24 TV Characters That Shined Beyond Their Supporting Roles

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Better Call Saul is finally coming to a close, essentially concluding another chapter in the Breaking Bad universe and potentially forcing Jimmy McGill's fast-talking yet lovable criminal lawyer to face the music.

AMC / High Bridge Entertainment

Yet, not every standout supporting character in television has had a chance to headline their own spin-off, despite getting over with their audiences in an organic and substantial fashion. With this in mind, I've assembled 24 of television's most mesmerizing supporting performers who went above and beyond the limits normally afforded to those operating largely on the sidelines.

1.Glenn Rhee (Steven Yeun) on The Walking Dead

"The Walking Dead"

Parlaying boyish optimism into an emotional journey that ended in the show's most shocking moment, Steven Yeun exuded a major star quality in this supporting role that he has since shown in films like Minari, Mayhem, and The Humans.

Collection Christophel / AMC Film Holdings LLC / Alamy

2.Steve Harrington (Joe Keery) on Stranger Things

"Stranger Things"

In the break between Vol. 1 and Vol. 2 of Stranger Things 4, fans of this sci-fi sensation were incredibly vocal in their concern for the fate of Steve Harrington, a character that evolved from an obnoxious small-town pretty boy to the centerpiece of the series' most endearing redemption story.

Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

3.Willow Rosenberg (Alyson Hannigan) on Buffy the Vampire Slayer

"Buffy the Vampire Slayer"

In addition to her scene-stealing comedic performances in American Pie and How I Met Your Mother, Alyson Hannigan cemented her stardom among geek culture through her stellar, multi-faceted role as best friend-turned-volatile-witch, Willow, on Buffy the Vampire Slayer.

20th Century Fox Film Corp. / Courtesy Everett Collection.

4.Richard Harrow (Jack Huston) on Boardwalk Empire

"Boardwalk Empire"

Jack Huston brought a metric ton of empathy, nobility, and inner turmoil to the morally driven gangster in a star-making performance which led to high-profile roles in House of Gucci, Ben-Hur, and American Hustle.

HBO / Alamy

5.Lenny Busker (Aubrey Plaza) on Legion


Aubrey Plaza may have been a star on the big and small screen prior to her enigmatic and occasionally terrifying turn on Legion, but her performance on this show demonstrated an undeniable energy and range that redefined the oft-understated performer.

FX / Courtesy Everett Collection

6.Coach McGuirk (H. John Benjamin) on Home Movies

7.Kareem Said (Eamonn Walker) on Oz


In a show filled with powerful performances, Eamonn Walker's reserved voice of reason in a concrete nightmare was incredibly captivating, especially when juxtaposed against the chaos of the more venomous and violent storylines surrounding the other characters.

Alamy / The Levinson/Fontana Company / HBO Original Programming

8.Hank Kingsley (Jeffrey Tambor) on The Larry Sanders Show

"The Larry Sanders Show"

While the actor's legacy on television will always be complicated by his personal actions during his time on Transparent, it's hard not to see his work as the hapless blowhard sidekick to Larry Sanders as chief among the definitive supporting performance of '90s TV comedies.

Alamy / Partners with Boundaries Productions / HBO Entertainment / Brillstein-Grey Entertainment

9.Owen Sharma (Rahul Kohli) on The Haunting of Bly Manor

"The Haunting of Bly Manor"

Horror television rarely gets the proper recognition when it comes to its performances, but Rahul Kohli was nothing short of spellbinding as the ill-fated emotional anchor of Mike Flanagan's chilling limited series.

Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

10.Proinsias Cassidy (Joseph Gilgun) on Preacher


Playing the resident vampire of this absurd adaptation of Garth Ennis and Steven Dillon’s R-rated graphic novel, Joseph Gilgun stood out among a very capable ensemble by emphasizing the charm, pathos, and humanity within a literally inhuman character.

Skip Bolen / AMC / Courtesy Everett Collection

11.Whiterose (BD Wong) on Mr. Robot

"Mr. Robot"

Embodying the coldest and most calculating manifestation of heartbreak-ridden revenge, BD Wong crafted one of the most compelling and enigmatic TV villains in recent memory.

USA Network / Courtesy Everett Collection

12.Opie Winston (Ryan Hurst) on Sons of Anarchy

"Sons of Anarchy"

From his humble beginnings to his soul-crushing end, Sons of Anarchy's most tragic supporting character established Ryan Hurst as a must-see talent and an in-demand performer who continued to stun on the small screen in Bates Motel, Outsiders, The Walking Dead, and Bosch.

FX Networks / Courtesy Everett Collection

13.Kang Sae-byeok (HoYeon Jung) on Squid Game

"Squid Game"

Squid Game skyrocketed a number of Korean performers into the global limelight, but few were able to command the screen as well as HoYeon Jung as the savage yet selfless North Korean defector Kang Sae-byeok.

Alamy / Netflix / Moviestore Collection Ltd.

14.Stevie Janowski (Steve Little) on Eastbound & Down

Gary Sanchez Productions / Rough House Pictures / HBO

If you want to know a true testament to Steve Little's talent, it's probably that this writer has never laughed so hard while simultaneously feeling so much sympathy and shame for laughing as he has at Eastbound & Down's go-to whipping boy, Stevie Janowski.

15.Ruth Langmore (Julia Garner) on Ozark


In her breakout performance, Julia Garner's two-time Emmy-winning turn as Ruth Langmore went from stealing scenes to becoming the can't-miss presence that keeps you glued to the screen.

Netflix / Courtesy Everett Collection

16.The Creature (Rory Kinnear) on Penny Dreadful

"Penny Dreadful"

Penny Dreadful has a murderer's row of incredible performers throughout its cast, but Rory Kinnear was the MVP with his internally conflicted and occasionally blood-soaked performance as Frankenstein's Monster.

Showtime Networks / Courtesy Everett Collection

17.Judy Gemstone (Edi Patterson) on The Righteous Gemstones

"The Righteous Gemstones"

Edi Patterson has been the comedy world's secret weapon for a number of years, but after her attention-grabbing turn on Vice Principals, she was rightfully given the time to shine as the crude and ambitious daughter of the Gemstone family.

HBO / Rough House Pictures / Fred Norris / Prod DB / Alamy

18.Tom Wambsgans (Matthew Macfadyen) on Succession

19.Taylor Mason (Asia Kate Dillon) on Billions


After bursting onto the second season of Billions like a force of nature, Asia Kate Dillon has continued to amaze with their confident and selfless performance as the mercurial Taylor Mason.

Jeff Neumann / Showtime Networks /Courtesy Everett Collection

20.Ben Linus (Michael Emerson) on Lost


Initially hired for a small arc as a random member of "The Others," Michael Emerson quickly demonstrated that he was in a league of his own, ultimately becoming *the* TV staple that you could love to hate and eventually shaping his energy and attitude to similarly deceitful characters on Person of Interest and Evil.

Alamy / Bad Robot

21.Omar Little (Michael K. Williams) on The Wire

"The Wire"

The Wire had multiple iconic characters, from McNulty to Bubbles to Stringer Bell, to name a few, but none felt as critical and beloved as stick-up man Omar Little, which elevated the late Michael K. Williams into a welcome favorite who would effortlessly steal scenes for the likes of Spike Lee, Antoine Fuqua, Todd Solondz, and Paul Thomas Anderson, to name a few.

Alamy / Blown Deadline Productions / HBO Entertainment

22.Sophia Petrillo (Estelle Getty) on The Golden Girls

"The Golden Girls"

There may have been no weak links among the core cast of The Golden Girls, but every Golden Girls fan understands exactly why the show would lean further and further into the sharp-tongued Sophia Petrillo's story in later seasons.

Alamy / Witt/Thomas/Harris Productions

23.Leon Black (JB Smoove) on Curb Your Enthusiasm

24.Oberyn Martell (Pedro Pascal) on Game of Thrones

"Game of Thrones"

Has there ever been a TV actor who has done so much with so little? Though his tenure on Game of Thrones was short-lived, Pedro Pascal's memorable turn as "The Red Viper" took his career to the next level, including a leading part in Narcos, the titular character on The Mandalorian, and substantial roles in the Kingsman, Equalizer, and DCEU franchises.

HBO Entertainment / Alamy / Television 360