This year saw Maggie Gyllenhaal, 36, step into the spotlight in a new way. Although she’s been a leading actress for more than a decade since the eccentric 2002 comedy “Secretary,” she has mostly been known for her supporting roles in films such as “The Dark Knight” and “Crazy Heart.” In this year’s television series “The Honorable Woman,” written for the BBC and SundanceTV, she proved she could anchor a dramatic story on her own.

The show also led her into the world of cinematic commentary on Israeli-Palestinian relations right at the peak of this year’s war in Gaza.

In “The Honorable Woman,” Gyllenhaal stars as Nessa Stein, the daughter of a former British arms dealer who sold weapons to Israel. Nessa inherits her father’s company and attempts to bring peace to the region by planning a technological infrastructure that would bring Internet and phone service to poor Palestinians. In the first episode, she says: “Terror thrives in poverty, it dies in wealth.”

This well-intentioned plan gets delayed after a kidnapping rattles the Stein family, and both Israeli and Palestinian forces become implicated in an intricate and political plot. Gyllenhaal delivers smart and critically acclaimed performances throughout the eight-part miniseries.

Neither of her parents, director Stephen Gyllenhaal and screenwriter Naomi Foner, remembered giving her the name, but Gyllenhaal discovered this summer that the official first name on her birth certificate is Margalit, which means “pearl” in Hebrew. Although she insists her name is Maggie, “pearl” seems fitting!

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Maggie Gyllenhaal

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