NYFA Alum in The Best TV Shows of All Time

February 22, 2024

While the “best TV shows of all time” vary based on personal preferences, cultural influences, and critical assessments, there are TV shows that frequently appear in discussions about iconic television. From The Sopranos to Law & Order to Grey’s Anatomy, ultimately, the best TV shows are the ones that resonate deeply with audiences and leave a lasting legacy.

NYFA Alum in The Best TV Shows of All Time

At NYFA, we’re honored to have various alumni who have gone on to star in several incredible television series. Here are just a few selections of former students who have gone on to find success in Hollywood.

Nozipho Mclean, Westworld

Westworld, a science fiction television series created by Jonathan Nolan and Lisa Joy, was based on the 1973 film of the same name by Michael Crichton. Set in a futuristic theme park populated by lifelike androids, the show explores consciousness and the nature of reality through the interactions between the android “hosts” and the human guests.

With its intricate narrative and philosophical undertones, Westworld has garnered critical acclaim. NYFA alum MFA in Acting for Film Nozipho Mclean appeared in four episodes on Westworld as Uwade. She has also appeared in television shows such as Swipe Night, Divorce, The Other Two, Madame Secretary, and Bull. Image via IMDB.

Chad Duell, General Hospital

Winner of countless daytime Emmy awards, General Hospital is a daytime television medical drama that premiered in 1963. Set in the fictional town of Port Charles, the series revolves around the lives of doctors, nurses, and patients at the titular hospital, as well as their interconnected personal and professional relationships. Known for its dramatic twists and longstanding characters, General Hospital remains one of the longest-running and most beloved soap operas in television history. 

NYFA alum Acting for Film Chad Duell, who won a Daytime Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2015 for General Hospital, has appeared in over 200 episodes. 

Danny Olabi, Law & Order: Organized Crime

The Law & Order franchise is a highly successful and long-running series of American television dramas created by Dick Wolf. Spanning multiple spin-offs and iterations, including SVU (Special Victims Unit) and Criminal Intent, the franchise has remained a staple of television for its depiction of the criminal justice system, and memorable characters. The franchise expanded in 2021 with Law & Order: Organized Crime, following Elliot Stabler, portrayed by Christopher Meloni, as he returns to the NYPD to battle organized crime after a devastating personal loss. Through its gritty portrayal of law enforcement’s fight against powerful criminal syndicates, Law & Order: Organized Crime delves into themes of justice and vengeance in the modern world.

Danny also appeared in the Emmy-nominated series Wu-Tang Clan: An American Saga. The popular biopic depicts the rise and impact of the famous music group. “Coming into your first big acting gig is nerve racking,” Danny said regarding the experience. “However the team’s openness and collaborative spirit was reassuring.” Image via IMDB.

Chord Overstreet, Glee

Glee is a musical comedy-drama television series that aired from 2009 to 2015. Set in a high school in Lima, Ohio, the show follows the members of the glee club. The diverse group of students come together to express themselves through music. Known for its catchy musical numbers, heartfelt performances, and exploration of social issues, Glee became a cultural phenomenon and resonated with audiences worldwide. NYFA Acting for Film workshop alum Chord Overstreet appeared in 90 episodes of the show alongside the late Naya Rivera, who also took classes at NYFA. Chord’s recent credits include roles in Apple TV’s Acapulco and the Netflix holiday film Falling for Christmas.

Adlih Torres, This is Us

This Is Us is a critically acclaimed television drama series that premiered in 2016. The show intricately weaves together the lives of the Pearson family across different periods, exploring love, loss, family dynamics, and personal growth. Known for its emotional depth, authentic portrayal of human relationships, and non-linear storytelling, This Is Us has resonated with audiences worldwide, earning praise for its heartfelt narrative.

NYFA Acting for Film alum Adlih Torres, who graduated from NYFA in December 2021, booked her very first role on national TV, as Beatriz, on This is Us a month later. Image via IMDB.

Aubrey Plaza, Parks and Recreation

Parks and Recreation is a beloved mockumentary-style sitcom created by Greg Daniels and Michael Schur that aired on NBC from 2009 to 2015. Set in the fictional town of Pawnee, Indiana, the show follows the quirky employees of the Parks and Recreation Department as they strive to improve their community. Known for its ensemble cast, witty humor, and heartfelt moments, Parks and Recreation has left a lasting impact, earning a dedicated fanbase and critical acclaim for its optimistic portrayal of small-town government.

The show was considered to be NYFA camp alum Aubrey Plaza’s debut, launching her to star in several hit films and television shows including the second season of The White Lotus, Monsters at Work, and the upcoming Marvel series Agatha: Darkhold Diaries. In 2021, she participated in a panel with NYFA’s Tova Laiter to discuss her film Black Bear.

Matty Cardarople, Stranger Things

Stranger Things is a supernatural horror television series created by the Duffer Brothers and released on Netflix in 2016. Set in the 1980s in the fictional town of Hawkins, Indiana, the show follows a group of kids who encounter mysterious occurrences and government conspiracies, including the disappearance of their friend and the appearance of a girl with psychokinetic abilities. Known for its nostalgic references to 80s pop culture and memorable characters, Stranger Things has captivated audiences worldwide and become a cultural phenomenon. NYFA Acting for Film alum and guest speaker Matty Cardarople starred in the series as Keith.

NYFA alum Andrés Figueroa also appeared in Stranger Things, season four. In a Q&A with us, Figueroa revealed that he booked the role directly from his self-tape.

Camilla Luddington, Grey’s Anatomy

Grey’s Anatomy is a long-running medical drama series that debuted in 2005. Created by Shonda Rhimes, the show is set in the fictional Seattle Grace Hospital and follows the personal and professional lives of surgical interns, residents, and attending physicians. Known for its intense emotional drama, character relationships, and intriguing medical cases, Grey’s Anatomy has become one of the most enduring and popular television series of its genre, spanning numerous seasons and garnering a dedicated fanbase.

NYFA alum Camilla Luddington is a series regular, portraying Jo Wilson. Luddington has also voiced Lara Croft in several video games and appeared in hit television shows like True Blood and Californication. Image via Cosmopolitan.

Andrew Bachelor, The Walking Dead

The Walking Dead, a post-apocalyptic horror television series based on the comic book series of the same name, is set in a world overrun by zombies. Following a group of survivors as they navigate dangers both from the undead and from other humans, the show was known for its intense action sequences, character-driven drama, and exploration of morality in extreme circumstances. NYFA MFA Acting for Film alum Andrew Bachelor starred in the show as Bailey, and returned to perform the same part in the 2024 series The Walking Dead: The Ones Who Live.

Alfredo Tavares, The Crown

The Crown is a historical drama series created by Peter Morgan that chronicles the reign of Queen Elizabeth II and the events that shaped the British monarchy from the 1940s to modern times. With meticulous attention to detail, the show delves into the personal and political challenges faced by the royal family, offering viewers an intimate glimpse into the inner workings of Buckingham Palace. Renowned for its stellar cast, lavish production design, and nuanced storytelling, The Crown has earned widespread acclaim and numerous awards, becoming a defining portrayal of 20th-century British history. NYFA Acting for Film alum Alfredo Tavares was featured in multiple seasons of the show and appeared in other royal-themed shows such as The Great, Bridgerton, and The Windsors.

Tavares left behind a career in engineering to pursue acting and has found success with consistent roles in films and television shows such as Wonka, The Diplomat, Tetris, Big Little Lies, Unsolved Mysteries, Venom: Let There Be Carnage, Jungle Cruise, and I May Destroy You. Image via YouTube.

Ronen Rubinstein, Orange Is the New Black

Orange Is the New Black was a groundbreaking comedy-drama series created by Jenji Kohan that premiered on Netflix. Based on Piper Kerman’s memoir, the show follows Piper Chapman’s experiences in a women’s prison and explores the lives of diverse inmates and staff members. Known for its powerful storytelling and social commentary, Orange Is the New Black received widespread acclaim and was praised for its exploration of race and identity.

NYFA Acting for Film alum Ronen Rubinstein starred as Tiffany “Pennsatucky” Doggett’s love interest in episode 10, season 3. He returned to NYFA in 2022 to discuss his role in Ryan Murphy’s 9-1-1: Lone Star.

Hayden Szeto, What We Do In the Shadows

What We Do in the Shadows is a mockumentary-style comedy television series based on the 2014 film of the same name by Jemaine Clement and Taika Waititi. Set in Staten Island, New York, the show follows the lives of a group of vampire roommates navigating the challenges of modern life while grappling with their ancient identities. Known for its sharp wit, absurd humor, and clever exploration of vampire lore, What We Do in the Shadows has received critical acclaim and developed a devoted fan following.

NYFA AFA Acting for Film alum Hayden Szeto stars in the show as Jonathan. Hayden has also appeared in hit television shows such as The Good Place, The Good Doctor, Lodge 49, and Days of Our Lives.

Bill Hader, Barry

NYFA workshop alum Bill Hader co-created, directed, wrote, executive-produced, and starred in Barry. The show has amassed Emmy Primetime Award nominations and Emmy Awards, including ‘Best Lead Actors in a Comedy Series’ and ‘Best Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series.’ The show follows a hitman, Barry, as he travels to Los Angeles and joins an acting class. Gene Cousineau, played by NYFA Guest Speaker Henry Winkler, becomes his acting coach and mentor, leading to Barry questioning his life choices. 

At NYFA, we’re big fans of Bill’s work, including his time on Saturday Night Live, and roles in films like The Skeleton Twins, IT, Beau is Afraid, and Disney’s Lightyear. Image via Backstage.

Issa Rae, Insecure

NYFA workshop alum Issa Rae acted, wrote, and produced Insecure. The show followed the personal and professional challenges of Issa Dee, played by Rae, as she navigates life, relationships, and career pursuits in Los Angeles. Known for its authentic portrayal of contemporary Black experiences, nuanced character development, and witty dialogue, Insecure has resonated with audiences and critics alike, sparking important conversations about race, gender, and friendship.

Rae was nominated for three Golden Globes for Best Performance by an Actress in a TV Comedy or Musical for her performance in Insecure, as well as two Primetime Emmy nominations for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series. She also won three NAACP Image Awards. In addition to a starring role in Barbie, Rae has recently appeared in projects including Young Love and American Fiction. She will also have a role in the upcoming Spider-Man: Beyond the Spider-Verse. Image via Tumblr.

Bonus: Michael Gandolfini, The Many Saints of Newark: Prequel to The Sopranos

The Sopranos was a groundbreaking crime drama television series created by David Chase. Set in New Jersey, the show follows the life of mob boss Tony Soprano as he navigates the challenges of running a criminal organization while balancing his family life and personal struggles. Renowned for its complex characters, intricate storytelling, and exploration of morality, family dynamics, and the American Dream, The Sopranos is widely regarded as one of the greatest television series of all time.

The Many Saints of Newark is a prequel to the acclaimed television series and set in the 1960s and 1970s. A movie rather than a television series, The Many Saints of Newark explores the origins of key characters from the series, including a young Tony Soprano, and delves into the interwoven webs of crime and family in Newark, New Jersey. Praised for its performances and faithful depiction of the Sopranos universe, The Many Saints of Newark provides fans with an immersive look into the formative years of one of television’s most iconic characters. New York City-born actor and NYFA teen workshop alum Michael Gandolfini, James Gandolfini’s son, starred as the young Soprano. Image via People.

Bring Your Stories and Characters to Life at NYFA

Every hit television show has a common thread: a compelling story. The actors who bring the characters to the screen are just a piece of the puzzle, the talented cast is backed up with talented writers, showrunners, directors, and crew. At NYFA, students create their own original content, gaining experience in every stage of production. To learn more about NYFA’s programs, explore our degrees, certificates, and workshops. Current and former students can also connect with our Career and Alumni Services department to find support and resources to help navigate their professional path.