Best of 2012: ‘Game of Thrones,’ ‘Walking Dead,’ ‘Glee’ stars break through

Best of 2012After looking at a number of categories pertaining to shows for our Best of 2012 series, we are now moving on this week to profiling some individual stars … beginning with people who came out of nowhere and made huge impressions on us within the past year.

The distinctions that we want to make here is that this is really just an achievement in entertainment rather than an achievement in acting. This is justification for there being a reality star on the list, since we believe that Breakout Stars are people who you are going to spend time talking about for positive reasons. All have contributed greatly to the medium, and we expect to see plenty more from them in the years to come.

Alex Newell, “Glee” (Fox) – Who would have thought that the best new addition to “Glee” this year would be a guy who didn’t even win the first season of “The Glee Project”? While the show itself has at times been a disappointment, the Unique story has been fantastic with its subtlety. It almost feels as though Ryan Murphy learned from his mistakes from season 2 in not forcing a storyline about someone’s identity down viewers’ throats. Instead, he has allowed Newell to play Wade / Unique as an inspirational and largely-upbeat kid who is proud of who he is, even if most other people are still afraid to accept it.

Alfie Allen, “Game of Thrones” (HBO) – Although Allen was in season 1 of the show, this was the year when his character of Theon Greyjoy really came into his own. He was a character that went from someone you want to cheer for to someone you loved to hate over the course of the season, as this character became more and more delusional and misguided when it came to his own capabilities. His ill-timed speech in the season 2 finale alone makes him worthy of getting a little bit of love here.

David Morrissey, “The Walking Dead” (AMC) – It’s possible that many “Walking Dead” fans may have known about Morrissey prior to his casting on the show this year; for everyone else, though, he has been a revelation in bringing to life a character in The Governor who presents a difficult challenge. There’s a fine line between making a villain terrifying and making them melodramatic, and Morrissey has stayed on the right side of it. Morrissey plays him with such panache and charisma that you legitimately want to believe everything that he says, even if you know a good bit of it to not be true.

Jake Johnson, “New Girl” (Fox) – When “New Girl” premiered, we were convinced at first that Zooey Deschanel and Max Greenfield would be the major stars. Instead, it’s Nick Miller himself in Jake Johnson. While Schmidt and Jess are obvious quirky and/or crazy from the moment you meet them, what makes Nick such a fantastic character is that on the surface, he seems completely normal. Johnson does a great job of making this guy be both the guy you want to have a beer with and the guy you want to run away from at the same time.

Jase Robertson, “Duck Dynasty” (A&E) – We’ll defend putting Jase on here for one simple reason: if you are basing this on someone who became a star in 2012, there no better names from reality TV (and we refuse to give Honey Boo Boo any credit). Jase is not only the funniest member of the Robertson clan (who have all been breakout stars this year in their own way), but you get the sense with him that he is not really playing up any sort of oddball persona for the cameras. Maybe it’s the giant heart behind the giant beard that makes him so believable.

Jessica Pare, “Mad Men” (AMC) – Not everyone loves Megan Draper, but luckily we do. “Mad Men” was smart to have Don move on with his life, and Pare played this role brilliantly in season 5 beginning with her “Zou Bisou Bisou” performance. She is a challenging character in that unlike Betty, she is not just content with life as it is, and she has her own unique set of goals and dreams to pursue. For at least the time being (depending on your interpretation of the finale), she is also the only woman thus far to really keep Jon Hamm’s character on the straight and narrow.

Lena Dunham, “Girls” (HBO) – Dunham is someone you could claim is a breakout star as a writer, a director, and also an actor. Who else has that distinction? What’s truly remarkable is how this young woman has come out of nowhere and become a gigantic TV star so fast with a show in “Girls” that reflects the mindset of a certainly demographic so effectively. The show may not be everyone’s cup of tea, but you have to admire what Dunham is doing here in bringing an indie comedy feel to premium cable that was perhaps not there before.

Who is your pick for Breakout Star of 2012 among these nominees? Be sure to vote in our poll below, and we’ll be announcing our winner (along with our other categories, including Best Underrated Show and Worst Show of 2012) on Friday, December 21 at 12:00 p.m. Eastern time.


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