There have been some exceptional characters who’ll be featured in our lists this year, but the 2021 Scene-Stealers are the unforgettable gems no show would be the same without.
They’re the characters you can’t help but be entranced by—the characters you can’t help but be in awe of. And yes, even…when they’re questionable. There’s something about the 2021 Scene-Stealers that have been the best part of TV this year. And while this is a new category for us, I have a feeling it’s something we might want to keep around if the universe continues to deliver such riveting characters.
For more end-of-the-year coverage, be sure to check out our Best of 2021: Ted Lasso Season 2 Special, as the shining example of what excellent TV looks like. We also have the Best of 2021: Performances, the Best of 2021: Characters, the Best of 2021: Found Families, the Best of 2021: Romantic Relationships, and the Best of 2021: TV Episodes.
1. Ella Lopez
We created the best of 2021 scene-stealers category because of Lucifer’s Ella Lopez. Aimee Garcia’s remarkably distinct and brilliant adoration for the character brought bits and pieces of her out into the surface with utmost charm. The moment Ella steps foot onto the screen, gazes avert straight to her effortlessly. Garcia commands the scenes so skillfully and brings astounding layers to Ella episode after episode. And in the show’s final season especially, Ella Lopez was somehow even more of a star than before—watching her finally learn the truth in the kind of explosive form made the character even more of an astonishing scene-stealer than ever. A treasurable, exceptionally memorable character in every way that’s required.
2. Agatha Harkness
It was Agatha all along, and Kathryn Hahn understood the assignment through and through when she stole every scene in WandaVision with the most deliciously wicked kind of chaos. Agatha Harkness is a scene-stealer in every way, so much so that she’s given her own song and a spin-off show. The fact that those who watched the show couldn’t get her theme song out of our heads for months says everything. (It’s probably stuck in your head as you read this because it’s now definitely stuck in mine. Once you remember again, it’s game over then.) She’s wild, chaotic, and so purely evil, but long before we knew anything, Kathryn Hahn effortlessly brought to life a character we’d be curious about and eagerly wanting to learn more about.
3. Laura Peterson
The Morning Show
Julianna Margulies does something so extraordinary on The Morning Show, it’s hard to imagine the show ever existed without her. And it’s even harder to imagine it after the subtle yet brilliantly commanding aura Laura Peterson has. Through colossal, indescribable range, Laura Peterson is the character who steals every scene she walks into with the kind of memorable embodiment that’s the best part of the second season. Where some characters on this list are more mischievous or vibrant, Laura’s heart is fire strikes the hardest. Her compassion and the immense ease that passes through after her time on screen leaves viewers with the kind of warmth no other character on the series has yet to evoke. And when she’s hosting at TMS—well, that’s an entirely different story as Laura is an entrancing powerhouse in every way.
4. Dani Rojas
Dani Rojas defines a scene-stealer in Ted Lasso’s first season, but he does something even more remarkable in the second season—he does it with subtlety. The distressed praying in the shower, the revelations following therapy, the late but evocative Jennifer Lopez comment in “Rainbow,” the absolute distaste for dress shows, borrowing Rebecca’s pink slippers, and finally, scoring the winning goal in “Inverting the Pyramid of Success.” Cristo Fernandez takes the raven-haired golden retriever we already adored and gives us even more reasons to be in awe of him. He brings plenty of entertainment, countering his previous football is life through various tonal changes making his scenes in season two even better and more mesmerizing than before.
5. Chrisjen Avasarala
The Expanse’s Chrisjen Avasarala commands whatever room she’s in, and Avasarala’s cursing has always stolen every scene flawlessly. Shohreh Aghdashloo‘s tremendous skills as an actress were on perfect display this year. Full of vulnerability coupled with her poise and grace, Avasarala’s means of stealing a scene equates to something so transfixing, and it’s a marvel to watch her in every episode. The series wouldn’t be the same without her. No moment, especially during the darker fifth season, would have been as rewarding without her ability to play on softer sides and through the political demands.
6. Jesper Fahey
Shadow and Bone
Jesper Fahey is the best kind of a scene-stealer, both in the Six of Crows duology and in Shadow and Bone, the TV series. Kit Young’s innate ability to master the best parts of the sharpshooter is one of the more indescribable highlights of the series, making him an effortless fan-favorite character for many. As much as people had varying thoughts about the entirety of the series, we’ve heard nothing but praise left and right for Young’s embodiment of Jesper. His unique skills, the suave physicality, and the undeniable humanity make Jesper the character you can’t take your eyes off—the type of character you want in every scene. And the kind who’s brilliantly stealing scenes left and right in combat face-offs as much as through dialogue.
7. Kate Bishop
Hailee Steinfeld’s Kate Bishop is solely responsible for making Hawkeye the unexpected gem of the season while she shines exquisitely to steal every scene she’s in almost seamlessly. (An honorable mention to Florence Pugh‘s Yelena Belova as well.) Kate’s wide-eyed energy, the undeniable archery skills, and the thrill she showcases every time she learns something new cobbled with the innate vulnerability when darkness starts to unfold is a constant sight to see. If you knew nothing about Hawkeye and walked into the series blind, Kate Bishop is inevitably the one stealing hearts—the show (is) hers in more ways than one, and it’s there’s no question that she’s about to take the world of Marvel by storm.
8. Raymond Holt
Holt has always been Brooklyn Nine-Nine’s greatest scene-stealer. And Andre Braugher’s ability to do so with so much subtlety is still the gift that keeps on giving—the one performer who’s genuinely unparalleled in what he’s able to convey and how. The brilliant facet about Holt and Braugher’s performance has always been how effortless it’s been. It’s like he doesn’t even have to try—he merely walks into a room, and we’re all immediately paying attention. We want to listen to what he has to say. We’re watching his mannerisms closely. And in the final season, coupled with the vulnerability, Holt’s frequent remarks worked flawlessly to stir our focus straight to his every move. One of the best of 2021 scene-stealers we’re always going to miss.
9. Cousin Greg
Cousin Greg is one of the only likable characters on Succession, which makes the detail that he’s a scene-stealer that much more riveting. Nicolas Braun’s Greg commands the room in a different way. He makes it easy to root for him. He makes it easy to care, and his awkwardness demands that we pay attention to everything he’s doing because his quiet, careful (and sometimes odd) choices make it a joy to watch him on a show where so few things truly even understand the meaning of the word “good.” It’s statements like “who needs a soul” and every ounce of confusion that work wonders to do something utterly entertaining.
10. Helmut Zemo
The Falcon and The Winter Soldier
When you’re a trending topic on Twitter for the #ZemoCut to release, you essentially define Best of 2021 scene-stealers. Daniel Brühl Baron Helmut Zemo does that so well it’s almost a little ridiculous. The fact that his dance is the most memorable part of The Falcon and The Winter Soldier is both hilarious and feels wrong, but alas, there is no denying the power and when you take into consideration what a complex character Zemo actually is, it makes his scenes and complex character that more remarkable. Where his work in the series was entertaining, we really don’t talk enough about the fact that as an anti-hero, he’s one of the best parts of the Marvel Cinematic Universe.