Though it’s beginning to look like this is Jon Hamm’s category to lose, there were still many an interesting performance by other lead drama actors on television this season. With superheroes amidst, undercover KGB spies, and maybe-guilty-of-murder convicts afoot—this category is full of intricate leading men with powerful performances.
Here’s a list of six we’d like to be recognized, with appropriate mean-mugging pictures attached:
Grant Gustin, The Flash
Grant Gustin has definitely evolved since his days as snarky Sebastian Smythe on Glee, where I wanted to punch him for being a jerk to practically all the characters on that show. But one thing’s for sure: Gustin has got my attention now. His deep dive into the marvelous world of The Flash has been record-breaking, heart-stopping and McKenzie-poppin’-out-of-her-chair each week. This actor has been on his A-game since day one and has brought a sincerity and a refreshing dynamic to his already layered character Barry Allen. If he doesn’t win all of the awards, I might have to send the Arrow after all of those folks making decisions at the Emmys.
—Additional writing by McKenzie Morrell.
Freddie Highmore, Bates Motel
The third season of Bates Motel had Norman reveal his other persona, and Freddie Highmore was more than up to the challenge. What could have been a hackneyed performance was instead deeply disturbing—and dare we say humorous? Nervous laughter, of course. It’s that brand that only Bates Motel can deliver. Highmore has this talent of respecting the original Norman Bates performance, and yet completely reinvigorating it into his own. His performance is a delight on Bates Motel.
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
I’ve been on a solo Emmy-for-Matthew-Rhys campaign since, well since season one, but especially since the “You respect Jesus but not us!?” moment. Season three of The Americans had Rhys delve further into his character’s need for intimacy and understanding, all while being strained by his marriage and his duty. His wig reveal is one of the most shocking and emotionally exposing moments on television this season. And his struggle with these intricacies is a true vision to watch on-screen. With every note of the show, Rhys knocks it out of the park. As it was for the past two seasons, it would be a damn shame of the Academy doesn’t recognize Matthew Rhys for a third time for this role.
Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex
Has there ever been a more emotionally stunted character than Masters of Sex‘s Bill Masters? With every line Michael Sheen delivers, there’s a deluge of unspoken feeling deep, deep within his core. It’s a strained performance, but it’s one that’s more than worth tuning into the Showtime drama for each and every week. His chemistry with Lizzy Caplan’s Virginia included, Sheen has created one of the most complex male characters on television.
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
Frank Underwood is absolutely despicable—but dammit if I’m not rooting for him! Kevin Spacey plays House of Cards‘ lead character with a delicious, smarmy, hammed-up performance, and that’s what we love about it. Watching Frank play the pawns of his White House chess game was, and always is, a delight this season. His burgeoning relationship with the writer he chose to write his AmericaWorks book, and the growing disparity in his marriage to Claire, were both such slow characterization progresses, that coupled with his manipulator persona, you begin to see just how well Spacey has developed this role.
Aden Young, Rectify
In perhaps the most quiet performance in the most quiet drama on the slate this season, Aden Young proved he deserved to be part of the Emmy top-dogs. Rectify is a splendid drama, and Young is its splendid leading man. I’m not sure if Daniel is guilty of murder or not, but I root for Daniel and his re-entry into society. Young allows that with ease. Like the drama series post, I don’t want to say too much, except this is an understated performance, and it’s darn compelling.
Honorable Mentions: I think that Jamie Dornan, The Fall, has done great work acting opposite Gillian Anderson, and carrying his half of the Netflix series. I’ve yet to watch all of Better Call Saul, but I’m sure Bob Odenkirk was great. Charlie Cox, Daredevil, played his role deftly. And, as always, Terrence Howard, Empire, seemed like he was having a ton of fun.
Predictions: This seems to be Jon Hamm’s, Mad Men, year. No way he isn’t nominated. Then I think Bob Odenkirk will get a nomination, alongside Kevin Spacey; Clive Owen, The Knick; and Terrence Howard. And then finally, I think the Academy will nominate Kyle Chandler, Bloodline.
This is one in a series of Emmys posts this awards season. Check out the Emmys tag for more dream nominees and features.