Emmy spotlight: John Lithgow steals ‘The Crown’ as Winston Churchill

This year, John Lithgow has a shot at not one, but two Emmy nominations for his new TV series: Netflix’s drama “The Crown” and NBC’s comedy “Trial & Error.” Today, we’ll be talking about his performance as prime minister Winston Churchill on the first season of “The Crown,” a role that has already earned him trophies at the Critics’ Choice TV Awards and the SAG Awards.

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On the Netflix drama, Lithgow embodies Churchill during the early reign of Queen Elizabeth II (Claire Foy) in the 1940s. He steals the show with his Daniel Day-Lewis-level performance. At times, you’re almost convinced that it’s the prime minister himself on screen. Following victories at the Critics’ Choice and SAG Awards, could an Emmy for Best Drama Supporting Actor be next for this veteran star? It would be his sixth career Emmy after one for guesting on “Amazing Stories” in 1986, three for Best Comedy Actor on “3rd Rock from the Sun” in 1996, 1997 and 1999, and one for his guest role on “Dexter” in 2010.

In a career spanning over 45 years, Lithgow has also garnered two Tony Awards (“The Changing Room” in 1973, “Sweet Smell of Success” in 2002), two Oscar nominations (“The World According to Garp” in 1982, “Terms of Endearment” in 1983), three Screen Actors Guild Awards (the first two for “3rd Rock from the Sun”), and two Golden Globes (“3rd Rock from the Sun” in 1997, “Dexter” in 2010).

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TV critics agree that Lithgow is Emmy-worthy, with Lucy Mangan (The Guardian) writing, “All the main historical markers are hit. There’s Churchill’s re-election and battle with ill-health (he is played, magnificently and in the end impossibly movingly, by John Lithgow).” And Hank Stuever (Washington Post) says, “John Lithgow plays the part with such a commanding presence that it becomes surprising and genuinely moving as the layers are peeled back and we see Churchill at his most vulnerable.”

The good news for Lithgow is that the TV academy loves seeing this character on the small screen. They’ve already awarded Albert Finney in 2002 and Brendan Gleeson in 2009 for their performances as Churchill in “The Gathering Storm” and “Into the Storm,” respectively. There’s also two different biopics centering on the prime minister coming out this year: “Churchill” starring Brian Cox set for release on June 2, and “Darkest Hour” starring Gary Oldman set for release November 24.

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