31 TV Roles That Were So Well-Performed, They Made People Realize An Actor Had Better Range Than They Originally Thought

We recently asked the BuzzFeed Community to tell us which TV acting performances were so exceptional, they made you realize an actor was better than you first thought. Here are some of the best responses:

There are obviously some MASSIVE spoilers ahead!

1. First, Hugh Laurie as Dr. Gregory House in House


“Watching Hugh Laurie play an upper-class twit for ten years and then he suddenly unleashed House on us was unreal.”


2. Shailene Woodley as Jane Chapman in Big Little Lies


“She was so stoic and emotionless in Secret Life of the American Teenager. It was incredible to watch her play the trauma and complexity of her character in Big Little Lies.”


3. Zendaya as Rue Bennett in Euphoria


“I know Zendaya did a great job in Season 1 of Euphoria, but her acting in Season 2 was absolutely mind-blowing to me. She’s come such a long way since her Disney days.”


4. Andy Samberg as Jake Peralta in Brooklyn Nine-Nine


“Honestly, I really was not a fan of his before I watched the show and I even put off watching it until just before Season 6 started because I just couldn’t imagine willingly putting myself through multiple seasons of his type of humor. Thankfully, I caved because it was a show by Michael Schur, and I’m glad I did! Over the course of the show, Jake really goes through growth and maturity while still remaining his goofy, Die Hard-loving self, and Andy Samberg really showed me how wrong I was about him. I’ve branched out into watching other Samberg projects I wouldn’t have given the time of day before B99.”


5. Kunal Nayyar as Sandeep Singh in Criminal: United Kingdom


“He put forth such a formidable performance. Kunal played such a creep. It was a 180 degree switch from his role as Raj on The Big Bang Theory!”


6. Kaley Cuoco as Cassie Bowden in The Flight Attendant


“During Kaley’s time on The Big Bang Theory, I enjoyed what she was able to bring to the role of Penny, but I just felt like she wasn’t given enough opportunities to showcase her range as an actor, so her performance wasn’t super memorable. So when The Flight Attendant came out, I was finally able to appreciate how incredible she is. Kaley is so good at comedy and drama, and I’m glad she’s on a show that allows her to show her range.” 


7. Adam Scott as Mark Scout in Severance

Apple TV+

“Like a true fan, I was introduced to Adam Scott as Griff on Boy Meets World. Then I came to love him on shows like Party Down and Parks and Rec, but I rarely got to see the more dramatic side to his acting abilities. That’s definitely not the case anymore, because his performance in the first season of Severance completely blew me away. The entire show kept me on the edge of my seat, and Adam beautifully matched its bizarre and mysterious nature in a way I’d never seen before. Give. Him. The. Emmy.”


8. John Cena as Christopher Smith/Peacemaker in Peacemaker


“I always saw him as a one-trick pony, kind of like The Rock, but he was able to bring so many layers to that character and play both the humor, the ruthlessness, and the vulnerability.”


9. Alison Brie as Ruth Wilder in GLOW


“She was great in Community, don’t get me wrong, but even the high-concept episodes were a little over the top because that was the whole point as it was always more of a parody, so she didn’t really have a chance to showcase her acting skills. But she showed that she clearly has range in GLOW.”


10. Jason Bateman as Martin “Marty” Byrde in Ozark


“Getting to see Jason Bateman’s dramatic range in Ozark has been amazing.”


11. Alexis Bledel as Emily Malek in The Handmaid’s Tale


“Big Gilmore Girls fan, but Alexis Bledel in The Handmaids Tale…girl has range!”


12. Darren Criss as Andrew Cunanan in The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story


“His transformation from playing a soft boy-type on Glee to seeing him play a deranged killer was something to behold.”


13. Matt LeBlanc as Matt LeBlanc in Episodes


“Don’t get me wrong, he was perfect as Joey Tribbiani, always loved him. But I never thought of him as an exceptionally good actor. That all changed after watching him play ‘himself’ on Episodes. His acting floored me, he deserved all his nominations (and one win!) for that role.”


14. Marlon Wayans as Lou in Bel-Air


“I feel like a lot of people associate Marlon with his comedies and stand-up specials, so his work as Lou in Bel-Air was so amazing and caught a lot of people off guard. He’s such a talented dramatic actor — like he was amazing in Requiem for a Dream — and I love that this show finally showcases his amazing range.”


15. Annie Murphy as Allison McRoberts in Kevin Can F**k Himself


“I loved her in Schitt’s Creek, but assumed she would only be great at comedic roles. I’d heard good things about Kevin Can F**k Himself, and she’s incredible in it, you wouldn’t even believe the two characters are played by the same person. I fully believe that in a few years she’ll be up for an Oscar.”


16. David Tennant as Kilgrave in Jessica Jones


“Seeing David go from playing the Tenth Doctor on Doctor Who to seeing him play Kilgrave in Jessica Jones was wild. Talk about range.”


17. Krysten Ritter as Jessica Jones in Jessica Jones


“Talk about a shift from her more popular comedic roles. She crushed it.”


18. Sebastian Stan as Bucky Barnes/The Winter Soldier in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier

Marvel / Disney+

“I’ve always thought he was a good actor, but that scene in FATWS, when Bucky’s in Wakanda and learns the trigger words no longer have any effect was next level. You could see the relief, pain, and sorrow in his eyes and on his face. Oh my god, how he didn’t get a singular nomination for that scene I’ll never understand.”


19. Charlie Day as Charlie Kelly in It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, specifically Season 15


“Charlie Day had an absolutely heartbreaking scene in Season 15, where he cries over his dad’s body after being left to try and carry it up a hill to bury him at sea. It’s the break in his voice when he says, ‘You were supposed to carry me,’ that gets me. Charlie knocks it out of the park comedically every time, so to see him act his heart out in a different way was amazing and showed what a great actor he is.”


20. Nick Robinson as Sean in Maid


“I’d never seen him do such serious acting before, and I was shocked he was so good at it.”


21. Katey Segal as Gemma Teller Morrow in Sons of Anarchy


“I was so used to her as Peggy Bundy on Married…with Children and from Futurama, so when I saw how dark she was as Gemma, it was amazing.”


22. Joshua Jackson as Christopher Duntsch in Dr. Death

Peacock / Via youtu.be

“Never really thought about him much in his other roles, but in that show he was absolutely compelling.”


23. Jennifer Love Hewitt as Vicki Sayers in Law & Order: SVU


“She had a guest role and I was pretty blown away. There are actually a ton of actors — Cynthia Nixon, Robin Williams, Martin Short, etc — who have given amazing and unexpected performances on this show, too.”


24. Jonah Hill as Owen Milgrim in Maniac


“He’s had serious roles before this, but he absolutely blew me away in this one. And he still had funny moments, too!”


25. Hamish Linklater as Father Paul Hill in Midnight Mass


“He was just phenomenal. His entire performance blew me away!”


26. Karla Souza as Marina in Home Economics


“She plays a COMPLETELY different character on Home Economics than she did on How to Get Away With Murder. She did a total 180. On HTGAWM, she’s a bit cynical and always crying and emotional, but on Home Economics, she’s the funny, free, and a proud Latina wife, who has a bit of a drinking problem, but is overall an amazing woman and a good mom.”


27. Eric Christian Olsen as Marty Deeks in NCIS: Los Angeles

CBS / Via youtu.be

“In the 2000s, he would usually played jerky jocks in movies or star in b-movies, such as Not Another Teen Movie, The Hot Chick, and the Dumb and Dumber prequel, but here he did such an amazing job and his role as Deeks was different from what used to do. He depicted a guy who had a heart of gold and, despite all the trauma he goes through, he still retains his kindness towards Kensi and the rest of his loved ones.”


28. Michaela Watkins as Valerie Meyers in Casual


“I really only thought of her as playing these offbeat characters like Angie Tempura on SNL or the many others from Grey’s Anatomy to Search Party, but then Casual came along and she blew me away. She’s an amazing dramatic actor and doesn’t get enough credit.”


29. Jensen Ackles as Dean Winchester in Supernatural, specifically in Season 12

The CW

“I had always figured he was another pretty face until the Season 12 episode ‘Regarding Dean’ where he’s cursed and slowly loses his memory. There’s a scene where he’s staring at the camera, saying his name, along with Sam, Cas, and May’s names, and reminding himself who his family is. He tearfully trails off because he can’t remember anymore. It’s beautifully acted and heartbreaking. Bravo, sir.”


30. Bryan Cranston as Walter White in Breaking Bad


“He was so aloof and goofy in Malcom in the Middle but in Breaking Bad, he was amazing and so serious.”


31. And finally, Adam Driver as a host on Saturday Night Live

NBC / Via youtu.be

“Honestly, seeing Adam Driver host SNL is what made me realize how great of an actor he really is. I’d only seen him as Kylo Ren, which was a great role, but didn’t let him show off his range. Comedy is super hard, and he was able to make every character funny and believable.”


We can’t fit everyone into one post, so which other actors surprised you with their incredible range? Tell us in the comments below!

Note: Some submissions have been edited for length and/or clarity.