In the television world, ain’t nothing better than a weirdo. Give us your bizarre, your strange, your huddled freaks yearning to break free (from the mundane)…and let the actors shine. Michael Emerson (“Person of Interest, Lost, The Practice”) has practically built his career around playing eccentric characters, much to the delight of both audiences and critics. While Hollywood feeds (on) the beautiful people—counting on them to head up or carry a show—it takes a special kind of actor to let his freak flag fly. With good writing and a moment to shine, we’ve been rewarded with these intriguing and fascinating characters who keep us interested no matter lead nor the storyline.
10. Amy Jellicoe (Laura Dern), “Enlightened”
Alternately the most annoying person on the planet and the girl you might feel sorry for, Amy Jellicoe is an accident you cannot help but watch.
9. Nolan Ross (Gabriel Mann), “Revenge”
Is he good? Is he bad? The answer changes week to week (along with the ridiculous collars and über preppy duds). Whichever side he ends up on, Nolan steals any scene he’s in.
8. Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold (Robert Carlyle), “Once Upon a Time”
This Rumpelstiltskin seems to have a connection to everyone in Storybrooke (and fairy tale world) and he knows how to manipulate in both worlds as well. Even though we know he’s bad, there’s something delightfully charming about his alter ego, Mr. Gold.
7. Tom Kane (Kelsey Grammer), “Boss”
Despise him? Feel sorry for him? Despise him some more? Admire him? Just pay this sick (in more ways than one) Chicago mayor attention—he commands it.
6. Chucky Marstein (Michael Marisi Ornstein), “Sons of Anarchy”
A compulsive masturbator who is loyal to a fault and makes us laugh? Yes, please.
5. Richard Harrow (Jack Huston), “Boardwalk Empire”
A gun for hire with unspoken heart, war veteran Harrow is in constant battle with himself. Though his physical appearance had the potential to ward us off, it is impossible to look away; a testament to Huston’s talent.
4., 3. and 2. Larry Harvey (Denis O’Hare), Moira O’Hara (Frances Conroy), Constance Langdon (Jessica Lange), “American Horror Story”
Each member of this “American Horror Story” triad commands the screen, a glorious combination of living and dead, twisted and funny, two beauties and a beast. Larry’s a melty, lovesick puppy; Moira, a biting, bittersweet, brilliantly funny henchwoman and Constance, their fearless, twisted leader.
1. Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes), “Homeland”
Never mind the impossible idea of a CIA agent with an undisclosed mental disorder, working in counterterrorism, just embrace the crazy-brilliance that is Carrie Mathison. Danes takes this character to her edge, leaving us wondering if at any moment she will unravel a complicated plot against the United States or instead, crumble into a quivering, nonsensical mess.
Cindy Davis has an uncertain smile.