With the catchphrase, “It’s not TV. It’s HBO,” there is a different level of excellence when it comes to shows on the HBO network. Fans seem to have a higher level of expectation when it comes to anything HBO related, and ratings are sky high on the very first episode of a series once the HBO network is mentioned. Continuing to dominate in ratings, awards, and accolades, some of the hottest shows on television have come from HBO.
While not many television shows have a fan base large enough to sustain a continued storyline on the silver screen, HBO has been able to achieve this feat in both the Sex and the City series and the show Entourage. It should come as no surprise that when HBO was in search of some A-list actors for the True Detective series, they didn’t have to twist too many arms. Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson signed on for Season 1 and Colin Farrell and Rachel McAdams signed on for the second season.
With so many actresses preening for an opportunity to get their big break, it’s amazing that the network has continued to use some of their favorite actors to fill spots in HBO series and movies created by HBO Films. Proving that some actresses are worth seeking out or paying a little extra to hold onto, check out our list of the 10 actresses that are obvious favorites on HBO and see how some stars managed to stand out among the pack.
10. Edie Falco
Edie Falco is an actress that doesn’t seem to be confined by the character she plays, no matter how iconic the portrayal may be. Falco is mostly known for the hugely popular television series, Nurse Jackie, and the highly celebrated HBO series, The Sopranos. While she was able to completely nail the Carmela character, Falco was cast as a completely different person in her role on the HBO series Oz. Unlike the unknowing housewife in The Sopranos, Oz showed that Falco could play a badass police officer in a male dominated profession just as easily. With audiences responding so well to Falco in her other portrayals, it should come as no surprise that the network would jump at the chance to further highlight her talent.
9. Kathy Bates
While Kathy Bates has had a hugely successful film career, taking part in such films as Misery and Fried Green Tomatoes, she has equally had a number of successes on the small screen. Starring in the American Horror Story series and Harry’s Law, Bates has extreme versatility in her character portrayals. HBO has seen how her talent can be best utilized in some of their own television series, and she became one of the actresses sought-after for the series, Six Feet Under. Alan Ball, creator of Six Feet Under, was used by HBO for their other series, True Blood. During casting, Kathy Bates was one of the first names to be brought up for her role as Bettina on the show.
8. Lois Smith
While Hollywood tends to put actresses out to pasture once they reach a certain age, there are some that seem to be able to maneuver beyond this stereotype. Among names like Dame Maggie Smith, Lois Smith has had some of her most memorable roles during the latter part of her professional career. Starring as Adele Stackhouse in the HBO series, True Blood, Smith was also chosen for a role distributed by HBO Films. Iron Jawed Angels was released in 2004, and starred Hilary Swank in a historical drama revolving around the suffragette movement. While one could argue there aren’t many actresses that could fill the role of these aged characters, Smith played perfectly in both portrayals to show true depth in the characters.
7. Tina Majorino
Big Love was a huge success for the HBO network, and did more than just tell the story of modern day polygamy. It was a love story that dealt with deep family issues, including the effects of a polygamist lifestyle on the children in the family. Tina Majorino played the role of Heather Tuttle, the best friend of Sarah and the brief love interest for Ben. However, HBO again cast her for another of their hit series, True Blood. Playing quite a different character, Majorino was a tech-loving vampire that worked with the underground vampire society before all the chaos of the “Blood of Lilith.” While they could have found any actress to fill that short-lived role, Majorino was a great casting choice for the vampire with attitude.
6. Emilia Clarke
While Emilia Clarke’s character on Game of Thrones is instantly recognizable as the silver-haired dragon queen, Daenerys Targaryen, her look off-screen is quite a bit different. Showcasing that she can do more than just burn her clothes off and speak Dothraki, Clarke’s newest acting role includes a romance film starring opposite Hunger Games’ star, Sam Claflin. Whether HBO was afraid Clarke would want to leave the show to branch off to pursue her film career or they were just ensuring she would be available for season 7, the network renegotiated her contract to extend her previous signing. While this doesn’t guarantee Daenerys will make it to Season 7, it does show HBO at least wants the option.
5. Lena Headey
Great at playing period pieces like her role in Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, some may find it difficult to recognize her in all these different characters since her Cersei role on Game of Thrones has a completely different look. Regardless of whether or not she has reached the status as a celebrity of being instantly recognizable, HBO has showed what her worth is on the show. A renegotiated contract has been signed for going beyond six seasons in the Game of Thrones series, and rumors are flying about Lena Headey’s new contract deal. Some speculate it was around 100% raise from her 2014 deal. HBO must have high hopes for Headey’s future on the series.
4. Lili Taylor
Lili Taylor is an actress best known for hitting her peak during hit films like Mystic Pizza and Say Anything… in the late ’80s. However, her career was rejuvenated through her role on the small screen, with a character on the hit HBO series, Six Feet Under. Playing the role of Lisa Kimmel Fisher from the second season to the fifth of the series, Taylor was also featured in an HBO documentary based on the writings of Marilyn Monroe. Taylor may not seem like the typical actress to speak the words of the ultra glamorous Marilyn Monroe, but she was chosen for her ability to convey the message rather than reflect the appearance.
3. Aleksa Palladino
Oftentimes, actresses can seemingly come out of nowhere once they become a regular on a show. Yet, many actors have to take smaller, more insignificant roles prior to finally hitting it big. This is the case with Aleksa Palladino, since she was on a HBO show prior to being a series regular on Boardwalk Empire. Playing the role of Meadow’s roommate during the fourth season of The Sopranos, fans got to see her during the early stages of her career. Whether it was a mere coincidence for Palladino to be on two separate HBO series or casting directors kept her in mind for future roles, she definitely made a bigger mark on the series once she played Angela Darmody on Boardwalk Empire.
2. Evan Rachel Wood
Evan Rachel Wood is an actress that has the unique ability to play characters that push the boundaries of the norm, and HBO seems to love that about her. Starring in HBO’s Mildred Pierce, Wood starred opposite Kate Winslet in 2011. Wood also starred in the HBO hit series, True Blood, playing the insatiable Vampire Queen of Louisiana. Her latest collaboration with HBO is slated to be released this fall, Westworld. She will be acting alongside heavy hitters like Anthony Hopkins and Ed Harris, and working with the famed director from Star Wars: The Force Awakens, J.J. Abrams. Proving she is an HBO darling, Wood is a definite favorite on the network.
1. Sarah Jessica Parker
As the highly celebrated actress from the hit HBO series, Sex and the City, Sarah Jessica Parker both starred and was the executive producer for the show. Spawning a huge fan base that allowed the story to continue on the big screen, HBO and Parker have a long relationship that is slated to lead to a new collaboration this fall. Divorce is a half-hour comedy about a woman named, Frances, who is going through a transition in her life while in a New York setting. Season 1 is set to have 10 episodes, and there are definite high hopes in ratings since this will mark a return to HBO after a 10-year hiatus for Parker.