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Predominate Film Performers Whose Career-Best Performance is in Television.

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  • Gone_Guy
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    #346460

    It sort of dawned on me in a Lead Actress thread just now how many predominate film actors/actresses have done their very best work in a project for television. Some aren’t on the list because there may be a film performance that simply surpasses everything (e.g. Glenn Close was phenomenal in Damages but Fatal Attraction remains her best. Jessica Lange’s career needed AHS and this new franchise needed an A-list veteran to launch it, but Frances will always be the best of the very best). 

    Three immediately come to mind that are in contention this year, two of which are in the same category.

    – Maggie Gyllenhaal, The Honorable Woman
    – Frances McDormand, Olive Kitteridge

    When Gyllenhaal won her Golden Globe, I was annoyed because I thought, “Typical Globes. Going with the younger actress they’ve yet to honor over the veteran actress, who just happens to still be without a Globe.” Then I watched The Honourable Woman and OMG. From the very first episode, Gyllenhaal had me hooked. She’s an actress who’s been nominated for an Oscar (Crazy Heart) and has several performances that should have been recognized with a nom (Secretary, Sherrybaby), plus some really solid performances (Mona Lisa Smile, World Trade Center, Stranger Than Fiction, The Dark Knight, Won’t Back Down). None of them compare to what she does in The Honourable Woman.   

    Frances McDormand is a picky actress for the most part. There are a few films under her belt that make me raise my eyebrows – okay just two: Aeon Flux and Transformers 3 – but for the most part, all of her films are of the highest quality. Her Oscar win for Fargo is one of my very favorites. And as great of a dramatic actress she is, she’s also hilarious! e.g. Almost Famous, Something’s Gotta Give, Burn After Reading. But in Olive Kitteridge, she went center-stage and ripped through the screen.

    As has happened before in this category, there really should be a tie between Gyllenhaal and McDormand. It’s the best each of them has ever been. If I was a voter and had to pick, I would go with McDormand, but in no way would I be sad or upset if Gyllenhaal won. A poster mentioned in another thread that if (and lets be honest, that’s a “when”) Olive Kitteridge wins Miniseries, McDormand will still get an Emmy since she is a producer. I guess that would soften the blow of her losing in Lead Actress, but I would hope voters would opt for Gyllenhaal because they felt she was the best, and not because McDormand was getting a consolation prize in another category. 

    And we haven’t even seen Queen Latifah yet. I wish HBO had held it off until next year. They’ll now have two A-list actresses squaring off against one another.

    Another actress that is up for the performance of her career is Taraji P. Henson in Empire.

    Empire is a perfectly good show, but it is not worthy of a nom or win in Drama Series. As I’ve binged through it in its entirety, I often find myself wondering if I love it because of the performances (because the writing could be tweaked). That I even have to wonder is a testament to Henson because I feel that Terrence Howard is extremely inconsistent. I almost feel like he’s miscast. Two actors I keep thinking would have perfectly nailed it are Chadwick Boseman (so underrated, and so deserves to be a household name) and Cuba Gooding Jr. (would have made for the comeback of the century).

    Buuut Howard isn’t bad by any means, and a giant part of that is due to his scene-partner in Taraji P. Henson. I was actually sad that she would no longer be apart of Person of Interest. Was I wrong or what?! This far surpasses her Oscar nominated performance in The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and her Oscar-snubbed performance in Hustle & Flow. Her two best episodes are “Pilot” and especially “Our Dancing Days.” I personally rank Robin Wright’s performance in “Chapter 32” of House of Cards season 3 as the best performance in an individual episode (AKA what Emmy voters watch), but that doesn’t diminish Henson’s work at all. In the most competitive category of the night, I am keeping my fingers crossed extra tightly that she at least gets the nomination. 

    Past nominees/winners that come to mind

    Actors
    – Steve Buscemi, Boardwalk Empire
    – Gabriel Byrne, In Treatment
    – Steve Carell, The Office
    – Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
    – Peter Dinklage, Game of Thrones
    – Michael Douglas, Behind the Candelabra
    – James Gandolfini, The Sopranos
    – Hugh Laurie, House
    – John Lithgow, Dexter
    – Terry O’Quinn, Lost
    – Mark Ruffalo, The Normal Heart
    – Geoffrey Rush, The Life and Death of Peter Sellers
    – Tony Shalhoub, Monk
    – Martin Sheen, The West Wing
    – Jeffrey Wright, Angels in America   

    Actresses
    – Halle Berry, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge 
    – Drew Barrymore, Grey Gardens
    – Rose Byrne, Damages
    – Joan Cusack, Shameless
    – Claire Danes, Temple Grandin
    – Judy Davis, Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows
    – Laura Dern, Enlightened
    – Minnie Driver, The Riches
    Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel
    – Jennifer Garner, Alias
    – Margo Martindale, Justified
    – Julianne Moore, Game Change
    – Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
    – Lily Tomlin, Damages
    – Sigourney Weaver, Prayers for Bobby
    – Lynn Whitfield, The Josephine Baker Story
    – Alfre Woodard, Miss Evers’ Boys

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    Leon94
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    #346462

    Don’t forget other actresses like Cicely Tyson, The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman and definitely Meryl Streep, Angels in America.

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    Icky
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    #346463

    Emma Thompson in Wit was the first to come to mind,

    Nah to Streep in ‘Angels’. 

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    Halo_Insider
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    #346464

    Pretty interesting thread, and I agree with a lot of the cited cases.

    Matthew McConaughey might have actually achieved his best work on True Detective.
    Helen Mirren in The Prime Suspect series (though she’s really done a lot of TV work throughout her career).
    Kiefer Sutherland in 24 (he was certainly known in films before it premiered).
    Raul Julia for The Burning Season.
    Laura Linney in John Adams, The Big C, and that guest arc of Frasier.
    Liev Schreiber for RKO 281.
    Mira Sorvino in Human Trafficking (well, best work outside of Romy & Michele’s High School Reunion).
    Ray Liotta in his ER guest spot.

    And, then, just some personal caveats:
    There were a couple of times where I thought Buscemi was miscast in Boardwalk Empire. He certainly was good at several points, but I don’t think I’d ever cite it above his work in Fargo, Reservoir Dogs, or Ghost World.
    Julianne Moore was fantastic in Game Change, but I’m not sure that anything tops her work in Far From Heaven and/or Boogie Nights. Though I also haven’t seen Safe.

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    vinny
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    #346465

    Claire Danes came to mind off the bat but I would add James Woods.

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    Madson Melo
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    #346466

    Geoffrey Rush for Life and Death of Peter Sellers and Halle Berry for Introducing Dorothy Dandridge

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    GraysWay
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    #346467

    What a fantastic thread!!  I can see a lot of work has gone into it … well done 🙂 

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    DominicCobb
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    #346468

    How about Cumberbatch?

    Agreed on McConaughey. 

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    Gone_Guy
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    #346469

    Claire Danes came to mind off the bat

    For which role? Honestly, her three greatest roles have been in television. I would rank them:

    1. Temple Grandin
    2. Homeland
    3. My So-Called Life

    Kudos to the Emmys for recognizing all of these with nominations, the latter two for which she won. (And she really should have won for My So-Called Life over Kathy Baker “in my humble opinion.”) 

    but I would add James Woods.

    For which role? He has 8 nominations, all for different projects/roles, and 2 wins:

    *1. 1987 Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special, Promise

    *2. 1989 Lead actor in a Miniseries or Special, My Name is Bill W.

    3. 1989 Performance in Informational Programming, Crimes of Passion
    (lost to Hal Holbrook for Portrait of America)

    4. 1993 Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special, Citizen Cohn
    (lost to Robert Morse for American Playhouse: Tru)

    5. 1995 Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Special, Indictment: The McMartin Trial
    (lost to Raul Julia for The Burning Season)

    6. 2003 Lead Actor in a Miniseries or TV-Movie, Rudy: The Rudy Giuliani Story
    (lost to William H. Macy for Door to Door)

    7. 2006 Guest Actor in a Drama Series, ER 
    (lost to Christian Clemenson for Boston Legal)

    8. 2011 Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or TV-Movie, Too Big to Fail
    (lost to Guy Pierce for Mildred Pearce)   

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    Tye-Grr
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    #346470

    McConaughey has made terrific film choices lately, but IMHO ‘True Detective’ is his best work so far. He just absolutely kills it in every single episode.

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    Tye-Grr
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    #346471

    I’d also like to throw into consideration Martin Freeman for ‘Fargo’ and ‘Sherlock’.

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    Boidiva02
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    #346472

    Past nominees/winners that come to mind

    Actors
    – Steve Carell, The Office
    – Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
    – Hugh Laurie, House
    – John Lithgow, Dexter
    – Terry O’Quinn, Lost

    I would hardly call any of these men “predominately film performers”… Bryan Cranston’s two most well known roles are TV roles.   John Lithgow may have been a known film performer back in the 70’s and 80’s, but his biggest roles have on TV (3rd Rock From The Sun for which he won multiple Emmy’s, Dexter), Terry O’Quinn? His IMDB page reads as a TV actor to me… Maybe I’m misunderstanding what you’re saying… but I can’t call any of these four men “predominately film actors.”  Steve Carrell? he only has a film career BECAUSE of his hit TV show.

    Actresses
    – Halle Berry, Introducing Dorothy Dandridge 
    – Drew Barrymore, Grey Gardens
    – Rose Byrne, Damages
    – Joan Cusack, Shameless
    – Claire Danes, Temple Grandin
    – Judy Davis, Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows
    – Laura Dern, Enlightened
    – Minnie Driver, The Riches
    Vera Farmiga, Bates Motel
    – Jennifer Garner, Alias
    – Margo Martindale, Justified
    – Julianne Moore, Game Change
    – Kyra Sedgwick, The Closer
    – Lily Tomlin, Damages
    – Sigourney Weaver, Prayers for Bobby
    – Lynn Whitfield, The Josephine Baker Story
    – Alfre Woodard, Miss Evers’ Boys

    I would say it’s a little more hazy with the ladies, while Halle Berry, Drew Barrymoore and Julieanne Moore are clearly film actresses first, people like Kyra Sedgwick, Sigourney Weaver, Lilly Tomlin, Lynn Whitfield, Alfre Woodard work as often in TV as they do film.  Jennifer Garner is only known because of her TV career, but has since moved onto doing almost only film work.   

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    Handprintsandgoodgrips
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    #346473

    Claire definitely should’ve won over the overly honored Baker.

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    WaltEagle
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    #346474

    Glenn Close and Forest Whitaker in The Shield 
    Paul Giamatti and Laura Linney in John Adams
    Tobey Maguire in The Spoils of Babylon
    Noah Emmerich in The Americans
    Powers Boothe and Brad Dourif in Deadwood
    Wood Harris in The Wire
    James Cromwell in Six Feet Under
    Mary McDonnell and Edward James Olmos in Battlestar Galactica
    James Franco in Freaks and Geeks
    Hugh Dancy in Hannibal
    Amanda Peet and Melanie Lynskey in Togetherness
    Clive Owen in The Knick

    I’d throw in Woody Harrelson for True Detective too. Super underappreciated.

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