Emmy voting has just completed. Over the next few weeks, I'll be laying out who I hope gets nominated in the drama, comedy, and limited series categories in this space, looking specifically at achievements in acting, writing, and directing. Below are my six personal picks for lead acting in a limited series or TV movie, with my preferred winner in bold.
Longform Lead Actress
Bryce Dallas Howard, Black Mirror
Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan
Sanaa Lathan, Shots Fired
Oprah Winfrey, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies
(alt: Shailene Woodley, Big Little Lies)
Hard to deny that this Best Actress field is better than any that the Oscars have provided in the past several years. While actresses like Jessica Lange and Bryce Dallas Howard can’t get good film roles, here they were on the small-screen this past season, offering reminders of their talent with career-best work. Sanaa Lathan and Oprah Winfrey were spectacular in the otherwise-middling Shots Fired and Henrietta Lacks, respectively, and the fantastic Big Little Lies provided a pair of powerhouse but nuanced central performances. Reese Witherspoon was a cackling delight, but in the end, the show became Nicole Kidman’s vehicle, and goodness was she devastating. Tough category, but with a clear victor.
Longform Lead Actor
Babou Ceesay, Guerrilla
Robert De Niro, The Wizard of Lies
Robbie Coltrane, National Treasure
Michael Gambon, Churchill’s Secret
Ewan McGregor, Fargo
John Turturro, The Night Of
(alt: Geoffrey Rush, Genius)
I admired De Niro and Ceesay’s performances in otherwise subpar productions, and very much enjoyed the scenery-chewing work of Michael Gambon and Ewan McGregor. But for me, this one came down to the two subtlest performances of the bunch: John Turturro’s beautifully modulated Night Of turn, and Robbie Coltrane’s delicate handling of a familiar sort of monster in National Treasure. Coltrane is excellent in National Treasure, but his show isn’t even on the ballot (call him and the show a write-in), and Turturro — always a special actor — is really what brings The Night Of to life, eczema and all.