Always a prestigious category, actors better known for their big screen work often find a place here, and that’s the case again this year, as half the nominees are past Supporting Actor Oscar winners. In fact, one of them actually won two Academy Awards. All three have succumbed to the allure of a Limited Series rather than TV movie, and to show just how lopsided this category is, not one of the six nominees comes from a standalone movie this time around. Five are veteran actors, while one made his professional feature acting debut less than three years ago. But still, all have something in common— none of them have ever won an Emmy.
Rescuing this ongoing limited series in its third season with an arresting performance, Ali is back in the Emmy race for the second time, having first been recognized with a 2016 nomination for Guest Actor in a Drama Series for House of Cards. Two Oscar wins later, the response to his True Detective role may very well be setting him up to take home some more gold come September.
Benicio Del Toro
Escape at Dannemora
Another past Oscar winner in the race—for 2000’s Traffic—Del Toro took on the role of one of the two notorious prison inmates helped by a female employee in plotting their escape. As Richard Matt in this strange but true tale, he works powerfully opposite Paul Dano and an almost unrecognizable Patricia Arquette. As usual, Del Toro gets under the skin of his true-life character, and delivers pure authenticity in the role. This is his first Emmy nomination.
A Very English Scandal
Amazon Prime Video
Hard to believe, but this is Grant’s first Emmy nomination ever. In the real-life role of Jeremy Thorpe, Grant is the Liberal Party leader who stood trial for plotting the murder of his gay lover— played by Ben Whishaw. This is a very British limited series about a very British scandal, and Grant plays well against the kind of lighter, romantic, big screen roles with which he’s often associated, and this performance suggests a strong dramatic talent that doesn’t always get recognized.
Harris is a veteran of several series, including Mad Men, in which he played the ultimately tragic character of Lane Pryce, winning an Emmy nomination in 2012. Now he’s gone Russian, and co-stars effectively in this real-life horror story of the 1986 nuclear power plant explosion that became one of the greatest catastrophes mankind has ever known. As Valery Legasov, Harris is a whistleblower in the trial of three men largely responsible for the accident, delivering a powerful testimony in the finale that probably sealed his Emmy nod.
When They See Us
Having played the 16-year-old Kevin in the Oscar-winning Moonlight, Jerome shows he knows how to pick his parts with this Emmy-nominated turn as Korey Wise, perhaps the biggest victim of the Central Park Five case. He just went along to help a friend and got the stiffest sentence of the group. It would be many years before they were rightfully exonerated. In a wrenching role that sets him apart, he could win here if he can get past his Moonlight colleague Mahershala Ali.
As the legendary director Bob Fosse, Rockwell not only masters the look, style and mannerisms of the iconic showman, but also the heart, in every sense of the word. Rockwell transforms himself and once again delivers a brilliant performance, right on the heels of his 2018 Supporting Actor win for Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri. Always an actor’s actor, Rockwell is finally getting the true credit and great roles he deserves.
Three actors from Netflix’s Limited Series When They See Us—Asante Blackk, John Leguizamo, and Michael K. Williams—are most likely to cancel themselves out in the final vote in this competitive category. So that leaves Paul Dano, as one of the two inmates in Escape at Dannemora, veteran Stellan Skarsgård trying to pull off a victory for Chenobyl in the very same category his son Alexander won two years ago, and Ben Whishaw in his Golden Globe-winning role as Norman Scott, the lover of a high-level British politician. Dano could be the ultimate winner here, but I have a feeling that Academy voters will follow the lead of the HFPA and hand this to Whishaw, a superlative actor in everything he does.
WINNER: Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal