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5 TV Favorites Reflect on Saying Goodbye to Their Breakthrough Shows & What Lies Ahead

By Scott Huver | August 29, 2019 | People

Some of the game-changing TV shows that concluded their beloved runs this season—Game of Thrones, VEEP, Orange is the New Black, You’re the Worst and Jane the Virgin—may yet collect a final bounty of Emmy trophies. But more importantly, they’ve introduced us to the breakout performers who we’re quite sure will be at the center of many awards conversations to come.

Lena Headey, Game of Thrones, HBO


CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: “I loved playing Cersei—it was great fun. I never played Cersei for anything other than the truth of her, which to me was this early-day feminist who’s a survivor, a mother, a politician, and wants to be monarch. People had such strong reactions because you should have hated her and yet couldn’t fully hate her… I quite liked that challenge year after year! It was like, ‘OK, we’re going to go back, and she’s going to still be this scheming parent—of fewer and fewer children.’”

GAME CHANGER: “Of course, this show opens doors that maybe would never have opened—or at least you’d have to wait much longer! In that way, yeah, it was totally unexpected, especially at this time in my career.”

UP NEXT! [On her upcoming series, Rita]: “I’m producing, I get to direct and develop the character, the look, all of the stuff, and that excites me. At this point, 25 years in, it’s a very natural progression. There’s nothing wrong with playing a cracking baddie—I’ve done a lot of them—but Rita’s comedic, high-energy and messy, so I’m looking forward to doing something completely the opposite of Cersei!”

Reid Scott, Veep, HBO


BAD, BAD BOY! “Dan is just toxic masculinity come to life. It was fairly cathartic to be able to go to work and do and say all the horrible things that would never come out of my mouth. The show’s profanity is very poetic at this point, and it’s been such great fun to utter these tongue-twisting, scathing barbs at each other.”

GAME CHANGER: “I never really considered myself a comic actor. I appreciated comedy, but I was scared of it, so when I auditioned for [funny parts], I just tripled down and really overcommitted to whatever the moment was. I didn’t realize it, but that’s one of the keys to comedy. Veep just became a master class. I’ve learned so much from this cast, and I’ve stolen all their best tricks—I’m completely unabashed about that.”

UP NEXT! “Not every job can be Veep. There certainly comes a point where you want to just shake that off and remind yourself what you’re capable of. But you really have to let go of the idea that everything you do should ascend to those heights. If that’s what you’re setting out to do, then you’re probably not taking chances. And that’s where I want to be right now: trying things differently.”

Kether Donohue, You're the Worst, FXX


“WORSTIE” BESTIES: “The cast just gelled! When we got into the show, if we had a scene on a Tuesday, we’d get together on Saturday and have a barbecue and run lines together. We all just put genuine caring into preparation as scene partners. I’ll never forget every single f---ing scene I shot with each and every one of them—and we did it as though our lives were on the line!”

GAME CHANGER: “I was literally going nonstop for 20 years, just trying to make a living being an actor. When the audition came in and I read the sides for Lindsay, I distinctly had a visceral reaction in my body. I was like, this character is funny as f---! She’s written with all the things that I dreamed of—broad comedy, but you see she’s in pain, she’s going through shit. It was literally fulfilling my dream of everything I had wanted and worked for.”

UP NEXT! “I never really felt like I had a right to call myself a singer, [but] I’ve found a freedom and a joy in singing when I’m playing a character. If you’re talking bucket list, I’m very excited to branch out into exploring singing-songwriting territory— getting to play that through a character is just that much more exciting.”

Laverne Cox, Orange Is the New Black, Netflix


UNLOCKED:Orange shifted culture. People have told me that they didn’t commit suicide because they saw this character on television. A woman came up to me in a store in New York and said, ‘Hi, I’m trans. I had been estranged from my mother for many years, and she saw you on the show and reached out to me for the first time.’ That sort of thing happened because of Orange.”

GAME CHANGER: “I was going to give up acting and go back to graduate school, get a ‘real’ career. I thought my life was supposed to go a certain way by a certain age. By the time I hit 35, 40, none of it had happened. Then Orange happened, and I was just so happy to have a job and be telling these stories that humanize people who are incarcerated. It all happened exactly the way it was supposed to.”

UP NEXT! “I’m developing some vehicles for myself as an actress that I’m also going to be producing. We, as creators, producers, casting directors, have to continue to think outside the box—casting not just trans people but also people of color, people with disabilities, so that we have stories that continue to reflect who we are as a diverse human population.”

Justin Baldoni, Jane the Virgin, The CW


WHAT COMES AROUND: “In my mid-20s, I quit acting. I wasn’t getting any work or feeling fulfilled. [After some directing success, my managers] asked if I wanted to act every once in a while—they sent me Jane the Virgin as my second audition after almost 2 ½ years of not being an actor. This random audition… [for a show that] was everything that I had been wanting and trying to be for so long as a filmmaker. That was the most perfect way it could have ever worked out for me.”

GAME CHANGER:Jane was my ‘day job.’ I made a very conscious choice that whatever time I was blessed to be on the show, I was gonna spend [the rest of my time] building everything outside of the show. For the first five months of the final season, I had moved my edit bay for [my feature film directorial debut] Five Feet Apart into the same hallway where my dressing room was.”

UP NEXT! “I just raised $25 million to start my own content studio. I’m interested in giving a platform and a voice to people who have been marginalized from underserved communities who maybe haven’t had a chance in Hollywood. Because I know what it’s like to have an idea and want to make a difference... and have the town not hear or see you. My door is open.”