Men have always been the lead focus on television. Breaking Bad, Prison Break, Mad Men and Peaky Blinders are some of the best shows of the decade – yet their female characters are secondary and not crucial to the plot.
Thankfully, the TV landscape is changing (albeit slowly). Producers are embracing more female leads than ever before and these women-led series are proving just as popular as male-led ones. Gender equality is finally within reach, and with movements like Time's Up and motivating speeches like that of Frances McDormand's recently, it's absolutely achievable. Considering it's International Women's Week, here are some of the top women to watch on the small screen this year:
Amy Adams in Sharp Objects
This upcoming mini-series follows a newspaper journalist who returns to her hometown of Wind Gap, Missouri, to report on a series of murders. Amy Adams plays the part of Camille Preaker, who has not been home since the death of her younger sister Marian. Years of depression, self-harm, and a stint in a psychiatric hospital kept Camille from returning home, but now that she’s here, she must face the demons from her past. The show is based on a novel by the same name, which was written by Gillian Flynn, the same author who brought us Gone Girl and Dark Places. Eight episodes will be available to stream on HBO this summer, and it’s expected to be a hit!
Uzo Aduba in Orange Is The New Black
Season 6 of the prison comedy/drama kicks off this June, giving you plenty of time to catch up on seasons 1-5. Uzo Aduba plays Suzanne ‘Crazy Eyes’ Warren, and if her performance in previous episodes is anything to go by, she’s definitely one to watch. The 37-year-old’s character suffers from a string of mental health issues, and while her full condition is never named, she is prone to emotional and occasionally violent outbursts. Uzo portrays the character so convincingly that she’s been awarded two Emmys and two Screen Actors Guild Awards. She is also the first actress to win both a comedy and drama Emmy award consecutively for the same role. We’ll be tuning into Netflix this summer to see what’s in store for her next.
Jane Fonda in Grace and Frankie
Jane Fonda may be 80 years old but she’s showing no signs of slowing down. Her Netflix comedy Grace and Frankie has just been renewed for its fifth season following the huge success of season 4 in January. The show tells a tale of unlikely friends – two senior citizens whose husbands have divorced them in order to start a gay relationship together. Jane’s energy, style and wit (both in reality and in her portrayal of Grace) prove that you’re never too old to have sex, get drunk, or start a business. Speaking to Variety, the actress said, “The fastest growing demographic in the world is older women. I think it’s one of the reasons that the show is popular because Lily (who plays Frankie) and I are old, and we show that it doesn’t have to be all bad.” The new season won’t be available to watch until next year but we’ll gladly binge on repeat episodes till then.
Elizabeth Moss in The Handmaid’s Tale
Season 2 of The Handmaid’s Tale is set to air next month and Elizabeth Moss has promised huge things. Speaking to TV Guide after the Golden Globes, the Californian actress confirmed that the new season would be “gut-wrenching,” “inspiring,” and “an example of resistance”. She plays the role of Offred, a fertile ‘handmaid’ assigned to have sex with her master in order to provide a child for him and his infertile wife. The theme of motherhood is said to be crucial in the 13 new episodes, all of which will be available to watch on Hulu from April.
Yara Shahidi in Grown-ish
With a 91% positive rating on Rotten Tomatoes, this new American sitcom is definitely worth a watch. Yara Shahidi plays the eldest daughter of the Johnson family and is entering the real world for the first time. The ABC show is a spin-off of Black-ish, which has been nominated for the Emmys, Golden Globes and Screen Actors Guild Awards over the past number of years. The leading lady has been described on social media as funny and loveable with a great ability to blend relationship comedy with social commentary.
Seana Kerslake in Can’t Cope Won’t Cope
This Tallaght-born actress was named by Screen International as a ‘Star of Tomorrow’ and we can see why. She played a very convincing lead in Stefanie Preissner's comedy/drama Can't Cope, Won't Cope in 2016, a realistic show about female friendship. While it originally aired on RTE2, it's recently been made available on Netflix so there's no excuse not to watch Seana in action.