Television popularity is a fickle beast. Your star is on the rise as long as your show is doing well in the ratings. With the advent of Netflix and online streaming, television series have crossed national borders and can now be enjoyed across the world, more so than ever before. This has added to the popularity of the stars of said series. However, once a show loses its steam and the popularity fades, so too usually does the fame and drawing power of the actors who starred in the show. Occasionally, their star power remains and they are able to transcend into film and other ventures effortlessly.
Jennifer Aniston is one such star. Her hit television series Friends ruled the small screen from 1994 to 2004. The stars of Friends earned huge paychecks and enjoyed incredible popularity. After the show ended, the cast remained popular and will forever be a part of pop culture; however, Jennifer Aniston remained near the peak of popularity long after the others had faded away. She is the only one of the former cast to remain on the highest-paid actresses list for a whole decade! Even today, she remains in the top five, pulling in seven-figure upfront fees for her film appearances. Yet, with today’s new crop of popular actresses, there is the potential for someone to dethrone her and rise to the top of power and fame in the world of television, actresses who not only should be bigger than Aniston ever was, but probably deserve to be. Read on as we go through fifteen steamy television actresses who deserve to be bigger than Jennifer Aniston.
15 Emilia Clarke
English actress Emilia Clarke came to fame in her breakout role as Daenerys Targaryen in the HBO series Game of Thrones. She has received numerous award nominations for the role, including three Emmy Award nominations for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. She has since made her Broadway debut in Breakfast at Tiffany’s, and landed starring roles in films like Terminator: Genisys (2015), and the award-winning Me Before You (2016). Her performances have reaped critical acclaim and, at barely 31 years of age, we can expect continued and greater success for her. She will soon gain a whole new legion of fans as she has been cast as the female lead in Solo: A Star Wars Story (2018).
14 Morena Baccarin
Morena Baccarin is a cult favorite after her portrayal of the sultry Inara Serra in the series “Firefly,” and follow-up feature Serenity (2005). She appeared as the main villain, Adria, in the tenth and final season of the science fiction series Stargate SG-1, as well as the follow-up feature Stargate: The Ark of Truth (2008). She continued to satisfy her science fiction fanbase by starring in the updated version of the series V (2009-2011). When that series wrapped, she joined the cast of the Showtime series Homeland (2011-2013), where she received praise for her against-type performance. The role earned Baccarin a Primetime Emmy award nomination in 2013. She has since moved into action and comedy roles appearing alongside Melissa McCarthy in Spy (2015), and Ryan Reynolds in the hit Deadpool (2016). She is currently appearing in a lead role as Dr. Leslie Thompkins in the hit Fox series Gotham. She is smoking hot and talented, and her fan base is growing exponentially.
13 Krysten Ritter
A former international model doing print and runway work in Milan, Paris, Tokyo, and New York, Krysten Ritter's outgoing and funny personality helped her agency, Wilhelmina Models, transition her into acting. She began in 2001, with small film and theatrical roles, but eventually landed guest-starring roles in series like Veronica Mars, Gilmore Girls, and 'Til Death. She earned critical acclaim for her role as Jane Margolis in the second season of the hit AMC series, Breaking Bad. She starred in her own series as the titular character in ABC’s cult comedy Don’t Trust the B--- in Apartment 23, which earned her praise from critics in her first leading role. She now stars as the titular character in the award-winning hit Netflix series Jessica Jones, and its sister-series The Defenders. Ritter has proven she can do both comedy and drama effortlessly.
12 Kate Mara
Older sister of actress Rooney Mara, Kate Mara’s first television role was in 1997, when she appeared in an episode of Law & Order at the age of 14. Since then she has gone on to guest star on many series, including Law & Order: Special Victims Unit, Everwood, Nip/Tuck, and Boston Public. In 2006, she appeared in the hit Fox television series 24, as analyst Shari Rothenberg. She guest-starred as Hayden McClaine in the FX horror series American Horror Story: Murder House (2011), and in 2012 joined the cast of the hit Netflix series House of Cards as reporter Zoe Barnes. That role earned Mara a Primetime Emmy award nomination. She has appeared in numerous, including 2015’s failed Fantastic Four, but we won’t blame that one on her because that same year she co-starred as astronaut Beth Johanssen in Ridley Scott’s The Martian. Kate Mara is talented and deserves to be much bigger than she is.
11 Kaley Cuoco
Arguably one of the hottest young actresses on television today, Kaley Cuoco first became known for her role as Bridget on the popular ABC sitcom 8 Simple Rules (2002-2005). With the death of star John Ritter, and the subsequent ending of the series, Cuoco then appeared in the final season of the drama series Charmed. Her biggest role is currently starring as Penny on the CBS comedy series The Big Bang Theory, now in its 11th season. She’s won huge acclaim for her role on the award-winning show, winning numerous awards herself, including a Critic’s Choice award in 2013, and People’s Choice Awards in 2014 and 2015. With the show continuing its strong showing in the ratings, Cuoco’s success will only grow.
10 Sofia Vergara
Only in recent years has Sofia Vergara gained the acclaim that she should have received years ago. Originally a teen model in Latin America, she became widely known as a host for two Spanish programs on the Univisión network in the 1990s. Her first English-speaking role was in the Tim Allen ensemble comedy Big Trouble (2002), but her first notable role was co-lead in the romance comedy Chasing Papi (2003). Since then, Vergara has performed in comedies and dramas, films and television, refusing to age, looking just as beautiful now as she did fifteen years ago. She has starred on the ABC smash-hit comedy Modern Family since 2009, as Gloria Delgado-Pritchett, a role for which she has been nominated four times for both a Golden Globe and a Primetime Emmy. Her performances have gained more and more acclaim. In 2016, Vergara was the highest-earning woman in U.S. television, earning $43 million for the year, a title Forbes Magazine asserts she has held for multiple years. She is definitely one of the most influential Latin women in Hollywood.
9 Elizabeth Banks
Elizabeth Banks is a mega-talented actress, director, and producer. She first appeared in smaller roles in television and film, including Wet Hot American Summer (2001), Spider-Man (2002), and Seabiscuit (2003). In 2005 she was in the hit comedy The 40-Year-Old Virgin, through which she gained widespread exposure. She was cast as Dr. Kim Briggs in the 2006 season finale of the comedy series Scrubs, a role she reprised numerous times for the remainder of the series. She then starred in Slither (2006) and the comedy Zach and Miri Make a Porno (2008), and was a recurring character in the popular NBC comedy 30 Rock. After producing the first Pitch Perfect (2012) she made her directorial debut with Pitch Perfect 2 (2015), and set a record for the highest grossing opening weekend ($69 million) for a first-time director. She’s been nominated for multiple Primetime Emmy Awards and appears to be poised to become one of the biggest names in Hollywood.
8 Zooey Deschanel
Zooey Deschanel is an incredible actress and singer-songwriter. She is what has come to be known as “adorkable,” a mash-up between adorable and a fun-loving dork. Her breakout role was as Anita Miller in Cameron Crowe’s 2000 film Almost Famous. Her low-key comedy style has been seen in films like The New Guy (2002), Elf (2003), The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy (2005), and the drama Bridge to Terabithia (2007). In Elf, she also sang on the soundtrack with “Baby, It’s Cold Outside,” a beautiful duet with Leon Redbone. Since 2011, she’s starred as Jessica Day in the Fox sitcom New Girl, a role for which she was nominated for a Primetime Emmy award and multiple Golden Globe awards. She still finds time to record and perform with her musical partner M. Ward with their musical group She & Him, and even wrote and sings the theme song for her hit show, New Girl.
7 Julie Bowen
Though she appeared in numerous popular films in the 1990s, like Happy Gilmore (1996) and Multiplicity (1996), Julie Bowen is best known for her later television roles. She appeared as Carol Vessey on the NBC series Ed (2000-2004), Denise Bauer on ABC’s Boston Legal (2005-2007), and, since 2009, in perhaps her most famous role, as Claire Dunphy on the ABC comedy Modern Family. The award-winning series is currently in its 9th season. Bowen earned six nominations for the Primetime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series, winning in 2011 and 2012. She’s also been nominated for three Critics Choice awards, winning in 2012 for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Co-starring in one of the biggest American television series is a sure boost to her already impressive career.
6 Lucy Liu
Though Lucy Liu has been acting and performing since the early 1990s, she became widely known for portraying the brutal Ling Woo on the Fox legal drama-comedy series Ally McBeal (1998-2002). For her role, Liu was nominated for a Primetime Emmy award for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. This enabled her to be cast and the co-lead in the 2000 feature film reboot Charlie’s Angels, starring alongside Cameron Diaz and Drew Barrymore. She also appeared in the hit films Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Kill Bill: Vol. 2 (2004), as the master assassin O-ren Ishii. In 2012, she joined the cast of the TNT series Southland in a recurring role as Jessica Tang, for which she won a Critics Choice Award. Since 2012, she has co-starred as Dr. Joan Watson in the CBS drama series Sherlock, a modern take on the Sherlock Holmes cases with Jonny Lee Miller as the titular character.
5 Grace Park
Grace Park is known to many now as Officer Kono Kalajaua in the CBS television series Hawaii Five-O. She first came to prominence as Sharon “Boomer” Valerii and Sharon “Athena” Agathon on Sci-Fi Channel’s (now SyFy) miniseries and series, Battlestar Galactica (2003, 2004-2009). A former model, her first role was as an unnamed Asian dancer in the 2000 Jet Li film, Romeo Must Die. She’s been nominated for multiple awards for her roles in not only Hawaii Five-O, but also the Canadian series Border, which ran for three seasons (2008-2010). In that series she portrays Special Agent Liz Carver, a Canadian Immigration & Customs officer. She is both beautiful and talented and definitely deserves to be much bigger than she is.
4 Piper Perabo
Piper Perabo’s breakthrough role occurred not on television but on the big screen, with her starring role as Violet in the hit film Coyote Ugly (2000). Though the film was ill-received by critics as just an excuse for hot women to dance on a bar, the film was a commercial success and led to roles in films like Cheaper by the Dozen (2003), The Prestige (2006), and Looper (2012). In 2010, she became more widely known through her starring role as Annie Walker in the USA Network television series Covert Affairs (2010-2014). Perabo was nominated for a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress for the role. After the conclusion of Covert Affairs, Perabo was cast as the lead in the short-lived ABC series Notorious (2016). Unfortunately, the series failed to connect with viewers and was cancelled after only one season. In her first roles since becoming an actress she showed intensity and talent, proving she deserves much more success in her sure to be long career.
3 Rashida Jones
The modest and low-key Rashida Jones could be considered Hollywood royalty of sorts. Her father is famed record producer Quincy Jones and her mother is actress Peggy Lipton of The Mod Squad and Twin Peaks fame. Her older sister is model and Disney fashion designer Kidada Jones. Inheriting her family’s talent, Jones has excelled in screenwriting, acting, writing, and singing. She has appeared in numerous television roles, including as Louis Fenn on Fox’s series Boston Public, Karen Filippelli on the U.S. version of The Office, and most famously as Ann Perkins on the NBC comedy Parks and Recreation (2009-2015). She has starred, since 2016, in the hit TBS comedy series Angie Tribeca. She’s also found time to star in numerous hit films, including I Love You, Man (2009), The Social Network (2010), and The Muppets (2011). If the multi-talented Jones isn’t already a household name, she deserves to be.
2 Aubrey Plaza
This comedian and actress, known for her deadpan delivery, honed her talent at the Upright Citizens Brigade Theater. Aubrey Plaza was a breakout character on the NBC comedy series Parks and Recreation (2009-2015), where she famously portrayed devil-may-care April Ludgate. She has appeared in numerous films, including Funny People (2009) and Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010). Her first leading role in a feature film came when she starred, alongside Mark Duplass, in the comedy Safety Not Guaranteed (2012). She then starred with Zac Efron, Anna Kendrick, and Adam DeVine, in the wild comedy Mike and Dave Need Wedding Dates (2016), which earned her critical acclaim. Most recently she starred in, and produced, the award-winning film Ingrid Goes West, where she portrays Ingrid Thorburn, a mentally unstable woman obsessed with social media. She can also currently be seen in the highly praised FX series Legion, where she portrays Lenny, the wisecracking friend of the lead character.
1 Emily VanCamp
This Canadian actress began her television and film career in 2000, and after a few small roles she was cast, at the age of only 15, as a series regular in WB’s Glory Days (2002). Though the series only lasted nine episodes, it brought Emily VanCamp to the attention of other network show runners. She was quickly cast in a lead role on the WB series Everwood (2002-2006), which would earn her numerous award nominations. Everwood creator Greg Berlanti then cast as a regular in the ABC television series Brothers & Sisters (2007-2010). She garnered enough praise to be cast as the star of the ABC drama series Revenge (2011-2015), her first starring role. Superhero film fans came to know her as Sharon Carter, Agent 13, in the Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014), and Captain America: Civil War (2016). VanCamp’s star is on the rise and, at this pace, should have quite a stellar career ahead of her.
Sources: imdb.com, thegrindstone.com,forbes.com, qz.com