One of the joys of every new television season is watching which talented actors rise out of obscurity to become stars and force us to take notice.
The cards are usually stacked against unknown and new actors and actresses, just like the shows they’re in. The industry doesn’t have the patience it once did for untested programming to build an audience. And today, new faces have it even tougher as established movie stars have navigated their way to the top roles in TV, from Jennifer Lopez to Vince Vaughn.
But there’s always a select number of talents who break away from the pack. We’ve chosen a handful of stars who have done just that. They were able to transcend the pressure like new “Daily Show” host Trevor Noah, or brought something unexpected out of a well-known role like Melissa Benoist on “Supergirl.”
Here are 13 of TV’s fastest-rising stars of 2015:
Who knew that the girl cast as a mini-Lea Michele on 'Glee' in its declining seasons would come to play the most coveted role among Hollywood's young actresses this year? Landing the role of CBS's Supergirl catapulted Melissa Benoist into instant recognition. It would mean intense scrutiny from both comic-book fans and fans of the cult 1984 movie. Despite the pressure, she has won over fans with her fresh-faced take on the hero.
Daniel Wu wasn't even supposed to be the star of AMC's 'Into the Badlands.' He came on as an executive producer to bring martial-arts cred to the show. But after auditioning many young actors for the role, his fellow executive producers convinced him to step in. Wu, who had appeared in more than 65 films in Asia, had retired from martial-arts films six years ago after tearing his ACL and breaking an ankle. It took him about seven months to get back into shape for the role. Now it's hard to imagine anyone else as Sunny. Currently, he's the only Asian actor to lead a drama on US television. American viewers became acquainted with him in huge numbers when 'Into the Badlands' kicked off with the biggest series debut of the fall season.
This is definitely the year of Amy Schumer. Her Comedy Central series won two Emmys, including Best Variety Sketch Series. That's quite a jump for a show that was already in its third season. Schumer is being compared to Melissa McCarthy, who won an Emmy for 'Mike & Molly' in 2011, the same year she broke out in the film 'Bridesmaids.' Schumer similarly garnered widespread attention for her movie, 'Trainwreck,' this year.
A year ago, most Americans had no clue who Trevor Noah was. Then in March, Comedy Central announced he would be replacing the beloved host of 'The Daily Show,' Jon Stewart. Suddenly, people knew too much about the South African comedian. His old tweets would be searched and used against him. It would become public knowledge that he wasn't Comedy Central's first choice, not even their fourth. Despite all that adversity, Noah has been able to not only win a fair share of the media and Stewart's fans over, but he has brought over some younger, more digitally-minded fans to the 'Daily News' fold.
Although Rami Malek has been acting for a decade, he broke out this summer in USA Network's sleeper hit, 'Mr. Robot.' Through it all, we're led by his unreliable main character Elliot, who in turn is following the commands of an enigmatic figure in Christian Slater's hacker-king character, Mr. Robot. We can't be sure what's true or what's in Elliot's head, but it's a hell of a trip. And Malek's performance just earned him a Golden Globe nomination.
Constance Wu has become a breakout star of ABC's 'Fresh Off the Boat.' Critics have universally rallied around her, handing her two Critics Choice Television Awards nominations and a Television Critics Association nom. Part of a talented new wave of diverse leads on TV, Wu was also on several short lists in the Emmy and Golden Globes races for nominations.
As 'Empire' became the biggest TV hit in years on TV, it was hard not to notice the talented Jussie Smollett. As the Lyon family's middle son, Jamal, he brings an immense amount of natural acting and musical talent to the role. Men and women swooned at Smollett's looks and his velvety voice. From the pilot, it was clear he would garner a lot of attention as Jamal tried to overcome being known as the family's black sheep for being gay. In real life, Smollett revealed that he is also gay in a backstage video with Ellen DeGeneres, solidifying himself as a role model to his fans.
Former Miss India and Miss World, Priyanka Chopra is getting a lot of attention as not only the lead on one of this year's biggest new hits, ABC's FBI show, 'Quantico,' but as the first South Asian actress to lead an American series.
It's tough enough to portray a comic-book character with an established fan base, but Charlie Cox did it after two other actors, Rex Smith and Ben Affleck. The British actor more than lived up to the expectations in the challenging physical role. He helped 'Daredevil' become one of this year's best shows and a fitting debut in Netflix-Marvel's batch of new series.
A producer, writer, comedian, actress, and singer, Rachel Bloom is the complete package on the CW's new comedy, 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend.' This year, Bloom surprised everyone after 'Crazy Ex-Girlfriend' was passed on by Showtime and landed at sister network the CW. That usually signifies a mess to come. Instead, the show impressed critics and earned Bloom a Golden Globe nomination.
She used to be known as the girl who starred alongside Bella Thorne on Disney Channel's 'Shake It Up.' Then she became the girl who decided she couldn't play Aaliyah in the controversial Lifetime movie. And then she became the dreadlocked star who would help alter the dais on 'Fashion Police' by taking on now-former E! News queen Giuliana Rancic after she said what some believed to be racist remarks about Zendaya on 'Fashion Police.' Now, she's heading up her own cool spy series for Disney Channel, 'K.C. Undercover,' and has become one to watch on the red carpet.
Shanice Williams had never appeared on television before being cast as Dorothy in NBC's 'The Wiz Live' -- a role made famous by Diana Ross in the 1978 film. A local musical-theatre actress, the New Jersey resident beat hundreds of other women who auditioned for the part. For that alone, she should be praised. But when the world finally met her, she showed them why. Critics were pleased with her performance and big things are predicted for Williams' future.
Brazilian actor Wagner Moura really prepared for the role of cocaine king Pablo Escobar on Netflix's 'Narcos' and it paid off. He gained weight and learned Spanish for the role. Critics praised his ability to place menacing and driven, but not go over-the-top with melodrama. And he was recently nominated for a Golden Globe for his portrayal.
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