Only one of the six nominees for Best Movie/Miniseries Actor — Laurence Fishburne (“Thurgood“) — has won an Emmy and he is the least likely to prevail in this race. Both William Hurt (“Too Big to Fail“) and Barry Pepper (“The Kennedys“) are previous nominees. Idris Elba (“Luther“) also has another bid as Best Comedy Guest Actor for an appearance on “The Big C” while this is the first nomination for both Greg Kinnear (“The Kennedys”) and Edgar Ramirez (“Carlos“).
Elba creates a fully realized character out of a script laden with cop cliches in the miniseries “Luther.” As the obsessive, sometimes dangerous Chief Detective John Luther, Elba lets a criminal fall to his death in the opening scene. His is a complex, but often unsympathetic character, which will work against him despite such showy scenes as when he punches through a door while arguing with his wife. “Luther” was snubbed in the newly combined Movie/Mini race. In the last decade, the only actor to win this award without a nod for his starring vehicle was Andre Braugher (“Thief”).
Fishburne won an Emmy in 1993 for his guest spot on “Tribeca” and was a producer of 1997’s top telefilm “Miss Evers’ Boys,” in which he co-starred with Alfre Woodard. He contends here for reprising his 2008 Tony-nominated role in a one-man play about Thurgood Marshall, the first African-American Supreme Court Justice. In 2009, both Kevin Kline (“Cyrano de Bergerac”) and Ian McKellen (“King Lear”) were nominated in this category for appearing in filmed versions of stage productions; they both lost to Brendan Gleeson (“Into the Storm”).
Kinnear and Pepper play two of “The Kennedys” which was a surprise hit with academy voters racking up ten nods in total. As John F. Kennedy, Kinnear gives the more convincing performance. That’s faint praise, since the rest of the ensemble brings little to the table. Pepper was the least convincing Robert F. Kennedy imaginable, failing to look, sound, or capture the spirit of the man.
Hurt also plays a Washington politico in “Too Big to Fail,” ableit a lesser-known one, former Secretary of the Treasury Henry Paulson. Though Hurt is capable of giving phenomenal performances, as in “Kiss of the Spider Woman” that won him the Best Actor Oscar in 1985, he’s disappointingly one-note here. His mannered inflections hinder him terribly in a film that requires briskly paced dialogue to maintain any kind of momentum. While Hurt gets some nice closeups where he’s expressive enough to give emotional pull to a film that’s otherwise passionless, it’s hard to imagine that’s enough to give him the win.
That leaves Ramirez who inhabits the role of the terrorist Carlos the Jackal over a span of twenty years in the miniseries “Carlos.” He undergoes several physical transformations, speaks a variety of languages, and captures the spirit of this larger-than-life personality. He lost his Golden Globe and SAG bids to Al Pacino, who won the Emmy last year for his performance in “You Don’t Know Jack.” This international production was snubbed in the top race, although the film version won over both the New York and L.A. critics last year and the TV version won at the Globes. While some voters may be put off by the subtitles, Ramirez has a winning way about him and could be the first actor to prevail in this race for a non-English speaking part.
Gold Derby experts, editors, and users agree that Ramirez is the one to beat, with Elba, Hurt and Fishburne fighting for second place.
Senior editors Rob Licuria and Chris Beachum discuss the race in this video slugfest.