Thanks to hungry television networks and the proliferation of cable channels who want in on all the Emmy gold that used to belong to HBO, we’re living in a golden age for juicy small-screen roles. But only a handful yield household names, and for every television actor who is regularly showered with praise — Julianna Margulies, Bryan Cranston, everyone on Mad Men, and the Pivens of the world — there are countless others propping up their shows and/or co-stars with awesome performances week after week, but who aren’t likely to get any significant attention unless they punch out a co-star or turn up naked and walletless in a New York hotel room while a hooker naps in the closet. Consider this slideshow our attempt to change all that — a tender aria to those heroic boob-tube actors who, until now, have gone unsung but never unloved.
Yvonne Strahovski, Chuck
Zachary Levi may be the face of Chuck, but we’d argue Strahovski is its heart. As Chuck’s protector and girlfriend, she’s asked to do comedy, drama, romance, and action, sometimes all within the same episode, and almost always makes it look as easy and natural as zipping up her endless supply of ass-kicking boots — and in an American accent so flawless you’d never know it’s fake (she’s Australian). And yet, you never hear or read much about her — despite the fact that you’d think the boots alone would snag her a few column inches in InStyle.