John Lithgow (‘The Crown’) on brink of making Emmy history for playing Winston Churchill

John Lithgow has had a great start to his Emmy campaign for Best Drama Supporting Actor for his role as Prime Minister Winston Churchill on Netflix’s “The Crown.” He took home trophies at the Critics’ Choice Awards and SAG Awards, and picked up additional nominations at the Golden Globes and BAFTA TV Awards.

He became the first performer in the 23-year history of the SAG Awards to win on both the comedy (“3rd Rock from the Sun” 1997-1998) and drama side and he was the first supporting player to win Best Drama Actor. But there’s still history for Lithgow to make if he should win at the Emmys — he’d be the first Best Drama Supporting Actor champ to prevail for playing a real-life person.

According to Gold Derby’s exclusive odds, as of this writing Lithgow is the heavy favorite with odds of 3/1. But there could be a potential hiccup on his way to Emmy #6 — his co-star Jared Harris, who plays King George VI (that was the role that won Colin Firth an Oscar for “The King’s Speech”). Harris is currently on the bubble for a nomination, but is not to be underestimated as he is a past Emmy nominee for Best Drama Supporting Actor (“Mad Men,” 2012) and picked up bids at both the BAFTA TV and Critics’ Choice Awards.

Besides Harris there are many actors looking to end Lithgow’s winning streak. Many of his potential competitors have compelling narratives that could lead to an upset. However, in order to take down a frontrunner there must be only one clear alternative. With so many well-respected performances it might not take many votes for Lithgow to win.

And while it has been more than seven months since Netflix released “The Crown” Lithgow has not been out of sight, appearing as Larry Henderson, a man suspected of murdering his wife on NBC’s “Trial & Error.” He will compete for Best Comedy Supporting Actor at the Emmys for playing this lovable eccentric. Voters will have seen him in two performances that couldn’t be more different.

Lithgow is an Emmy darling, having won five times already: three for Best Comedy Actor (“3rd Rock from the Sun,” 1996-1997, 1999) and twice for Best Drama Guest Actor (“Amazing Stories” in 1986, “Dexter” in 2010). But he’s not just made his mark in television — he’s also a two-time Best Supporting Actor Oscar nominee (“The World According to Garp” in 1982, “Terms of Endearment” in 1983). Lithgow’s picked up two Golden Globes: Best TV Comedy Actor (“3rd Rock from the Sun,” 1997) and Best TV Supporting Actor (“Dexter,” 2010). And he’s even won two Tonys: Best Featured Actor in a Play (“The Changing Room,” 1973) and Best Actor in a Musical (“Sweet Smell of Success,” 2002).

While the drama categories have not awarded an actor playing a real-life person — yet — it has become a  trend in the Limited Series/TV Movie Emmy categories. Of the 40 winners across the four acting categories in the past  decade, 19 have portrayed real-life individuals.

Emmy voters could respect Lithgow’s performance enough that co-stars and other potential nominees might not matter. When you step back and think that the same actor who played a Reverend that banned rock music (“Footloose”), an alien high commander (“3rd Rock from the Sun”) and the infamous trinity killer (“Dexter”) would then portray the iconic Churchill, it’s easy to understand why the TV academy would want to give him his sixth career Emmy and another place in history.

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