My Selections For The 2021 Emmy Nominations

Week 1, Part 4: Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama

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This is traditionally a character actor’s category. And considering that all but one of last year’s nominees are eligible, there’s going to be a lot of different faces. I should say up front that despite my admiration for Bradley Whitford, I refuse to consider him for The Handmaid’s Tale out of my loathing for that series. Similarly, much as I admire Giancarlo Esposito, I will not consider him for The Mandalorian. (He should’ve won earlier for Better Call Saul or Breaking Bad.) So who does that leave us? Quite a few interesting choices.

John Benjamin Hickey, In Treatment

He’s been acting on TV for what seems like forever and over the last decade he’s had an incredible run, from his memorable stint as a seriously messed up brother on The Big C to his twisted turn as the head of the atom bomb project on the two short lived Manhattan to the arrogant head of Chumhum who seems to forever be antagonizing the law on The Good Wife and The Good Fight. But as Colin, Hickey has done some of his best work ever, playing a tech legend coming to see Brooke because of his probation. He claims to be in love with the idea of therapy, but Brooke has his number early, and with each successive week, we begin to wonder if we, like Brooke, can trust a word out of his mouth. Colin makes it clear he wants us to like him and some part of us does; even though we’re not sure we can ever trust him. I’ve been astonished Hickey has never gotten an Emmy nomination despite his storied career. I’m pretty sure that’s about to change.

John Lithgow, Perry Mason

E.B. Jonathan is the only person willing to give Perry a chance. He’s been a legend for so long only Della Street knows just how long he’s been cruising. He doesn’t recognize the world he lives in anymore or the justice system anymore. And that’s the main reason he no longer thinks he can handle this brave horrible world. Lithgow’s role on Perry Mason was relatively brief — he only appeared in the first four episodes — but it was more than enough to make a lasting impression. Part of that is due the fact that Lithgow is one of the greatest actors in history and that becomes true no matter what medium he’s working in. His was the only death in the first season that really resonated because he may have been the only pure character on that show. Would I like to see someone like Shea Whigham or Stephen Root nominated for their work, which was just as good? Sure. But Lithgow is the most likely candidate in this category and he’s earned it.

John Carroll Lynch, Big Sky

Lynch’s performance as ‘Big Rick’ was one of the best things about Big Sky. He played his character in the Pilot as if he were completely trustworthy, which is why it came as such a shock when he shot Ryan Philippe’s character in the face. For the next four episodes, Lynch gave a masterwork in evil, raging at Roland for everything, just oozing contempt with Jenny and Cassie, right up until the moment Cassie shot him. Then for the next four episodes, he seems completely brain dead, and its testimony to just how brilliant Lynch was that even though we thought it was an act, we just weren’t sure. There was one person he couldn’t fool though, and it cost him. I’m still not entirely sure if the second half of Big Sky worked as well with Lynch’s character dead. What I do know is that it was a masterwork of a performance and he’s another great character actor who never gets his due. He’s earned a chance a nomination.

Tobias Menzies, The Crown

As good as Menzies has been in the last two years, I have a feeling he is benefit from one of the more bizarre turns in TV history: the real-life person he’s been playing passed away earlier this year. As great as Menzies has been as Prince Philip (and that comes from taking over a masterwork job by Matt Smith the first two seasons) with most of the attention going to the next generation, he had a bit less to do this season. Which doesn’t mean Menzies did tear into the meaty scenes he had. In the opening episode after Lord Mountbatten was assassinated and he did everything but comfort Charles when it came to mourning, when he gave Diana the pass that Camilla would never get… those were great moments. But more than anything else, we got a feeling more this season that Philip was part of a generation that should well have been left behind years ago. That being said, his work last year was ignobly ignored and he more than deserves on last shot before he leaves the series next season.

Anthony Ramos, In Treatment

For the first four sessions, Eladio and Brooke are forced to communicate through video chat. It’s a credit to Ramos that the pure power of his character resonated more strongly than so many of the other characters we met in her office. As a caregiver who can’t sleep and who seems utterly incapable of handling his emotions, Eladio is convinced that there is something wrong with him, and he can’t accept the possibility that there isn’t. Ramos expressed the greatest range of any of the patients on In Treatment, always seeming like no one understood what he was try say, always so upset at the world but never able to tell people why. It’s small wonder that Dr. Taylor really worries about him the most of all her patients; we want to care for Eladio so much. Ramos has been working in the background, and this year likes he’s about to break big. He deserves a nomination.

Chris Sullivan, This is Us

Though he’s never been part of the ‘Big Three’ Toby has been since the Pilot, kind of the heart of the show. He’s always been Kate’s biggest defender and he’s always there to give her support through the tough time. And they were tough this season, as he learned about her teenage pregnancy through a terrible relationship and his continued problems with his son and their new child. He also struggled to find a way forward with new employment and being a house husband. He’s always been there for Kate, which was why the last couple of minutes of the Season 5 finale hurt so much. How can Kate marry someone else? (We know from the season 3 finale that Toby’s still alive in the future.) There’s got to be a way they work through this. As someone who’s always Team Toby, Sullivan deserves another nomination.

Michael K. Williams, Lovecraft Country

Be honest. Williams has deserved an Emmy since we first met Omar Little. For the past twenty years, HBO has given Williams some of the greatest roles any African American has ever had: Chalky White on Boardwalk Empire and the lifer that takes Riz Ahmed’s character under his protection in The Night Of. Only recently has he begun to receive the Emmy nominations he’s deserved. So he’s probably the favorite not so much because he won the Broadcast Critics Award for Supporting Actor but because of everything else. But make no mistake: as the troubled Montrose, Williams went to depths that he’s only recently had a chance to plumb. As a father never sure if his son was his, and never loving him; as a gay man where it’s bad enough just to be black, as the carrier of a legacy that could destroy the world, everything Williams’ said was loaded with purpose. And when he traveled to Tulsa to 1921 just in time to see the defining moment of his life, you could see the heartbreak in everything he did. Should Williams have won decades ago? Of course. Does he deserve to win now? Absolutely.

FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION

James Roday Rodriguez, A Million Little Things

This series should have gotten a crapload of nominations by now. It’s one of the best shows on television anywhere. But if there’s one actor in the cast who more than earned a seat at the table, it’s Rodriguez. He’s spent the last two years being considered the joker, but Gary had so many great dramatic moments. From his praying over Eddie’s bed in the season premiere to the agonies of his new girlfriend’s PTSD to the truth we learned about how he got his name and his complicated relationship with his father and the way he utterly exploded at Delilah for how she spent most of the season in Europe abandoning her children. And that’s all without considering the incredible rage he showed during the most haunting story: Sophie’s being molested by her music teacher. He spent the back half trying to find a way not to explode, and even though we knew in the finale it was coming, it was horrifying because of how much we love Gary. The show’s gotten renewed for a fourth long season. It would be nice if after all the suffering, Rodriguez got a nomination.

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David B Morris

After years of laboring for love in my blog on TV, I have decided to expand my horizons by blogging about my great love to a new and hopefully wider field.