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5 of the best acting breakthroughs of 2014

Every year brings a new batch of people who made sure we'd be looking for them in the future. This year saw people surprising us on surprisingly great shows, a woman in a twist on the Jane Austen genre and even a little girl.

Allison Tolman
"Fargo" was a show that shouldn't have worked — rehashing a great film for cable television — but it did, spectacularly. And one of the biggest reasons it worked so well was Allison Tolman's performance as incredibly pregnant and nice-to-a-fault Minnesota police deputy Molly Solverson. In a series stuffed with characters conniving (Martin Freeman's Lester Nygaard) and sociopathic (Billy Bob Thornton's Lorne Malvo), Tolman provided the much-needed human center, and did it with quiet aplomb. It's a shame the second season is jumping back to focus on her character's parents. — Ned Ehrbar

Gina Rodriguez
We'll admit — we didn't have high hopes for "Jane the Virgin" when we heard the description: A young woman is accidentally inseminated through a hospital mix up, but the twist on top of that twist? She's a virgin. Little did we know, that would hardly turn out to be the least crazy thing to happen on the show, but lead Gina Rodriguez handles the madness with aplomb, making Jane funny, relatable and very grounded, no matter what goes on around her. — Lisa Weidenfeld

Mackenzie Foy
Being a part on a star-studded cast filled with Oscar winners and nominees must be at least a little intimidating for a young actress, but there was no hint of that in Mackenzie Foy's memorable turn in Christopher Nolan's "Interstellar." Playing Murph, the 10-year-old daughter of Matthew McConaughey's reluctant astronaut Cooper, Foy turns in a poignant performance of a fiercely loyal child who knows she's unlikely to see her father again. — Lakshmi Gandhi

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Alfred Enoch
"How to Get Away with Murder" was one of the most anticipated new shows of the year. While Viola Davis has rightly garnered praise for her role as Professor Annalise Keating, both viewers and critics also started to take notice of British actor Alfred Enoch as they've gotten to know the fictional world of Middleton University. Enoch plays Wes Gibbons — a student who was unexpectedly chosen off of the waitlist and finds himself embroiled in a plot to conceal a murder. Harry Potter fans may remember a much-younger (and much more innocent) Enoch from his role as Hogwarts student Dean Thomas in the films. — Lakshmi Gandhi

Gugu Mbatha-Raw
Before the Jane Austen movie subversion “Belle," this British actress had done some “Doctor Who” and a Tom Hanks movie (“Larry Crowne”) no one saw. But it was her quivering yet resilient turn as a mixed-race aristo that made her one of the the best next best things. It’s a shame few bothered with the melodrama “Beyond the Lights”: she’s even better as a self-destructing Beyonce type with purple hair. But that’s why God created streaming. May future couples realize it’s the kind of date movie that definitely but definitely gets you laid. — Matt Prigge

 
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