While Indian television soaps continue to languish in terms of their character development and plot complexity, American, Canadian, British, and other foreign television shows have made quite a niche in the entertainment industry. With talented actresses working their magic on the small screen in collaboration with some brilliant directors and writers, the women of television are here to conquer our hearts with these memorable characters (in no particular order whatsoever.
- Annalise Keating, How To Get Away With Murder
Played by Academy Award nominated actress Viola Davis, Annalise Keating is probably the most enigmatic fictional female lawyer to have ever existed on the small screen. A Harvard educated legal genius, Annalise inspires equal parts fear and awe in the hearts of her fledgling students as well as court rivals. Despite playing a realistic, “not a size two”, African American, 49 year-something character, she still manages to be mysterious and (bi)sexually alluring as hell (with the best set of arms since Michelle Obama), and everything she does is so grandiose and captivating that even her makeup removal has the audience rapt for an entire scene.
- Sophia Burset, Orange is the new Black
Actress and LGBT rights activist Laverne Cox (who also became the first transgender person to grace the cover of the Time Magazine) plays the ever stylish and fabulously fierce Sophia on the hit Netflix series. Serving a long prison sentence at the Litchfield Federal Penitentiary for embezzlement and credit card fraud, Sophia is known to run the prison beauty parlour, use scraps to put together couture, campaign for women’s healthcare and basic human rights, and even educate her fellow inmates and prison guards about the myths and realities of female anatomy. She is a woman who is not afraid to put her foot down, assert her rights, spread awareness about generally ignored issues, and protect the ones she loves.
- Dr. Mindy Lahiri, The Mindy Project
The sassy and multi-talented Mindy Kaling plays the fiercely feminist, fashion junkie, die-hard foodie, outspoken and extrovert OB/GYN doctor at Shulman & Associates, New York City. A born leader who excels at her job, Mindy is a vivacious, warm, confident and bubbly woman who bonds well with all her patients and friends, but doesn’t hesitate to critique every possible subject, from her idea of the perfect boyfriend, to the controversial topic of anal sex. Mindy is a second-generation Indian-American, but that does not stop her from mocking ethnic and racial stereotypes, which makes her one of the most refreshing and balls-out woman on American television today.
- Cookie Lyon, Empire
The perennially entertaining and Emmy Award nominee Taraji P. Henson plays the ferocious Lyon family matriarch on the much loved Fox show. Her flashbacks show her as a young girl who dealt drugs, raised her sons, and helped her husband, Lucious, start the biggest ever American music company, Empire Entertainment, with the drug money she took a fall for. Having served 17 years in prison, Cookie comes out kicking ass, taking names and wearing a lot of leopard print and fur, proving that it doesn’t really matter if you don’t have a college degree or are from the streets, and runs the world of Empire and all the men around her while rocking six-inch Gucci heels.
- Regina Mills/The Evil Queen, Once Upon a Time
The insanely gorgeous Lana Parrilla delivers complete justice to the villainous mayor of Storybrooke, and the complex character of the Evil Queen in the alternate fairy tale universe, who is equally adept at all kinds of powerful magic as she is with her witty tongue in both worlds. A motivated woman who is willing to do anything for her goals, Regina is the deadly combination of an anti-heroine and a dominatrix, and always finds a way to do her bidding, whether it is to exact revenge and curse every other character’s “happy ending”, or to be the perfect mother to her stepson, Henry. She also maintains the consistent record of being the most well-dressed character on the show, flawlessly pulling off medieval costume gowns, and modern day business suits with equal ease. Add to that just the right amount of snarky humour, and you have got the perfect queen of hearts (pun intended).
- Cosima Niehaus, Orphan Black
Emmy nominee and acting prodigy Tatiana Maslany plays the “geek monkey” on the hit science fiction series about human cloning. To any other person, Cosima is just another college student who is doing her PhD in Experimental Evolutionary Developmental Biology (which she calls “Evo-Devo”) at the University of Minnesota. But to Clone Club fans, Cosima is the epitome of coolness – she is a wine aficionado, who smokes only pot, carries off braided dreadlocks better than anyone else, is the smartest tomboy in the room, and has an equally hot French girlfriend, Delphine (played by Évelyne Brochu) who she “just wants to make crazy science with”, and kicks ass while doing everything mentioned above and more.
- Callie Torres, Grey’s Anatomy
The multi-talented Sara Ramirez plays Dr. Calliope Iphegenia “Callie” Torres, M.D., the world renowned “ortho-goddess” at the Grey-Sloan Memorial Hospital who refuses to take crap from anyone and is constantly dominating the medical ER with her badass bone-breaking skills. Despite being a wealthy heiress from an old-fashioned family, Callie chose to study her way to become a surgeon, stuck with her friends, survived a fatal car crash, and marry the woman she loved. She is also incredibly funny, unwavering loyal, impossibly strong and stubborn, an excellent mother to Sofia, and dances in her underwear to beat the blues. Callie is a primetime role model through and through, and if we ever had to make a list, she would probably top that.
- Fiona Goode, American Horror Story: Coven
Though the outrageous and outspoken witch supreme appeared only for one season of the Ryan Murphy FX anthology, and while Academy Award winner Jessica Lange who played her and other characters on the show, has left television for now, Fiona Goode is one of the most memorable fictional female characters on contemporary TV. Playing the head of the mystical Salem coven of witches in modern day, Fiona isn’t afraid to strike down unwanted competition for the title of the “baddest witch in town”, by hook or by crook. Her delightful snark and lovably evil antics will make fans await every dialogue with bated breath, plus the woman knows how to rock a cigarette and black dresses better than anyone else in real life.
- Bo Dennis, Lost Girl
Wild and untamed, Canadian bombshell Anna Silk plays the unapologetic, unabashedly sexy succubus in this Showtime series about mythological creatures called “Fae” living amongst normal humans in the present day world. Bo is the ultimate seductress, managing to seduce everyone she meets, human or Fae, male or female, you name it, she will have them either way, winning them over with her irresistible charm or her succubus power of attraction. Oh, and I did I also mention, she derives her strength from their ”chi”, which is basically the sexual energy and life force of a being? Perhaps the most liberated and sexual being that has ever graced our TV screens, Bo is also an expert katana wielder, a skilled kick-boxer, and a consulting private investigator.
- Virginia Johnson, Masters of Sex
Who ever thought that the young Lizzy Caplan who played the dorky Janis Ian in Mean Girls would transform into the most elegant and gorgeous of women in real life and on our television screens practically overnight? Based on the real-life pioneering sexologist of the same name, Caplan plays a woman who is radically ahead of her times, juggling her work and children with equal prowess. She is smart, forthright, resourceful, and sexually uninhibited, and also refuses to adhere to the patriarchal and misogynistic norms that her contemporary 1950s American society places on women. She is also compassionate and very much attuned to her emotions and those of others, which makes her the perfect counterpart for the repressed and socially awkward Dr. Masters (played by Martin Sheen).