MAJOR DRAMA

Nicole Kidman, Milo Ventimiglia and 11 More Actors Who Prove that Television Has Never Been Hotter


Photographs by Alasdair McLellan, Styled by Edward Enninful; Hair by Shay Ashual at Art Partner; makeup by Diane Kendal for Marc Jacobs Beauty at Julian Watson Agency; manicures by Casey Herman for Dior at the Wall Group. Set design by Stefan Beckman at Exposure NY.

As movies increasingly play to a global audience with an endless stream of superhero blockbusters, the television landscape is becoming more varied—and more compelling. So, this year we turned our attention to dramas and the 13 actors and actresses who have given performances that are deeper and more thrilling than any you might find at the cinema. From Nicole Kidman and Alexander Skarsgård, who played a couple caught in an impassioned and physically abusive relationship in HBO’s Big Little Lies, to Millie Bobby Brown as the otherworldly Eleven on Stranger Things and Milo Ventimiglia as Jack Pearson, the flawed but compassionate father at the heart of NBC’s breakthrough hit This Is Us, here is a closer look at the hottest TV stars of the year.

1
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Photographs by Alasdair McLellan, Styled by Edward Enninful; Hair by Shay Ashual at Art Partner; makeup by Diane Kendal for Marc Jacobs Beauty at Julian Watson Agency; manicures by Casey Herman for Dior at the Wall Group. Set design by Stefan Beckman at Exposure NY.

“In the show I play an abused woman, and I felt very exposed and deeply humiliated. I remember lying on the floor in the bathroom at the end of a difficult scene, and I wouldn’t get up between takes. I was just lying there, basically naked in half-torn underwear, and Jean-Marc Vallée [the director] would come over and place a towel over me. It was very hard.”

Kidman wears a Miu Miu dress and coat.

2
Brit Marling, The OA

“As a girl, I was obsessed with the program 20/20—especially with the coanchor Hugh Downs. I thought I was going to marry Hugh Downs for a really long time. He was so dignified. Everything was going to be all right because Hugh Downs was going to tell you the important story you needed to know that Friday night. They just don’t do newsmen like him anymore.”

Marling wears a Prada dress.

3
Alexander Skarsgård, Big Little Lies
Photographs by Alasdair McLellan, Styled by Edward Enninful; Hair by Shay Ashual at Art Partner; makeup by Diane Kendal for Marc Jacobs Beauty at Julian Watson Agency; manicures by Casey Herman for Dior at the Wall Group. Set design by Stefan Beckman at Exposure NY.

“My first crush was Jessica Lange in Tootsie. I was maybe 8 or 9 when I first saw the movie, and I had never felt anything for a girl before that. I was just mesmerized by her. I watched the film over and over again because of Jessica Lange. I’m still not over her. Every time I meet someone, I compare her to Jessica Lange in Tootsie. That’s probably why I’m not married.”

Skarsgård wears a Cleverly Laundry robe; Schiesser Revival shirt.

4
Keri Russell, The Americans

The Americans mostly takes place in the ’80s, during the Cold War. Anytime you’re wearing clothes that are unlike yours, it just heightens the moment. When I wear heels and silk shirts, slacks and blouses, it makes me feel like an adult. On the show, I wear a cat eye with black eyeliner, and it makes me feel like a panther. It’s so unlike me as Keri—this tired mom in flip-flops and jeans. And I love that transformation.”

Russell wears a Michael Kors Collection top; Philosophy briefs; Manolo Blahnik shoes; Louis Vuitton bracelet.

5
Rupert Friend, Homeland

“For Homeland, I made an audition tape with a point-and-click camera and sent it in. The ratio was off. It was out of focus. I was also wearing the wrong thing, and I filmed it against a door that they later told me made it look like I was in a mental asylum. The producers were like, ‘Where the hell is this kid?!’ In the end, I did seven separate audition tapes of the same scene. They finally said yes.”

Friend wears an Hermès sweater; Sunspel boxers; his own ring and socks.

6
Claire Foy, The Crown
Photographs by Alasdair McLellan, Styled by Edward Enninful; Hair by Shay Ashual at Art Partner; makeup by Diane Kendal for Marc Jacobs Beauty at Julian Watson Agency; manicures by Casey Herman for Dior at the Wall Group. Set design by Stefan Beckman at Exposure NY.

“I went to work on The Crown four months after giving birth. The queen didn’t wear a corset, but I did in the beginning. Now, in the second season, I have to wear a significantly padded brassiere. In the first season, it was all my own breast work, but now it’s ‘Ha! Where have they gone?’ The queen would be so ashamed of me.”

Foy wears a Louis Vuitton dress; Messika Paris bracelet.

7
Riz Ahmed, The Night Of
Photographs by Alasdair McLellan, Styled by Edward Enninful; Hair by Shay Ashual at Art Partner; makeup by Diane Kendal for Marc Jacobs Beauty at Julian Watson Agency; manicures by Casey Herman for Dior at the Wall Group. Set design by Stefan Beckman at Exposure NY.

“I usually get stopped in the U.K. before I board a plane. What’s funny is that Heathrow is in a heavily South Asian neighborhood, and the kids working at the airport are fans of mine. So while they’re swabbing me for explosives, they’re asking me for selfies. While they’re going through my underwear, they’re quoting my raps back at me. It’s quite a surreal experience that speaks to the insider/outsider status I’ve felt all my life.”

Ahmed wears a Bottega Veneta sweater; Jeffrey Rüdes pants.

8
Jodie Comer, The White Princess

“Even with the show, I still live at home in Liverpool. I can’t bring myself to leave just yet. My brother is 21 and he’s still at home, too. I said to my mom, ‘We’re going to be 30-, 40-odd years old and we’re still going to be living in the kids’ rooms.’ I’m hoping I will be able to leave the nest at some point.”

Comer wears a Marc Jacobs dress; Jennifer Meyer necklace; Larkspur & Hawk ring.

9
Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things
Photographs by Alasdair McLellan, Styled by Edward Enninful; Hair by Shay Ashual at Art Partner; makeup by Diane Kendal for Marc Jacobs Beauty at Julian Watson Agency; manicures by Casey Herman for Dior at the Wall Group. Set design by Stefan Beckman at Exposure NY.

“During the screen test for Stranger Things, one of the directors came up to me and said, ‘Bzzz,’ over my head. He then asked, ‘Are you ready?’ I was like, ‘For what?’ And he said, ‘To cut all your hair off!’ The next day I got the job and I cut it. My hair was down to here, but it’s only hair. After that, I was called ‘boy’ a lot.”

Brown wears a Balenciaga dress and tights; Chanel shoes; Jennifer Meyer ring.

10
James Franco, The Deuce
Photographs by Alasdair McLellan, Styled by Edward Enninful; Hair by Shay Ashual at Art Partner; makeup by Diane Kendal for Marc Jacobs Beauty at Julian Watson Agency; manicures by Casey Herman for Dior at the Wall Group. Set design by Stefan Beckman at Exposure NY.

“I worked at McDonald’s for a few months, and I got a couple of dates from taking orders at the drive-through window. I was enrolled in an acting class, and I would practice different accents. I was really bad, but people believed me. A young lady would say, ‘Oh, I forgot to order the strawberry milkshake’ and ask me about my Italian or Irish or Brooklyn accent. We would go out on a date, go back to the McDonald’s parking lot, and make out. Eventually, I had to break it to them that I wasn’t Italian or Irish or from New York. The girls would usually end it right then and there.”

Franco wears a Prada shirt.

11
Johnny Flynn, Genius
Photographs by Alasdair McLellan, Styled by Edward Enninful; Hair by Shay Ashual at Art Partner; makeup by Diane Kendal for Marc Jacobs Beauty at Julian Watson Agency; manicures by Casey Herman for Dior at the Wall Group. Set design by Stefan Beckman at Exposure NY.

“In playing Albert Einstein, I found out that he was not the archetypal absentminded professor. He was an energetic, slightly rebellious, rakish, sort-of-bohemian poet. And he was quite amorous—he had many lovers. Einstein wasn’t exactly a ‘player,’ but he enjoyed women, and when his first marriage fell apart, he became what you would call a ladies’ man. He gave up on monogamy.”

Flynn wears a Calvin Klein Jeans Established 1978 jacket and pants.

12
Sanaa Lathan, Shots Fired

“My dad, Stan Lathan, was one of the first black TV directors. He used to direct Sesame Street, and he blindfolded me once, and when he took the blindfold off, I was on the set. I got to meet Big Bird. It was my birthday, and the whole cast sang to me. That was the biggest thrill of my life.”

Lathan wears a Lanvin coat.

13
Milo Ventimiglia, This Is Us
Photographs by Alasdair McLellan, Styled by Edward Enninful; Hair by Shay Ashual at Art Partner; makeup by Diane Kendal for Marc Jacobs Beauty at Julian Watson Agency; manicures by Casey Herman for Dior at the Wall Group. Set design by Stefan Beckman at Exposure NY. Production by Leone Loannou at Pony Projects; retouching by output; Photography Assistants: Lex Kembery, Matthew Healy, Simon Mackinlay, Jeremy Abbott, David Sweeney; Fashion assistants: Dena Giannini, Devon Head; Special thanks to Pier 59 Studios and Soho treasures.

“I’m not a big crier. But family stuff gets to me. Fathers and brothers and children. If I wasn’t on This Is Us, I’d be a wet noodle watching the show. I’d be crying along with everyone else.”

Ventimiglia wears a Current/Elliott shirt; his own chain.