I Try To Predict This Year’s Emmy Winners
Week 3, Part 2: Outstanding Lead Actor In A Movie, Mini-Series or…Special
I’m not going to lie: its really hard for me to work up enthusiasm for the nominees in this category. Set aside that there are only five, which is a criminally low number. You could fill an entire category of deserving nominees who weren’t selected and still have room for Jeff Daniels for The Comey Report or Bryan Cranston for Your Honor. I’m not saying that they should’ve followed the HCA’s lead and given the prize to Colman Domingo for Euphoria, but this is one of the most underwhelming categories I’ve dealt with in years. Nevertheless, for the record:
Paul Bettany, WandaVision: 7–2. For Playing: Vision, the robotic Avenger who finds himself in a sitcom marriage with his beloved Wanda…until he starts to question reality. Pro: Bettany gave a remarkably human performance as a robot who finds himself in a constantly changing world of sitcoms and has no problems, until he begins to suspect that his ‘wife’ has changed reality and he is trapped in it. There were moments of great poingiancy and high comedy throughout this series, which, for those who’ve followed the movies (I wasn’t one, but I paid attention) also involved the pain of grief. Add to this that Bettany is the only actor in this category who is in a nominated series and his character can quickly calculate the odds of his success. Con: The Emmys proved last year that they are willing to give statues to actors who play iconic comic book characters. But Watchmen is in a different world thematically than Wandavision. Jeremy Irons couldn’t win in this category last year for playing Adrian Veidt; could the same prejudice work against Bettany here?
Hugh Grant, The Undoing: 37–10. For Playing: Jonathan Fraser, a pediatric oncologist accused of murder, with so many secrets. Pro: I really think The Undoing deserved far more nominations than it ended up getting. I think it was astonishing, even though I sincerely believe the book it was based on was far better. And the lion’s share of the reason it worked was because of the magnificent performance of Hugh Grant. In the book, it is pretty clear early on that Jonathan is guilty. The reason that I imagine so many viewers — and Grace — wanted to believe an alternative was because of the extraordinary work of Grant, who for all his behavior you can’t quite see his motivations. Add to this the fact that Grant is in the midst of a remarkable late career renaissance that has yet to reward him with any awards and the argument for him winning becomes undeniable. Con: The Undoing didn’t get a requisite amount of love from the Emmys this year. And when you consider that so many other actors in this series who we equally deserving were shut out, Grant’s chances seem slim.
Ewan McGregor, Halston: 4–1. For Playing: The iconic designer through his long career. Pro: McGregor has always been one of the more understated actors of our time, never received real credit for any of the subtle performances he gives and being blasted for taking on versions of iconic characters. He found a way to make this designer his own in the rare subtle portrayal from a Ryan Murphy project. Con: If I’m being honest, McGregor’s nomination is even less understandable than the two nominees from Hamilton in this category. Compared to other potential nominees — Ethan Hawke being by far the most obvious example — there was nothing really remarkable in this particular performance. I think he got robbed for his performance in Season 3 of Fargo but that’s no reason to nominate him here.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton: 9–2. For Playing: ‘Alexander Hamilton…” but not the one we know from history books. Pro: This is the role that put Miranda on the map, that won him so many Tonys, including one for Best Actor. It has become one of the most legendary accomplishments in the history of Broadway, and you could make the argument it should put Miranda on the route to an EGOT. Con: There’s been backlash against every nominee for Hamilton, but it had started for Miranda long before the TV version even premiered. Like so many great successes, he’s been undergoing overexposure and I don’t think it’s going to work for him here.
Leslie Odom, Jr., Hamilton: 4–1. For Playing: Aaron Burr, sir. Pro: Odom was a good actor before Hamilton, but his work as Burr shot him into the stratosphere. Like Miranda he has become one of the greatest musical performers and he actually had a fairly solid TV career well before this nomination. Some could argue he’s due a win. Con: Far more — and I am among them — would argue that he shouldn’t have been nominated in the first place. There have been other projects he worked in worthy of awards. Recreating a stage performance –however iconic — doesn’t come near to meeting those standards.
PREDICTION: In 2019, Grant lost an Emmy for playing an outwardly charming but morally questionable character in a very crowded field. In 2021, playing an even darker character in a category where the competition is far lighter, I believe the Emmys will make up for the previous mistake.