This year, there was a lot of trauma, especially coming out of the new Marvel Disney+ series’ which was quite a surprise. But these do lead to dramatic roles and performances.

From an outcast variant not knowing his place to a relapsed girl lost in the world, to a detective unable to piece her life or a missing case together, here are our picks for the Best Lead Performances in a Drama Series in 2021.

5.) Stephen Amell (Heels)

Stephen Amell is really good at playing men with anger issues who fight constantly and keep secrets from those closest to them. Coming off his run as Oliver Queen on Arrow, Amell has taken on another physically demanding role as the DWL champion and owner, Jack Spade. It is definitely familiar territory but if you’re good at something, why wouldn’t you keep doing it? Amell is fantastic at playing a character trying to keep everything in his life in balance and we know from his real-life appearances in the ring that he can go. Perfect casting and a great performance.

– Ashley Hobley

Heels: Season One, Episode One Review

“Stephen Amell has that same familiar warmth as Jack Spade outside the ring as CW viewers became accustomed to seeing on Arrow.”

4.) Tom Hiddleston (Loki)

After playing Loki in six films, Tom Hiddelston finally gets to headline his own project, playing an earlier variant version of himself from after the events of The Avengers. Not exactly the easiest role to explain but Hiddelston takes this opportunity with both hands proving a great scene partner to Owen Wilson, Sophia Di Martino and even an alligator. Given the opportunity to show the showcase his dramatic and comedic abilities to full effect, Hiddelston gave his best Loki performances yet.

– Ashley Hobley


3.) Elizabeth Olsen (WandaVision)

Wanda Maximoff has had one or two scenes of actual character development in the MCU. Still, she most certainly wasn’t going to get the time in her next movie appearance to properly grieve the loss of Vision, so enter WandaVision. Not only does this series give Elizabeth Olsen the chance to explore Wanda as a character like never before, as she peels away at the trauma from her childhood up until the present day, but the series also gives Olsen the chance to do comedy in a way she hasn’t before.

– Dylan Blight

2.) Zendaya (Euphoria)

Although she was only in two specials for Euphoria over the last year, Zendaya’s performance as Rue continues to be her standout role. The episode “Trouble Don’t Always Last”, in particular, is a career-best for Zendaya, who spends most of the episode in back-and-forth monologuing conversation with the character of Ali. Zendaya gives Rue the hurt and relatable trauma that makes her addictions understandable, as well as her actions throughout the first season.

– Dylan Blight

Feel Something Zendaya Teardrop Series, 16″ x 24″ (40 x 60 cm)

1.) Kate Winslet (Mare of Eastown)

Kate Winslet gives one of her all-time performances in Mare of Eastown. She even won an Emmy for her performance. Winslet gives herself to the character of Mare, a character with trauma hanging over their shoulders and a drive to work themselves into not thinking about what’s hurting. 

Although it’s easy to point to her dramatic turns in the series, or the heartfelt and softer moments with family and loved ones as key details as to why and how Kate Winslet is so good in this role, it’s the smaller details that make her number one on this list. The way Mare throws her legs up on a table against her mother’s best wishes or the subtle eye dodges as subjects come up that Mare attempts to dodge all makes for such a complete character and one of Kate Winslet’s best performances. 

– Dylan Blight

Dylan Blight and Ashley Hobley compiled this Top 5 list. The TV shows nominated must have finished airing their selected season within November 15th 2020 – November 15th 2021 and have been released in Australia via network TV, VOD or a streaming platform.