You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

From Milo Ventimiglia to Jared Harris, Depicting Real-Life Tragic Events Earn Emmy Acclaim

Real-life tragedy figures heavily among the stories told by this year’s lead actor Emmy nominees, especially for actors seeking to capture characters based on real people.

Jharrel Jerome, for example, is nominated in the lead limited series/TV movie actor category for playing both the younger and older versions of Korey Wise in Netflix’s “When They See Us,” whose wrongful conviction as one of the Central Park Five led to years in prison.

Researching the role was difficult because, in trying to understand the differences between Wise before and after incarceration, Jerome didn’t have anything to reference about Wise as a young teenager. Thus, he says, his conversations with Wise were not much at all about “his tragedies. Instead, we talked about what he loves to do, who he loves.” That helped him come to understand the “16-year-old boy that’s still trapped inside of him. To see that life inside him today is how I channeled into the young Korey.”

“When They See Us” was Jerome’s first time playing a role that would haunt him after he left the set. But spending time with the real Wise was “pretty much all the therapy and the medicine I needed for this process, to realize I’m doing this for a beautiful purpose — not just to share a story of sadness and a story of pain; it’s also a story of triumph and overcoming.”

Also nominated in the lead limited series/TV movie actor category is Jared Harris, who stars in HBO’s “Chernobyl” as the real-life Valery Legasov, who was tasked with investigating the catastrophic 1986 nuclear explosion. In playing the character, Harris had the advantage of being able to draw on elements of historical fact known about the man, but because he is a far less famous figure than Harris’ previous roles (such as Andy Warhol or King George IV), he was able to remain focused on this specific version of the man.

“It was one of the first times that I had done a lot of research on a character that turned out to not be particularly useful,” he says. “After a while, I just really decided to rely on the script.”

What Harris says he found most interesting about the character was “that he never expected to wake up and have to make those kind of choices. He was a reluctant hero — I liked the idea that he was afraid.”

Lead limited series/TV movie actor nominee Benicio Del Toro, however, relied heavily on research to make sure he never forgot that he was playing a character “who deals in pure evil” in Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora.” His Richard Matt was a convicted murderer who seduced a prison worker and planned an escape from the Clinton Correctional Facility in 2015. While Del Toro enjoyed getting to show a human side to the man, he notes it was always important for him to remember that it was still “not the good side necessarily.”

Meanwhile, Milo Ventimiglia received his third consecutive Emmy nomination in the lead drama actor category for NBC’s “This Is Us.” This season, much of his storyline revolved on his character Jack’s experience in the Vietnam War. Ventimiglia says he didn’t do a lot of research on the conflict, because most of those who served in Vietnam “didn’t know about the war. They didn’t know why they were there.” But he did speak to his father, a two-tour veteran, about his experiences. His father helped him understand his matter-of-fact attitude toward the service: “My dad just says, ‘Oh, yeah, I was in Vietnam. And then it ended and then I came home.’ Much like Jack.”

However, that doesn’t mean his dad — or by extension, Jack — was unaffected by the experience. “War changes us as individuals,” Ventimiglia says. “I couldn’t even imagine the deep wounds and scars that are inside an actual soldier.”

More TV

  • Alicia Keys23rd Annual Hollywood Film Awards,

    Alicia Keys Will Return as 2020 Grammy Awards Host

    Alicia Keys will return as the host of the 62nd annual Grammy Awards. Keys hosted the awards show for the first time in 2019. She will become the third woman and the first female music star to host the show twice. Keys has won 15 Grammy awards and is second only to Paul Simon as [...]

  • AMERICAN HORROR STORY: 1984 -- Pictured:

    'American Horror Story' Recap: '1984's' 'Final Girl' Revealed

    SPOILER ALERT: Do not read if you have not yet watched “Final Girl,” the finale episode of “American Horror Story: 1984.” The final episode of “American Horror Story: 1984” is appropriately called “The Final Girl,” a reference to the term given to that one (usually virginal) young woman who manages to survive the massacre in most [...]

  • Lady Antebellum and Halsey53rd Annual CMA

    Halsey Puts the Extra Lady in Lady Antebellum in Elegant CMA Awards Medley

    Halsey is increasingly proving herself a woman for all seasons in her varied TV appearances and awards show collaborations, and Wednesday’s CMA Awards telecast was no exception, as she ingratiated herself into the country vocal trio Lady Antebellum for some flawless four-part harmony on a medley of two of their respective hits. She and Lady [...]

  • The Bachelor

    TV News Roundup: ABC Announces Premiere Date for 'The Bachelor' Season 24

    In today’s TV news roundup, ABC announced the premiere date for “The Bachelor” Season 24, while Showtime set a date for Eddie Griffin’s new comedy special. CASTING Freeform announced that it has cast the pilot for “Last Summer.“ Chiara Aurelia will star as Jeanette and Mika Abdalla will star as Kate in this “unconventional thriller” about [...]

  • Mandalorian Pose Stranger Things

    'The Mandalorian,' 'Pose,' 'Stranger Things' Among Nominees for Top TV Publicity Campaign

    The Disney Plus series “The Mandalorian,” three other streaming series, and two FX series have been nominated by Hollywood union publicists for the year’s top publicity campaign. “Catch 22,” “Fosse/Verdon,” “Pose,” “Stranger Things” and “When They See Us” picked up the other nominations. The nominees for the International Cinematographers Guild Publicists’ Maxwell Weinberg Award for [...]

  • Paradigm's Liz Morentin portrait session in

    Paradigm's Executive VP of Communications Liz Morentin to Exit Agency

    Liz Morentin is stepping down from her role as executive vice president of communications at Paradigm, Variety has learned. According to an individual with knowledge of the situation, Morentin’s departure was amicable and she will stay on at the agency through the end of the year to help with the transition. No replacement has been named at [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content