Awards Tracker: A Drama Actor Race Overflowing with former Oscar Favorites

Jalal looks at the Oscar nominees battling for a drama actor race nomination and the surprise actor on his way to becoming the most popular man on TV.

With Bloodline not returning until the summer, one new name will enter the the Lead Actor in a Drama series race. Without a clear frontrunner, at least four Oscar winners and nominees are battling it out against a surprising new Emmy favorite. In fact, there are so many fresh names in contention this year that it raises the question of what old favorites are most vulnerable in the drama actor race?

Top Contenders

Rami Malek, Mr. Robot Mr. Robot Season 2 received a controversial reaction, but the one element everyone seems to agree on is that Rami Malek’s performance has gotten even better. Thinking of his performance, I immediately replay that horrifying scene of him digging through vomit to find that pill he re-swallows. So, even if Mr. Robot misses out on a second drama series nomination, the acting branch seem certain to carry Malek into frontrunner status again with a performance most actors would kill to have.

Matthew Rhys, The Americans – After breaking into the Emmy race in a big way last year, it’s hard to imagine Emmy voters dropping The Americans in any race, including Matthew Rhys in the lead drama actor race. In fact he might even have a higher profile with Emmy voters this year after a chilling guest spot in the “American Bitch” episode of Girls, which might just be remembered as the single best episode of television in 2017.

(Photo: USA)

Sterling K Brown, This Is Us – Over the past year, Sterling K. Brown became one of the most beloved actors consistently working in television. After winning an Emmy as well as two SAG nominations, he seemed like an obvious contender for supporting actor for his ensemble work on This Is Us. Recently, though, murmurs persist of him potentially submitting in the lead race. Brown’s Randall quickly became the most endearing new character of the TV season, juggling the perfect family with issues of adoption, long lost parents, and anxiety issues. As a member of a large ensemble, he might have a harder time breaking into a lead acting race, but if voters fall in love with This Is Us he might just become a surprise contender to win. Is Sterling K. Brown the most popular actor on TV?

Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan Somehow without anyone ever admitting to religiously watching Ray Donovan, Liev Schreiber has been an awards staple with multiple nominations from the Emmys, Golden Globes, and Critics Choice. Still, the eligible season will be nearly a year old by the time voters fill out their ballot, giving many new actors the chance to gain a bit of buzz while Schreiber and Donovan fade to the background.

Tom Hardy, Taboo – While Taboo originally appeared to be a limited series, Hardy announced earlier this week that the show received a second season renewal. Taboo doesn’t seem like the type of show that will compete at the Emmys, but the dark period thriller was a surprise hit for FX. The popularity of the show mixed with Hardy’s undeniable star power might bring him to a surprise first Emmy nomination.

Jude Law, The Young Pope – Last year, Emmy voters surprised everyone by proving they won’t blindly vote for an HBO show simply because it’s in contention. That might be bad news for The Young Pope, although voters might be swayed by the movie star charm of Jude Law (if even still has it?). As pretentious and surprisingly enexciting as The Young Pope may be, it’s still the best material Law has had to work with in years which might be enough for voters to welcome him back to an awards show.

(Photo: HBO)
Worth Mentioning

Anthony Hopkins, Westworld – Hopkins hasn’t been nominated for an Emmy since before I was born, but if anything is going to push the Oscar winner into awards consideration, it’s an HBO hit like Westworld. Hopkin’s Dr. Robert Ford is the mastermind behind the entire first season, but surprisingly he doesn’t have a lot of awards friendly material. While the rest of the massive ensemble has the robotic physicality as well as the western terrain to play with, Hopkins is consistently cool and collected. He would have been a much surer bet in the supporting race, but if voters really respond to Westworld, he could make it in.

Billy Bob Thornton, Goliath – He may have won the Golden Globe, but that feels like an HFPA anomaly. Amazon streamed Goliath for five months now, and I have yet to interact with someone who can confidently tell me what the show is about (after a quick Google search it appears to be about a once successful lawyer now alcoholic). If the show had any more buzz around it, Thornton might be able to earn an Emmy nom, but there needs to be proof that anyone besides a foreign journalist has tuned in.

Paul Giamatti, Billions Giamatti used to be the type of character actors that Emmy voters adored, even nominating him for small guest spots on shows like Inside Amy Schumer and Downton Abbey. However, for whatever reason, voters ignored him in the first season of Showtime’s Billions. In a year with at least one spot up for grabs, Showtime might be able to sneak Giamatti in, although there likely won’t be any passion behind him.

(Photo: FX)
Yet to Premiere

Kevin Spacey, House of Cards – Kevin Spacey just lost the SAG award for the first time in three years. However, as the biggest movie star (and two time Oscar winner), he isn’t going anywhere at the Emmys. Netflix is holding off on releasing the fifth season of House of Cards until the end of May, which might keep the show even more so at the forefront of voters’ minds. Depending the Season 5 reception, he might actually become a contender to win his first award.

Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul – Season 3 premieres in April. Still, if the guilds provide any indication, Better Call Saul‘s passionate and determined fanbase will likely lead to Odenkirk earning his twelfth career nomination.

Justin Theroux, The Leftovers – HBO had a rough start releasing the first season of The Leftovers. Initially, fans and critics cooled to the show’s bleak premise, and Emmy voters ignored the show. The second season earned a huge boost from critics (15 points on Metacritic) that resulted in a surprise cult following. Now for the third and final season, HBO gave the show the spring slot generally reserved for Game of Thrones hinting at a TV sendoff worthy of awards contention. If his material is anywhere close to crawling out of a bathtub naked again, Theroux might be able to end his time on The Leftovers with the first nomination of his career.

Early Predictions

1. Rami Malek, Mr. Robot
2. Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
3. Matthew Rhys, The Americans
4. Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
5. Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
6. Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us

7. Tom Hardy, Taboo
8. Jude Law, The Young Pope
9. Justin Theroux, The Leftovers
10. Anthony Hopkins, Westworld 

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