There is the famous line "Always a bridesmaid, never a bride". But for these ladies, the bridesmaid gig is somewhat more enjoyable as they steal the show from their leading male and female counterparts. Here is my list of the top 10 character actresses:
10. Patricia Clarkson: Patricia Clarkson may not be as prolific as some of the actresses on this list, but you may be very familiar with her work, ranging from small indie pics like her Oscar-nominated turn in Pieces of April and Far From Heaven to more mainstream fare like Shutter Island and Easy A. Clarkson proves herself to be a very dynamic actress as she plays roles that range from downright cold like her role as the chilly townswoman Vera in Dogville to the spunky hipster mom in Easy A. Even in her smallest roles, she always manages to make an impression.
9. Vera Farmiga: Vera Farmiga is interesting because she is gorgeous enough to be a leading lady, yet she plays roles that are anything but glamorous and have plenty of substance. Whether it'd be her leading turn in the horror flick Orphan as the recovering alcoholic mom with a killer adoptive child to her supporting turn in her breakout role as the conflicted girlfriend Madolyn in The Departed, Farmiga never disappoints and even though I haven't seen her work on Bates Motel, I'm positive she is amazing in it.
8. Michelle Williams: Similarly to Vera Farmiga, Michelle Williams seems like the kind of beauty that could be a leading lady, but goes for much grittier material. Since she threw away the oars at Dawson's Creek, Williams has been able to prove her versatility as an actress by successfully going the indie route, with films like The Station Agent, Land of Plenty, The Hottest State, and her Oscar-nominated work in Blue Valentine. There is also her work as Leonardo DiCaprio's manic depressive wife in Shutter Island, as well as Marilyn Monroe in My Week With Marilyn, and Heath Ledger's wife in Brokeback Mountain who is yet isn't an antagonist. Hopefully we will see her collect Oscar gold one day.
7. Chloe Sevigny: Once deservingly earning a reputation as an indie queen, Chloe Sevigny has even taken her talents to more mainstream fare as well, including the film Zodiac and the HBO series Big Love. The fact that she goes for more controversial material as well, like Kids, American Psycho, and Boys Don't Cry, proves not only how versatile she is, but that she is a fearless performer who isn't afraid to step out her comfort zone.
6. Judy Greer: Here is someone that is always a bridesmaid, never a bride, yet proves just how exciting the bridesmaid occupation can be. Judy Greer is usually a supporting player that steals the show, whether it'd be as a frenemy in romantic comedies like 13 Going on 30 or as the ugly duckling turned high school vixen in Jawbreaker. Whether it'd be on film or the small screen, Judy Greer is always a treat to watch.
5. Tilda Swinton: Swinton's range of roles over the years have proven herself to be a true acting chameleon. Like many other actresses on this list, Swinton has proven her versatility in smaller indie fare like Moonrise Kingdom, Julia, I Am Love, and We Need To Talk About Kevin, as well as more mainstream films like the Narnia films as The White Witch, Constantine as the androgynous archangel Gabriel, and The Curious Case of Benjamin Button. Honestly, if I was an actor, I would want her agent because she picks very interesting work.
4. Kathy Bates: One of the more prolific character actresses in recent memory, Kathy Bates always never fails to leave an impression. She had us shaking in our boots with her Oscar-winning performance as Annie Wilkes in Misery and plays more sympathetic characters like in her small but memorable performance as Miss Sue in The Blind Side. Plus, she also owns as Delphine La Laurie in the third season of American Horror Story. So, whenever she pops on screen, whether it'd be the big screen or small, the audience can expect her to always successfully deliver.
3. Jane Lynch: While Jane Lynch has showcased some dramatic work over recent years, like as the schizophrenic mom in Criminal Minds, it is in comedies where she truly shines. With her rather deadpan sense of humor, Jane Lynch never fails to make me laugh. Even when she does voice work in films like Wreck-It Ralph, she still shines. So, whenever she pops up in a film, I tend to get excited.
2. Frances McDormand: While we may all be familiar with her iconic, Oscar-winning turn as quirky pregnant cop Marge Gunderson in Fargo, Frances McDormand has even pulled off characters that are anything but quirky over the years. Some of whom include her role as the overbearing mother in Almost Famous, which is the film that made me such a fan of hers and a performance where she carries both comedic and dramatic weight, as well as her performance as the wife of a KKK member in Mississippi Burning. She was even the best thing about Madagascar 3 as the film's main antagonist Chantal DuBois. If someone were to ask me if I were to watch a film or TV show she was in, I would say "Oh, you betcha, ya!"
1. Helena Bonham Carter: One thing that makes Helena Bonham Carter so great is how she manages to go from playing completely despicable characters like Bellatrix Lestrange in Harry Potter to making a villain one of her film's more enjoyable aspects, like with the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland. Plus, she has proven her versatility by tackling period pieces (The King's Speech), musicals (Sweeney Todd, Les Miserables), and even dark satires (Fight Club). She tends to not only play one role different from the other, but make the roles she plays her own.
Here are a few honorable mentions that didn't quite make the list:
Melissa Leo (Prisoners, The Fighter)
Mary-Louise Parker (TV's Weeds, Red)
Catherine Keener (Being John Malkovich, 40-Year-Old Virgin)
Emily Watson (Breaking the Waves, Red Dragon)
Toni Collette (The Sixth Sense, Little Miss Sunshine)
Allison Janney (TV's The West Wing, Finding Nemo)
Ellen Page (Juno, Inception)
Sally Hawkins (Blue Jasmine, Happy-Go-Lucky)
Amy Ryan (Gone Baby Gone, Capote)
Missi Pyle (Dodgeball, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory)
Holly Hunter (The Piano, The Incredibles)
Carol Kane (Scrooged, When A Stranger Calls)
So, that was my list of the top 10 character actresses working today. Please feel free to write down your thoughts in the comments section, and thanks for reading!