In the age of peak TV, actors, writers, directors and producers, and subsequently their managers and agents, are open for business in any medium, and that new attitude shows in awards nominations, especially when it comes to the Golden Globe acting fields.
Amy Adams and Regina King scored nominations in both film and TV categories for the 2019 awards, while many actors who normally work in film are now being feted for their TV roles (“Homecoming’s” Julia Roberts, “A Very English Scandal’s” Hugh Grant, “Genius: Picasso’s” Antonio Banderas).
The Golden Globes voters are proving to be platform-agnostic now, a relatively new trend that seems to have begun in earnest in 2014 when small-screen stars such as Idris Elba, who had earned plaudits from the Globes for Brit series “Luther,” easily jumped into the big-screen awards mix with “Mandela: Long Walk to Freedom.” From there, Steve Carell (known and perennially Globe-nominated for his work on NBC’s “The Office”) cracked the golden ceiling and grabbed a nom for his portrayal of John DuPont in feature drama “Foxcatcher” in 2015, while Benedict Cumberbatch, previously nominated for his work on TV’s “Sherlock,” also scored a film nom for “The Imitation Game.”
Patricia Arquette, nominated this year for her star turn in Showtime’s prison break limited series “Escape at Dannemora,” first grabbed the Hollywood Foreign Press Assn.’s attention with broadcast drama “Medium,” scoring three consecutive noms between 2006 and 2008, before moving into more movie work (and winning the supporting actress in a motion picture trophy for “Boyhood” in 2015). Now she’s back on the TV side of the ballot.
“As an actor, the richest part of it is, for me, to be able to work with these great people,” Arquette says of her fellow cast members and director, a team made up of big-screen stars including Benicio Del Toro, Paul Dano and Ben Stiller.
Although Arquette notes that it is character above format that draws her to a project, she has noticed more opportunities for rich, complex roles in the longer form storytelling of television. “You don’t get to often play someone who is deceptive and still loved. To be able to look at this overarching theme of female sexuality and middle age, what is truly attractive in America or not, ownership of one’s sexuality — the right to sexuality or enjoyment of sexuality, all of these things as an actress in my past career I didn’t really get to explore,” she says. “I do hope we start opening up the broadness of people and actors aren’t stuck in these parts that are one-dimensional.”
On the flip side, “Crazy Rich Asians” star Constance Wu can revel in her actress in a motion picture — musical or comedy nomination but has never been recognized by the Globes for her work on ABC family comedy “Fresh Off the Boat.” Her competition includes Brit Olivia Colman — an actress who built her reputation in a lot of U.K. TV series and seems to pop up in juicy film roles with regularity. She has even won a Globe for BBC-AMC series “The Night Manager” in 2017 and is starting the build buzz as the next Queen Elizabeth II in Netflix series (and awards magnet) “The Crown.”
The Globes also recognized John David Washington for his performance in Spike Lee’s “BlacKkKlansman” this year, but he can still be seen honing his comic chops on HBO’s “Ballers.” And “Mr. Robot’s” Rami Malek proved a big-screen presence as Freddie Mercury in “Bohemian Rhapsody,” grabbing a nomination as the movie hit $551 million at the worldwide box office. Mahershala Ali, who scored a Globes nom this year for “Green Book,” will be back on TV (he spent some time in “House of Cards”) on HBO’s “True Detective in 2019.
There are still some actors that seem to favor one medium over the other — at least for the time being. Although Charlize Theron has dabbled on the small screen, appearing on the original Fox run of “Arrested Development” and the broadcaster’s space drama “The Orville,” as well as taking a supporting role in television movie “The Life and Death of Peter Sellers,” for which she received a Globe nomination in 2005, she mostly sticks to features. This year is no different, and she landed an actress in a motion picture — musical or comedy nomination for “Tully.”
Similarly, Roberts is an A-lister whose name is synonymous with film rather than television. She has snapped up eight film Globe nominations (she won three) since 1990. This year she had a high-profile film project (“Ben is Back”) but also signed onto her first television starring role. She failed to score a nom for the film but was feted the freshman season of Amazon and UCP’s psychological thriller “Homecoming.”
“The beauty of casting Julia Roberts [is] obviously the character of Heidi does make some questionable ethical and moral choices, but Julia plays it with such vulnerability that you understand it on a very human level, and you see that it’s really about this very vulnerable person struggling to make sense of what’s going on,” says “Homecoming” executive producer and director Sam Esmail. “She’s never doing it for nefarious means, even if they might have nefarious ends. That’s all Julia Roberts. That’s all putting her in that part.”
As quality TV series draw more writing and directing talent from independent film, actors will continue to follow, also giving the HFPA a richer field in which to play — and vote.