The 10 Best Monologues on Television

Television programs have undeniably conquered the hearts of many all across the globe. When studying in NYFA’s Acting for Film program, the search for a monologue can be a tough exercise. A search in classical or contemporary plays will do – oh absolutely – but why not try TV’s best moments? Incredibly talented actors and writers work day and night to make us laugh, cry, and feel anything possible in numerous ways. Whether new or old, TV shows always know how to shape, in writing and performance, the most entertaining moments of life. The following listing gathers nonpareil actors of all caliber in some of their best moments on screen.

1) Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder (2018)
In ABC’s How to Get Away with Murder, Viola Davis stars as law professor Annalise Keating. Davis is the first African-American actress to win a Primetime Emmy Award and SAG Award for Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series. She also received two Golden Globes nominations for her work playing this iconic role. This daring show was created by Peter Nowalk with Shonda Rhimes as executive producer; both are known for their work on Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal. In fact, Keating (Davis) appeared in Scandal alongside Kerry Washington’s Olivia Pope for a crossover episode in ‘Allow me to Reintroduce Myself’ (Season 7, Episode 12). The following monologue about racism has the ingredients for an important educating moment right in your living room, with a poignant text told with self-possession.

2) Michael Welch, Scandal (2015)
Scandal, aforementioned above, has also struck a new vision for television writing and includes many fabulous guest stars. In the series’ 14th season, the episode ‘The Lawn Chair’ showcases the gifted writers on the show. This beautifully crafted episode also features the talented work of Michael Welch (Twilight, Law and Order, X-Files, Malcolm in the Middle, Bones) delivering one of his most beautiful pieces as Officer Newton. In the scene, the actor’s smashing monologue confronting Kerry Washington is a powerful instant of captivating acting and writing. 

3) Sara Ramirez, Grey’s Anatomy (2009)
Internationally known for her recurring role in ABC’s Grey’s Anatomy as Dr. Callie Torres, Ramirez first started in Musical Theatre and collected a Tony Award for her powerhouse portrayal of Lady of the Lake in Spamalot (2015) on Broadway. Both funny and dramatic, Ramirez always peppers her brilliant work with fantastic emotional nuances. On Grey’s, 241 episodes later, she made her coming out as with the support of her many fans and the LGBTQ community. Additionally, she is an activist and highly campaigns for LGBTQ rights. In this piece, grab your handkerchiefs as her character Dr. Callie Torres goes through the mellow roller coaster relationships of any soap opera as she makes her second coming out to her dad. Short and to the point, it does the job and will stick with you for a while.

 

4) Jim Carrey, Saturday Night Live (1996)
Part of the clowns of Hollywood and splendidly precise and expressive in his work, Canadian-born Jim Carrey has a wide range of acting roles from Ace Ventura and The Mask to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and Number 23. Carrey is able to spread his unique facial expressions and authenticity across his filmography and showcases that to viewers all over the world. This monologue from Saturday Night Live and it is probably one of the most stressful, thrilling and spontaneous. Why? Because it happens on Saturday Night Live! The title of the program says it all. As an official host during that special episode of season 21 in 1996, Carrey, in his perfect showman suit, brings us to his over-the-top, fascinating world. 

5) Margaret Reed, Seinfeld (1991)
Former Acting instructor Margaret “Maggie” Reed is a fantastic performer, TV program veteran, and award-winning actress. She made a catchy impression on the ‘The Baby Shower’ episode on Seinfeld as the hysterical Mary Contardi, venting a scathing speech in the face of Jerry Seinfeld himself. An easy looking monologue to perform, yet complicated. Reed vocally bombards Jerry so she can finish what she has to say in a comedic and frightening way. A very passionate performer, she can be seen along with Bobby Cannavale, Tim Blake Nelson and John Turturro in The Jesus Rolls. Her other noticeable appearances go from As the World Turns, Star Trek, The Golden Girls to Law and Order, The Americans or The Blacklist. Great job Maggie and all the best to you! 

6) Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom (2012)
Leading the cast of HBO’s political drama, The Newsroom, is Jeff Daniels as Will McAvoy. The Primetime Emmy Award-winner speaks the words of brilliant creator and writer Aaron Sorkin across three seasons. The main events of the show happen behind the scenes of a fictional news channel, but this pearl of writing and opinionated piece certainly doesn’t. With ease, intelligence and knowledge, Daniels makes us believe in every word demonstrating realistic America and its strength. Notably famous for other major films, 101 Dalmatians, Pleasantville, The Hours and Steve Jobs, Daniels also took the stage and obtained a best actor Tony Nomination for each Broadway credits in God of Carnage, Blackbird and To Kill a Mockingbird.  

7) Laurie Metcalf, Roseanne (1993)
Tour de force Laurie Metcalf is always remembered for her character roles. She has a true gift for making something sad also seem quite boisterous. From her start at the Steppenwolf Theatre Company Family in Chicago and to being a TV guest star chameleon, Metcalf has earned three well-deserved Primetime Emmy Awards for her work on Roseanne. For her supporting roles, she is never the “regular” one, but a character with a twist. In this episode of the ABC hit Roseanne, after the loss of their dad, her character Jackie has to tell the family members and starts with Aunt Barbara, who seems to be very deaf. Speaking on the phone is one of the hardest exercises in stock for actors because you have to be precise in your delivery. 

8) Robin Williams, 77th Academy Awards Ceremony (2005)
The Oscars, Golden Globes, Emmys, SAG Award, Grammys, he has them all under his belt from his long, inspiring career. A memorable vocal impressionist, risk-taker, and sensitive soul, Williams has put on many hats to showcase his nuances as a performer from the heartfelt and goofy Genie in Disney’s Aladdin and the witty Mrs. Doubtfire. This monologue is his speech obtaining a Cecil B. DeMill Award for his stamp on Hollywood History. Still spontaneous and fun, grateful Williams goes to ‘voices mode’ for our amusement.

9) Marcia Cross, Desperate Housewives (2006)
Probably one of the most fun, uptight characters you’d ever adore on the screen is Marcia Cross’ take on Bree Van de Kamp is a pure joy to watch and rewatch on ABC’s Desperate Housewives. Across the show’s eight seasons, Cross was nominated three times at the Golden Globes and once at the Primetime Emmy Awards. Previously famous in soaps such as One Life to Live, Knots Landing and Melrose Place, she also landed several guest stars roles on major sitcom shows from Cheers, Who’s the Boss, Seinfeld to Murder, She Wrote or, more recently, Quantico playing Madame President. Regal, subtle and very eccentric for Bree, this monologue happens when she and her friends are at her husband’s funeral. There’s certain things she can’t hear, and it will be told with class and diction.

10) Sofia Vergara, Saturday Night Live
Everyone adores the accent of the exquisite Colombian-American Sofia as she has proven to America and the rest of the world that beyond a sparkly accent, her talents make her a Hollywood shining star like any other actress. Four-time Golden Globes and Primetime Emmy-nominee for her fun loud role of Gloria Delgado-Pritchett on ABC’s Modern Family, she is a prominent character across the show’s eleven seasons. Impressive! Vergara has made tons of appearances on TV including Saturday Night Live (Season 37, Episode 18). She starts off hosting with a very personal speech as an eager dreamer from Colombia ready to reach for the stars but mainly someone who accepts herself for who she is. Big lesson right there; own your accent, never forget where you are from, don’t let anyone tell you that you don’t speak English.

Ludovic Coutaud is a NYFA alum and writer. For more information, click here.

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