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Kate McKinnon, Riz Ahmed, ‘This Is Us’ cast and more actors who ruled TV in 2016

Evan Rachel Wood works in a creepy theme

Evan Rachel Wood works in a creepy theme park in "Westworld." Photo Credit: HBO / John P. Johnson

Welcome to the end of the year, and another list — this time, the actors and actresses who became breakout stars:

16. Maria Bamford, “Lady Dynamite” Long esteemed by a devoted fan base — which includes fellow comedians — Bamford had a mini-breakout year in 2016 with Netflix’s “Lady Dynamite.” Her remarkable gift for turning paranoia, depression and anxiety (her own) into comic gems is courageous, also funny, but not exactly designed for full-bore “breakout,” so “mini” seems about right.

15. Brit Marling, “The OA” It may be a little early to assign full “breakout” status here — “The OA” began streaming last week on Netflix — but breakout does appear ensured. Marling plays the mysterious Prairie Johnson — aka “The OA” — who had been missing for seven years, then one day returns home.

14. Creepypasta Guy, “Channel Zero” Creepypastas are horror stories that are internet-generated. The first season of this Syfy anthology, based on “Candle Cove” by Kris Straub — about distant, horrible memories of some puppet show on TV — features one creepypasta figure covered in human teeth. He’s a breakout with bite. (Sorry, couldn’t resist, nor could you.)

13. Pamela Adlon, “Better Things” Adlon, like Bamford, is a comedy pro with a long resumé — most of which is covered with the names of animated series, most notably “King of the Hill.” She got her non-animated close-up on “Californication” (as Marcy Runkle, the spouse of Evan Handler’s character). But a close-up is not a “breakout.” That arrived finally on FX’s “Things.”

12. Tom Ellis, “Lucifer” As Lucifer Morningstar, he’s a fallen angel, also a reprobate, with an English accent and bespoke suits, and . . . appeal. The Fox series is hardly a breakout, but Ellis is.

11. Phoebe Waller-Bridge, “Fleabag” This Amazon curiosity has yielded one of the most dazzling breakouts of the entire year — Waller-Bridge as a young woman adrift (or drowning) in modern London, and keeper of one devastating secret.

10. Issa Rae, “Insecure” Rae began her journey to breakout-dom about five years ago with the launch of her hit YouTube series, “Awkward Black Girl.” HBO took notice, then Larry Wilmore, who helped her develop the pilot, and finally, breakout was achieved. There was no one like Rae on the internet, and same holds true for TV.

9. Anthony Atamanuik, “@Midnight” You may not know the name, but you know who he’s been impersonating — Donald Trump. Rolling Stone called him “Trump’s Best Impersonator” (and so have I). His “Trump vs. Bernie” debate on @midnight in March was a hit — and has 7 million views on YouTube to date.

8. Mike Colter, “Luke Cage” Like so many solid, veteran actors, Colter has been on his share of breakout shows, but never quite got on board the rocket himself. But as Luke Cage, he finally got his own series and very own rocket, too.

7. James Corden / Samantha Bee While he had a mostly good first season as the man who would replace Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah still didn’t quite hit breakout status. Among late-night stars, the label seems better applied to these two — profoundly different styles, and interests, also different shows (“Late Late Show” and “Full Frontal,” respectively). Nevertheless, they both captured plenty of fans, and went viral in the process. Corden especially broke the internet with his “Carpool Karaoke.”

6. Riz Ahmed, “The Night Of” As Nasir (“Naz”) Khan, Ahmed helped propel this midsummer HBO series into water-cooler orbit. (Meanwhile, he’s also in another breakout show — “The OA,” see above.)

5. Brian Tyree Henry, “Atlanta” Where’s Henry been? He arrived here fully formed and perfectly realized, as a complete character with both back story and a beat. As rising rap star Paper Boi, he’s funny, harrowing, interesting, deranged, sane and often stoned.

4. Evan Rachel Wood, “Westworld” Lots of roles over the years, but none bona fide breakouts until now. As Dolores Abernathy, she’s an original “host” (cyborg) of theme park, Westworld, slowly regaining awareness of her eternal (and horrifying) narrative loop. And she’s just beginning.

3. Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live” The Sea Cliff native has been on a breakout roll for a while, but ’16 was Full Breakout. She won the Emmy, and there were a couple movies (the “Ghostbusters” reboot), which also didn’t hurt. But almost everything she’s done on “SNL” — from Angela Merkel to the alien abductee to Kellyanne Conway — has scored. Then, there was also Hillary.

2. The kids of “Stranger Things” No reason to break out a single name here, when many of them are breakouts — including Millie Bobby Brown (Eleven), Gaten Matarazzo (Dustin), Caleb McLaughlin (Lucas), Finn Wolfhard (Mike) and Shannon Purser (Barbara).

1. Sterling K. Brown/Chrissy Metz/Justin Hartley/Susan Kelechi Watson/Chris Sullivan/Ron Cephas Jones, “This Is Us” Your breakout stars of the year, or rather your breakout team. As a rare double-breakout, Brown (Randall) broke out during “The People vs. O.J. Simpson” early in the year, as Chris Darden, then broke out all over again on this. Metz (Kate), Sullivan (Toby), Watson (Beth), Hartley (Kevin) and Jones (William Hill) have together helped turn “Us” into the broadcast breakout of 2016.


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