One thing is for certain going into Emmy night: A new king of drama will be crowned. Last year’s champ, “Mr. Robot’s” Rami Malek, failed to get nommed this time out, leaving behind a lineup of talent that’s never yet ascended the stage for the top prize. The slate is a mix of familiar veterans and new favorites, which means voters have a tough choice ahead.
Celebrate the newcomer or finally reward the veteran? It famously took the Academy until the final season to crown Jon Hamm for “Mad Men” — and it may well take that final push for Bob Odenkirk to be recognized for his work on “Better Call Saul.” There’s no denying the buzz is behind “This Is Us,” the first broadcast drama to be a serious contender in years — and that momentum will likely fuel Sterling K. Brown, one of the series’ breakout stars.
The Case for Brown
What a year it’s been for Brown: The journeyman actor — who’s toiled on series like “Army Wives” — burst onto the scene with his indelible portrayal of Chris Darden in FX’s “The People v. O.J. Simpson,” claiming a trophy in the process. And then he landed on NBC’s “This Is Us,” as Randall Pearson, as the so-nerdy-we-love-him husband and father still struggling to reconcile his place in his adopted family. Hollywood is taking notice: Anonymous no longer, Brown’s career has skyrocketed, landing him roles in “Predator” and “Black Panther.” It’s no wonder: Just watch the scene where Brown’s Randall collapses in a panic attack, riddled with anxiety over his performance at work. It’s that combination of raw emotion and vulnerability that landed him on the list.
The Case for Odenkirk
Can the third time be the charm for the “Better Call Saul” star? We all know the path that lies ahead for his Jimmy McGill — the sharp suits and even sharper tongue of the wily Saul Goodman — but Odenkirk infuses Jimmy with more heart than we ever knew Goodman could have (did he even have one?). Whether fumbling through romance with Kim (Rhea Seehorn) or Bingo Night at the senior center, Odenkirk inevitably wins us over with his charm. But it’s ultimately his confrontation with his brother Chuck (Michael McKean) that proves the most heartbreaking — sibling rivalry writ large. That Odenkirk, mostly known for his comedic work, can deliver so powerfully in drama is award-worthy indeed.
Anthony Hopkins (“Westworld”): The legendary actor brings star power to the field as Robert Ford, the mastermind of the theme park who becomes a victim of his own creation.
Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”): A dual nominee (for his guest spot on “Girls”), Rhys wears his heart on his sleeve as the conflicted undercover spy pushed to his limits.
Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”): He may play a chilly, reserved fixer, but voters repeatedly warm to his portrayal, recognizing him every year with a nod.
Kevin Spacey (“House of Cards”): He’s been nommed five times in a row, but never claimed the prize for his work as the manipulative POTUS.
Milo Ventimiglia (“This Is Us”): His seemingly perfect father-figure Jack has won the devotion of fans, though he faces stiff competition from his co-star.