Welcome to CraveOnline’s annual look at actors whom we feel you should keep your eyes on for the next year. This is not a list of the best or most famous actors of all time. Why? Because you already know those people! No, these are the folks who you should add to your list of actors to follow from project to project because you know, as we do, that they are not going to let you down.
Acting is important and it’s just as much an artform as any impressionist painting. This list features actors who don’t just nail the lines, they make them something ever greater. It’s the personal energy they add to their parts and it’s wonderful. With some exceptions, we’ve chosen folks who haven’t really “broken out” yet either, so these are the actors who are going to be big in a very fresh way.
This year's “to watch” lists feature three of our choices from last year at #10. Either these guys took a little while longer breaking into the public eye than we predicted, or took a more indirect route. But we think in 2012 it’s going to be their year. Well, their year and your year dear readers, as you get to watch them chew the scenery like it was so much fame cake. FAME CAKE!
10: David Blue – DC Pierson – Ryan Robbins
These three guys continue to make us smile each time they hit the screen. They are really gifted and they do so much with characters that they really raise the bar of each project they take on. However, something hasn’t quite clicked yet, and these performers aren’t as well exposed as we might have hoped. But they will be and we predict 2012 is the time.
David Blue is so amazing onscreen that it’s hard to notice that his recent show “Stargate Universe” had other talented actors in it. However, the demise of that show (well before its time) has left Blue without the vehicle (pun intended) that so well represented his skills. So it remains to be seen where he will show up in 2012, but we hope it’s in a leading role. It’s easy to pigeonhole the charmer as a “best friend,” but we know Blue has the skills to captain the ship. (Pun still intended).
Ryan Robbins is beyond being a SyFy mainstay, as he seems to be on each and every show they every make. I’m sure that Robbins has nothing bad to say about the constant work and they are pretty impressive roles at that. Still in 2012, we think that Robbins is going to become even more. He’s also been in more movies this year, so he’s on the way. If you haven’t seen him as a very different Raiden in "Mortal Combat: Legacy," well then you’re missing out.
DC Pierson spent most of this year being funny. He’s really, really good at it. This veteran of the same comedy troupe as Donald Glover has some serious chops and we’re waiting to see his emergence into major roles on this sitcom or the next. Here is an example of his genius, a fantastic parody he did of the controversial Rick Perry “Strong” video:
Good job this year guys. We’ll be watching in 2012.
9: Danny Pudi
Alright, we all know Danny Pudi is everyone’s favorite on the much loved show "Community" and that should really classify him as already having broken through last year. Of course, Pudi is ready for anything, as his character on "Community" has been a jack of all trades for the past 3 seasons. He’s played every conceivable angle on the abed character and that means he’s got a good grasp on whatever the wild world of television throws at him.
Although we think that the totally inexplicable shelving of "Community" and its uncertain future was a mistake; we believe we are going to see Pudi expanding his presence to well, everywhere. 2012 may be the year of the Danny Pudi guest star and we can’t wait.
Pudi on "American Horror Story" in 2012? We’d like to see that. So would you.
8: Mac Lethal
Here is our official “wild card” choice of 2012, Mac Lethal. You’re probably even asking yourself, who is this? Well this long established rapper has been on the scene for a long time, but recently got extremely well exposed with two “drops” in 2011. Here’s one you may have seen… considering it got covered on CNN:
Pretty impressive. It’s not a surprise though, as Lethal (real name David McCleary Sheldon) has been rapping, and releasing albums for 10 years. He’s very good, and the fact that he hasn’t already gained major name recognition is a bit of a brain teaser. Still, it’s not his skills on the Mic that made Lethal famous this year, it’s his skills with a pen, or… well here’s the point… remember this:
Yes, Lethal is the author of the “Texts from Bennett” which exploded on the Internet late this year. Of course he claims Bennett is a real person and that the whole phenomena is legitimate, but that seems unlikely. Still it was everywhere online for a few weeks this year, and if that’s not enough to get Hollywood producers all salivating to find a way to bring Lethal onto television, I don’t know what is. After all… we did get “S#!t My Dad Says” the series.
So while he may never take up acting (remember a lot of rappers do) or come anywhere near a camera in 2012, we think he should, could, and might just. Mac Lethal, it’s about time.
7: Seth Gabel
Here at CraveOnline.com we love the show "Fringe." One of the best choices made in that pretty much flawless show this year was the inclusion of Seth Gabel as Lincoln Lee. Well I should say inclusion in the main universe (long story) as Gabel has been a part of its extended two universe plotline since the end of the second season. This season’s insomniac, bespectacled Lincoln Lee was a real treat and it did a lot to mitigate the loss of Peter Bishop for the first few episodes of the season.
Gabel has been on screen in various roles and chewing up the scenery for the past ten or more years and he has proven himself quite the talent. As he eased into "Fringe" the last two years he has also steadily transformed, both in look and acting maturity into a leading man. Gabel will easily hold down leads in everything from fast action to high drama in the upcoming years. And that train is going to hit the tracks running in 2012.
Until then, we recommend catching up on "Fringe" before the season restarts. You’ll be glad that you did.
6: Seamus Dever
“Castle” is a fantastic show, and also a great show to test an actor’s metal. In a world of established heavy hitters like Stana Katic and Nathan Fillion, you need to be really good to stand out. Well Seamus Dever (as Detective Kevin Ryan) does all that and more. A gifted actor with many years under his belt, Seamus has the combined chameleon-like skills to play the role as needed to keep him on screens for a long time.
This season, Kevin Ryan has had some great turns and proved his character's depth. We think this means more than a few solid Ryan-centric episodes next season as the show broadens its focus to involve the much loved cast. We welcome that, as the show has proven it doesn’t need to turn entirely on Castle to keep itself afloat. Not a lot of shows can do that, and it’s a credit to Dever and the rest of the cast.
Dever has the makings of a serious leading man, with just the right mix of humility and charm, plus a comfort with action. We think he’s beyond worth watching in 2012. Bet on it.
5: Giancarlo Esposito
It takes an epic actor to turn a show that’s already at the top of its game into something ever better. One of the most amazing performances this year was Giancarlo Esposito on “Breaking Bad.” To play a villain so great that a show so critically acclaimed has critics scouring their thesaurus for even more complementary statement is something to be proud of. As a villain, Gus may go down as one of the very best ever put on screen, and from his introduction to his death he was the best thing on that show. It means a lot and we think the powers that be in Hollywood have taken notice. And we’ll definitely see much more of Giancarlo Esposito in coming years.
Of course this was not his first role. Esposito has been all over the screen, and for years. He’s already performed so well in so many projects that it’s amazing there was still room for him to push it to 11. Color us impressed Mr. Esposito, and we look forward to seeing you onscreen in 2012.
NOTE: in a recent discussion of the character of Gus on our podcast The Idiot Box, we mentioned how powerful the character was when acting almost totally in silence. Not a lot of actors can hold a room without words. Gus was an amazingly well painted villain. More applause to Giancarlo Esposito for this work.
4: Ryan Cartwright –
“Mad Men”, “Bones”, and “Alphas” are a pedigree of television shows that should make any actor proud. Ryan Cartwright has had amazing turns on all three series with some of the most notable supporting characters on TV. Now in “Alphas” he is a tour de’ force with a character that owns the screen in every show. This can’t be easy while portraying a character that’s one part autistic, and one part mad genius, with a huge splash of jerk. Somehow Cartwright as Gary Bell is the best thing on “Alphas” and that’s not easy to do.
Back on “Bones,” Cartwright was one of the most memorable characters to ever recur in the rotating “squinters” (a group of interns at the Jeffersonian that take turns working in the lab). His portrayal of the British and fact obsessed Vincent Nigel-Murray was easily one of the best parts of that show. His tragic death scene, was one of the best onscreen deaths we’ve ever seen. What we’re saying is that man can act.
Now it’s 2012, and we look forward to more of Cartwright as Bell, and much more.
3: Jason Clarke
Sometimes an actor breaks onto the scene simply because it is due. Jason Clarke, who has been acting in a number of fantastic roles for the past dozen or more years is just such an actor. After an amazing role this year leading “The Chicago Code” as Detective Jarek Wysocki he proved that he has what it takes to helm a show and bring it to critical greatness.
Sadly the show was not as well received by audiences as it was by critics (We at Crave Online thought it was one of the best shows of the year). The cancellation of "The Chicago Code" just means Clarke is free to take other work. We’ll be seeing a lot of him in 2012, because the man does more with a character then most actors do in a lifetime of work.
Another great role for Clarke was also on a show canceled before its time, “Farscape”. He did such a good job as Jenek (a huge alien creature done with practical Henson effects) that his character was written into the final episode. It’s much harder to act in a giant animatronic character, but somehow he pulls it off.
Clarke is Hollywood’s off-the-mark leading man. We can’t wait to see more.
2: Evan Peters –
Another of this year’s best characters was “American Horror Story’s” Tate. Evan Peters plays Tate to such an amazingly disturbing hilt that he steals any scene he is in. Very few actors this young could handle the depth and weight of a character like Tate; and Peters seems to do it without breaking a sweat. Somehow he manages to be simultaneously scary and charming, which nobody should take lightly. There are times the Violet and Tate relationship is one of the most romantic on television, and that’s pretty amazing consider how F***ed up it is.
Peters won’t need much help breaking out this year. We predict Tate Langdon may have the chops to replace the overplayed Edward Cullen posters on the walls of most teenage girls rooms. We’re ok with that. Well, as ok as we can be with girls fantasizing about a homicidal maniac. Peters sad eyes and comfortable smile will do him well in becoming a teen heartthrob, and he may even be one that avoids the hate of the rest of America’s men.
In twenty years Peters will probably be, THE actor in America. But until then, check him out in 2012 where his staggering talent will make you happy you took the time. Plus you can say you watched him then.
1: Jim Rash
Considering the cast of NBC’s sadly shelved “Community,” it’s always a minor miracle when a supporting character rises through the ranks to be not only a major stand-out, but a serious contender for best character on the show. The best character on “Community” MAY be open to interpretation, but the sheer volume of Dean Pelton love on the Internet is pretty staggering. He’s easily the character whose appearance each episode heralds the best audience reaction. It’s a combination of “FINALLY!” and “YES!”.
“Community” is not the only place Rash has been a standout performer. His work on “Reno 911!” was incredible and he also had a great turn on one of our favorite lesser known movies “Slackers." There has never been portrayal by Rash we haven’t liked. He’s just consistently amazing.
Turning back to “Community,” there are episodes that simply cannot be missed. Nearly ALL of those episodes center around, or at least have a major cameo from Rash. Here is one of our favorite clips:
Also worth your time when looking for Dean Pelton clips is a fantastic early second season montage of all the costumes he’s worn while entering the study group's room in the library.
Rash is our kind of actor. He’s comfortable making fun of himself and he can go from silly to serious in a heartbeat. He is one of those actors that we’re happy to see in anything and he somehow makes the whole piece better. You should look out for Jim Rash in 2012, we certainly will be.
So keep an eye on these gents in the next year. You'll be so happy you did. From the best jokes to the tightest dramatic turns, these guys are the ones to look for in 2012. And if you liked this list, check out our 10 Actresses To Watch In 2012!