During the past 20 years in the category of lead actor in a miniseries or movie, Emmy has always had a thing for bigscreen pros.
Geoffrey Rush, Al Pacino and Albert Finney are all recent winners, and this year’s race includes some film heavyweights as well: Oscar winners Robert Duvall for “Broken Trail” and Jim Broadbent for “Longford.”
Duvall has now been nominated four times, yet is still looking for his first win. He’s often at ease playing cowboys and does so with genuine authenticity in “Trail.”
Both “Longford” and Broadbent, playing a British lord who reached out to convicted killer Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton) while the nation condemned her, received rave reviews.
Matthew Perry might be known to many as a comic actor, but his work in “The Ron Clark Story” is proof of his acting chops outside his friends at Central Perk.
While Perry is known by many for his role on a successful series, so is Tom Selleck, who starred for eight seasons on “Magnum, P.I.” And now he’s settled into another steady role as the title character in the “Jesse Stone” telepic series.
Selleck might take some comfort in knowing that the first two Emmys in this category went to thesps playing cops: William Holden in “The Blue Knight” (1974) and Peter Falk in “Columbo” (1975).
Finally, there’s William H. Macy, who has now earned an astonishing nine Emmy noms, winning as actor and writer for “Door to Door.” He might come a bit under the radar here to viewers, but all those prior noms mean voters are well aware of what he brings to his projects.
Emmy pedigree: First nom
Best scene: Having staked his personal and professional reputation on gaining parole for child killer Myra Hindley (Samantha Morton), Lord Longford visits her in prison only to learn that her culpability for the murders is far greater than she led him to believe. His shock, followed by repressed anger, perfectly distills everything Broadbent brings to this complex role.
Why he may win: Having already won a BAFTA for this performance, Broadbent’s bona fides couldn’t be in better shape. On top of that, this multifarious actor’s stock has been rising steadily since his supporting Oscar win five years ago.
Maybe not: Despite Broadbent’s sympathetic portrayal, voters may regard his rumpled character as at least naive, if not an outright sap. Moreover, the actor’s gentle portrayal may be too subtle for voters used to bravura turns.
Show: “Broken Trail”
Emmy pedigree: Three noms
Best scene: Relaxing by the campfire after days of driving horses, Print talks to Heck Gilpin (Scott Cooper) about women. At first, he says that the fairer sex’s ways are more of a mystery to him than hieroglyphics, but he soon elaborates on the nature of male-female relations, concluding his whiskey-fueled soliloquy with this gem: “Without marriage and women, we’d all have been drunk, shot ourselves to death or died of the clap.”
Why he may win: Voters often have a soft spot for feisty old codgers, an archetype Duvall playsperfectly here. In addition, the much-honored Oscar winner, now 76, has never won an Emmy.
Maybe not: At four hours (with commercials), this oater takes its time, and one never knows if voters have patience with pics that aren’t quick and easy to digest.
William H. Macy
Show: “Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King”
Emmy pedigree: One acting win plus five other acting noms
Best scene: Macy, playing opposite himself, gets a great chance to strut his stuff when writer Sam Landry first appears and tries to convince his alter ego, private dick Clyde Umney, that the shamus is a figment of Landry’s imagination rather than a real person.
Why he may win: Playing two roles — in this case, a writer of mysteries and his fictional gumshoe — always wins points. Besides, the TV Acad clearly loves this versatile actor.
Maybe not: The role lacks substance and mostly affords Macy a chance to have a goof.
Show: “The Ron Clark Story”
Emmy pedigree: Three noms
Best scene: After making little progress with his Harlem students, schoolteacher Clark violently rocks the desk of a smart-alecky student and storms out of his classroom. The scene marks a sharp break with Perry’s hitherto genial portrayal of Cark, allowing the actor to summon darker emotions and deepen his characterization.
Why he may win: By starring as a real-life inspirational schoolteacher, Perry plays against type, attempting to banish our image of him as the snarky Chandler from “Friends.” Doing so takes both guts and chops.
Maybe not: After watching Perry for 238 episodes on “Friends,” voters may find it difficult to think of him as anything but Chandler.
Show: “Jesse Stone: Sea Change”
Emmy pedigree: One win plus five other noms
Best scene: Boarding a schooner in search of an alleged rapist, Chief Stone must not only outfox a supercilious suspect (Nigel Bennett), but also keep the peace between his deputy (Kathy Baker) and a mysterious woman (Sean Young). Selleck navigates the scene with beguiling cool, conveying the smart charm that has long been his calling card.
Why he may win: Everyone loves a comeback kid, and as troubled cop Jesse Stone, Selleck may finally have found a role that plays to his strengths in much the same way that his star turn on “Magnum” did.
Maybe not: Selleck’s intentionally flat delivery mirrors the lack of incident in this low-energy installment of the Robert B. Parker series.