A few years ago, I began brainstorming names for a list of TV’s MVPs — the stars who had managed to leap from hit show to hit show, without a clunker in the bunch. There weren’t many of them — honestly, the one name that came to mind was Ted Danson, who managed to even make “Becker” a hit.
But on the kudos front, I’ve been struck recently by two stars, in particular, who have risen to the ranks of awards catnip — and rightfully so. Regina King and Olivia Colman have been doing amazing work for decades, and are now at a stage in their careers when just their presence elevates the work. Sometimes they’re stars, sometimes they’re supporting players, sometimes they’re just guests— but no matter what, the second they show up, you know it’s going to be good.
It’s true in both TV and film, and the Hollywood Awards Industrial Complex has caught up to that fact. Both King and Colman have become almost sure things in recent years, leading to this year’s Emmys, in which both are at the head of the pack in two different lead actress races.
King won the Oscar and Golden Globe awards in 2019 as supporting actress for the feature “If Beale Street Could Talk,” and she also won the supporting limited series/TV movie actress Emmys in 2015 and 2016 (for “American Crime”), and the lead limited series/TV movie actress Emmy in 2018 (for “Seven Seconds”). Now she’s an Emmy frontrunner in the lead limited series/TV movie actress category for her turn as Angela Abar, a Tulsa police detective also known as Sister Night, in HBO’s “Watchmen.”
“Regina is thermodynamic,” “Watchmen” creator Damon Lindelof tells me. “Emotion comes off her in waves. You can almost see it, like the heat distortion over a fire. She is also a paradox, somehow able to be the most powerful person in the room while simultaneously the most raw and vulnerable. She will tear your head off. She will cry in your arms. Most impressively, I have never seen such mastery of control. You never know what pitch she will throw, but the only chance you ever have of hitting it is if she wants you to.”
When I told Lindelof that this column was about two female actors who immediately make something a must-watch — regardless of what it is — he added with a wink, “People sometimes say an actor is so good you’d watch them read the phone book. I just set up a limited series entitled ‘AAA Auto to Melvin Zyrmeyer’ to HBO Max with Regina doing just that. You know you’re curious.”
Colman, meanwhile, won the Oscar and Golden Globe in 2019 for the film “The Favourite,” and won the Globe earlier this year in TV as drama actress for “The Crown.” Last year, she was nominated for a supporting comedy actress Emmy thanks to “Fleabag,” and this year she’s a frontrunner for “The Crown.”
Thanks to the nature of short-order British TV, Colman pops up nearly everywhere — and especially in the past few years, ranging from the dramatic (“The Night Manager” and “Broadchurch”) to the comedic (including “Fleabag” and “Flowers”).
In taking over the role of Queen Elizabeth from Claire Foy in “The Crown,” creator Peter Morgan says Colman was “the one and only name on that list.”
As Morgan told Vogue, “Olivia’s talent is somewhat like Mozart’s in ‘Amadeus,’ in that it’s utterly virtuoso and effortless — and the rest of us just watch like Salieri.”
As I said, awards catnip. And if there’s a club for it, I hope the likes of Meryl Streep are at the front door, letting King and Colman in.