Chris Sullivan was finally embraced by the Emmys this year, earning his first nomination for Best Drama Supporting Actor for playing Toby in the third season of “This Is Us.” Perhaps it shouldn’t be a surprise that voters finally noticed him considering the strength of his material in season three, with Toby battling depression and going through the arduous pregnancy process with Kate (Chrissy Metz). Both story arcs are featured in the episode Sullivan has submitted to Emmy voters.
In “Toby,” we get to see his past in previously unexplored ways: entertaining his mother as they go through hard times and also grappling with depression when a girlfriend breaks up with him, after which he is unable to get out of bed. In the present Toby is still off his antidepressants, concerned they are negatively affecting his fertility, as he anxiously awaits a call from the doctor to find out if Kate is pregnant. It turns out to be good news, which causes Toby to exhale emotionally. He has a breakdown in front of Kate, who tries to comfort him.
Can Sullivan win the Emmy on his first go-round? Let’s examine the pros and cons.
“Toby” is an accessible episode even for non-fans of “This Is Us.” Even with the show’s serialized storytelling, it isn’t too difficult to pick up on what Sullivan’s Toby is going through, and there is certainly more relatability here than what his Drama Supporting Actor competitors are going through on their respective shows: fantasy battles on “Game of Thrones,” political machinations on “House of Cards,” drug underworld drama on “Better Call Saul.” Sullivan shows the many shades of Toby in this episode, from his eagerness to entertain to his crippling depression, which gives him plenty of emotional impact and range. It is one of the best showcases for Sullivan in all three seasons of “This Is Us” so far.
There are other factors that could play into a Sullivan victory here, like potential vote-splitting between the three actors from “Game of Thrones” and the two from “Better Call Saul.” Michael Kelly (“House of Cards”) is the only other nominee who isn’t up against a co-star in this category, but he has lost three times already. We know the actors’ branch of the academy loves “This Is Us,” given the number of acting nominations it receives year after year, so that could benefit Sullivan greatly.
It is the final season of “Game of Thrones,” and this is one of the easiest categories in which to reward the series without much controversy. Peter Dinklage has won three Emmys already, including one last year when he was also up against one of his co-stars. And considering his strong storyline in the final season, he looks like the clear front-runner at the moment. It will take a significant amount of vote-splitting for Sullivan to overtake Dinklage or his co-stars, Alfie Allen and Nikolaj Coster-Waldau.
It is also hard to ignore the fact that voters omitted Sullivan for the first two seasons of “This Is Us.” This could indicate a lack of overall support, especially compared to all the nominees in this category who have been invited to the Emmy party multiple times before.
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