Felicity Huffman

Felicity Huffman made our 2005 Entertainers of the Year list

After two decades of quiet, high-quality work (on and off Broadway in David Mamet plays, on screen in Aaron Sorkin’s brief, brilliant Sports Night), Felicity Huffman has finally taken center stage. As Lynette, a frazzled mother of four negotiating a midlife return to the workforce, she is the sympathetic heart of Desperate Housewives. ”I signed up for Lynette because I thought she was a voice of motherhood that was silent,” says the 43-year-old actress, who once swore she’d never take on the generic, underwritten roles of ”wife” or ”mother.” ”I don’t know why women can’t turn to each other and go, ‘Jesus, if I have to give my kid a bath one more night I’m just going to shoot myself in the head.”’

Her glossier costars may make it into tabloids, but it was Huffman who rightfully walked away with the Emmy. And if only they gave awards for most adorable acceptance speeches: Her tearful thanks to husband William H. Macy for ”taking a chunky 22-year-old with a bad perm and glasses out into a cow pasture and kissing me and making me his wife” was the evening’s highlight.

Switching gears (and genders), Huffman plays a man a week away from sexual-reassignment surgery in the recently released indie film Transamerica. ”We have great actresses who kind of play themselves all the time,” says Desperate Housewives costar Marcia Cross, ”but this is really serious character work. It just reminds me of a Meryl Streep.” Huffman’s Bree is scared and lonely, funny and fearful, self-loathing and proud. Put simply, she’s alive. Huffman’s physical transformation is a marvel, but it’s her emotional nuance you’ll remember. Egoless to the end, Huffman says she was terrified of getting Bree wrong: ”It felt like walking across the country with a full glass of water, juggling, riding a unicycle, and singing, and any of those could have fallen apart at any moment!” If she were any less of an actress, they would have. Huffman recently received two Golden Globe nods, honoring her work in Housewives and Transamerica. Apparently, all those years of training prepared her well.