My Predictions For This Year’s Emmys, Limited Series, Part 4
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED SERIES…
If there’s a problem with the Supporting categories, it’s that they seemed to have focused almost entirely on White Lotus and Dopesick. Don’t get me wrong, both series were absolutely loaded with brilliant performances from everyone in the casts, and in many cases I’m overjoyed that so many of the actors were nominated. I’m just slightly irked that in both cases they did so at the expense of so many other great performers, such as the ensembles in The Dropout or Maid. (Gaslit was more of a longshot, I admit.)
So here we go.
Murray Bartlett, The White Lotus: 9–2.
For Playing: Armond, the concierge at the title resort going through the worst week of his life dealing with the guests. For Him: In a series filled with some exceptional comic stars and character actors, Bartlett became the breakout sensation of the extraordinary series from the moment we first met him. And it’s easy to understand why. Some fans of the series considered him the character who in this entire series behaved the worst, but when you saw what he had to deal with this week — and by extension what he has to have been putting up with years if not decades — you kept rooting for him no matter how many pills he snorted or where he was snorted them off. In his endless battle with Shane, a man who frankly deserved far worse at Armond’s hands than he ended up getting, you saw decades of struggles coming out after years of petty and not so petty grievances at the hands of his guest. That’s the reason we were all so heartbroken when Armond ended up being the one in the coffin — he was the victim of all these petty rich people. Bartlett has been getting nominations left and right. He took the Supporting Actors prizes from both the Critics Choice and the HCA. He’s almost certainly going to win, and both Bartlett — and Armond — deserve it. Against Him: Could the presence of the rich and arrogant fellow nominees split from Bartlett’s vote? It would be an indignity that Bartlett would no doubt appreciate.
Jake Lacy, The White Lotus: 13–2.
For Playing: Shane, a rich man on his honeymoon more focused on enjoying the experience than his wife. For Him: In my opinion, Shane was the biggest monster staying at the resort this week, more concerned about getting the room he was entitled to — even though as Armond pointed out and in reality, the room he actually had was nicer — then enjoying his honeymoon. Lacy, who normally plays nice warm characters, seemed to relish to playing one of the biggest pricks in recent years in television (and considering Peak TV, that’s kind of impressive), someone who cares more about earning his mom’s favor than that of his new wife, who seems more irritated about his wife’s problems with her new marriage than actually keeping her, and who fully deserved the present he got in his briefcase in the finale. Of course, Shane got away with murder, figuratively and literally in that episode. That’s what the guests do at The White Lotus. There were other brilliant examples of this throughout the series, but the character Lacy played showed it writ large. Against Him: I have a sneaky feeling, given the chance to give the award to either the tormentor or the victim; the Emmys will honor the victim.
Will Poulter, Dopesick: 7–1.
For Playing: Billy Cutler, a sales rep selling Oxycontin and slowly becoming aware of what he sells. For Him: Of all the characters who we meet on Dopesick, it could be argued Poulter’s is the one who takes the greatest moral journey. He is the only person we see who works for Purdue who goes in on pure ambition and the same utter disregard for what he’s selling when he begins his job as a Purdue rep. The longer he works there, the more he realizes the consequences of what people like him are doing and is perhaps the only one who cares as the truth becomes harder for everybody (except at Purdue) to ignore. And when the series ends, he is the one who does the most to gently push the company’s he sold for towards a reckoning. Poulter’s character has a greater tightrope to walk than almost anyone else in the series, and the actor does it superbly all the way through. That’s a triumph in a series full of them. Against Him: Of his fellow nominees in this category, Poulter’s work is one that walks a grey area rather than the pure good or evil of his fellow nominees. Ambiguity in one’s work isn’t the kind of thing that shows up well on a highlight reel.
Seth Rogen, Pam and Tommy: 6–1
For Playing: Rand, one of Tommy friends who pushes the idea of the sex tape. For Him: Much as I loathe the idea of any actor winning for this series, it’s really hard not to root for Rogen. Since we first became aware of him on the cult series Freaks and Geeks as well as the other great series Undeclared, Rogen has been one of the great comic actors of our times, awkward and gawky, always willing to humiliate himself, never afraid to make himself look bad if it’ll get a laugh. And like all comic actors, he never gets his due from any of the half-dozen box-office sensations he has starred in/and or co-written. Unless he goes to serious route of his co-stars Jonah Hill or James Franco, he’ll never win or even be nominated for an Oscar. So it’s not out of the question that he should pick up an Emmy for his work, and he may have been the only actor in this entire series that had the absolute perfect tone for it. Was I a little shocked when he won the HCA Supporting Actor prize for Streaming over so many actors in this category? Yes. But unlike with Sebastian Stan or Lily James, if he were to triumph in a couple of weeks at the Emmys, I could stomach it. Against It: There already is a comic limited series in this category with a lot of very qualified comic actors in it. I think the Emmys will be inclined to honor The White Lotus instead.
Peter Sarsgaard, Dopesick: 6–1.
For Playing: Rick Mountcastle, the West Virginia Justice Department member meticulously bringing a case against Purdue. For Him: Sarsgaard has been the one of the most quietly brilliant character actors over the past quarter of a century, usually so subtle in his work you don’t notice it even in the best of his performances. I confess to having overlooked him in my initial reviews of this series, even when he was an early favorite for a nomination mainly because his subtle work as the relentless prosecutor going against a Goliath is hard to notice even though it’s the kind of role that would be the lead in almost any conventional series about Purdue. The longer Mountcastle works on the prosecution and the depths and magnitude of Purdue Pharma crimes becomes clear, the longer the odds become of any real prosecution becoming a possible, it is remarkable how utterly focused he is on bringing about justice. Any other person would give up at some point, but Mountcastle quiet dignity is so clear that we learn this is the main reason Richard Sackler stepped down as the head of the company — he knew this was the most dangerous foe out there. There is no way the end of his journey can be read as a victory — Mountcastle knows that, but is the persistence of the Mountcastles of this world — made clear in his last line in the series — that give us hope that victory can emerge. It’s incredible work. Against Him: It’s also not incredibly showy work. Had the series been written differently with Sarsgaard’s character as the lead instead of Keaton’s, he might have a better chance of winning. As it is, his regulation to the supporting ranks decreases his chances immensely.
Michael Stuhlbarg, Dopesick: 6–1.
For Playing: Richard Sackler, the head of Perdue Pharma determined to make Oxycontin the most successful drug in the world. For Him: If I have an overwhelming favorite in this category, it’s Stuhlbarg. Forget his history as one of the greatest character actors in television and history before Dopesick. Forget the fact that he was the best part of another limited series as a villain in 2020 (Your Honor) and has done the same level quality in The Staircase. Stuhlbarg’s work as Richard Sackler is one of the greatest portrayals of pure evil in the history of television. Not villainy, not anti-heroes, evil. As you watch him calmly and quietly create an entire crisis to justify the creation of Oxycontin, as you watch him calmly and quietly find ways to ignore all of the warning signs and red flags that might endanger his company, as you watch him do everything in his power to make his billionaire family even richer, and continue to keep micromanaging and never seem to experience an iota of remorse — or even happiness at what he’s achieved — you realize you are looking into the pit of a man who in a family full of monsters, somehow manages to be the biggest one. I remember watching John Oliver satirically have actors like Bryan Cranston and even Michael Keaton read Sackler’s lines from depositions to show how evil he was. Stuhlbarg’s utter mild-mannered attitudes towards all his decisions regarding Oxycontin show that his version is the most frightening one of them all. I’ve heard the phrase ‘banality of evil’ discussed a lot in other series. Stuhlbarg’s portrayal is a textbook definition of what that means and it’s magnificent. Against Him: It’s quiet and restrained all the way through, and if you’ve spent any time studying television over the years, you know that those are two words that do not lend themselves to awards in general and the Emmys in particular.
Steve Zahn, The White Lotus: 13–2.
For Playing: Cliff Mossbacher, the husband and father not respected by anybody in his entire family. For Him: For more than a quarter of a century, Zahn has perfected the art of the perpetually dim, perpetually long suffering male protagonist, always to comic effect. He was dazzling in the undervalued series Treme as Davis, the always struggling rock star who only became a sensation when he quit the business. And as Cliff, a man who clearly has spent his life being neutered by his wife and ignored by his children, he spends the entire series trying to win respect for his possible suffering from his family — and can’t get it from anyone even when he learns the truth about his father. Zahn’s portrayal was sublime in every way, and of the plethora of nominations for The White Lotus, I’m happiest about his. Just like Cliff, he’s spent his entire career getting no recognition from everybody, and he finally got a reward. Against Him: And just like Cliff, Zahn is likely to get no respect from voters who will pay more attention to other members of his White Lotus family. Bartlett has had this locked up since August.
Prediction: Should Stuhlbarg win? Definitely. Could Rogen win? Possibly. Will Bartlett win? Absolutely.
Tomorrow I wrap things up with Supporting Actress in a Limited Series, as well the Writing and Directing awards and a few ephemera