Between returning favorites and brand-new series, the start of the fall television season always gives us plenty to talk about, but really the main prize is opportunity! I'm talking about the many lesser-known actors who've landed the role of a lifetime or where are getting their foot in the door on brand-new shows. We'll be spending a lot of time with these folks as we binge on fresh TV, and their careers depend on our favor. One of them might even become our next boyfriend or girlfriend, or at least the latest famous person to take out a restraining order against us. (Why won't you return my calls, Katie Cassidy?)
We've spent all summer pre-stalking several of these not-so-familiar faces by watching new pilots, and with some help from my fellow TV.com editors, compiled this list of nine stars-in-the-making we think you should keep an eye out for. Let's meet 'em!
THE SHOW: Brooklyn Nine-Nine (Fox)
THE TALENT: Stephanie Beatriz as Detective Rose Diaz, Chelsea Peretti as Administrator Gina Linetti
Just like the ensemble comedies it emulates (The Office, Parks and Recreation), Brooklyn Nine-Nine will draw a crowd with its big-name stars (in this case, Saturday Night Live's Andy Samberg and Last Resort's Andre Braugher) but succeed on the strength of its lesser-known supporting cast. Relative unknown Beatriz's Detective Diaz is a frightening figure with a lethal stare, and Peretti—who's already well-known among the stand-up comedy set—goes from writing for Parks and Rec to stealing scenes on Brooklyn Nine-Nine as the goofy Linetti.
THE SHOW: Marvel's Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. (ABC)
THE TALENT: Chloe Bennet as Skye
Bennet jumps from one ABC series to another, having played the slutty record-label assistant Hailey on Nashville next season. It's a big promotion—she's playing a major character in Joss Whedon's highly anticipated hit, and from the trailers we've seen, she's the beneficiary of most of Whedon's trademark wit. The half-Chinese, half-American actress can also sing, so she's in a good place for the Season 5 musical episode.
THE SHOW: Sleepy Hollow (Fox)
THE TALENT: Tom Mison as Ichabod Crane
This one's for the ladies! Brit hunk Mison made some splashes in the BBC/HBO miniseries Parade's End, but he's poised to get his big American break in Fox's gonzo supernatural police show as the time-traveling Crane. Not nearly as gangly or awkward as Disney's interpretation of the legendary character, Mison still manages to add some naive playfulness to Fox's vision of Crane—in addition to the innocent confusion of man who just warped two centuries into the future. This could be the start of a great career for him Stateside.
THE SHOW: Hello Ladies (HBO)
THE TALENT: Stephen Merchant as Stephen
Best known as Ricky Gervais' spindly sidekick and fellow Karl Pilkington-basher on The Ricky Gervais Show, Merchant is funny on his own and wants to prove it to American audiences in his new HBO comedy. He'll take center stage as a British man wooing women in Los Angeles, and we can't think of a better role for the guy.
THE SHOW: Trophy Wife (ABC)
THE TALENT: Michaela Watkins as Jackie
Watkins, a member of the talent-rich improv group The Groundlings, is best known for a short stint on Saturday Night Live in 2008-2009. She was let go after one season, but rebounded nicely in her role as the bitchy Janice on Enlightened (you might also recognize her from playing Schmidt's pregnant boss Gina on New Girl). Watkins' stength is in her dry delivery. As a master of the deadpan, her comedy translates perfectly to Trophy Wife's flighty and oft-confused Jackie, one of the two ex-wives that series star Malin Akerman must deal with in the neo-family comedy. Wait 'til you see what she does with a hamster in the pilot.
THE SHOW: Reign (The CW)
THE TALENT: Adelaide Kane as Mary Queen of Scots
Australian actress Kane made an impact as Derek's sister Cora in MTV's Teen Wolf, but here on The CW she gets to take control of an entire kingdom. Reign looks like it could be a sleeper hit for the network that specializes in buzzy, social media-friendly series, and Kane is primed to be one who gets hashtagged the most.
THE SHOW: Enlisted (Fox)
THE TALENT: Parker Young as Private Randy Hill
You know Young and his beefy torso from his propensity for going shirtless as a supporting player on ABC's Suburgatory. In Chatswin, he was Ryan Shay, the dumbbell neighbor who hooked up with Tessa and went bonkers when he found out he was adopted. But Suburgatory's loss is Enlisted's gain as Young once again goes dense to portray the vacant brother in this comedy about three siblings who work at an army base in Florida. Now, we'll get to see him play dumb every Friday night.
Ed. Note: Just as we were putting the finishing touches on this list, Fox decided to delay Enlisted's series deployment until January. So technically, Young is now a face to look out for in the midseason. Don't shoot the messenger!
THE SHOW: The Blacklist (NBC)
THE TALENT: Megan Boone as Elizabeth Keen
Anyone who can stand toe-to-toe with James Spader's intense Red Reddington and look good doing it deserves a spot on this list, and Boone does just that in NBC's latest biggest hope for the future, The Blacklist. You may remember her for her role as a Deputy D.A. on Law & Order: Los Angeles, or, like me, you may not remember that Law & Order: Los Angeles ever existed. This is a dream role for Boone, and as the likable new FBI agent Keen, she exudes both the confidence and freshness the part requires.