These are not just actresses I love, though I do love all these women, but actresses who are so pitch-perfect in the roles they have played that I want to see them more. They do television, they do movies. They always become my favorite character in whatever piece they’re in.
Now that I’ve explained what applies and what doesn’t, let’s take a look at my top picks. Hopefully, these women will all one day be in that Meryl Streep category, but for now there is only one Meryl and she’s doing a pretty good job of it.
Sure, Glee is the big new thing. But before there was Glee, there was Popular. Ryan Murphy’s show that was so weird, I don’t really know how to explain how awesome it was. It had a lot of the same themes – a jock wrestling with the idea of singing, a feud between the popular and the unpopular, and many themes that were far more forward-thinking than other shows of the time. Leslie Bibb played Brooke, a popular cheerleader who becomes forced to live with her unpopular nemesis, Sam, when their parents get engaged. Bibb has an amazing sense of comedic timing and brought a vulnerability to the character that made you root for her. She dealt with issues such as an eating disorder and a bowling match to decide who has to have a mohawk (who hasn’t dealt with that second one?). Whether the plot line was insane or very real and touching, Bibb kept it fresh and engaging. Her comedic talents were further displayed in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby, where she played Ricky Bobby’s trashy wife who had some of the best moments of a very funny film. She has gone a little more indie, with the quirky comedy Miss Nobody about climbing your way to the top of the corporate ladder, no matter what. Her character in Iron Man, Christine Everhart, rivals Pepper Potts for my favorite Iron Man lady, which is a tough feat! So, whether Leslie Bibb is a high school student, white trash, a reporter, or a murderer, you will be laughing with her and rooting for her. Luckily, she has a new show airing this Sunday, March 4th, called GCB which looks as though it will make good use of her comedic talents. Bibb is just as charming when the lines aren’t written for her, so go follow her @mslesliebibb.
I am always impressed by someone who can ad-lib, and mockumentary is one of my favorite styles of movie. Posey is part of Christopher Guest’s troupe of comedic geniuses that star in all his mockumentaries, with films such as Best In Show and A Mighty Wind (both of which I highly recommend. In fact, just go check out everything Christopher Guest is involved in). The “Busy Bee” scene in Best In Show, which can be seen here, is so simple but cracks me up every time. Posey’s anger, the shopkeeper’s horror… fantastic. At this point, everyone knows Christopher Guest’s crew is a genius – they even got their own sketch in this year’s Oscars. But Posey is also often involved in dark comedy, with The House Of Yes being a prime example. This film is about an insane woman who thinks she is Jackie O and likes to recreate JFK’s shooting along with her brother, whom she is in love with. If this sounds like a major downer of a movie to you, I’m not surprised, but it’s currently streaming on Netflix and I’d recommend giving it a try because it has stuck with me as being a funny and sweet movie. You feel bad for Posey’s character and actually want her and her brother to wind up together, indicating excellent turns from the actors involved. Posey has also had important supporting roles in films like Dazed and Confused and Superman Returns. She’s always got something going on, but I continue to hold out hope for a new Guest film.
Another veteran of ad-libbing, Cheryl Hines often pops up in more mainstream and conventional projects and she is always a delight to watch. She is best known for her work in Curb Your Enthusiasm, a show which I honestly need to watch more of and which was created by Larry David of Seinfeld fame. I saw The Grand because Cheryl Hines was in it and that is now one of my favorite movies. It’s a mockumentary about a poker tournament with a star-studded comedic cast that manages to tell a heartfelt story of a man trying to uphold his father’s legacy. Hines plays one half of a brother-sister duo, and her dry humor and sarcasm are right up my alley. She is compassionate towards her crazy family in the film, and her husband (played by Ray Romano) who was struck by lightning and now requires her support with his kooky ideas. Waitress was a completely different type of film, touching and sometimes dark, but Hines provided needed humor and heart. Currently, Hines can be seen in Suburgatory where she plays sassy housewife Dallas, my favorite character in the show. She is a little crazy, a little overbearing, a lot funny, and very sweet. Follow her @realcherylhines for behind-the-scenes scoop on Suburgatory.
Portia de Rossi
We are not even going to address Arrested Development because clearly everyone loved that show and loved her in it and I cannot say anything new that has not already been said. I am bringing her up because of Better Off Ted. Better Off Ted was a phenomenal workplace comedy wherein Portia played overbearing boss Veronica. She was quite honestly straight up crazy. That is what I think Portia does best – completely insane but sympathetic characters. Her character in Arrested Development was similar, but I’m going to make a bold statement here and say that she was even better in Better Off Ted. Watch this clip of her character discussing her company’s ridiculous ideas and products. I very much enjoy the fact that they seem to have Veronica say the word “anything” at least once per episode, which Portia says with a slight Australian accent (“enytheng”) every single time. In a show full of funny performances, Portia consistently delivered the most laughs. There was a rumor for about two seconds that said she would reprise her role as Veronica as the new boss in The Office and I thought that sounded like the best idea ever, but I suppose the rest of the world is more grateful that she is free and clear to shoot the Arrested Development movie, and I can’t blame them.
I’ve focused mostly on comedic actresses here, albeit ones who can also certainly pull off drama, but Jennifer Carpenter is a prolific dramatic actress first followed by an earnest and funny one. As Deb in Dexter, Carpenter is a badass who has delivered some of the most moving performances of the show. She is foul-mouthed, aggressive, and incredibly vulnerable. She says horrible, horrible things with a smile and often quite a bit of disdain, and I love her for it. She is known for her ridiculously dirty mouth (which can be witnessed here, definitely NSFW) but Deb is much more than that because Carpenter makes sure of it. Though the show is called Dexter, it is Deb who intrigues me the most, and I don’t think that would be possible without an accomplished actress such as Carpenter portraying her. The most recent season of the show has given us some incredible television but was undoubtedly difficult to pull off, and is actually another example of rooting for siblings to get together… good thing this is my last actress since this post is getting a little weird. I do have one problem though – I heard she was in The Exorcism of Emily Rose, saw it was on TV, turned it on, saw a scene where her body contorted in on itself and immediately turned it off scarred for life. Clearly this indicates her incredible contorting possessed ability. I would love to see Carpenter in more comedic roles, since I already know she kills at drama. She can also be found on Twitter @j2thecarpenter, where most of her followers ask her to curse at them and she happily obliges.
Is there someone I’m forgetting? Who do you wish had made this list? Let me know in the comments or tweet me @emhig!