At age 73, James Cromwell looks as though he might take home his first Emmy thanks to his performance in "American Horror Story: Asylum." That's the view of seven of our experts, three of our editors, and 58% of our users, which gives him field-leading 5/6 odds overall.
But Cromwell is no slam dunk. Another veteran actor, Peter Mullan, has generated a lot of buzz for his performance in "Top of the Lake." He has the backing of three editors and three experts and gets 3/1 odds. Cromwell's "Asylum" co-star Zachary Quinto is also gunning for the trophy and is predicted by one expert and one editor, resulting in 6/1 odds.
Here's a closer look at the contenders in this race.
Scott Bakula, "Behind the Candelabra"
Bakula contends for playing Bob Black, the man who introduces Scott Thorson (Matt Damon) to Liberace (Michael Douglas). Bakula is no stranger to the Emmys as he earned four consecutive nominations for Best Drama Actor (1990-1993) for his role on the science-fiction drama "Quantum Leap."
Pro: The movie has 15 total nominations and looks very likely to storm several major categories on Emmy night. Bakula could get caught up in that sweep.
Con: His screen time is very minimal, and he is eclipsed by Douglas, Damon, and even Rob Lowe as a plastic surgeon with a face lifted and stretched beyond recognition.
James Cromwell, "American Horror Story: Asylum"
Cromwell portrays the sadistic Dr. Arthur Arden, who performs torturous experiments on the patients at Briarcliff Asylum. Cromwell is an Oscar nominee (1995 Supporting Actor, "Babe") and now a four-time Emmy nominee. He was previously nominated in this category in 2000 for "RKO 281" and was nominated for Drama Guest Actor in 2001 for "ER" and 2003 for "Six Feet Under."
Pro: He appears prominently throughout the miniseries, so even if voters don't watch the whole thing they will still get a clear sense of his performance. And the Emmys love a good villain. In this category alone, wicked roles have brought victories to George C. Scott ("12 Angry Men," 1998), Brian Cox ("Nuremberg," 2001) and last year's winner Tom Berenger ("Hatfields and McCoys"). Being an acting veteran has also helped past winners in this category, including Peter O'Toole ("Joan of Arc," 1999), Michael Moriarty ("James Dean," 2002), Ben Gazzara ("Hysterical Blindness," 2003), Paul Newman ("Empire Falls," 2005), Tom Wilkinson ("John Adams," 2008) and Ken Howard ("Grey Gardens," 2009).
Con: The more horrific elements of his character and storyline could turn off some voters. Also, his co-star Zachary Quinto delivers another showy, villainous performance, which could siphon votes from him.
John Benjamin Hickey, "The Big C: Hereafter"
The recent Tony Award winner (2011 Featured Actor in a Play for "The Normal Heart") earns his first Emmy nod for playing the eccentric Sean Tolkey, whose sister (Laura Linney) is in the final stages of terminal cancer.
Pro: Hickey is sympathetic as he tries to do everything he can for his sister during her final weeks.
Con: Considering that the program's only other nomination is for Linney, overall support for the program does not seem to be overflowing.
Peter Mullan, "Top of the Lake"
Veteran Scottish actor Mullan earns his first Emmy nod for playing Matt Mitcham, a local crime boss whose pregnant 12-year-old daughter goes missing.
Pro: TV Academy voters responded well to the Sundance miniseries, giving it eight total nominations. As with Cromwell, being a respected veteran certainly helps (Mullan won Best Actor at Cannes in 1998 for "My Name is Joe") and he also plays a villain. If voters are turned off by the horror aspect of Cromwell and Quinto's performances, this may be a likely place for them to turn.
Con: He's not very well known in the US, which may be a liability against more recognizable stars.
Zachary Quinto, "American Horror Story: Asylum"
Quinto earns his first Emmy nomination as Dr. Oliver Thredson, a psychiatrist treating patients at Briarcliff Asylum, but who is harboring some very dark secrets of his own.
Pro: Quinto pulled off a huge upset earlier this season when he beat Cromwell in this category at the Critics' Choice TV Awards, and as discussed above playing a villain doesn't hurt. Quinto is also a hot commodity in Hollywood right now, especially with the summer release of the blockbuster "Star Trek Into Darkness," in which he plays Spock. He is also breaking barriers as a highly sought-after actor who is openly gay.
Con: He doesn't appear in the miniseries until the second episode, and it takes several more episodes for his character's true nature to be revealed and his performance to truly be appreciated. Also, at age 36, he is the youngest nominee in this category and younger than most previous winners.