It's that time of year, when every site you read has a slightly different take on who was the best of the best.
When we did our list of actors we were "thankful for" back at Thanksgiving, I bemoaned the fact that sometimes we have to take a list that should be ten or more and boil it down to five. Well, here we get to stretch out a little...and there were still names left off the list.
With a bunch of great comics-to-TV adaptations on the air right now, there are a number of actors who deserve wider recognition. So we're going to look not just at talent and performances here, but who inspires us, who engages us and who makes us want to watch more of their show just by virtue of...being there.
As the lead for what many critics are calling the best new show of the season, Gustin would be generating a lot of talk even if that show wasn't a superhero show -- following the lead of Arrow and Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and setting the stage for even more to come soon.
The Glee veteran nails the tone necessary for The Flash, managing to take things just seriously enough while injecting humor and heart into every scene. It's sometimes harder to be "human" than it is to be the rough-and-tumble killing machines like Oliver Queen or Daryl Dixon, and Gustin hasn't missed a beat yet.
This season brought more than a few revelations for Agent of S.H.I.E.L.D.'s Skye. Not only did she reunite with Daddy Dearest, Doctor Hyde, but she also learned her real name is Daisy Johnson (known in the comics as Avenger, Quake) and she's an Inhuman.
While carrying the weight of that convincingly in a performance would've stumped a lot of actresses, Bennett takes it in stride and delivers as an actress. We can't wait to see what's in store for her next when Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. returns from winter hiatus.
The Arrow star remains the face of DC Entertainment's TV adaptations, even despite the record-setting ratings success of The Flash and the bigger names on FOX's Gotham.
Why? Well, in part because he's a master of fan interaction.
His Facebook page, which boasts nearly 3 million likes, is constantly bombarded with activity, as Amell interacts with viewers, answers questions, plays games and promotes not only the show, but his charity work as well and the work and passions of other Arrow cast members.
His onscreen heroic persona is sometimes outstripped by his off-screen one, in fact, making Stephen Amell the hero that Oliver Queen often strives to be.
McBride is delivering one of the best performances on television as Carol Peletier, domestic abuse survivor, and a mother who's had to bury three daughters in the time we've known her.
The material she has to work with certainly helps -- Carol is cooler and stronger in the TV series than she ever was in the comics -- but we've heard producers say in the past that it's actually McBride's powerhouse performance that inspired them to do so.
'I don’t know why they took Carol in a different direction but I'm happy that they did," McBride told us in an October interview. "If I had anything to do with it, then I'm happy about that."
More than just the romantic foil to Amell's Oliver Queen, Felicity delivers key beats of humor in what's otherwise often a very dour and serious show.
Executive producer Marc Guggenheim admitted at Comic Con International that she started as a character that was easy for himself and showrunner Greg Berlanti -- who specialize in light, rat-a-tat dialogue, to write and that once they saw how effortlessly Rickards slipped into the world of the show, and how good her on-screen chemistry was with Amell, she became a regular not by design but because they'd have been crazy not to do it.
Robin Lord Taylor
Gotham itself has been somewhat uneven, drawing middling reviews for many of its episodes, but the performances have generally been terrific. Child actors David Mazouz and Camren Bicondova have earned acclaim -- something uncommon for younger talent on a genre show, who are usually given a hard time (just ask Chandler Riggs).
But the undeniable standout is Robin Lord Taylor, who plays Oswald "The Penguin" Cobblepot.
He elevates every scene he's in, and when the show is at its best tends to be when the story focuses heavily on The Penguin's subplots. A supremely talented actor, it's hard to imagine the casting folks on The Walking Dead aren't kicking themselves a little for doing away with him so fast.
The star of NBC's Constantine is filming his season finale this week -- and will be livetweeting the episode when the show returns early next month.
How do we know? Because he's live-tweeted every episode and, according to executive producer Daniel Cerone, more or less of his own volition.
"Our entire cast live-tweets every episode," Cerone told us last month, saying that they'd been asked once and then took it upon themselves to continue.
During our recent interview with Cerone, one thing was made imminently clear: the cast and crew of the series are incredibly passionate. They want to bring Hellblazer to life in the best way possible, and Ryan himself lives and breathes the show.
That's good -- because the series could easily have been a train wreck with the wrong casting...and if fans had hated it, it would have been a good while before they gave the property a third chance (the 2005 Keanu Reeves movie didn't win many fans, although it is on sale for just $5.99 digitally on Amazon right now).
As the face of The Walking Dead, Andrew Lincoln has gone from "that guy you saw in Love Actually but couldn't quite place" to one of TV's biggest stars in the last half-decade.
And it's well-earned. The horror and genre elements of The Walking Dead often make it difficult for the series to get recognized come awards season, but at least once a season, Lincoln seems to turn out a performance so captivating that everyone stands up and takes notice.
And when you've got an audience of more than 15 million, that means there are a lot of people recognizing what a great job he's doing.
Gregg has one characteristic that we love to see on these shows: he's a fan.
That's actually one of the recurring things you'll see on this list. Maybe it helps inform the performance, maybe the performance is all just craft and the fandom simply brings out a passion that you wouldn't necessarily see in other actors...but Gregg, like seemingly everyone on this list, loves his job.
"I grew up reading Marvel Comics and loving this stuff, and when I saw they were putting together that kind of cast for Iron Man, as a geek I was just like, 'Oh, this is going to be incredible,'" Gregg told us in a 2012 interview in support of Marvel's The Avengers. "And so when Favreau called up and said, 'It's just a little bit--it isn't much but we'd be lucky to have you,' I was like, 'Yeah! Absolutely!' And so to have it turn into this is kind of a teenage fantasy of mine."
You can see it reflected in the way he interacts with fans, too; Gregg stays if not necessarily in-characer then at least defensive enough of his character to make it fun to watch him in interviews, on social media and the like...and he's fiercely protective of spoilers.
When his character was going to die in The Avengers, and the information had leaked, co-star Tom Hiddleston warned us against asking him any questions about it, implying that Gregg might actually be that Marvel employee actors are always joking will kill you if you break your non-disclosure agreement.
It's hard not to recognize Reedus,who manages to infuse Daryl Dixon -- a character who's really unappealing on paper -- with the humanity to become the heart of The Walking Dead.
A foul-mouthed, coarse neo-Nazi is hardly a prime candidate to become a character fans threaten to "riot" over if anything bad happens to him, but the star of The Boondock Saints has managed to craft a performance that makes Daryl sympathetic and lovable -- to the extent that the shipper wars between "Caryl" and "Bethyl" fans have driven some of the most heated and enthusiastic conversations around The Walking Dead for the last year or more.