Who are some of the finest actors on TV? It’s such a broad question that it’s almost impossible to figure out an answer to. There are so many genres and so many actors then ever before; also, so much of it is subjective. A performance may have an emotional impact on you because of certain dialogue or a setting to even the inflection of an actor’s voice. A part of what makes the television medium so fantastic is that we have the time to get attached to performers and their characters over a long period of time.
The struggle was real to narrow down all of the list of actors to eight for our CarterMatt Awards category of Top Actor of 2017. The staff went back and forth on many of these, but the actors we chose were the ones that had the biggest impact on us this past year for one reason or another.
(Note: If you are on mobile and cannot see the poll, scroll to the bottom of the article and click to view the non-AMP version.)
Voting for this category is going to remember open from now until Wednesday, December 27 at 4:00 p.m. Eastern time (1:00 pm. Pacific), when the results will be posted in a separate article. To see more categories / results and view official voting rules, check out our CarterMatt Awards landing page.
Now, without further ado, let’s get to sharing the staff nominations for CarterMatt’s Top Actor of 2017.
Jay Ellis, Insecure (HBO) – Lawrence is one of the best fully-formed characters on TV — he’s funny when he needs to be, relatable at every turn, and the perfect foil for the series’ main character of Issa (Issa Rae). Ellis brought such a calm strength the character in season 1 that since then, he’s been able to divert expectations and create someone utterly captivating to watch. Ellis makes even the most subtle of scenes compelling to watch.
Sam Heughan, Outlander (Starz) – Time and time again Heughan delivers as Jamie Fraser, whether it be vulnerable sequences such as the ones in “Of Lost Things” or romantic moments like we saw with “A. Malcolm.” We’ve seen Jamie joyous, burdened, hurt, victorious, and anything and everything between. Heughan’s performance through it all is steady and magnificent. The writers have the luxury of knowing that he will elevate any material to the next level, so they can give him meaty challenging stories. He’s done it time and time again throughout the season.
Taylor Kinney, Chicago Fire (NBC) – Some of the best work of Kinney’s career came about this year on Chicago Fire as Kelly Severide was faced with the best and worst parts of himself. The worst was his addiction and his frequent propensity to self-sabotage — we saw some of that in the crossover with Chicago PD at the very start of the year. Meanwhile, we also saw his ability to love and to care for someone else with Anna. While the end of that storyline was heartbreaking we appreciated every bit of the emotion Kinney put into it from start to finish.
Andrew Lincoln, The Walking Dead (AMC) – How do you bring a broken man back into a position of power? That’s been a struggle for Lincoln’s Rick throughout 2017, but he’s found a way to figure that out and it’s been amazing to watch. The transformation of this character has been, once again remarkable. Look at the Rick Grimes in February versus the Rick Grimes on season 8, a crafty, determined man ready to take on Negan or anyone else in his path. Lincoln grounds the show with his performance, offering up both a commanding presence and a flawed figure we all can understand and relate to.
Alex O’Loughlin, Hawaii Five-0 (CBS) – What a fantastic year this has been for O’Loughlin given everything that he’s done. The season 7 finale was an emotional highlight, and through season 8 we’ve seen him find comfort in a new companion (Eddie), battle some of his personal demons, and start up a restaurant business with Danny (Scott Caan). O’Loughlin is arguably network TV’s best action hero, but what makes him so special is that there’s so much more to him then just chasing down bad guys. He gives us heart, humor, and someone to root for week in and week out.
Lee Pace, Halt and Catch Fire (AMC) – Pace is the reigning champion in this category and it’s not all that hard to understand why. He played Joe MacMillan for four years as a man who, on the surface, should be a hero and a master at what he does. Yet, there are cracks in that windshield and over time, you see that he’s far from the man you thought he was. He’s a tortured soul constantly driven to be a pioneer, someone who is always beyond arm’s reach. We only wish that Halt and Catch Fire was seen by more people through its final season so that people could understand the poignancy of this performance.
James Spader, The Blacklist (NBC) – Through the end of season 4 this spring and the beginning of season 5 this fall, it feels like viewers had a chance to see the full arsenal of tools Spader brings to the table as Raymond Reddington. On one side you’ve got this bold, confident criminal with plenty of bravado; yet, there is also an insecurity underneath the surface and a secret that needs to be kept. We’ve seen what Reddington will do to protect said secret, just as we’ve seen a lighter, more humorous side. This is the perfect year to experience a full scope of what Spader brings to this role.
Aidan Turner, Poldark (BBC) – Turner’s scenes with Eleanor Tomlinson and Heida Reed were on another level this season, and served as a perfect reminder of what makes him the perfect Ross for this show. He’s a character you want to see as this perfect hero, and then you look at him and see that he’s perhaps even more flawed than all of us. Turner never places Ross on a pedestal; he takes you inside his brain and helps you understand his mistakes and his fears. It’s a refreshingly different take on a character we’ve seen many times before in other forms.
Now … we turn this over to you!
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