My Predictions (And Hopes) For This Year’s Emmy Nominations: Week 3, Day 4
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES/TV MOVIE
Again Hamilton isn’t here so this is already a better category than last year. And it is estimated that there will be room for seven nominees. Traditionally this category can be a character actor-palooza in recent years finding room for talents who are breaking big (Sterling Brown, Ben Whishaw) or unknowns who have exploded (Yahya Abdul-Mateen’s victory for Watchmen was one of my favorite awards of the past decade, period). They also find room for multiple nominees from standout series, and there are a couple that could do just that (Dopesick and The Dropout are by the far most likely)
I’m going to try and stick to a middle ground in my selections, balancing between (usually) one nominee for each series, while acknowledging there could well be more and that in most cases I won’t object if there were. I’m also going to try and pick out some of the more unlikely ones in certain series. So here we go.
Murray Bartlett, The White Lotus
Bartlett has been almost since August the favorite in this category, picking up nominations from the SAG Awards and winning at the Critics Choice this March. And anyone who watched his work as Armond, the increasingly put upon concierge at the title resort doesn’t have to explain why. When you consider everything all the guests put him through during what would be his final week at the hotel, the fact that he spent years dealing with addiction before spectacularly relapsing, the way he fought as hard as he could for his job and got no thanks from anyone at it, it’s a marvel that he managed to make it this long in his position and not spectacularly flame out. He was the comic highlight of a cast of much better known names and when he ended up being the one who was murdered at the hotel in the final minutes of the series, I felt an anguish that very few of the characters in so many more serious shows caused me to feel at his passing. Because all of these guests deserves what was coming to them, and his death will barely be noticed by management. I don’t know Bartlett has gone all these years without being noticed by, well, anyone, but in a category stock full of deserving nominees, he deserves this win the most.
Aaron Eckhart, The First Lady
Just as is the case with all the lead actresses in this category, all three of the actors who played the Presidents in this series are more than worthy of nominations. But Kiefer Sutherland has gotten more than his share of love from the Emmys and as much as I liked O-T Fagenble’s performance as Barack Obama, I just bear too much animus for his nomination in The Handmaid’s Tale last year to give him any credit from the Emmys ever again. But I’m not only choosing Eckhart by process of elimination. Eckhart has been one of the most overlooked character actors in film and television for more than a quarter of a century. Even when he gives exceptional performances in blockbusters — such as his unforgettable turn as Harvey Dent in The Dark Knight — he is always overlooked by a brighter sun. And just as was the case with all three female leads in the first lady, Eckhart is perfectly matched with playing Gerald Ford, a man who labored for a quarter of a century in the backbenches of Congress, never sought glory until it was thrust upon him, and then turned out to be what our country needed at that time. And in addition to everything else, alone among the three marriages portrayed, he actually had to give as much support to his wife during his time in office as she did to him. Of the three male leads, Eckhart is the most unlikely to earn a nomination. He’s by far the most deserving.
William H. Macy, The Dropout
I may be pushing for the wrong actor in this series. I have always admired the work of Naveen Andrews, even before Lost. I honestly would not object if he were to be nominated for this series, as is likely and would have even less of a problem if he became the eventual winner. But having seen the first couple of episodes, both his character and the one played by Macy in The Dropout strike me as fundamentally creepy and untrustworthy. And if we’re going to nominate an actor who plays both of these things so well, I’d kind of like it to be Macy.
Macy has put playing untrustworthy characters in his wheelhouse for years: that’s basically everything so many people loved about him on Shameless (it took until the series was almost over for me to warm to that part). But there’s so much of the utterly untrustworthy family ‘friend’ in his work as Richard, a man who thinks he’s entitled to be included on corrupt schemes because he knows better, as well as the fact I almost didn’t recognize him in the first episode that makes me thinks he’s worthy of the nomination. Again, no problem if Andrews gets it and Macy’s gotten more than his share of love from the Emmys already. But he’s always been one of my favorite actors, and it’s very clear how good he is even in a brief role.
Clive Owen, Impeachment: American Crime Story
We’ve spent so many years satirizing Bill Clinton on SNL and lionizing in public that I don’t think any of us were expecting the kind of work that Owen would do playing him in this series. We see him almost entirely behind the scenes, walking around the Oval office with Monica, quietly unassuming and modest, treating her so warmly we don’t even stop to consider the possibility that either he’s grooming her or how coldly he treats her when he’s done with her. We’ve heard stories for decades about angry he can be behind the scenes, but this is the first time in any film or TV series I’ve gotten even a hint of just how menacing his anger could be, especially when he turns it on targets who dare to defy him on anything that gets in the way of his message. We’ve never seen him as a schemer and a plotter, willing to be as destructive to anyone who gets in his way and just hinting as the threats ‘Hilary’ would bring if she heard about it. Maybe that’s one of the reason so many critics refuses to rave about this series — they didn’t want to think that Owen’s portrayal of Clinton showed us that 42 and 45 had far more in common then we ever wanted to admit. Owen may have no realistic chance of getting a nomination (for reasons I argued about in the Best Limited Series) but he impersonated a president and did so with as much realism as any of the actors in The First Lady. Since there’s a very strong likelihood that at least one of them (though probably not the one I spoke out for) will be nominated, by that logic Owen has more than earned one as well.
Nick Robinson, Maid
Talk about cast against type: how can the baby-faced kid we fell in love with in Love, Simon and saw being the innocent victim in A Teacher play just a memorably horrible person in Maid? Note that I say horrible person, because as much the story portrays him and even though he is clearly a drunk and a domestic abuser, Sean just doesn’t play as a villain. He is a monster, I don’t deny that, but as we see over and over, he is just as broken as Alex is and has, if anything, an even more flawed support system. Robinson’s basic humanity as an actor stops us from truly detesting Sean, even though he often deserves our hatred. And its hard not to look at the final episode, when almost despite himself he acknowledged just how broken he is, in a way that most of the people in Alex’s world — including her father and mother — are in utter denial about. Perhaps I’m wrong to feel empathy for Sean, but I never felt him the monster so many domestic abusers are. And for that reason, I think Robinson deserves a nomination.
Michael Stahlberg, Dopesick
I spoke my early review of this series in the nature of evil that the Sackler family represents. And Stahlberg, one of the greatest character actors when it comes to this time of menace, is absolutely perfectly suited to the role of Richard Sackler, a man who quietly and single-mindedly pushes Oxycontin forward and creates the opoid crisis almost entirely for his own ego. There are those who have argued for all the time we spend on Sackler we don’t learn why he persists in doing what he does. Would any kind of motive mitigate what he did? Stahlberg does what he always does; he is quiet and serenely in underplaying every aspect of creating this drug, manufacturing a problem for it too cure, and finding ways to make it more profitable for his company without giving a damn for the consequences. That is the purest and most frightening form of evil manageable and if nothing else, justifies the entire existence of Dopesick. There are other brilliant performances in this limited series, and you could just as easily justify Peter Sarsgaard being nominated for his work as the relentless prosecutor who helps bring about Purdue’s fall. But the quiet, utterly assuming of Stahlberg’s work — making a man you would pass on the street without picturing what he was capable of — makes him by far the most worthy nominee in this category.
Dan Stevens, Gaslit
There are many actors for this series I could advocate for her. I could pull for Sean Penn for literally disappearing into the role of John Mitchell, not just in makeup but in behavior. I could advocate for another vital actor to this series (and I will below). But the one I think most likely to get the nomination is Stevens for his work as John Dean. Here’s why. The real John Dean has been portrayed has the hero of Watergate. Stevens portrays him for the lion’s share of the series as a nerdy loser who so desperately wants to sit at the cool table with so many people not worth his time that he sells his soul for a bargain rate. It is only when he realizes how utterly trapped that he breaks down, and almost against his will, does the right thing. Even then, he is outraged when he learns he has to be punished for his crime for doing so. Only in the last episode, when he actually hears some of the things he spent years saying does he truly realize how far he has fallen and for how little he was willing to do it for. Only then, does he truly become the hero and it’s not for doing the right thing: it’s for realizing how lucky he was. That’s a greater journey than Martha Mitchell takes. And for that — and because Stevens is one of the great actors on TV in the last decade — I think he has earned a nomination.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Shea Whigham, Gaslit
I will say this flat-out. Whigham’s performance as G. Gordon Liddy was the highlight of this series. There was no subtlety to it the way there was with all the other great performances, but that was the whole point. Even when Whigham tried to humanize his character, it was utterly clear that Liddy was one hundred percent nuts, and proud of it. The fact that Whigham tore into this role like a wolf with a T-Bone was perfect, especially considering that Whigham has spent basically his entire career in television being understated. It was so much fun watching Whigham on screen throwing caution to the wind among the corridors of power, completely unaware of just how little anybody wanted to be in the same room with him. I so badly want Whigham to get nominated for his work — even more than Roberts and Stevens. But just as much as you couldn’t overlook Liddy in real life no matter how hard you try, I have a feeling the Academy will do the same. It’s impossible to deny Whigham’s work, but the Emmys have spent his career not wanting to be in the same room with him.
Tomorrow I finish up this series with Supporting Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie as well as some other miscellany.