Part 4: Best Supporting Actor in a TV Movie/limited series
As always, this category is rich in some of the most gifted characters working today. Some decided earlier that Catch-22 might dominate this category because, well, George Clooney. But considering the decidedly mixed reception this series has received in the past month, I think it very unlikely the series will prevail. Who does that leave? A very interesting lot.
Norbert Leo Butz, Fosse/Verdon
As great as Williams and Rockwell were, this wasn’t entirely their show, and its rather fitting that a famous Broadway performer with a couple of Tonys in his pocket is likely to get a nomination here. Playing the equally famous Paddy Chayefsky, Butz played the only real constant other than Verdon in Fosse’s long career, the only person who stood by him in good times and (at least in this series) mostly bad, the only one who was willing to tell him what an idiot he was being, and who never let his own success dwarf him. This was a dry and subtle performance in an event series that could go over the top.
Paul Dano, Escape at Dannemora
About the only objection I have to Dano’s nomination is what the hell is he not doing in the Best Actor category. He was as much the lead as Del Toro, and in many cases, more so. But that seems to be par for the course for both the actor and the role. Dano has been one of the most gifted character actors working in the independent film industry since at least Little Miss Sunshine, and has never gotten the credit for it that he deserves. And considering that Matt did almost all of the heavy lifting in the actual prison break, and then ended up being captured literally feet from his destination, it seems that he never got what he deserved either. Dano is sure to be considered a heavy favorite in this category.
Stephen Dorff, True Detective
Early in the year, Dorff had to have been considered a heavy favorite, but other, more showy performances have gotten in the way. Much as is the case for Dano, this is a similar state of affairs for Dorff, only he’s been going through it longer. Often an actor who has been so much better the roles he gets, Dorff found the perfect balance as Roland West, Hays’ partner who seems more political as the case begins to go wrong, and finds his life completely destroyed when things begin to go badly. Dorff’s work was at least as good as Ali, and occasionally even a little better, as his character evolved just as much as Wayne — and ended up going a lot worse. I’m hoping that whatever residual love there is for True Detective gets him a nomination; I really think it would be wrong to ignore him.
Gerald McRaney, Deadwood
McRaney has been enjoying a career renaissance in the last several years in such work as House of Cards and This is Us, so I think it would be fitting to see him get a nomination for the role that effectively started it — George Hearst. As the ultimate, most ruthless version of capitalism on Deadwood, he did some absolutely extraordinary work that, like the show itself, ended in anticlimax. Seeing him return to scene of so many horrible crimes — this time as a Senator from California — just so he continue to commit more evil was one of the great joys of this season. (It says something that Hearst is the kind of man who can make Al Swearengen look like the lesser of two evils.) The fact that Hearst now represents the epitome of the one percent we tend to villainize — and was doing it a decade ago — makes his exceptional work all the more relevant.
Stellan Skarsgard, Chernobyl
So much praise has been lauded on his progeny that its worth remembering the Skarsgard patriarch is a great actor, too. And the fact that this great actor appears in this film as a small time bureaucrat who quickly sees the magnitude of everything that’s happening, and does everything in his power to minimize the damage and protect his people, is one of his very best performances. His scene with Harris near the climax of the series, both men dying of cancer from their exposure — Skasgard saying he never thought it was bad because he was of so little position, Harris assuring him that they by some miracle sent the one good man — features some of the best actor either has ever done. There are a lot of showier performances, but Skarsgard deserves to remembered.
Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal
Considering the vast array of experience of so many of the nominees, its particularly remarkably that the early favorite is one of the youngest. Whishaw has already won the Golden Globe and the Broadcast Critics Award for Supporting for his work as Norman Scott, the gay ex-lover who becomes the cause of a conspiracy to commit murder. But Whishaw has always been a gifted thespian, and the fact that he is able to hold his own with Grant — already giving one of his strongest performances — tells you just how up to the challenge this man is. I don’t know what the odds are of his winning — English Scandal came out a long time ago — but I think that he is more than deserving to complete the trifecta, even among this group.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Chris Messina, Sharp Objects
Messina has been one of the busy actors on television in the last decades, one of the most versatile, and certainly one of the most under-recognized. This is particularly true of his work as the agent sent to investigate a series of murders where local law enforcement is decidedly uninterested in helping him solve, and where the one woman who’s willing to help him is a basket case. But the fact that he remains on the path to try and make sense of what is a mess of insanity demonstrates how gifted he is, and an argument could certainly be made that he’s the only one who could be considered a hero. I think Messina deserves to be nominated. If nothing else, as Entertainment Weekly noted, it would make for one hell of a Julie & Julia reunion on the red carpet.