My Picks For This Years Emmys, Outstanding Limited Series Awards
Part 12: Outstanding Lead Actor In A TV Movie/Limited Series
After three consecutive years where the strongest lead performances were in the female lead categories, this season has seen a shift to fairly dominant male-led series. (I expect that this trend will only true for this year.) However, given certain limitations, I feel very strongly that there will be more nominees from movies this year. I actually have a couple of preferences from that category as well. Bearing this in mind, here are my choices, knowing full well that Netflix and Hulu will probably drop a couple in.
Darren Criss, The Assassination of Gianni Versace
One of the most dominant and fascinating performances for the entire year, Criss did something that even the greatest television has rarely been able to do: put you in the mind of a psychopath. The reverse unfolding of the series showed us just how Andrew Cunanan went from a gay rent-boy to a serial killer. He never quite earned our sympathy — he was just too deranged a personality to accomplish that — but through Criss’ portrayal we saw that in many ways, Cunanan was as broken and damaged as the victims he killed. The fact that Criss managed to do all this while making us forget the memorable portrayal of Blaine in Murphy’s Glee demonstrated just how great a talent he is. Probably the front-runner for the Emmy.
Benedict Cumberbatch, Patrick Melrose
One is tempted to draw parallels between Melrose and Cumberbatch’s other most memorable TV portrayal — after all, both he and Sherlock Holmes were damaged addicts. But that’s practically all that the two have in common. Cumberbatch was so brilliant to watch playing a character, trying to deal with his various addictions, his psychological damage, and his incredible family dysfunction — things that Sherlock, for all his intellect, would not be able to comprehend. This was mesmerizing television, another, and if anything, far greater master class in acting than Cumberbatch has ever accomplished. I really hope that there’s some possibility for additional stories about Patrick. He made a compelling journey, and I’d like to see Cumberbatch try and help him heal.
Jared Harris, The Terror
Yes, it was a brilliant performance, seeing Harris playing the captain of a doomed ship at the center of an Arctic expedition, trapped by the snow and ice, pushed by disease… and stalked by something no one can comprehend. But, honestly I’ve been a fan of this actors calm stoicism, even when led towards villainy, ever since I first saw him on Fringe. And frankly, the man has a track record of dying in TV and movies almost as bad as Sean Bean. I don’t think he’ll survive til Season 2 (his character was the only one to make it to the end of the series) but I think just for his dignity and class, he deserves a nomination, especially for a series that is likely to dominate.
Michael B. Jordan, Farenheit 451
The voters will more likely choose as their representative from HBO’s brilliant TV movies, Al Pacino’s work in the title role of Paterno. Pacino has been linked so successfully in his collaborations with the cable network that he gets recognized even when, like here, its a lesser effort. Far more daring and radical was the interpretation of the groundbreaking Ray Bradbury novel, a work that with each passing days fits our present more and more. Jordan’s work as Montag, the firefighter who finds himself gradually embracing the world of literature was so astonishing, you didn’t even notice that his character had been made African-American. The story became simultaneously more dystopian and more optimistic mainly through Jordan’s work. And let’s be honest, he’s been deserving of an Emmy nomination since he burst on the screen as Wallace in the premiere season of The Wire. Normally, I don’t like move actors taking up these spaces. For Jordan, it was a pleasure to watch.
Kyle MacLachlan, Twin Peaks
The only argument I can see against nominating MacLachlan is that he came in best known for playing the iconic lead from this iconic series — and then spent the length of that series not being Dale Cooper. This frustrated many people. But really, all of this only adds to this astonishing quality as his work. He played three distinct characters: Cooper, the Chance Gardener like Doug Jones, and the evil incarnate BOB, and played them all so incredibly that you had a hard time believing that they were all being played by the same actor. Maclachlan has always been a versatile actor, even though he’s spent decades trying to overcome being Lynch’s main lead. This series did a few things wrong, but none of them had to do with MacLachlan’s work. If the series had aired a little earlier, he would be a lock for the Emmy.
Bill Pullman, The Sinner
This brilliant character has been laboring in the field so long in anonymity (with the unfortunate exception of Independence Day) that its rather sad that no has ever tried until now to put him in the lead of anything, film or television. As was the case so often, the quiet, dignified performance he gave was obscured by a brighter sun — Jessica Biel’s murderer (who we’ll get to in the next category). But as always, his deflection mixed with his own problems made him just as interesting watch, and well worth being a figure to build a series around. He deserved an Emmy nomination as much as Bill Paxton, the late character actor he was constantly confused with through their joint careers. Let’s hope they don’t wait as long this time.