Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Lead Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie

Nominees are listed in alphabetical order. Performers in this category don’t submit specific episodes, but I’ve watched the entirety of their shows to best assess their chances.

Jeremy Irons as Adrian Veldt, Watchmen
Irons has won three out of four of his past Emmy bids, in 2014 for narrating “Big Cat Week,” in 2006 for “Elizabeth I,” and in 1997 for voice-over performance in “The Great War and the Shaping of the 20th Century.” He’s in contention now for playing a man desperate for omniscience and obsessed with his own power. Irons is definitely chewing scenery, but I’m not sure that he’s really a lead. His show is the nominations leader, however, and he shouldn’t be counted out if it ends up sweeping all its categories.

Hugh Jackman as Frank Tassone, Bad Education
Jackman won an Emmy for hosting the Tony Awards in 2005 and was nominated again the next year, and has contended twice as a special class program nominee when he hosted the Oscars and the Tonys. He’s the lone representative in this category from a TV movie, one that was expected to do very well but earned only one other nomination. He fully immerses himself in the role of a friendly school superintendent with plenty of secrets. It’s a great performance, but he’d have a better shot if his film had performed better overall.

Paul Mescal as Connell Waldron, Normal People
This is Mescal’s first Emmy nomination. His limited series missed the top category but earned bids for directing, writing, and casting. Mescal, who is just twenty-four years old, delivers an incredibly layered and accessible performance opposite the equally terrific Daisy Edgar-Jones. This category has skewed very young the past few years with wins for Jharrel Jerome, Darren Criss, and Riz Ahmed, and there is plenty of affinity for Mescal and his series that could help an internationally unknown Irish actor win eclipse much better-known stars to win this award.

Jeremy Pope as Archie Coleman, Hollywood
Pope earns his first Emmy nomination for his TV debut after dual Tony bids last year. He demonstrates a truly hopeful spirit as a gay Black writer trying to make it in 1940s Hollywood, determined to make his mark even when everyone tells him he can’t. I would have nominated his costar David Corenswet in this category instead, but Pope is definitely doing good work. A win seems unlikely given his show’s prominent absence from top categories.

Mark Ruffalo as Dominick and Thomas Birdsey, I Know This Much Is True
Ruffalo was nominated in 2014 for starring in “The Normal Heart” and won an Emmy as a producer on the TV movie. Ruffalo’s work as twin brothers who experience deep heartbreak over the course of their lives is undeniably strong, but his series is incredibly miserable and hard to watch. The fact that it earned zero other nominations means that voters have to be wowed enough by his performance(s) – which they should be – to pick him when it’s honestly difficult to endure viewing it.

Who should win: Mescal, Ruffalo, or Jackman
Who will win: It could be Ruffalo or Jackman, but I’m going to go with Mescal pulling it off.

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