Emmy spotlight: F. Murray Abraham (‘Homeland’) keeps us guessing about his mysterious motives

When F. Murray Abraham joined the cast of “Homeland” in its second season, it was for a two-episode guest spot. Yet his character Dar Adal, a black ops specialist with mysterious motives, proved to be an indispensable asset for the Showtime espionage series, so he has been with the cast ever since. Abraham, who won the Oscar as Best Actor for “Amadeus” (1984), now deserves a Drama Supporting Actor Emmy for his outstanding work this season.

From the beginning, Dar’s actions have been dubious as he keeps us guessing if he is working with CIA operative Carrie Mathison (Claire Danes) or against her. That question was especially hard to answer this season, as Dar sought to undermine the authority of President Elect Elizabeth Keane (Elizabeth Marvel) through a vast conspiracy of fake news and other operations. Yet were his intentions wrong? Was he right to assume that there was something slightly un-American about the incoming President? For those of you who aren’t all caught up, these questions are best left unanswered in this spotlight article.

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Besides, you’ll want to savor the ways Abraham subtly straddles the line between hero and villain throughout the season. With his smooth, baritone voice, the actor delivers each line with a Shakespearean bravado that elevates every scene he’s in and makes us miss him when he’s missing. He has so many standout moments that it’s almost impossible to pick just one episode to single out, yet “Imminent Risk,” in which a moment from Dar’s past comes shockingly to light, could be an excellent choice. Cynthia Littleton of “Variety” praised his performance, saying, “F. Murray Abraham is very good at being very bad.” Judith Warner of “The New York Times” was delighted as well, stating, “Dar’s psychic game-playing is the emotional equivalent of fingernail extraction, and it leaves no physical evidence.”

Abraham previously reaped a Drama Guest Actor nomination in 2015 for the show’s fourth season, losing to Reg E. Cathey in “House of Cards.” With both Peter Dinklage and Kit Harington out of the running this year for “Game of Thrones,” that leaves two open spots for the actor to sneak into, assuming that Jonathan Banks (“Better Call Saul”), Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”), Jon Voight (“Ray Donovan”), and last year’s winner, Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline”), all return.

Abraham seemingly came out of nowhere to win the Oscar as the envious and duplicitous Salieri in “Amadeus” after years of bit parts in film and television. Too intelligent and distinguished to be a traditional leading man, his career failed to truly take off until decades later. In “Homeland,” he’s finally found a role to match the one in Milos Forman‘s Best Picture winner, and he’s once again deserving of a golden statuette.

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