Will Justin Hartley earn an Emmy nomination for his heartbreaking work on “This is Us”? He plays Kevin Pearson, who in season one wanted to be respected as a serious actor and not just the star of his shallow sitcom “The Manny.” But during the show’s second season his storyline dealt with his descent into alcohol and drug addiction and should finally earn him some individual awards recognition after the entire rest of his on-screen family have been singled out for their performances.
Hartley’s best showcase of the season was the November 14 episode “Number One.” After being injured on the set of his upcoming movie Kevin wallows in self-pity. This is intercut with flashbacks detailing how his football career ended when he was injured as a teenager. Back in the present he returns to his high school to receive an award, trying and failing to pretend that everything is okay, but he ends up on the very football field where he was previously injured and delivers a powerful monologue. After hooking up with fellow honoree Charlotte, a doctor, he abruptly leaves to try to score drugs using a prescription he forged from Charlotte’s prescription pad. But he returns when he realizes he left his father’s cherished necklace at Charlotte’s house and delivers a second monologue full of self-hate and loathing.
Hartley excels in those two long speeches, and the Emmys love speeches, as evidenced by past winners of Best Drama Supporting Actor like Peter Dinklage (in 2011 for the “Game of Thrones” episode “Baelor“) and Bobby Cannavale (in 2013 for the “Boardwalk Empire” episode “Sunday Best”). Here’s hoping it will be enough to keep him at the top of Emmy voters’ minds.
The critics agree Hartley delivered a standout performance. Maggie Freemont (Vulture) stated, “Hartley’s portrayal is always engaging and he straight-up hit me directly in the heart in ‘Number One.’” Kimberly Roots (TVLine) declared that Hartley “nails” his monologue. And Caroline Siede (A.V. Club) observed, “His breakdown on Charlotte’s lawn is Justin Hartley’s best performance on the series to date.”
Hartley is a past Daytime Emmy nominee (Best Actor for “The Young and the Restless,” 2016), but he deserves a nomination in primetime, especially after watching every other member of the Pearson clan receive awards attention in its first season. Chrissy Metz, who portrays his twin sister Kate, has received Golden Globe (2017-2018) and Emmy (2017) nominations in the supporting category. Mandy Moore was also nominated for a Golden Globe (2017) in the supporting race for playing Hartley’s mom. Milo Ventimiglia received an Emmy nomination for Best Drama Actor (2017). And Sterling K. Brown has won Emmy, Golden Globe and SAG Awards as his adopted brother Randall. Even Ron Cephas Jones received an Emmy nomination for Best Drama Supporting Actor for portraying Randall’s biological father. And on top of that Gerald McRaney won an Emmy for Best Drama Guest Actor (2017) as the doctor who delivered Kevin. But while Hartley did win at the SAG Awards as a member of the ensemble cast, he’s the lone Pearson still waiting for his first individual kudos.
But this time around Hartley’s Emmy prospects are looking good: currently he is predicted to receive a nomination, ranked in fifth place with odds of 10/1 as of this writing. It helps that last year’s Best Drama Supporting Actor winner, John Lithgow (“The Crown”), is not eligible to return, and Hartley’s co-star Jones may be considered a guest actor this year. The bad news is that “Game of Thrones” is back after last year’s absence: it was ineligible in 2017 since it did not air episodes until the summer. That means Hartley will likely face two-time winner Dinklage (2011 and 2015). And Dinklage’s own on-screen sibling Nikolaj Coster-Waldau could finally earn his first nom himself.
Do you agree that Hartley should receive an Emmy nomination and get the recognition his on-screen family has already enjoyed?
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