If there is one word to describe the competition in the Lead Actor in a Limited Series/TV Movie category this year it would be “fierce.” With past winner Benedict Cumberbatch and three-time nominee Idris Elba back in the hunt, in the all-too-familiar staples Sherlock and Luther respectively, the race also has lots of impressive fresh blood in the form of Bryan Cranston’s much lauded LBJ in All the Way, rising superstar Tom Hiddleston in John le Carré’s The Night Manager, and a compelling pair in Cuba Gooding Jr. and Courtney B. Vance from The People v. O.J. Simpson. It’s on.

Bryan Cranston
All the Way
HBO

Re-creating his astounding, dead-on, Tony-winning turn as President Lyndon B. Johnson in HBO’s television adaptation of All the Way, Emmy favorite Cranston is about as far from his Breaking Bad days as possible. The six-time winner may make it seven, especially since voters love it when actors play well known historical figures.

Benedict Cumberbatch
Sherlock: The Abominable Bride / PBS

Emmy voters have already showered love on Cumberbatch’s unique take on the immortal Sherlock Holmes, with three previous nominations in the category resulting in a big win in 2014. Add to that the fact that Academy members are a sucker for anything British and he has a decent shot at an upset repeat victory after being AWOL last year.

Idris Elba

Luther
BBC America

This is the fourth nomination in six years for the ever-popular Elba’s turn as DCI John Luther. The gritty series has brought him much acclaim, so it is no wonder he keeps returning to it. Elba has already won Golden Globe, Critics Choice, Image and SAG Awards, among others, for his efforts in the show that debuted in 2010, and his growing popularity might mean he is finally ready to add an Emmy to that list.

Cuba Gooding Jr.
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
FX

Playing the iconic role of O.J. Simpson might have been a double-edged sword, but Oscar winner Gooding Jr. managed somehow to put a human face on a person many regard as a monster. Emmy voters may want to reward him just for taking on the nearly impossible task of even playing Simpson in a story we know all too well, having watched it in real time when it all happened.

Tom Hiddleston
The Night Manager
AMC

As undercover spy Jonathan Pine, Hiddleston was perfect casting in this gorgeously filmed and tension-filled six part adaptation of the John le Carré novel. You would be excused if you mistook the whole thing for a major feature film, since Hiddleston has the looks and style of a genuine film star and brought it all here. As someone who was constantly switching identities, it was also a tricky acting role. His only drawback is he made it all seem so effortless and natural.

Courtney B. Vance
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
FX

According to nearly every critic, it was Vance who stole this ten-part limited series with an astonishing turn as slick lawyer Johnnie Cochran, the man who famously said, “If the glove doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” Vance dug deep into the role of a man we thought we knew but really didn’t. With co-star Gooding Jr. to contend with, though, it is possible they may cancel each other out.

PETE’S PICK: Bryan Cranston. Emmy voters love him. Who doesn’t?


Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie

Although there are six nominees, they collectively come from just three shows, and this could surely benefit Hugh Laurie, an actor who was nominated every season for House but never won. His steely and frightening international arms dealer in AMC’s The Night Manager was a brilliant change of pace, and he is the only actor from that show nominated here. Conversely Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden, David Schwimmer as Robert Kardashian and John Travolta earning his first-ever Emmy nod as Robert Shapiro must all contend against each other in The People v. O.J. Simpson, likely cancelling themselves out. The same conundrum applies to the excellent Jesse Plemons and Bokeem Woodbine in Fargo. All three of the shows for which these actors are nominated had great critical and viewer success, so anything can happen, but odds favor the loner.

PETE’S PICK: Hugh Laurie. The class of the field and the most memorable character.

Hugh Laurie - The Night Manager.jpeg

This post was originally published August 16, 2016.