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The 10 Most Powerful Women Characters on Television Series

Updated on July 15, 2011

The 10 Most Powerful Women Characters on Television

I probably watch too much TV, but when I do, I enjoy shows that have strong female characters in either the lead or key supporting roles. I’ve handpicked my votes for “The 10 Most Powerful Women Characters on Television”. These are characters that are part of current, active shows on both network and cable TV.

There are a several dictionary definitions for the word “powerful”:

  • Having great power or force or potency or effect
  • Strong enough to knock down or overwhelm
  • Potent: having great influence

The women characters I’ve chosen have a mix of all three of these characteristics. When you watch them on their television series, there is something that impresses you about them and their roles. You feel like you can learn something by watching. They have something very unique and individual to offer. None of these women characters are victims.

After reading my list, let me know what you think. Did I miss any of the most powerful women on television? Disagree with my choices? Please add your thoughts in the comments section at the end.

Debra Morgan on Dexter
Debra Morgan on Dexter

1) Jennifer Carpenter as Debra Morgan on "Dexter"

Jennifer Carpenter plays Debra Morgan the sister of serial killer Dexter Morgan on the hit Showtime series, “Dexter”. I love Debra’s character. She plays an ultra feisty, passionate, dedicated and very effective detective in the homicide police unit. She's very partial to dropping F-Bombs and telling it like it is. She steals any scene that she stars in. Visit the Dexter website.

The Closer Season 6 Preview

2) Kyra Sedgwick, Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh, on “The Closer”

Entering it fourth season, TNT’s television series “The Closer” stars Golden Globe winner, Kyra Sedgwick as Deputy Chief Brenda Leigh. Brenda leads a special homicide unit assigned to the toughest cases and she is known for her “closing” abilities.

Often, female cops on television are made to look, dress and act in a very masculine way. Brenda maintains her femininity, yet is very effective in her leadership and detective role. The television audience agrees.. The season finale of season three drew nearly 10 million viewers which is a cable television record. Visit The Closer website.

Patty Hewes on Damagaes
Patty Hewes on Damagaes

3) Glenn Close as Patty Hewes on “Damages”

Actress Glenn Close plays high stakes litigator Patty Hewes on the legal thriller “Damages, Wednesdays on FX. Hewes runs her own private law firm and is a self-made millionaire.

She communicates with complete confidence and has been described as “cold and ruthless, silky and seductive" and someone who is equally skilled sweet talking as she is threatening her subjects. When she is on screen, you are completely engaged. Visit the Damages website.

Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactics
Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactics

4) Mary McDonnell, President Laura Roslin on Battlestar Galactica

Mary McDonnell, best known for her role in the movie “Dances with Wolves” plays President of the 12 colonies, Laura Roslin, on the sci-fi hit show Battlestar Galactica. In season one, Roslin was introduced as the former Secretary of Education, who assumes the presidential post after everyone else in line, was killed. In addition to her presidential leadership role, Roslin has battled breast cancer off and on, from season one now into season four.

Roslin has been faced with tough decisions in her time as president as the star fleet searches for earth and battles the Cylons. And tough decisions about her own health. Overall.. very well done! Visit the Battlestar Galactica website.

Catch Up With Bones!

5) Emily Deschanel as Dr. Temperance Brennan on “Bones”

On the Fox television show, “Bones”, Emily Deschanel stars as Dr. Temperance Brennan, a world famous forensic anthropologist. She works at the Jeffersonian Institute in Washington, DC, and writes novels as a side job.

Dr. Brennan partners with law enforcement to help identify bodies when the remains are basically- bones, hence the tv show name. She often intimidates or surprises others with her incredible intelligence (a genius), direct communication style, self-defense skills and her candid commentary about relationships. Visit the Bones website.

Meet Cherry Jones

6) Cherry Jones, President Allison Taylor on “24”

In the seventh season of the Fox series “24” Cherry Jones, plays newly elected President Allison Taylor.

So far, I’ve really liked what I’ve seen, In rooms filled with men, President Taylor speaks up for herself and the nation. She’s confident, articulate and powerful. Visit the "24" website.

7) Marg Helberger as Catherine Willows on “CSI”

Marg Helberger stars as Senior CSI Shift supervisor, Catherine Willows on the original “CSI” television series based in Las Vegas. She’s been on the series since the beginning and has been promoted from Crime Scene Investigator, to Supervisor, to Senior Supervisor. She is always calm, in control and knows exactly what to do in every crime scene situation. And, she balances her busy career with her family needs. (She’s a single mom.) Visit the CSI website.

Joan Holloway on “Mad Men”
Joan Holloway on “Mad Men”

8) Christina Hendricks as Joan Holloway on “Mad Men”

Christina Hendricks plays Joan Holloway, the Office Manager for ad agency Sterling Cooper on the AMC television series “Mad Men”. She has incredible power over the office and over most of the men (and women) she comes in contact with. Always impeccably dressed, calm, cool and articulate- no matter what situation she’s in. Visit the Mad Men website.

9) Mary Louise Parker as Nancy Botwin on “Weeds”

Not the greatest role model, but a very powerful character- Mary Louise Parker plays drug dealer Mom, Nancy Botwin, on the Showtime series Weeds. She proves that you can look fantastic over 40. She is a major risk taker. And, she can talk herself out of (or into) almost any situation. Visit the Weeds website.

Watch The Best Of Liz Lemon

10) Tina Fey as Liz Lemon on “30 Rock”

The most powerful women characters on television list would not be complete without mentioning Tina Fey’s character, Head Writer Liz Lemon on NBC’s Emmy-award winning series, “30 Rock”.

Tina’s character is hilarious and it’s so much fun to watch her interacting with the other characters, especially her boss played by Alec Baldwin. Fey not only stars in the show, she’s also creator, writer and producer. Visit the 30 Rock Website.


I hope you enjoyed my list of “The Ten Most Powerful Women Characters on Television”. Did I miss anyone? Disagree? Please add your thoughts in the comments section below!!

Copyright 2009, M. Reynolds, All Rights Reserved


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