other. The crossovers between the two are frequent (and coming up will cross into Law & Order: SVU), so it never really feels like a spinoff but a continuation. Chicago Fire has an outstanding cast of characters as well. One of my favourites is Joe Cruz played by Joe Minoso. This is a character that you never find out where he lives but still manages to capture your heart. Whether it’s doing the wrong thing for the right reasons and dealing with the ethical blowback, or making mix tapes for a woman who will never love him, Joe can make you laugh and cry in the space of an hour.
3. Emily Bett Rickards – Felicity Smoak Arrow (CW)
I’m not sure if the writers of Arrow always intended for Emily Bett Rickards a.k.a. Felicity Smoak to be a major part of the show, but I’m thankful that she is. Every time Rickards is in a scene I’m happy to see her. Felicity is by far the smartest and funniest character on the show, and never once is her tech expertise lacquered over with nerd stereotypes. In stories filled with vigilantes, assassins, heroes and cops Rickards isn’t playing the token human. Nor is she sexy tech support. Or the love interest (even if everyone wants her to be… seriously writers, come on!). Felicity is a feminist, a genius who doesn’t have all the answers, a light in the dark and someone who vocalizes all the things we’re thinking when Oliver Queen takes off his shirt. And no one could balance all those things as well as Emily Bett Rickards does.
4 & 5. Barrett Foa & Renée Felice Smith – Eric Beale & Nell Jones NCIS: Los Angeles (CBS)
Speaking of tech support… these two are the dynamic duo of explaining technology stuff to the masses. Most one hour procedurals have at least one “Deux ex machina” character in the show. You know, the one with a special set of skills who can see some pattern or solve some riddle that only they could solve. Because every law enforcement agency has at least one member of MENSA per team, right? Of course they do. Whether or not the audience will follow these giant leaps in logic rest solely on the actors playing them. In the case of Foa & Smith the audience is more than happy to go along with whatever magic piece of technology explanation they’ve pulled out of thin air. It’s the chemistry they bring to their roles that simply cannot be duplicated.
6. Iain De Caestecker – Leo Fitz Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
Two things. Firstly I have to admit I have no idea how to pronounce Caestecker. Also I don’t think I’ve ever known Fitz’ first name. Last season when S.H.I.E.L.D. was starting out I thought for sure Fitz was just filling the genius quota (see above). Iain’s accent combined with the charm with which he played the role quickly won me over. But after the season finale last year and the work he’s been doing this year it’s clear that they have bigger plans for him. For all the well delivered punchlines he had last season this one looks like it will be filled with tears. As someone with a family member who suffers from aphasia watching the way Iain is portraying that this season is hauntingly real. The anger, frustration, confusion and pain is all there without going over the top.
7. Abigail Hawk – Detective Abigail Baker Blue Bloods (CBS)
The Reagan family is full of faces you know and love. Their stories are often complicated and full of morality lessons. To single out any one of the Reagans would almost be unfair. But there is always one person just outside the story. Detective Baker, though usually only referred to as “Baker”. She is the Commissioner’s protection detail slash personal assistant, and with the exception of a few side stories is always just outside the action. Yet every time they do let Abigail Hawk say something it’s interesting and you want to see more. So come on Writers! Give Baker something to do.
8. Max Burkholder – Max Braverman Parenthood (NBC)
It is almost a sin to single out a Braverman. Parenthood is by far the best family drama I have ever seen. There is not a single character that doesn’t have an interesting story to tell and that includes the kids. Child actors on many ensemble shows get overlooked or simply pipe in with questions or jokes during family gatherings. That is not the case with Parenthood. Especially not with Max. In the first season Max Braverman gets diagnosed with Aspergers, something that Max Burkholder does not have though it’s easy to see why you would assume he does. For a character that doesn’t really understand emotions, and never makes eye contact, the part could easily have been over played. But Burkholder has put in a lot of work with a doctor who specializes in Asperger’s to understand what it is like to be autistic. If as they say acting is all about reacting, Max has the unenviable task of playing a character who cannot react to the emotions of others but must still display his own. And he was only 13 when he got the role. How this kid is not getting all the awards I’ll never know.
9. Karine Vanasse – Margaux Lemarchal Revenge (ABC)
I admit, I am slightly biased because Karine is from Quebec. And I have loved her in everything I’ve seen her in. And I really want her to be a household name already. Also I love Revenge. LOVE. I know a lot of people didn’t pick up on this show from the beginning, and I blame the bizarre scheduling ABC was doing where they went weeks between new episodes. But if you want to bingewatch something soon make it this show. It’s about a person who was victimized by the 1% who years later changes her identity to come back and infiltrate their group and bring them down from the inside. It’s sexy and violent and will make you gasp out loud. Karine Vanasse didn’t enter the show until season 3, and she plays one of the few truly wealthy characters on the show who still has morals. I mean, she’s no saint, but she has yet to kill anyone. Though knowing Revenge that could always change. Vanasse makes you care about Margaux and the struggles of a woman being held down simply for being one, instead of just being jealous of her ridiculous wealth and beauty.
10. Diego Klattenhoff – Donald Ressler The Blacklist (NBC)
While we’re talking about Canadians, allow me to mention Nova Scotia’s own Diego Klattenhoff. Who? The guy on the Blacklist. The one who isn’t James Spader. Let’s be honest, the first thing anyone talks about when the Blacklist comes up is Spader. But there is a whole host of characters outside him & Megan Boone (Keen). The B-Plot going on with Klattenhoff is interesting and certainly emotional. And though the writers don’t spend a lot of time dwelling on what his character is going through he definitely makes the most of every minute he gets. The two part episode with Ressler & Red trapped in a box last season while Red performed some sort of field surgery was riveting. So now that you know his name try not to forget it. It has the bonus of being fun to say. Klattenhoff. Klattenhoff. Klattenhoff.
11. Lyndie Greenwood – Jenny Mills Sleepy Hollow (FOX)
And because three’s a charm, I’ll give you another Canadian, Lyndie Greenwood. You may be thinking “the Brit from Nikitia?”. Yup, that’s the one! Turns out the “Brit” is from Toronto. She’s currently playing Jenny Mills, a girl who was locked up in a mental institution for years simply for telling the truth. She plays Jenny with suspicion, edge and a warrior-like sensibility. But still you like her. Her anger feels justified and never crosses into the hysterical, which says a lot considering the amount of crazy this show throws out there.
12. Zach Roerig – Matt Donovan The Vampire Diaries (CW)
As for shows throwing crazy against the wall and seeing what sticks, we have the Vampire Diaries. The show that can kill off and bring back to life characters in a variety of ways and still seem new every time. A show that slowly every single character has become supernatural. Everyone except Matt. Matt is one of the most loveable characters on a show that continually uses him as the token human. That over and over again ends up as a sidekick or trick to move the plot along. I can imagine as an actor there might be a tendency to get bored or annoyed by that. If that’s the case with Zach Roerig you would never know it. He brings so much heart to the role of Matt that even if he’s just being exposition guy in an episode he lights up the scene. And when the writers do give Matt something bigger to chew on he shines.