The women of Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” may not run the show onscreen in Gilead, but they certainly do at the Emmys. From the 12 acting nominations the show has netted, 11 have been for female cast members, producing four wins. The only male cast member to have reaped a nomination thus far is Joseph Fiennes in Best Drama Supporting Actor last year for playing Commander Fred Waterford. This year, Season 2 guest star Bradley Whitford, who plays Commander Joseph Lawrence, could turn the tide and be the first male “Handmaid’s” actor to win an Emmy.
We first meet Commander Lawrence in Whitford’s submitted episode, “Postpartum,” the second season’s penultimate hour, when Emily (Alexis Bledel) is assigned as his new handmaid. Given that he’s the architect of Gilead’s economy and founder of the colonies, the worst was to be expected, but Lawrence proves himself to be quite different from other Commanders: His rather chaotic household seems to occasionally deviate from the strictly rigorous Gileadean structure and rules, and he is, for what it’s worth, seemingly more generous to his handmaids than others.
SEE Bradley Whitford on ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’: ‘Unfortunately too much resonance in today’s world’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]
One moment he’s forcefully locking his wife into her room, the next he’s inviting Emily for a drink and conversation at the dining room table. It’s the mystery surrounding Lawrence, his ambiguous behavior, that allows Whitford to give a distinct yet compelling performance that differs from other male performances on the show. And while he didn’t submit the season finale, “The Word,” there’s a rooting factor that arises for his character when he helps the Martha network orchestrate an escape plan for Emily, June (Elisabeth Moss) and baby Nichole to Canada.
Yes, the episodes may have faded from voters’ memory since they were released an entire year ago, but bear in mind that the third season is currently airing and had already premiered when voters began marking off their nominating ballot on June 10. Whitford’s series regular status in the third season has Lawrence front and center of the storyline, and he’s more dubious than ever, this time with a troublesome June as his new handmaid. Whitford has a lot of juicy material to sink his teeth into, and his performance is big and showy, versatile and dynamic — everything Emmy voters like.
SEE A guest win for Cherry Jones would make ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ achieve a rare Emmy three-peat
“Handmaid’s” has especially been great at nabbing guest acting bids, with four of its 12 acting nominations so far being in the guest races. While it hasn’t occupied the drama guest actor category yet, it’s produced back-to-back wins in Best Drama Guest Actress, for Bledel in 2017 and Samira Wiley in 2018. With the overall support for the show in mind, Whitford could further be helped by the fact that he’s a well-respected industry veteran, who’s already a five-time nominee and two-time winner; he won Best Drama Supporting Actor in 2001 for “The West Wing” and Best Comedy Guest Actor in 2015 for “Transparent.”
In our combined Emmy odds, he’s currently the front-runner with odds of 37/10. Trailing him are Ron Cephas Jones (“This Is Us”), Michael McKean (“Better Call Saul”), James Cromwell (“Succession”), Christopher Meloni (“Pose”), and Tituss Burgess (“The Good Fight”).
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