Part 2: Best Actor In A TV Movie/Limited Series
Four of Hollywood’s greatest actors will likely go head to head with two of the greatest television actors the medium has ever produced. And unlike most of the categories in play, there is no clear front-runner, which means this could be the most exciting category of the night. Here are the almost certain nominees.
Mahershala Ali, True Detective
Will Ali be able to do what his predecessor in this series wasn’t able to: win an Oscar and an Emmy in the same year? It helps that Ali is competing in the less competitive (but no less cutthroat) category that Matthew McCounaghey was. But more importantly, Ali’s performance as Wayne ‘Purple’ Hays was deeper and had a greater resonance than McCounaghey’s otherwise mesmerizing work was. It also helps that he was playing his character in three different and distinct time periods, and was fighting in each of them against overwhelming odds — and in the last one, his own mind. Any other year, you’d be able to write Ali has a sure thing. But considering who’s in this category, he’ll just have to settle for being the one to beat.
Benicio Del Toro, Escape at Dannemora
Despite his Oscar, Del Toro has always been one of the more undervalued actors working in Hollywood, though by far he’s one of the most versatile ones. So his work as Richard Matt, a ruthless murder with a seductive way about him is keeping with that level of unpredictability, even though he was an actual person. But playing a convict who worked so hard to get out yet couldn’t be bothered to actually go the last few miles was mesmerizing, as were his final scenes played almost in silence, where he seemed to be hoping his eminent death. It’s a dark performance and he fully deserves a nomination.
Hugh Grant, A Very English Scandal.
Ever since his return in Florence Foster Jenkins, Grant has completely left behind his bumbling romantic lead for someone with a far deeper malevolence in his persona, though his charm is still there. So his work as the British MP caught in a homosexual love affair, and who is willing to resort to ordering murder in order to keep his position is keeping with that, and also represents some of the finest work he’s done to date. Grant keeps getting shafted by the Oscars. I find it impossible to believe the Emmys will do the same.
Jared Harris, Chernobyl
Ever since he began his work on Mad Men, Harris has demonstrated that he is at least as gifted an actor as his legendary father Richard. And as the nuclear scientist determined to save his country from the worst nuclear accident in history, despite the odds and the KGB’s determination to make sure this doesn’t embarrass the state, he demonstrated just how versatile a talent he is. Railing against a world where not only everything that possibly could go wrong is, but that the USSR is determined to say it isn’t, he remains a voice of ethics throughout the immediate crisis. But in the final episode, where he relates everything that went wrong in the incident — and then reveals the country’s mistake, knowing that it will cost him his freedom — was one of the great moments of television so far this year. Harris will get nominated and recognized (even though he continues his trend of playing characters who die by the end of the series)
Ian McShane, Deadwood: The Movie
Shall we just for a moment celebrate that this film finally happened at all? In a fair world, there would be room for both McShane and his equally brilliant co-star Timothy Olyphant. But just as in the world of Deadwood, fairness don’t fucking enter into it. And as Al Swearengen, the once ruthless owner of The Gem, now concentrating more on drinking himself to death, McShane was unlike tore into this brilliant character like no time at all had passed. Of course, time has passed, and it is starting to pass Swearengen by. And as he tries one last time to demonstrate his power against Hearst, he reminded just how great a character he was. And Milch, as is the case, gave him the last words — and they were perfect. The odds are against his prevailing, but I’d like to see him try.
Sam Rockwell, Fosse/Verdon
Until fairly recently, Rockwell has never been given the credit for being one of the greatest actors around. And even though his work in this FX limited series was superb, he was as always dwarfed by a brighter sun (who we’ll get to in the next category). But that doesn’t change the fact that Rockwell more than filled the role of one of Broadway’s greatest geniuses — as well as a man so self-destructive, he had to be institutionalized after his greatest triumph. Bob Fosse was a deeply flawed man that only a great actor could give life to. And Rockwell most assuredly did that.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Michael Sheen/ David Tennant, Good Omens
I already advocated for Sheen in the Supporting Actor category, so I’ll make my argument for Tennant this time. After leaving the title role of Doctor Who as one of the greatest Doctors in the series half-century, Tennant has spent the last decade demonstrating why he is one of the greatest actors period. Brilliant in Broadchurch and the best thing about Jessica Jones, he has spent much of his time toning down the ball of energy he was as the doctor. But given the chance to turn things up to Ten as Azriphale, he once again demonstrated how much fun he is to watch — and how ridiculous the Emmy judges have been in constantly overlooking him. (He also starred in another series this year, but we’re not going to talk about that. ) Give him a nomination. Trust him. He’s not a doctor, but he played one on TV.