December 24, 2016 at 05:24 AM EST

Ryan Reynolds isn’t made of stone.

It’s a rainy afternoon in New York a few days after Thanksgiving, and the actor is ruminating on his holiday… and getting a little reflective. “I hate to sound overly sentimental, but I had a good year,” he says.

He and wife Blake Lively welcomed their second daughter in September. “I have great kids under 2, so that’s the kind of stuff you focus on.” Awww. “The rest of the year they’re dead to me.”

Reynolds, 40, brought that signature smart-ass humor to Deadpool, a subversive, profane adaptation of the Marvel comic about mutant mercenary Wade Wilson. It’s a passion project that Reynolds labored to get off the ground for 11 years. “He is Deadpool in a way that I have not ever quite seen an actor be and create a character,” says the film’s producer Simon Kinberg (X-Men: Apocalypse). “The humor, the tone, the pathos came from Ryan in a very organic and almost unconscious way.” The movie opened to a record-breaking $132 million in February and became the highest-grossing X-Men universe film of all time, with $783 million worldwide. (Deadpool 2 is currently in pre-production.)

Did Reynolds expect Deadpool to connect with audiences in such a huge fashion? “No way,” he says. “I knew that this was going to speak to the very core of the Deadpool fan base, and I knew they would embrace it. I think it just really landed at a fortunate time. We were right at ‘peak superhero,’ particularly in the sense that the superheroes were all intermittingly clenching their jaw muscles and brooding. Deadpool came along and sort of threw all that on its ass.”

 

It’s because of Deadpool and more that Reynolds is EW’s Entertainer of the Year. But he’s not the only star highlighted in our annual Best & Worst Issue, on newsstands Friday. For more on Reynolds and the 14 other men and women who ruled Hollywood in 2016 — plus our lists of the best movies, television, music, books, podcasts, and stage productions — pick up the latest issue of Entertainment Weekly on sale Friday. And never miss an issue by subscribing to EW right now.

Check out the cover below — and see Reynolds at this year’s Critics’ Choice Awards this Sunday on A&E. The Deadpool star scored two nominations (Best Actor in an Action Movie, Best Actor in a Comedy) and will also receive an honor for being EW’s Entertainer of the Year. (Deadpool itself is nominated for Best Action Movie and Best Comedy.) The show starts at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT live on A&E.

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