Emmy spotlight: Toby Jones (‘Sherlock: The Lying Detective’) deserves a nom for delightfully evil Culverton Smith

The category of Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor is arguably the most overcrowded this entire Emmy season, with memorable performances from the likes of David Thewlis and Michael Stuhlbarg (“Fargo”), to Alfred Molina and Stanley Tucci (“Feud: Bette and Joan”), to James Cromwell (“The Young Pope”). However, one truly extraordinary performance that we hope doesn’t get lost in the shuffle is Toby Jones‘s role as the delightfully evil Culverton Smith in the TV movie “Sherlock: The Lying Detective.”

Seemingly a benevolent philanthropist and celebrity, it is revealed that Culverton Smith is a serial killer who has one terrifying word for his most sought-after victim: “Anyone.” He doesn’t care who you are, he will kill you for his own sadistic monstrous pleasure. This could easily have been a generic “monster-of-the-week” villain, but Jones takes his role to another level, really showing the subtle depths of the maniacal wickedness within his characters superficial charisma and charm. Like with the Oscar-winning performances given by Anthony Hopkins in “The Silence of the Lambs” and Heath Ledger in “The Dark Knight,” a large part of why Culverton Smith is such an amazing villain is because the actor playing the part is so disturbingly convincing as a genuine psychopath.

Jones has been an Emmy nominee once before, in 2013 for Best Movie/Mini Actor for portraying the legendary director Alfred Hitchcock in HBO’s telefilm “The Girl.” “Sherlock” itself has been an Emmy favorite, receiving a whopping 35 nominations and nine wins throughout its run for its TV movie submissions. Last year, the series even pulled off a stunning upset and won the main category of Best TV Movie for the cleverly plotted and beautifully crafted “Sherlock: The Abominable Bride.”

It certainly doesn’t help Jones that he is having to compete against his “Sherlock: The Lying Detective” co-star Martin Freeman, who gets far more screen time as Sherlock Holmes’ (Benedict Cumberbatch) partner Dr. John Watson. Freeman is also a previous Emmy winner himself for the exact same role and category of Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor for “Sherlock: His Last Vow” in 2014.

However, since the Emmys have already honored Freeman’s spectacular work, isn’t that just more reason to recognize Jones for his one-and-done yet richly layered role as a manipulative serial killer in “Sherlock”? This versatile actor is also on the ballot up in lead for his heartfelt portrayal of a solicitor coming to terms with the death of his son in WWI in “Agatha Christie’s The Witness for the Prosecution.” That he can portray someone so good as convincingly as he does the evil-doer in “Sherlock” is a testament to his extraordinary range.

If I have not convinced you that Jones is deserving of Emmy recognition, perhaps the critical praise he has received will help:

Christian Holub (Entertainment Weekly): “Toby Jones was fantastic as Culverton Smith, supremely creepy and slimy.”

Allison Shoemaker (AV Club): “As Smith, Jones plays his scenes to the hilt, coming just shy of chewing the scenery in a way that’s both upsetting and a lot of fun to watch. He seems to have taken one of Smith’s later assertions, that people will look past pretty much anything if you’re rich and loved, to heart, and makes it obvious from his first lines that he’s a monster.”

Kaite Welsh (IndieWire): “If at times this episode veered dangerously close to horror movie territory, it’s thanks to the brilliant Jones and his turn as the billionaire philanthropist whose folksy charm and Northern accent can’t quite hide the fact that something’s not quite right about him.”

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