Week 1, Part 2: Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama
Wow. Four out of six nominees are African-American, and three of them gave some of the most tremendous performances of the past year. (Like I said, not a Bridgerton fan, and wouldn’t have minded seeing Aldis Hodge here instead.). Here’s how I think it’ll turn out.
Sterling K. Brown, This is Us: 7–1. For playing: Randall Pierson, the most troubled member of the Big Three. Pro: Brown is traditionally the stalwart of this incredible cast, but this year he went to new heights. On the outs with Kate and Kevin for much of the season, he dealt with the cries for racial justice his own way. He learned the true history of his birth mother, helped Kevin’s fiancée through labor, aided his wife through a huge loss. And in arguably the season’s finest hour, finally dealt with his and Kevin’s baggage, which went back forty years…and dealt with things we never thought to explore. Con: It really hurts me to consider that such an extraordinary actor as Brown and the series he’s on is essentially ‘old news’ . But just as the Emmys left The Good Wife in the dirt well before it reached its peak, they seem to have forgotten one of broadcast TV’s greatest successes. It’s just not fair.
Jonathan Majors, Lovecraft Country: 6–1. For Playing: Atticus ‘Tic’ Freeman, a former soldier hunting for his father and his legacy in 1950s America. Pro: There may have been some debate whether Majors deserved top billing or not, but there’s no argument he was one of the 2020’s breakthrough stars. Playing a lover of fantasy who finds himself in a supernatural world, learning his family’s history and birthright in a world that doesn’t want a black man to have anything, Majors covered a huge amount of range as he traveled cross the globe, back through time, and facing his destiny… which ended in his death. A truly stirring performance. Con: The series was cancelled, which rarely helps nominees. It was going to be an anthology series, which means its in the wrong category. And most importantly, for all the nominations it got from everywhere, the lion’s share of the actors have been ignored. And there were bigger stars and better performances in this category. It just doesn’t look good.
Josh O’Connor, The Crown: 71–20. For Playing: Prince Charles, heir to the throne. Pro: It’s amazing what Morgan and his actors can do. Last season, Charles was a pretty sympathetic character as we saw how little his own family to love him or respect his wishes. Now, as he finds himself married to Diana, all the viewer’s sympathy is quickly drained as we realize he never loved and that everything the world finds charming and beautiful about her, he finds a distraction and ‘showboating’. The final two episodes where he basically tortures his wife into cheating on him, utterly calls all her actions selfish, and is utterly tormented by his mother were some of the most magnificent drama all year. Throw in his Golden Globe and Broadcast Critics prize, and it almost seems a sure thing. Con: It’s been awhile since Season 4 premiered, and there have been more than a few performances that have surpassed him. Could O’Connor have peaked too soon?
Rege-Jean Page, Bridgerton: 5–1. For Playing: Simon Bassett, the Duke of Hastings, back in Regency England to claim his title. Pro: For reasons that beggar my understanding, Page has captivated a large amount of the streaming audience this year. (Ok, I did like his work in For the People, but honestly, he was more likeable there.) As the lone nominee from Bridgeton and by far its biggest breakthrough performer, there will be a lot of draw to him. And considering that there are some aspects to his performance that are brilliant, I can see why some people love him. Con: Though actors do have more of a tendency to win Emmys in Rhimes’ series than female ones, its almost entirely in the Guest Acting category. And for all the effort to make Simon fully rounded, we can’t forget that Rhimes’ series are almost entirely about the women. I don’t think he has a real chance.
Billy Porter, Pose: 39–10. For Playing: Pray Tell, going through the final stages of AIDS. Pro: In all honesty, Porter’s performance in the final season of Pose was one of the greatest achievements in the history of television. Watching him collapse into alcoholism as a result of going to far too many funerals, going to rehab only to see the final stages coming on fast. Then we paid a visit to his Southern hometown to finally meet his family and his first love — one who kept denying himself even now, as well as the only relative he had who truly understood him. And that was before the finale, when he finally seemed to be brought back from the dead…only to die in his bed, having sacrificed himself for the man he loved. If this doesn’t deserve an Emmy, I don’t know what does. Con: All of the worship that is being directed towards Josh O’Connor. And he does have one Emmy for this role already.
Matthew Rhys, Perry Mason: 13–2. For Playing: 1930s P.I. turned attorney Perry Mason. Pro: When you take over an iconic role, you’re asking for trouble. But under Rhys’ brilliant work, he took the character back to the roots, a divorced man living alone scrambling to get by in the Depression, who gets dragged in to a case by the only man he admires, who becomes an attorney to strive against a corrupt system rather than the fact he even likes his client. Rhys has now moved to the echelon of television’s great actors and I actually thought the series deserved far more attention than it got from the Emmys. Con: The series premiered last June and wasn’t nearly as flashy as some of the other shows or nominees. It’s a remake, which doesn’t traditionally do well at the Emmys. And in a way, its far too retro compared to a lot of the shows here. Rhys will have to wait for Season 2, which is coming…right?
Prediction: Barring an upset by Porter — and I have to tell you, that is becoming more and more possible by the day — look for O’Connor to complete the journey that began in January.