When it comes to TV shows, the stars get all the glory and attention. Sure, we love them (mostly), but often it's the secondary characters we can't wait to see. When they get their own rare story, it thrills us and we beg for more.
They don't have the most lines or screen time, and they aren't always the prettiest, but they often have wittier dialogue than the stoic hero or heroine, they are always more charming and/or interesting, and they are unpredictable.
Since they're not the stars and their fate isn't set, they could die, they could move to Cincinnati, or they could even get beamed onto another series. The best secondary characters have the endless ability to surprise us, and we love them for it.
So thanks to brilliant writers and amazingly talented actors for keeping our shows interesting, and thank you to whatever genius put you two together. You've created something truly special with these unique and wonderful characters and made our TV viewing all the more addictive.
Here's our list of the 10 coolest, scariest, funniest and/or most fascinating characters we've seen this fall. (Click on the images for larger versions.)
Dr. Walter Bishop on Fox's Fringe
Played by John Noble. From his goofy personality to his love of food at the most grim moments to his Walterisms, Walter is our favorite character of the decade. There's no one like him on TV, and we can't imagine anyone but Noble playing him. As fractured as Fringe stories can get, the writers and Noble never seem to lose track of who Walter is, even if he doesn't have the answer to that one himself. While we know there are some dark moments ahead for our Walter, what with Peter (Joshua Jackson) certain to discover that Walter stole him from an alternate universe, we're hoping that we get to see more of the charming Walter as well. We loved his sweet little romance with Rebecca (Theresa Russell). And Walter is such a normal dad-type guy when he looks at Peter with such love. As for the way he looks at Peter when he's thinking of experimenting on him, well, that's just creepy.
Ryan Nichols on ABC's V
Played by Morris Chestnut. Alien reptile underneath or not, he is one hot-looking human. While questions remain about what the Vs really want, what Bliss is and why the Fifth Column is helping the humans, the top-notch acting and characters (especially Morris/Ryan!) keep it interesting. We adore Ryan's battle with himself over protecting his fiancee or saving the humans. But wouldn't you think that Ryan would have sat down with the freedom fighters and told them what the Vs want, what their plan is, that there's a space armada on its way, etc.? But then there's Morris and, well, somehow we don't care about all those things so much anymore.
Damon Salvatore from The CW's The Vampire Diaries
Played by Ian Somerhalder. He's hot. He's funny. He's evil ... though not as evil as he thinks he is, and we love this charming bad boy. The Vampire Diaries wouldn't be nearly so much fun without him. Sure, Elena (Nina Dobrev) and Stefan (Paul Wesley) are made for each other and yadda yadda yadda. And, sure, Damon and Stefan have had to work together to deal with Logan-the-vampire-on-a-killing-spree lately. But it's not like we trust Damon to behave himself. ... And that's exactly the way we like it.
Henry Foss on Syfy's Sanctuary
Played by Ryan Robbins. We have to admit that when Sanctuary began during that first season, Henry was more than a little underused. And then his inner werewolf came out of the closet, and we were completely won over. Henry is a nerd who can handle the Sanctuary's outdated computer system with more than a little bit of attitude, a la Star Trek's Scotty. But when he's hanging with his best friend, Bigfoot (Christopher Heyerdahl), or going all wolfy on us, we're completely charmed in a move-over-Scotty kind of way.
Castiel on The CW's Supernatural
Played by Misha Collins. Last season, Collins was brought in to play the angel Castiel for a few episodes. Well, the producers knew a good thing when they saw him, and Collins became a full-fledged regular this season. While we loved seeing a hedonistic future Castiel when Dean (Jensen Ackles) hopped forward five years to see what had become of the world, we actually love Castiel even more just as he is. Castiel can be scary, grim and hysterically funny. Beyond that, his chemistry with Dean is priceless.
Dr. Claire Saunders on Fox's Dollhouse
Played by Amy Acker. Yes, we know. She's left the Dollhouse, but (lucky us) she'll be back in January. We love this underused character and hope she gets some more meat with her upcoming visit. She's far more mysterious than the Dollhouse itself, from her scars to her alter ego, Whiskey, to her exit from the Dollhouse. Show creator Joss Whedon once described her as "very, very, very broken," and beyond the scars, her brokeness was written all over her face. Even after we found out many of her secrets, we knew she was special. We're glad Whedon is bring her back before this canceled series leaves the air forever. Until then, we'll have to see how Summer Glau does this Friday as a Topher-esque character who works for another Dollhouse.
Samuel Sullivan on NBC's Heroes
Played by Robert Knepper. New villain Samuel has been fascinating to watch as he manipulates his carnival family and our heroes in some super-secret plan. Yes, he wants to bring them together and give them a place to call home, but with what we've learned so far, we think there's a lot more to it than that. The unpredictable Samuel is likable and absolutely freakin' crazy. While we love Samuel-on-a-freakin'-crazy-mission, it's going to be even more fun to see what happens now that Sylar (Zachary Quinto) is Sylar again and he knows there's another badass in the world with a power he would LOVE to rip open a skull to get to. Forget the whole Nathan/Sylar/Matt/Peter/Angela thing. This is a battle royale we can't wait to see.
Cara on the syndicated Legend of the Seeker
Played by Tabrett Bethell. Let's face it, those oh-so-serious-and-heroic heroes on Seeker already have the fate of the world on their shoulders, so tossing a smoking' hot Mord'Sith into the mix has added a terrific complication to the team dynamics. Cara is scary and unintentionally funny, a little like Supernatural's Castiel. And we never know what she's going to do. We think Kahlan (Bridget Regan) and Zed (Bruce Spence) are right to sleep with weapons under their pillows. We would, too. And it's exactly because we don't quite trust her that we can't wait to see what's she's going to do next, and whether she's going to have another catfight in a hot tub.
Eli Wallace from Syfy's Stargate Universe
Played by David Blue. He doesn't have the showiest role on the series by any means, and much of his thunder has been stolen by Robert Carlyle's Dr. Rush. But there's no denying Eli is one of us. He's the guy who would have spent his entire life in his room playing video games if he hadn't literally been beamed aboard a spaceship and kidnapped by those Stargate people. He's funny and sweet and lovable. And if any Stargate writer ever dares to consider killing off Eli, he/she should be shot. We love Eli, and he makes every scene he's in better. Now if only Eli's best bud, Chloe (Elyse Levesque), would realize that's he's so much better for her than that straight arrow Lt. Scott (Brian J. Smith).
Chloe Sullivan from The CW's Smallville
Played by Allison Mack. For nine years, Chloe has been Clark Kent's loyal sidekick (you know, kind of like Tonto from The Lone Ranger). In the early days she was in love with Clark (Tom Welling), of course. Eventually she moved on and fell in love with Jimmy (Aaron Ashmore), until things went badly with Doomsday (Sam Witwer), and Jimmy died. Through it all, and her own meteor freak powers, Chloe has been Clark's right-hand computer genius gal. Until this season. Angry with Clark because he wouldn't go back in time and save Jimmy (and who wouldn't be!), Chloe has stepped from behind Clark's cape and embraced her own abilities as she looks over Metropolis from the Watchtower. Finally, she's not in love with anyone anymore, and that's made her so much stronger. After she had Oliver Queen (Justin Hartley) kidnapped in the ultimate intervention and bugged Clark's farm, we knew things had changed. Chloe's not that sweet, innocent, little girl anymore. In fact, she's willing to do whatever it takes for the greater good. All we can say is ... it's about time, woman!
What TV character this fall makes your favorite show worthwhile?