16 Supporting Actors in TV Dramas Who Stole the Show (PHOTOS)

Damarys Ocaña Perez | Oct 29, 2015 TV
16 Supporting Actors in TV Dramas Who Stole the Show (PHOTOS)

Plenty of supporting actors and actresses on TV shows stick to the plan: Say your lines on cue and don't outshine the leads. It's doubtful, for example, if anyone can name a single character other than Viola Davis's Annalise in How to Get Away with Murder. But every once in a while, a character (and actor) comes along who's just too good to contain. 

Here are 16 supporting characters in TV dramas who didn't just support — they stole the show. Which are your faves?


Image via CBS

  • Jesse Pinkman on 'Breaking Bad'


    Image via AMC

    Much has been written about how protective Breaking Bad fans are of Jesse Pinkman. An annoying kid who turns into a meth dealer, then desperately tries to turn his life around, Jesse goes through hell and back, experiencing every raw emotion in the book. Aaron Paul's portrayal is riveting, and he deservedly won three Emmys for the role. 

  • Kalinda Sharmai in 'The Good Wife'


    Image via CBS

    Julianna Margulies might be the lead actress on The Good Wife, but it was Kalinda Sharma, as portrayed by Archie Panjabi, who first brought the show wide attention — as well as its first Emmy. The enigmatic Kalinda was brown, bisexual, and great at her job as an investigator for a law firm, making the leather-jacket-and-spiky-boot-wearing character a groundbreaking one. 

  • Omar Little on 'The Wire'


    Image via HBO

    He's a character completely outside the box, on a show like no other, and every time Omar Little's onscreen, no one else exists. In Baltimore's ruthless, homophobic, and drug-infested underworld, he is a thug with a code, an armed robber who steals from drug lords, avenges the innocent, and has the guts to be openly gay. Portrayed by Michael K. Williams, he is the hero of antiheroes.

  • Cristina Yang on 'Grey's Anatomy'


    Image via ABC

    Where Meredith Grey was morose and whiny, her best friend, Cristina Yang, was direct, smart, and aggressive, offering often unsolicited but on-point advice. On a show that loves to steep in overwrought emotion, Sandra Oh, who left after season 10, was a breath of fresh air.

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  • Dowager Countess of Grantham on 'Downton Abbey'


    Image via PBS

    She may be the matriarch of an aristocratic family in Downton Abbey, but that doesn't mean that the Dowager Countess is above aiming some very pointed barbs in the direction of, well, anyone. As the countess, veteran actress Maggie Smith steals every scene with witty comebacks and observations. So much for keeping a stiff upper lip.

  • Bronn on 'Game of Thrones'


    Image via HBO

    On any given season, Game of Thrones boasts at least seven characters with major story lines — all of which involve jockeying for power. What makes Bronn different is that his motivation is simple: money. As a sword-for-hire with earthy, razor-sharp wit to match that if his employer, Tyrion Lannister, he lacks morals and kills on command, couldn't care less about noble deeds, and has none of the expected reverence for the aristocracy and their self-importance. Jerome Flynn plays him brilliantly.

  • Benjamin Linus on 'Lost'


    Image via ABC

    His character was only supposed to stick around for a few episodes of Lost, but Michael Emerson's strong portrayal made producers turn Benjamin Linus into a major, pivotal character. Ben was sharp but slightly off-kilter, devious, manipulative, and surprisingly idealistic as the leader of the Others. The revelation about his character at the end of the show remains one of Lost's most poignant moments.

  • CJ Cregg on 'The West Wing'


    Image via NBC

    As press secretary (and later, chief of staff) on The West Wing, CJ Cregg regularly ate reporters for breakfast. She was strong, fiercely loyal, and took no bunk from male staffers who tried to keep her out of the loop. Based on Dee Dee Myers, Bill Clinton's one-time press secretary, Allison Janney's portrayal of a woman negotiating the highest halls of power remains an iconic one.

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  • Spock on 'Star Trek'


    Image via NBC

    Half Vulcan and half human, Spock can offer logical, emotionally detached counsel but also credibly comment on the human condition. While his pointy ears and eyebrows, severe haircut, and signature hand salute became instant pop culture sensations, Leonard Nimoy also endowed Spock with a quiet dignity that made the character transcend a show with a good amount of camp.

  • J.R. Ewing on 'Dallas'


    Image via CBS

    Dallas was supposed to be a take on Romeo and Juliet, centered around star-crossed lovers from warring Texas oil families. But Larry Hagman changed all that by turning J.R. Ewing, an outrageously arrogant, money-worshipping oil baron, into the character viewers loved to hate and hated to love. His character became so popular that Hagman successfully haggled for a big raise and bigger story lines.

  • Mellie Grant on 'Scandal'


    Image via ABC

    On a show like Scandal, where characters take turns being outrageous, it's hard to stand out. But First Lady Mellie Grant, as played by Bellamy Young, manages to do it by being one of its most well-rounded characters. Whether she's fighting the main character for her husband's affections, spiraling into alcoholism and depression after her son's death, or taking charge of her own future by running for president, Mellie is never boring. 

  • Daryl Dixon on 'The Walking Dead'


    Image via AMC

    A crossbow may not seem like the most efficient weapon to fight a crowd of zombies, but Daryl Dixon makes it work on The Walking Dead. He's the kind of bad boy men want to be and women want to be with: strong, good-looking, independent almost to the point of being feral. A guy who speaks his mind no matter what the consequences. Norman Reedus took a character meant to die after a few episodes and turned him into a series regular who has outlasted most of the original cast.

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  • Dr. Walter Bishop on 'Fringe'


    Image via Fox

    Fringe started as an X-Files-inspired sci-fi series with a strong female lead. But the series became so much more with the addition of John Noble, who plays Walter Bishop, a mad scientist whose brain is addled because he's literally missing pieces and took tons of LSD in the swinging '60s. An absentee father and genius whose experiments unleash destruction, he was a man seeking redemption, and he became the heart of the series.

  • Debra Morgan on 'Dexter'


    Image via Showtime

    He was a brilliant forensic scientist by day and serial killer by night—and made it all look so easy. She was the little sister struggling to get respect as a cop. Debra Morgan (Jennifer Carpenter) was the perfect foil for the title character Dexter, the character that viewers could most identify with, both vulnerable and brave.

  • Juliet Burke on 'Lost'


    Image via ABC

    At first Juliet Burke seemed to be as seemingly brainwashed as the rest of the Others, the mysterious island dwellers on Lost. But with every episode, actress Elizabeth Mitchell peeled back Juliet's layers, revealing new things about one of the most compelling, complex characters on the show — right up to her last heroic moments.

  • Eric Northman on 'True Blood'


    Image via HBO

    Sookie who? As soon as Eric Northman appeared on True Blood, it became his show. As Eric, Alexander Skarsgard deploys all of his talents to make one noble, soulful, sassy, loyal, cocky Vampire King of Mississippi. By the time the show ended, fans were calling for a spin-off centered on Eric. Producers have indicated that fans may at least get a movie. 

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