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The Women to Watch

15 TV stars who disrupt aging

  • Courtesy of NBC

    Mariska Hargitay (51), ‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit’

    All hail Hargitay! In 17 seasons as police Lt. Olivia Benson, she has paved the way for strong female characters on television. Besides playing Lt. Benson (now a mother), Hargitay directs SVU episodes and runs a foundation for survivors of sexual assault.   

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  • Courtesy of CBS

    Christine Baranski (63), ‘The Good Wife’

    She’s not the star of the show, but she is its heart. Playing chic and shrewd lawyer Diane Lockhart, Baranski can command a courtroom or block an office power grab at Lockhart, Agos & Lee. Pre-Diane, she charmed us as Maryann in the sitcom Cybill and convulsed us as Carol in the movie Bowfinger.

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  • Courtesy of ABC

    Viola Davis (50), ‘How to Get Away With Murder’

    Here are three steps to rule TV: First, play a law professor in a Shonda Rhimes series. Second, win an Emmy for outstanding lead actress in a drama (and be the first black woman to do so). And third, deliver a knockout acceptance speech. Davis deftly sustains her tough, layered, vulnerable act in the show’s second season.

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  • Courtesy of Amazon

    Judith Light (66), ‘Transparent’

    Who’s the boss? In Amazon’s award-winning series Transparent, Light clearly still is. She plays Shelly Pfefferman, the sharp-tongued, temperamental ex-wife of Jeffrey Tambor’s transgender character, Maura, who used to be Mort. It’s a must-see performance. 

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  • Courtesy of CBS

    Calista Flockhart (51), ‘Supergirl’

    Then: Ally McBeal, whose hemline, neuroses and complex love life made the TV lawyer a headache for some feminists. Now: Cat Grant, a sexy, no-nonsense media mogul who “leans in” — hard — and delivers inspiring girl-power speeches in the new CBS drama Supergirl. 

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  • Courtesy of FX Networks

    Kathy Bates (67), ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’

    After playing a bearded lady and a slave owner in previous seasons of Ryan Murphy’s American Horror Story anthology, the Oscar winner returns in AHS: Hotel.  She plays Iris, a creepy, crossword-obsessed hotel manager who spars with Lady Gaga, Sarah Paulson and Matt Bomer. Let’s hope no one winds up chained to a bed in misery. 

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  • Courtesy of HBO

    Julia Louis-Dreyfus (54), ‘Veep’

    On Seinfeld, JLD’s character, Elaine Benes (and her awkward, retina-scarring “kick dance”), earned the actress her first of six Emmys. The Veep star just took home another statuette — her fourth in a row — for channeling grossly incompetent, foul-mouthed President (at last!) Selina Meyer in HBO’s biting political satire. 

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  • Courtesy of Netflix

    Jane Fonda (78) and Lily Tomlin (76), ‘Grace and Frankie’

    “It’s kind of hip to be on Netflix when you’re an old broad,” Jane Fonda has said about teaming up with Lily Tomlin in Grace and Frankie. The longtime friends (and 9 to 5 costars) winningly play frenemies-turned-roommates after their attorney husbands burst out of the closet and reveal their two-decade love affair. 

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  • Courtesy of Netflix

    Kate Mulgrew (60), ‘Orange Is the New Black’

    You may not know her name, but you surely know her mane: As “Red” — the tough-talking, auburn-tressed cook in this gritty prison drama — Mulgrew has attracted an army of fans as rabid for her work as those who still salute her Capt. Kathryn Janeway role in Star Trek: Voyager.

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  • Courtesy of FX

    Angela Bassett (57), ‘American Horror Story: Hotel’

    Murderous voodoo queen? Check. Three-breasted woman? Check. Tina Turner? Check. This Yale graduate has made her career playing fiery, magnetic women. This fall, Bassett returned to AHS to play an actress — and Lady Gaga’s spurned lover — in Hotel, while last January she directed a Lifetime biopic about Whitney Houston.

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  • Courtesy of ABC

    Kate Burton (58), ‘Scandal’

    Who didn’t love to hate former Vice President Sally Langston — now the muckraking host of The Liberty Report, a political talk show within the show — when she fought with Fitz and killed her cheating hubby? Scandal  is Burton’s second sojourn in ShondaLand: On Grey’s Anatomy, she was a trailblazing surgeon suffering from Alzheimer’s disease. 

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  • Courtesy of CBS

    Marcia Gay Harden (56), ‘Code Black’

    What exactly is “Code Black”? Complete pandemonium in the ER. Luckily, the Oscar-winning actress has perfected her take-no-prisoners approach (in L&O: SVU and Damages), effortlessly becoming maverick Dr. Leanne Rorish, the talented (and sometimes reckless) head of the nation’s most notorious emergency room in Los Angeles. 

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  • Courtesy of Time Warner & Turner Entertainment

    Mary McDonnell (63), ‘Major Crimes’

    When star Kyra Sedgwick left The Closer after Season 7, McDonnell’s quirky but poised police Capt. Sharon Raydor — her steady gaze compelling cops and perps alike to tell the truth — smoothly stepped in to head the spin-off Major Crimes, now in its own respectable Season 4.

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  • Coutesy of Fox

    Jamie Lee Curtis (57), ‘Scream Queens’

    In a long-overdue comeback, the teenage star of the horror classic Halloween (1978) plays a grownup college dean in Ryan Murphy’s new comedy-thriller, Scream Queens. Expect confrontations with cruel sorority president Chanel Oberlin (Emma Roberts) and her namesake minions — Chanel No. 2, No. 3 and No. 5. (Chanel No. 4 has already met her grisly end.) 

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  • Courtesy of CBS

    Allison Janney (56), ‘Mom’

    What can’t she do? From White House press secretary C.J. Cregg on The West Wing to the repressed (but not for long!) Margaret Scully on Masters of Sex, Janney has given us nuanced portraits of an entire spectrum of strong, flawed women. Janney won an Emmy for Mom, tying Ed Asner for most performance wins (seven).

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