The right roles can often be an embarrassment of riches for an actor and, no, “roles” wasn’t a misprint. In 2017 alone, there were eight actors who had multiple Emmy nominations for their work in front of the camera. And this season appears to be no different. There are more than 10 contenders who could land two or three Emmy noms this year — including some notable names in the lead actor field.
Last year’s lead actor in a drama winner, Sterling K. Brown, is actually eligible for three roles in 2018: for lead actor in “This Is Us” and guest turns on the comedies “Saturday Night Live” and “Brooklyn Nine-Nine.” In fact, “SNL” is where many potential double nominees pop up: recent hosts also up for lead actor include Larry David (“Curb Your Enthusiasm”), James Franco (“The Deuce”), Bill Hader (“Barry”) and Donald Glover (“Atlanta.”)
Jason Bateman is already a two-time Emmy nominee for his work on the first run of “Arrested Development” on Fox. Now, after Golden Globe and SAG nominations for Netflix’s “Ozark,” he’s looking at his first recognition in an Emmy drama category and potentially another actor in a comedy series nom for “Arrested’s” second go-around on Netflix.
“I’ve always been attracted to characters that are very recognizable to the average person,” Bateman says. “I’ve never really been that drawn to playing super-arch characters and super-colorful characters. I really enjoy the role of being to the audience, kind of being the proxy for this trip into whatever the story is, whatever the world is. If it’s a comedy, I’m usually the person standing next to the funny person. If it’s a drama, I’m usually the person running away from the scary guy.”
On “Ozark” Batman plays Marty Byrde, a financial planner whose family ends up at the mercy of a Mexican drug cartel after a money-laundering scheme goes terribly wrong. Bateman was able to shape the tone of the series as the director of the first two episodes, but his portrayal of Marty needed to entice viewers to become invested in his predicament. During that first episode, there’s a moment where Marty begs for his life as he tries to persuade the bad guys he can be trusted. Essentially, it’s the entire premise for the series in one sequence.
“That was challenging just from an acting standpoint. And from a directing standpoint, there was just a lot of coverage,” Bateman says. “It was kind of a complicated scene. We shot at night. It was about 110 degrees at night in Atlanta. I mean, there was a lot going on, and I knew if we got that scene right both in exposition and in tone, we might be able to set the hook pretty well for people.”
As for “Arrested,” for the 2013 season each episode had to focus on a different character due to the cast’s busy schedules. Bateman seemed much happier that five years later they all got to work with each other again in a more traditional storyline.
“That was really, really fun because we all enjoy each other so much and each one of our character’s humors is somewhat reliant on the sum total of all the other flavors, all the other styles of humor that each of those characters have,” Bateman says. “I have deep, deep affection for every single one of them both in front of and behind the camera. To be able to work with them every single day on a project that was so incredibly important to my career as a bit of reset button. It’s just every part of it was a joy. I loved it.”
Jeff Daniels took home an Emmy and earned two subsequent nominations for his role as Will McAvoy on Aaron Sorkin’s “The Newsroom.” During the past year, the 63-year-old actor has earned critical acclaim for his work on two limited series, Hulu’s “The Looming Tower” and Netflix’s “Godless.” The roles could not have been more opposite from one another.
In “Godless,” he played the supporting role of Frank Griffin, a feared outlaw with a twisted moral compass, and simply stole the show. He’d never done a film or TV series in this genre and was surprised by how difficult all the horse riding was for everyone involved. Daniels admits he was thrown off his hose twice and jumped off on another occasion. He jokes, “When the ambulance’s coming you know a Western’s started.”
For the “Looming Tower,” Daniels will compete in the drama lead category. He says he was fascinated by Dan Futterman’s work on turning Lawrence Wright’s explosive novel into a miniseries and the detail-oriented vision of Alex Gibney, who made his narrative directing debut with the pilot. Daniels played John O’Neill, the former head of the FBI’s Counterterrorism office in New York during the World Trade Center attacks on Sept. 11. He was also a flawed man with a rocky personal life and lack of financial restraint.
Daniels bluntly notes that O’Neill “burned a lot of bridges” and that made him a “fascinating” character to play.
An Oscar, Golden Globe and SAG Award nominee, Michael Shannon might earn not only his first Emmy nomination this year, but also his second. The “Boardwalk Empire” star appears in both the Paramount Network’s miniseries “Waco,” based on the FBI and Branch Davidian cult stand-off in 1993, and in a supporting role in HBO’s TV movie “Fahrenheit 451,” an updated adaptation of Ray Bradbury’s classic novel.
In Ramin Bahrani’s version of “Fahrenheit,” the world has banned books and anything that isn’t digital. People are controlled medically and through visual and social media. Shannon plays Capt. Beatty, a distinguished fireman in charge of a brigade that seeks out and destroys banned media.
Shannon believes that his character has quite different set of standards for himself than others.
“The question is, ‘Can people be trusted to be able to comprehend knowledge? And I think he believes that most people on earth, they don’t have what it takes,” Shannon says. “They are warped by whatever knowledge they feel or think or believe they have. But, like most people, he’s a self-saboteur, you know? And he likes to suffer, which is another irony, particularly in the modern age. People seem to enjoy suffering. “
For “Waco,” Shannon says once he read Gary Noesner’s book on his experiences as the chief negotiator during the crisis his reaction was simple.
“I was like, ‘Oh, they want me to play this guy? Hell yeah, I’ll do it.’ That guy’s a legend. Look at all the places he was and all the sticky situations he dealt with. And also, it’s just such a noble thing, the idea of negotiating, being a negotiator, trying to solve the problems peacefully, trying to have empathy and understanding for other people. I just thought it was a very noble thing.”
Shannon makes it clear he doesn’t think Noesner was a saint “by any stretch of the imagination,” but he respects that he had to make difficult choices.
“You don’t think about is what a tedious job it can be. There’s a lot of waiting around. There’s a lot of frustration,” Shannon says. “It’s not all action all the time.
“I think you get a sense of that in the show a little bit, but you’re not gonna make a TV show about somebody waiting around for five hours for the phone to ring.”