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12 Underrated Actors of 2010

by Dr. Ryan Vaughan, PhD (no, seriously), posted Dec 12th 2010 4:00PM
Nick Offerman On the twelfth day of Festivus, TV gave to us... 12 underrated actors.

There are a lot of heralded actors out there entertaining us and keeping our couches warm on a nightly basis. So heralded are some that, by association, others spend their entire careers without herald. Herald-less, if you will.

How do we go about heralding the less-heralded? They're certainly worthy of acclaim, with performances both comedic and dramatic, versatile and subtly powerful.

While the herald-hoarders get all the glory, all the buzz, all the paparazzi they can take a swing at, these quiet performers do the dirty work that makes television work. So, in the interest of equal herald for equal work: "Hark the herald angels sing, glory to these 12 underrated actors!"

Pamela Adlon as Marcy Runkle ('Californication')
Adlon was amazing on 'Lucky Louie' a few years back, but the role of Marcy Runkle is perfect for her no nonsense style that's at once poignant and crass. It's almost comforting to hear her dance through lines of ruthlessly vulgar dialogue and own a sexuality that is both sexy and scary ... like cheetah porn.

Gabrielle Anwar as Fiona Glenanne ('Burn Notice')
When 'SNL' does a sketch about a game show that challenges contestants to explain what it is your show is about ("What is 'Burn Notice?'"), and no one can ... you're on an underrated show. But a lot people are watching for a reason, and I'm pretty sure it's Gabrielle Anwar's turn as the Bond-girlesque IRA spy.

Stephen Colbert as "Stephen Colbert" ('
The Colbert Report')
Colbert is mostly overlooked because he lives in the shadow of his "adversary," Jon Stewart. In fact, their public squabbles, however manufactured, are as funny as any of their political satire. Every hero needs a villain, and in this case, they both happen to be jokers. His parody of Papa Bear O'Reilly and all things conservative illustrates his range as a performer.

The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
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Donald Glover as Troy Barnes ('Community')
Glover is far from underrated in sketch/improv comedy circles. His work with Derrick Comedy most likely landed him the role of Troy on 'Community.' But network television is a long way from the improv theaters and the Internet, and Glover has brought Troy to progressively better jokes and better storylines with counterpart, Abed (the also-underrated Danny Pudi). On a show with many complimentary characters, Glover's not only compliments, he gives them a rub-down and makes them hot cocoa.

Christina Moore as Candy Sullivan ('Hawthorne')
You may have heard already that Moore will be on the next season of 'True Blood,' and it should come as no surprise if you've ever seen an episode of 'Hawthorne.' It's tough for gorgeous women to get any kind of respect without compromising who they are, but Moore exhibits a strength and a presence in every frame that will make you wish you were in a horrific accident, just to have her wheel you in on a gurney.

Heather Morris as Brittany Pierce ('Glee')
Lea Michelle and Jane Lynch get all the run, but Morris is simply delightful as Brittany. Not only did she do Britney Spears justice in that sequin flesh-tone body stocking, but she also does "vapid and vacuous" with almost frightening accuracy and an innocence that makes us love, rather than hate her. Add to that the fact that "Glee' is essentially her first acting gig and we dare you not to be impressed.

Nick Offerman as Ron Swanson ('Parks & Recreation')
Ron Swanson isn't just a man's man -- he's a man's man's, man -- and Nick Offerman makes 'Parks and Recreation' a show worth waiting until January to see again. Hunting, whiskey, breakfast, barely contained hatred and rage, woodworking, and an immeasurable pain tolerance make Ron Swanson the best candidate to write a Dude Handbook.

Kaitlin Olson as Dee Reynolds ('
It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia')
Like Elaine Benes before her, Dee has to match wits, insults, and depravity with a slew of insensitive, selfish men. Olson does more for gender equality through her ability to out duel and out scheme her male counterparts, as Kim Cattrall ('Sex and the City') ever did by bedding hers and bragging about it to her friends. Charlie, Mac, Dennis, and Frank might not think she's in their league, but the audience does.

Rico Rodriguez as Manny Delgado ('
Modern Family')
While it's not difficult for a 35-year-old to play 18 (see the original 'Beverly Hills: 90210'), it can't be easy for a 12-year-old to play 45, but Rodriguez does it with an ease and a charm that makes an already funny show, hilarious. Whether he's waxing philosophical with people thrice his age or baffling/creeping out his peers, what he brings to the show is a subtle reminder that we're all in too much of a hurry to grow up.

Kenan Thompson as Various Characters ('Saturday Night Live')
It's shocking to me that Thompson has any career other than car wash manager after his early work on 'Kenan & Kel.' (For example: anyone seen Kel lately?) It takes a lot of skill and perseverance to not be remembered as "the fat guy from 'Good Burger.'" His tenure at 'SNL' has been a steady climb from extra to role player to headliner, and it has been particularly enjoyable to watch it all unfold.

Jerry Trainor as Spencer Shay ('iCarly')
On a show that most people over the age of 20 have never heard of, Trainor dominates. The show is about the tweens, obviously, but Nickelodeon learned some time ago that shows do a lot better (sell more merch) if there's an element to the show that doesn't make parents want to sell their children on the black market to avoid them. Trainor is that element. He makes me laugh at least once an episode, and not ironically. On a tween show. That's talent.

Kirsten Vangsness as Penelope Garcia('
Criminal Minds')
The mousy, unassuming tech geek is always neglected. So, of all the performers on this list Vangsness is the only underrated actress playing a character that is equally underrated. She adds a much needed quirkiness to a show that can border on the grim, allowing viewers to take a breath while simultaneously enhancing the drama and suspense.

Who's your favorite underrated actor of 2010?

Tomorrow on Festivus: 11 'Real Housewives' Feuding

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Carlos H.

Actually, I think that almost everybody that ISN'T Joel McHale, Chevy Chase, or Ken Jeong on Community is pretty much underrated. And yes, Allison Brie is included in the underrated spot too.

Same thing goes for the cast of Parks and Recreation (with the exception of Amy Poehler and Aziz Ansari).

December 24 2010 at 12:16 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Charlie Hunnam (Jax Teller - Sons of Anarchy) he was on fire this season.

Love Kristen on Criminal Minds.

December 23 2010 at 4:04 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Okay, none of those actors and/or characters seem to be "underrated" to me particularly.

Here are my 12 underrated actors/characters (sometimes one, sometimes the other, most times both):
12. Alfred Molina/Ricardo Morales (Law & Order: LA). I first heard of Alfred Molina several years ago, as he was Doc Ock in the (rather dreadful I'm afraid) second Spiderman movie with Tobey Maguire. Now that I have finally gotten to see him in action in a far better production, he's great! I would like to see more of this guy in this kind of role, and not a in junky film directed by Sam Raimi (who really should have stopped with the first Spidey movie, much like he should have stopped with the first Evil Dead movie).

11. Portia De Rossi/Veronica Palmer (Better Off Ted). I know, I know, a great many of you think that I'm nuts, but Portia is absolutely hysterical! I never saw her on Arrested Development, or anything she's done, but boy howdy, was she ever great on Better Off Ted!

10. Jane Lynch/Sue Sylvester (Glee). Holy moley, she's hilarious! And no, I won't mistake her for Ellen DeGeneres, because Jane is super unique in her comedic talent! In the grand deadpan tradition of the late Leslie Nielsen, Jane Lynch is the deadpan crownholder of this generation, and that's not entirely a bad thing.

9. Carol Burnett. While she doesn't do that many guest shots, her guest shot on "Glee" was pretty spectacular, and introduced a whole new generation to Carol that might never have heard of her before. It's all about the marketability to the lucrative youth market these days, and now Carol has some cachet in that arena.

8. Tamala Jones/M.E. Lanie Parish (Castle) - Just because she's #8 on my list doesn't mean she's any less of a talented actress! She is the straight-talking, hilarious counterpart to Beckett! Even the diehard fans of Castle, when partaking in the Castle Drinking Game, take a swig every time Lanie isn't the M.E. on the show! That HAS to count for SOMETHING, right?

7. Nathan Fillion/Richard Castle (Castle) - The titular character... and he's gotten less recognition for that than any of his prior roles, including as Captain Reynolds on Firefly. Why is that? Why can't everyone recognize Nathan Fillion for the extremely talented guy he is? Why can't everyone have fantastic roles for Nathan that last a lot longer than his 5 second Halo Reach cameo?

6. Susan Sullivan/Martha Rodgers (Castle) - Am I the only one who DIDN'T remember her from Dharma & Greg or Another World before her role on Castle? Seriously, I must have been living under a TV rock, because she's spectacular!

5. Jon Huertas/Detective Javier Esposito (Castle) - Boy, this guy just has about the straightest role from the 12th Precinct on Castle. A veteran of our military, a veteran of a different police force, and a veteran of only a few fantastic plotlines on Castle, it boggles my mind that Jon hasn't gotten more recognition than he deserves. (I personally think everyone remembers him from Generation: Kill on HBO, and therefore cannot see him as doing a totally different role than that, and that's sad.)

4. Molly Quinn/Alexis Castle (Castle) - While they have given her a few more chintzy plot lines this season on Castle, she's almost always the straight one where Richard Castle is more the goofy one, in the grand tradition of the best comedy teams, like Abbott & Costello, The Three Stooges, Lucy & Ethel, Bert & Ernie, and the list goes on from there.

3. Ruben Santiago-Hudson/Captain Roy Montgomery (Castle) - Seriously, why hasn't Hollywood given him MORE of this kind of treatment? He's truly one of the best actors we've got right now, and that's saying a lot. That he's also extremely underrated isn't that unimportant either.

2. Stana Katic/Det. Kate Beckett (Castle) - Holy camoley, Stana Katic has to be the most underrated female performer this year by far. There was that great episode earlier this year where she got to explore a bit more of this character's past, especially with regard to her mother's murder, where she was unbelievably emotionally genuine. And there can only be good things to come for Kate Beckett in 2011.

1. Seamus Dever/Det. Kevin Ryan (Castle) - THE most underrated comedic actor this year by far. He had so many brilliant comedic moments in Castle this year, it wasn't even funny. And I sincerely hope that the Emmy voting committee doesn't remember his stint on 'GH' when considering his nomination this year.

December 16 2010 at 4:00 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Robert Sean Leonard on House. He's the only one who can hold his own with Hugh Laurie. Their scenes together are the only reason to watch the show.

December 16 2010 at 3:26 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

You neglected to mention Atticus Shaffer, the nerdy,brainy,adult-child called Brick on The Middle. I think he and Rico Rodriguez are the new 'it' children actors of the decade.

December 16 2010 at 9:21 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
John F.C. Taylor

Saw the question about who my favorite under rated actor is? Assuming I'm supposed to pick from the ten people listed, my response would be none of the above. To have them be a favorite under rated actor, I'd have to be interested in the programs they appear on. I don't watch any of them.

December 16 2010 at 8:13 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply
Mary Bemenderfer

I think the kid on "The Middle" who whispers the last of each sentence is the best child actor I have ever watched. He is hysterical and makes the show. Sorry, I am not sure of his name...Atticus something ?

December 16 2010 at 8:03 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

I think Rico Rodriguez is adorable. He always makes me laugh.

December 16 2010 at 2:31 AM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

who is that little fat tootsie roll kid that people seem to think has talent. never heard of him but he sure should lay off the tacos. he's a pudgy little nouget and if he doesn't stop snorting food, he's gonna be a giant fat pig.

December 15 2010 at 7:58 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

Kenan Thompson is NOT underated, he does not bring any thing different to his characters on the show and he uses the same unfunny tone of voice.

December 15 2010 at 7:12 PM Report abuse rate up rate down Reply

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