Actor: Taraji P. Henson
Empire hasn’t even been on an entire year, and the sprawling, bickering Lyon clan at its center feels about as detailed and richly explored as shows two times older. The beating, intoxicating heart of that ideal is embodied in full leopard print with the Lyon family matriarch, Cookie.
Lee Daniels and Danny Strong (Empire‘s co-creators) can sometimes write scripts too energetic, too frenetic, generating a head-spinning, alliance-shifting show that can be hard to fully invest in with such silly twists, but Henson anchors the chaos. She’s the classic rough-and-tumble momma bear but Henson jumps into the role with such enthusiastic gusto she earns every face spit, hair pull, and bitch slap she gets to dish out. Sometimes all at once.
11) Selina Meyer
Actor: Julia Louis-Dreyfus
I’m not always all-in with HBO’s Veep. The show can downright cut me down in gut-busting one-liners, but entire episodes have occasionally left me cold (this year’s format-breaking testimony episode bordered on annoying). But my favorite moments from the show have one common denominator: Julia Louis-Dreyfus’ eternally exasperated VP Selina Meyer. She’s a character so high-strung and over-the-top in her preternatural perplexity that she makes the political maneuvering her and her staff must take to survive in Washington D.C. look downright sane in comparison.
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Louis-Dreyfus drops so many pitch perfect character details into Meyer’s bloody battle to the top of the POTUS VIP list that she fuels a show otherwise a bit too preoccupied in generating of-the-moment satire than being consistently entertaining, like its deserving-of-all-those-Emmys star.