Six-time Emmy champ Bryan Cranston is nominated again this year for reprising his 2014 Tony-winning performance as Lyndon B. Johnson in the TV adaptation of “All the Way.” However, before he starts planning his acceptance speech, he may want to chat with another nominee who is up for recreating a role that won her a record sixth Tony in 2014, Audra McDonald (“Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill”). After all, she didn’t fare so well the last time she was at the Emmys for the TV version of a Tony-winning production.
In 2004, McDonald took home her fourth Tony for her featured role opposite Sean “Puff Daddy” Combs in the revival of “A Raisin in the Sun.” And Phylicia Rashad made Tonys history as the first African American to win Best Actress for her starring role in this acclaimed production of Lorraine Hansberry’s 1959 play about a family’s struggle for a better life. In 2008, these Tony winners, along with Coombs, appeared in a telefilm version of the play and both reaped Emmy bids. Rashad, who had contended twice for “The Cosby Show” (1985, 1986) was the frontrunner for Best Movie/Mini Actress but lost to Laura Linney who went along for the ride as “John Adams” won a record 13 Emmys. And McDonald was bested by Eileen Atkins for her scene-stealing performance in “Cranford.”
In 2013, Cicely Tyson (88) became the oldest performer to win a Tony Award when she was named Best Actress in a Play for “The Trip to Bountiful.” The following year, she headlined a TV movie version of this piece that Horton Foote had written as a teleplay in 1953. Lillian Gish created the role of Carrie Watts, an elderly woman who longs to see her childhood home one last time. Geraldine Page took home an Oscar in 1986 for the film version and Tyson was favored to win Best Movie/Mini Actress at the Emmys but lost to Jessica Lange for “American Horror Story: Coven.”
In “All the Way,” Pulitzer-winning playwright Robert Schenkkan (“The Kentucky Cycle”) told the story of Lyndon B. Johnson, who became President after the assassination of John F. Kennedy in 1963. It focuses on his fight to get the Civil Rights Act passed by Congress, all the while dealing with the political pressures of his unexpected presidency. Following its premiere in 2012 at the Oregon Shakespeare Festival in which Jack Willis originated the role of LBJ, Cranston headlined a 2013 production in Boston that transferred to Broadway in early 2014.
Back then, he was coming off the acclaimed final season of “Breaking Bad.” In the hotly contested Best Actor in a Play race at the Tonys, he edged out Mark Rylance (“Richard III) — who won his third Tony that night in the featured category for “Twelfth Night” — as well as three-time Emmy winner Tony Shalhoub (“Monk”) who was on his third Tony nomination with “Act One,” past Tony contender Samuel Barnett (“Twelfth Night”) and Broadway newcomer Chris O’Dowd (“Of Mice and Men”).
Cranston capped off 2014 with his fourth Best Drama Actor win for “Breaking Bad” and his second as a producer of this Drama Series champ. TV academy voters may decide to go with another Tony winner, Courtney B. Vance (“Lucky Guy,” 2013), who reaped his first Emmy nomination for his portrayal of Johnny Cochran in “The People v. O.J. Simpson.”
Indeed, seven journalists who’ve piped in with their early Emmy predictions think Vance will win. They are: Debra Birnbaum (Variety), Joyce Eng (TV Guide), Tom O’Neil (Gold Derby), Robert Rorke (New York Post), Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine), Paul Sheehan (Gold Derby) and Jarett Wieselman (Buzzfeed).
Cranston has the backing of five of our experts: Eric Deggans (NPR), Matthew Jacobs (Huffington Post), Kerr Lordygan (Rotten Tomatoes), Anne Thompson (Indiewire), Adnan Virk (ESPN).
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