Who says Emmy voters can’t be full of surprises?
For proof, just look at last year’s supporting actor in a limited series race. Hollywood heavies including John Travolta and David Schwimmer, both from FX’s “The People v. O. J. Simpson: American Crime Story,” and Hugh Laurie from AMC’s “The Night Manager” were nominated for that category’s top honor. And who took home the prize? A previously unknown talent by the name of Sterling K. Brown, who played the much more mild-mannered Christopher Darden in the sea of extreme personalities that made up “People v. O.J.”
This year, however, it seems as if just about everyone eligible for this category or its supporting actress companion entry is a brand name and/or a repeat nominee.
There are some actors who could land their first Emmy nom. “I don’t really think about TV versus film or theater or the size of the role,” says Alexander Skarsgard.
He rose to fame as bad boy vampire Eric Northman on HBO’s “True Blood.” Skarsgard returned to TV in a supporting role as the villainous Perry Wright in HBO’s adaptation of author Liane Moriarty’s “Big Little Lies.”
“I can find a small supporting role incredibly interesting and, obviously, sometimes a big lead in a big movie is not. The most important thing is to be intrigued and drawn in. In this case, I just thought it was such a great story.”
Stephen Moyer of Fox’s “Shots Fired” put it more bluntly, which is fitting as he played Bill Compton, a frequent rival to Skarsgard’s character in “True Blood.” Among other things he likes about his role of the meddling Officer Breeland, is that it has allowed him the time to direct his first feature, “The Parting Glass.”
“One of the first things journalists ask you when you get offered a job is what attracted you to this part? Well, I got offered it,” Moyer says. “But, as you get longer in the tooth, you get to pick and choose a little bit more. I was looking for stuff that was a little bit more interesting and also would take me away from what my safe area is or how people had seen me before.”
|“was looking for stuff that was a little bit more interesting and also would take me away from what my safe area is or how people had seen me before.”|
Moyer, who is British, also liked the concept of this limited series, which begins with the investigation into an officer-involved shooting of an unarmed man. It was provocative and taught him about a side of America that you don’t often see in scripted dramas.
“I come from a country where nobody has guns and it’s obviously a very different mindset,” he says. “I’ve lived here for 10 years and have worked here for 20, so it’s not like I’m new. But it’s taken me an awful long while to get my head around the gun issue here. As somebody coming in here and playing an American, and certainly a police officer, I do have a need to play it well and play it correctly. I think I feel it more deeply than somebody who is American [because] I feel doubly the pressure to get it right.”
The popularity of the anthology format also adds heat to the miniseries/TV movie category, as audiences — and Emmy voters — delight in seeing a creator’s meticulously cast troupe of players stretch their range in different parts each season.
Richard Cabral received a supporting actor in a limited series Emmy nomination for playing a former gangbanger trying to stay straight in the first season of ABC’s “American Crime.” This season, he was a farm crew chief with rage issues.
“He was able to inflict so much pain,” Cabral says of his character’s reactive personality. It was a part that only appeared in the early episodes, which gave Cabral fewer opportunities to develop depth. He says this “was definitely a challenge, but in a good way. Sometimes it’s hard to live with those characters for so long.”
This is also a year that — considering such contenders as “Lies,” as well as FX’s “Feud” and “Fargo,” HBO’s “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” and Starz’s “The White Princess” — supporting roles in limited series are often tasked with backing up determined female characters.
“These are just incredibly written pieces of material and the characters really spoke to me,” says fellow “Lies” supporting player Adam Scott.
Well, maybe not all the characters. He says he didn’t have as much in common with Trevor, the demon he played this season in NBC’s new after-life comedy, “The Good Place.” And he’s cool with that.