Jalal Haddad takes a look at the Lead Actor in a Limited Series/TV Movie Emmy race in a series of posts leading up to the Emmy nomination announcement on July 14th. Over the next week, Jalal will be providing his own expert analysis in individual races and covering the top ten contenders in each category.
1. Bryan Cranston (Lyndon B. Johnson)
All the Way
Bryan Cranston became the frontrunner for his portrayal of LBJ the day HBO announced they were adapting the play that featured his Tony-winning role. Cranston won six Emmys for starring and producing Breaking Bad, and his popularity is still at an all-time high amongst industry voters. He is going to receive a lot of votes even though his performance isn’t the strongest in the group. In the final round of voting he will no doubt benefit from the ACS actors splitting the vote.
2. Courtney B. Vance (Johnnie Cochran)
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
After twenty years of working as a character actor on television Vance was finally given the role of a lifetime portraying Johnnie Cochran. Voters criminally overlooked him last year for his heart wrenching guest performance of a father of a slain teen on Scandal, but there is no way voters are going to make the same mistake twice. Most pundits would argue he is the frontrunner of the category, and he undoubtedly give the best performance but it might be difficult to beat an Emmy favorite like Cranston unless ACS fully dominates the Limited Series races.
3. Cuba Good Jr. (O.J. Simpson)
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Nineteen years has passed since Cuba Gooding Jr. won his Oscar, and he hasn’t been nominated for a major award since. Ryan Murphy gave him a career comeback, something he has done for Oscar winners in the past. Voters will embrace that story especially since he has been the face of the limited series since January. He may be overshadowed at the Emmys by Cranston and Vance, but at least he can take solace in being the frontrunner for the Golden Globe.
4. Idris Elba (John Luther)
For the past five years Idris Elba has been making his way around the awards circuit for his performance as detective John Luther. He won a Golden Globe, SAG, and a Critics Choice award for the sleeper hit, but he has yet to win an Emmy. Oscar voters made the mistake of snubbing him last winter, but the Television Academy won’t make the same mistake although he doesn’t have a strong chance of outshining the competition with more buzz.
5. Oscar Isaac (Nick Wasicsko)
Show Me a Hero
After a stellar 2015, Oscar Isaac is quickly becoming America’s most charismatic movie star. In between his two big cinematic hits, he starred in Show Me a Hero, the little-seen HBO limited series about a NY public housing unit. He deservingly won a Golden Globe for his performance, but the series aired nine months ago so many voters might not be paying attention. If anyone can campaign a small limited series its HBO, and his status as a rising star will only help him.
6. Benedict Cumberbatch (Sherlock Holmes)
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
In 2014 Benedict Cumberbatch ended his three year nomination streak in this category with a shocking win in a minor Sherlock sweep. A couple years later, it’s hard to tell whether Sherlock is as popular as it used to be amongst Emmy voters, but in a year with so many options voters will probably lean towards the more obvious choice.
7. Ricky Gervais (Ian Finch)
With 22 nominations in twelve different categories, it’s safe to say Emmy voters love Ricky Gervais. Netflix has successfully campaigned his little scene performance in Derek to voters, and they should have no problem doing the same for Special Correspondents, a film he starred in, wrote, directed, and even composed the music. The only problem is the film is terrible. If voters watch the film he could be in trouble but he will likely receive a lot of votes out of name recognition alone.
8. Timothy Hutton (Dan Sullivan)
Timothy Hutton’s characters have consistently been one of the weaker elements of American Crime. It’s hard to tell whether that’s due to his performance or the writing. He received a nomination for the first season when the lead actor race was much less stacked, but his chances are a lot smaller now that the competition is stronger. Hutton is another contender that belongs in the supporting race and if his dispensable character ends up with another nomination it will be due to an American Crime sweep.
9. Patrick Wilson(Lou Solverson)
If the category were less competitive Patrick Wilson, would be a shoo-in for his role in Fargo, a show that Emmy voters have loved in the past. His chances of a nomination would be much stronger in the supporting category, but I don’t think a cop with a quaint accent (and nothing else going for him) can stand out against the other contenders here. In the end I could be underestimating him; voters did love the first season enough to award it with 18 nominations.
10. Richard Dreyfuss (Bernie Madoff)
The Oscar winner has never been nominated for an Emmy before although he has received two SAG nominations for his TV work. Critics greeted his performance in Madoff with modestly positive reviews, but it seemed like no one was taking the show as seriously as other limited series on television. This is the type of performance that would have won him an Emmy ten years ago, but with a lot of the best work on TV happening in the Limited Series race, he probably doesn’t stand a chance even if ABC has been campaigning him across the internet.
Worth Mentioning: Tom Hiddleston, Colin Farrell, Ben Kingsley, Ian McKellen, Anthony Hopkins, Matt Bomer, James Franco
In the past, British exports and Emmy-bait projects dominated the Limited Series/TV Movie acting races. The category provided the perfect time for a bathroom break during the telecast, but this year the race is crowded with the biggest names on television, some of Hollywood’s biggest stars and some of the most riveting performances on television. Readers, which six actors do you think will make the final cut come nomination day? Am I underestimating the love voters have for Fargo and American Crime? Will voters make a habit out of bringing back former nominees?