Monday, June 22, 2015

Emmy Predictions 2015: Who Will and Should Be Nominated for Lead Actor in a Drama Series?

Voting has commenced for The 67th Annual Emmy Awards. Until June 26, voters will cast their ballots for the biggest awards in all of television. And now, it's our time to predict on what will happen - and what we would really like to.

Next up for analysis is Lead Actor in a Drama Series.

The Nominees in 2014:
        Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad (WINNER)
        Jeff Daniels, The Newsroom
        Jon Hamm, Mad Men
        Woody Harrelson, True Detective
        Matthew McConaughey, True Detective
        Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

There's a very interesting shake-up in the race for Lead Drama Actor this year as three of last year's biggest names are not eligible again. Daniels, Hamm and Spacey are the only ones returning. That means there will be new talent in this field this year. That's an exciting prospect for an awards ceremony typically ruled by the same people appearing every year.

Before I start my speculation on who's mostly likely to pick up a nomination this year, I have to break down the rules for this post. First of all, my 6 picks are essentially the nominees I would select if I was an Emmy voter filling out a ballot. That means I can only pick the actors who submitted themselves for consideration in the field. Plus, I have to honor the Emmy's new rules regarding what classifies as a drama vs. a comedy as well as who is a supporting actor vs. a guest actor. As much as I believe Orange Is the New Black is a comedy and Shameless is a drama, I have to honor the way that the organization has decided to classify them. It's also fair to assume that some stuff that could be deemed spoilers for any of the following shows will come up in discussing an actor's performance on said show. And now, without further ado.....

My 6 Picks for Who Should be Nominated for Lead Actor in a Drama Series:
  • Matthew Rhys in FX's The Americans: In the third season of the period drama, Rhys was doing some career best work as his character Philip Jennings was put under constantly constricting and morally compromising situations. His conviction to the mission was questioned as the impact of his actions brought a heavy emotional weight on his shoulders that was only intensified after he revealed his true identity to his daughter. He may have had some clarity by season's end. But it was such a devastating and compelling year for Rhys. He deserves all the awards - but probably won't get any.
  • Bob Odenkirk in AMC's Better Call Saul: Odenkirk had his work cut out for him in trying to come after Bryan Cranston's Walter White - a role that won four acting Emmys over the years. But Odenkirk and the creative team crafted a completely different narrative for his Jimmy McGill. It was one equally tragic but also played to Odenkirk's strengths as a versatile and dynamic actor much more than Breaking Bad ever did. He was a true standout this year.
  • Aden Young in SundanceTV's Rectify: Rectify truly is unlike any other show on TV because of its desire to focus on the characters and not the mystery of their past actions. The arc of the second season was so strong as Young's Daniel Holden tried to move on with his life before having to face the events of his past again in stunning fashion in the finale. That closing hour was a beautiful piece of storytelling that kept the focus intently on Holden as he was faced with one of the biggest decisions of his life.
  • Michael Sheen in Showtime's Masters of Sex: The second season of the period drama was way more uneven than its first. And yet, "Fight" was one of the most compelling episodes of the entire season on any show as it featured Sheen and co-star Lizzy Caplan together in a room for almost the entire hour delving further into what their relationship is becoming in the wake of their work together. It was a stunning hour and Sheen was absolutely captivating in it. It's a very impressive overall tape if he should somehow get the nomination.
  • Justin Theroux in HBO's The Leftovers: The speculative drama's first season didn't take anything away from Theroux's Kevin Garvey in the inciting incident but everything and everyone in its immediate aftermath. He was left to pick up the pieces of this town as everyone was trying to keep things together and continue living. Theroux brought a mystique to the role that was compelling to watch as he was forced to try to find clarity in a world that was getting increasingly chaotic and his mind getting increasingly crazy and demented.
  • Sam Heughan in Starz's Outlander: At the start of the period drama's debut season, the show belonged to Caitriona Balfe's Claire. But as the season progressed, Heughan was able to produce his own captivating performance that came to a devastating head in the season's final two hours as he was subjected to such violent and oppressive tortures. Throughout all of the horrifying acts, Heughan's performance was captivating and made the audience feel every emotional pain he underwent.
  • Also in the conversation: Kyle Chandler - Netflix's Bloodline; Timothy Dalton & Josh Hartnett - Showtime's Penny Dreadful; Michael Emerson - CBS' Person of Interest; Travis Fimmel - History's Vikings; Grant Gustin - The CW's The Flash; Jon Hamm - AMC's Mad Men; Terrence Howard - FOX's Empire; Timothy Olyphant - FX's Justified; and Dominic West - Showtime's The Affair.

My Predictions for Who Will Actually Be Nominated for Lead Actor in a Drama Series:
  • Jon Hamm in AMC's Mad Men: Hamm has been nominated in this field for every single season of the prestigious drama. He - and the rest of the Mad Men - have still not won an acting Emmy. He was constantly in the shadow of Bryan Cranston in the voters' minds - while Kyle Chander, Damian Lewis and Jeff Daniels either had sentimentality or better tapes for their wins in recent years. This is Hamm's last chance to win for playing Don Draper. He will be nominated. But will he finally win?
  • Kevin Spacey in Netflix's House of Cards: Name recognition has been able to carry Spacey to nominations for the past two seasons and that will continue to be the case for Season 3. It's still not a great show, but it's something that the Emmys seem to really enjoy.
  • Bob Odenkirk in AMC's Better Call Saul: Voters had so much love for Bryan Cranston and Breaking Bad. Will Better Call Saul be able to continue that awards momentum? That is uncertain. Though it's also highly probable that at least Odenkirk will be recognized for crafting a sequel series that is actually a compelling show to watch in its own right.
  • Jeff Daniels in HBO's The Newsroom: Daniels was just as surprised as everyone else that he won in this category two years ago. But again, The Newsroom pilot really was a great episode of TV. The second and third seasons didn't come anywhere close to that level of quality. But he was still nominated last year and he's still a reliable bet this year.
  • Kyle Chandler in Netflix's Bloodline: Chandler wasn't the strongest acting achievement from the Florida-set drama's first season - that honor goes to co-star Ben Mendelsohn (competing in the Supporting field). And yet, he did bring an intensity and humanity to the role in a way that wasn't always apparent on the page. Plus, Friday Night Lights nostalgia should be able to carry him to a nomination. Remember he won for that show's series finale even against Jon Hamm in "The Suitcase."
  • Clive Owen in Cinemax's The Knick: Voters love movie actors coming to do TV. This last spot really could go a number of ways - most of those options are bolded below. But again, that love for movie stars should be what puts Owen over the edge and into the main race. 
  • Also in the conversation: Hugh Bonneville - PBS' Downton Abbey; Steve Buscemi - HBO's Boardwalk Empire; Timothy Dalton - Showtime's Penny Dreadful; Sam Heughan - Starz's Outlander; John Benjamin Hickey - WGN America's Manhattan; Freddie Highmore - A&E's Bates Motel; Terrence Howard - FOX's Empire; Charlie Hunnam - FX's Sons of Anarchy; Timothy Olyphant - FX's Justified; Lee Pace - AMC's Halt and Catch Fire; Ryan Phillippe - ABC's Secrets and Lies; Matthew Rhys - FX's The Americans; Liev Schreiber - Showtime's Ray Donovan; Michael Sheen - Showtime's Masters of Sex; James Spader - NBC's The Blacklist; Justin Theroux - HBO's The Leftovers; and Dominic West - Showtime's The Affair.

Do you agree or disagree with my picks? Who do you think should be nominated in the Lead category this year? Speculate below in the comments!