For decades, the age of 40 was the point of no return for actresses in Hollywood. At 40, actresses would “age out” of the entertainment industry, put out to pasture until they aged back in as Betty White. Then, if they were very lucky, they’d be able to work once again.

Thankfully, that’s all changing now.

Much has been written lately about major stars like Sandra Bullock, Melissa McCarthy, Julia Roberts, and others who are transforming Hollywood’s perception about actresses in their 40s. They’re flexing their staying power—and proving that women in their 40s are hotter than ever—one blockbuster at a time.

But what about the actresses who aren’t on the “top ten box office earner” list? What about those actresses over 40 who work constantly in film and television, but have yet to become household names? 

These women have been at it for years with dozens of roles under their belts. They’ve paid their dues, honed their craft, and they have somehow managed to survive in the volatile business of entertainment.

Here’s our Wednesday 5 list—plus a very special extra one—of the actresses who have flown low under the radar, and are about to burst onto the Over-40-and-Fabulous Actress scene.

 

1.

Sarita Choudhury, 47

Sarita+Choudhury+Bernardo+Bertolucci+Retrospective+w7tHJ-nqnDel 

Who she is:

She first shone onscreen in her role as Mina in Mississippi Masala, opposite Denzel Washington, in 1992. She’s best known as Mira Berenson in the hit television series Homeland.

 

Why she’s awesome:

For starters, she’s beautiful and she’s not afraid to look her age. Secondly, she has an ethereal quality about her that jumps off the screen. She has said she’s determined not to “go Hollywood,” focusing her acting energies on independent film instead. I love women who are straight shooters and keep it real.

 

 

 

2.

Robin Weigert, 44

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Who she is:

With dozens of film and television roles on her resume you’d think she’d be famous by now. She’s possibly best known for her portrayal of the trash-talking Calamity Jane in HBO’s Deadwood. She had a small but memorable part in The Sessions, playing Susan, the woman who falls for and marries Mark O’Brien, a man who uses an iron lung. This year, she played Abby, a discontented lesbian housewife, in Stacie Passon’s amazing independent feature, Concussion.

 

Why she’s awesome:

Her portrayal of Abby in Concussion blew me away. She stretched herself to do a role that was incredibly difficult, and far from what she has ever done in the past. She’s a master of her craft, possessing an understated sensibility that makes her vulnerable and completely believable onscreen.  I’m a huge fan.

 

 

3.

Michaela Watkins, 42

watkins-michaelaWho she is:

She’s one of those actresses you see everywhere these days! She’s currently on Trophy Wife, on ABC, as Jackie Harrison. Before that she played Janice Holm, Laura Dern’s nemesis on Enlightened on HBO (one of my favorite and, sadly, canceled TV series). In 2013 she played Jennie in Jill Soloway’s, festival favorite Afternoon Delight. In Lake Bell’s lovely father/daughter comedy, In a World, she shone as Lake’s sister Dani. She also had a small role in Nichole Holofcener’s, Enough Said.

Why she’s amazing:

I like her. I really like her. Apparently so do lots of female directors. She was in three female-directed independent films last year—that has to be a record! I was first a fan of Watkins’ when I watched her flex her comedy chops as Lucy in The New Adventures of Old Christine. I thought her performance in In a World was very nuanced in a part that was very difficult to pull off. She’s one to watch, for sure.

 

 

4.

Regina King, 43

39th Annual People's Choice Awards - Red CarpetWho she is:

Regina King began her career in 1985 in the television show 227, followed by a role in Boyz n the Hood. She soared onscreen in 1996 in the romantic comedy hit, Jerry Maguire, in her role as Cuba Gooding Jr.‘s wife Marcee.  She played Sandra Palmer on television’s 24, and starred as Detective Lydia Adams in Southland.

 

Why she’s amazing:

King is a pro. She’s been around the industry for a long time, and it’s obvious. She brings so much of herself to each role she takes on, and she does it with grace. She stole her scenes in her role as Marcee in Jerry Maguire, and when you’re opposite actor Cuba Gooding Jr., that’s no easy feat! Word on the street is that she’s exploring the other side of the camera as a director. My prediction is that she’s going to be knocking down lots of doors in that capacity too, so stay tuned for more.

 

 

 

5.

Julianne Nicholson, 42

julianne_nicholson_headshot_a_pWho she is:

A former model with an ageless quality, she’s one of those women who can proudly say, “This is what 40-something looks like!” She stars as Dr. Lillian DePaul in the Showtime series Masters of Sex and she plays Esther Randolph in HBO’s Boardwalk Empire. On the big screen this year, she scored the role of Ivy Weston in August: Osage County. As if that’s not enough, she will soon be seen as Jean Jensen in the yet-to-be-released Sundance Channel series, The Red Road.

 

Why she’s amazing:

When you’re hot, you’re hot, and Nicholson is on fire right now. She has an easy, effortless quality about her and she held her own on a set filled with superstars in some of the best performances of the year in August: Osage County. That says a lot. Keep your eye on her.

 

 

6.

Melanie Paxson, 41

b8ot7zh5bhutuhhWho she is:

You’ve probably seen her in a gazillion TV commercials. From GladWare to Target, she’s definitely not sitting at home waiting for the phone to ring. She starred as Julie in the canceled series Notes from the Underbelly and she currently can be seen as Dolly, Walt Disney’s loveable secretary in Saving Mr. Banks.

 

Why she’s amazing:

She’s just adorable and instantly loveable. So much so that I cast her in my short film, Ending Up. She played Blair, a little lady with a big heart and even bigger secret. As soon as she walked into the audition, I knew the role was hers. Just wait . . .  she’ll steal your heart too. It’s just a matter of time.