Emmy spotlight: Veteran actor Gerald McRaney makes us cry on ‘This Is Us’

If you’re not familiar with Gerald McRaney by name you probably know his face as he’s been working primarily in television for over 40 years. McRaney has appeared in everything from “Gunsmoke,” the original “Hawaii Five-O,” “Major Dad,” “Touched by an Angel” and “The West Wing” to more recently “Deadwood,” “Justified,” “House of Cards” and “24: Legacy.” Despite having a remarkable and long career McRaney has never earned an Emmy bid, but all that could change this year as we believe he deserves a long overdue nomination for his wise and often heartbreaking performance as Dr. Nathan Katowski on NBC’s “This Is Us.”

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“This Is Us” follows a family in both the past and present as their stories intertwine. McRaney appears in five episodes but is most crucial in the “Pilot” (which should be his episode submission) when Rebecca (Mandy Moore) goes into premature labor with triplets. At the hospital, she and her husband Jack (Milo Ventimiglia) discover their regular doctor’s appendix burst and Dr. Katowski reassures the nervous couple with a humorous and touching monologue that he is up to the challenge. After the delivery, Katowski has to tell Jack that they lost the third baby and gives a memorable monologue about not only losing his wife the year before but their first child and the pain that does not end. His speech puts into motion Randall’s (Sterling K. Brown) adoption, which affects the entire series. As strong as the “Pilot” is, it’s McRaney’s funny and tear-inducing performance that stands out.

Unlike the rest of the cast which will be trying to break cable and streaming strongholds on the drama categories at the Emmys, McRaney will compete for Best Drama Guest Actor which has been kind to performers from the big four networks. Notably, both Dan Bucatinsky (2013) and Joe Morton (2014) recently prevailed in this race for ABC’s “Scandal.” What will truly help McRaney win is the fact that this would be his first nomination for someone who’s had such a long and remarkable career.

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The Emmys love to award journeymen performers and in this category alone, 30-year vet Reg E. Cathey (“House of Cards”) won in 2015, 40-year working actor Morton was victorious in 2014, and after a career spanning three decades Paul McCrane (“Harry’s Law) pulled off an upset victory in 2011.

The one potential problem for McRaney securing a nomination is a show he’s actually guest starred on in the past, “House of Cards.” At last year’s Emmys the streaming drama was able to secure three spots: Mahershala AliPaul Sparks and Cathey. It isn’t a certainty that they will be capable of retaining those nominations, particularly as Ali is not expected to appear this season. However, the show has a large ensemble cast and could easily fill that spot with another actor. Looking ahead, if McRaney receives a nomination he might have to go through last year’s winner Hank Azaria (“Ray Donovan”) who will try and make it two in a row.

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TV critics agree that McRaney is Emmy-worthy, with Mary McNamara (Los Angeles Times) declaring, “Oh, and when I tell you that Gerald McRaney, who plays the obstetrician, deserves an Emmy, like right now, I mean what I say.” James Poniewozik (New York Times) praises, “Gerald McRaney also gives a striking guest turn as a wry, wise obstetrician (which sounds hackneyed even as I type it, yet the character somehow works).” And Team TVLine wrote after the pilot, “As kindly ob-gyn Dr. K, McRaney was warm but firm when reassuring expectant mom Rebecca that he’ll get her through a difficult birth. And [he had] an Emmy-worthy monologue about the inevitability of loss and the importance of making lemonade out of life’s lemons.”

Should McRaney secure his first Emmy nom he could easily be the favorite as he has worked with everyone in the industry, from his wife Delta Burke to Kevin Spacey. Making victory even easier is the rule change a year ago from a ranked vote to a straight plurality vote. Also, assisting him is the rule change from two years ago allowing anyone to vote who participated in the initial nomination process. NBC and “This Is Us” should make it well-known throughout their Emmy campaign how overdue McRaney is for recognition and secure at least one acting prize for their talented ensemble.

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