When it comes to acting nominations in this newly named category for performers you might as well just skip the part about Anthology or TV movies. All the acting nominations—this year at least—are from Limited Series (formerly called miniseries), or in the case of those seven nominations for Hamilton actors, come from a show otherwise only eligible for Variety Special (Pre-Recorded). Go figure. The Television Academy has been wrestling with eligibility in certain areas that just don’t seem to fit elsewhere, so they came up with this convoluted hodgepodge that makes little sense, shoehorning Hamilton’s cast in here because they couldn’t find any other place to put the stars of this video performance shot five years ago. Sadly, because of this, very worthy performances from the likes of Ethan Hawke, Jeff Daniels, Bryan Cranston, John Boyega, Joel Edgerton, Chris Rock and more have been shuffled off to the sidelines. Here are the Lead Actors who did make the cut, and you can scroll down to the bottom to see my prediction for the winner, as well as analysis and winner for the corresponding Supporting Actor award in these categories.
Paul Bettany, WandaVision – Winner Pick
Bettany could have been easily nominated here for his role in the excellent nominated Television Movie, Uncle Frank (which was among those surprisingly beaten yesterday by a Dolly Parton Christmas movie), but those films don’t figure much anymore in the acting categories. WandaVision, on the other hand, was so inventive it won 23 nominations overall, including a nod for Bettany, who not only recreates his Marvel Universe character of Vision, but gets to honor some of the greatest TV sitcom stars of all time, including Dick Van Dyke. It’s a dazzling turn.
Hugh Grant, The Undoing
Grant should have won this for A Very English Scandal, but he tops that here as a doctor suspected of murder in this nifty David E. Kelley thriller. Perhaps because it came out earlier in the season, this popular watercooler series did not get much love from TV Academy voters, but they did not forget Grant—he’s a possible default choice to honor the entire series as well. It certainly showed he is as adept in intense dramatic roles as he is in light comedy.
Ewan McGregor, Halston
With all the competition out there, it isn’t surprising that Ryan Murphy’s Netflix limited series was overlooked, but it would have been shocking if McGregor’s superbly layered portrait of its title icon did not land on this list. He enveloped the style, spirit, and tragic decline of the eponymous fashion designer like no one else could.
Lin-Manuel Miranda, Hamilton
It is hard to measure the performances of Hamilton against those created directly for television. There’s no question that the man behind this landmark Broadway production, as well as his performance in the original Broadway cast, is phenomenal and certainly deserved his Tony nomination, but he doesn’t really belong in this category. That isn’t Miranda’s fault— it’s the Academy’s.
Leslie Odom Jr, Hamilton
He beat Miranda when pitted against him in the corresponding category at the Tonys over five years ago for this very same preserved performance. It is likely he will also garner more Emmy votes too, but it seems unlikely that most Emmy voters will want to just rubber-stamp the Tonys.
THE PREDICTED WINNER: PAUL BETTANY, WANDAVISION. This category is somewhat unpredictable and could go any which way. I wouldn’t be surprised to see McGregor pull it out, but Bettany’s work in WandaVision (which with its 23 nominations is obviously popular with the Academy as a whole) also represents much of the history of television itself, plus he has the added advantage of many voters additionally seeing his exceptional performance in Uncle Frank.
OUTSTANDING SUPPORTING ACTOR IN A LIMITED OR ANTHOLOGY SERIES OR MOVIE
Hamilton dominates this category, as voters chose to nominate Daveed Diggs, Jonathan Groff, and Anthony Ramos for performances they delivered five years ago, just before the end of the run of the original Broadway cast. The show was taped, however expertly by Thomas Kail, but they belong in some other category that the Academy failed to create—so even though the program itself is classified as a Variety Special (Pre-Recorded) they somehow were made eligible here, thereby crowding out truly deserving actors such as the cast of The Underground Railroad, Donald Sutherland in The Undoing, Brendan Gleeson in The Comey Rule and more.
Of the other three who managed to survive the Hamilton invasion, Thomas Brodie- Sangster in The Queen’s Gambit, Paapa Essiedu in I May Destroy You, and Evan Peters in Mare of Easttown would all be deserving winners. The impressive sweep, there is no other word for it folks, of The Queen’s Gambit with 9 wins over the weekend at the Creative Arts Emmy ceremonies might mean that could continue in acting categories. The Creative Arts Queen’s Gambit blowout gave us no indication of its support in Emmy’s largest branch of performers but clearly if those 9 wins represent a wider trend then look for Brodie-Sangster to be swept in with the tide. However, as good as he was, it is really the complex turn by Peters that is in a class by itself. Rarely have I seen an actor and character so missed and talked about once they were no longer physically in the show, but that was definitely the case once Peters’ Det. Colin Zabel was gone from Easttown.
THE PREDICTED WINNER: EVAN PETERS, MARE OF EASTTOWN