Emmy spotlight: Sam Heughan was a revelation in ‘Outlander’ Season 4, but will voters finally notice?

As we look ahead to this year’s Emmys, one lingering question repeatedly comes to mind: What does “Outlander” leading man Sam Heughan have to do for some Emmy attention?

Heughan has missed out on nominations the last three seasons, just like co-star Caitriona Balfe, who has unfairly suffered the same fate. Last year we opined that Heughan was being unfairly snubbed because of the TV academy’s “slap-the-stud” bias against dashing leading men. This year, we hope Emmy voters look past his good looks and star appeal and recognize his consistently strong performances this past season in the Best Drama Actor category.

SEE ‘Outlander’ 4.13 video recap: Season finale ‘Man of Worth’ makes us laugh and cry [WATCH]

In “Outlander” Heughan plays 18th century Highlander Jamie Fraser, who falls in love with Claire Randall (Balfe) after she is mysteriously transports back in time and finds herself in the rugged Scottosh highlands in 1743. In case you’ve been living under a rock, the show is based on the celebrated series of fantasy books by Diana Gabaldon and adapted for TV by Emmy-nominated writer/producer Ronald D. Moore, and is one of the most popular TV series on the planet. Fans rabidly pour over every single detail in every episode. Critics love the show too, heaping praise on the show’s stars and singling out its top-notch production values. But Emmy voters have had an inexplicable blind spot for the show. To date, the Emmys have sprinkled a mere handful of nominations on the show (with no wins), primarily for its lavish costumes, elaborate sets and immersive music.

This past season was based on “Drums of Autumn,” the fourth novel in Gabaldon’s fantasy romance saga. It picks up where Season 3 left off, with our lovebirds now in the New World, starting a new life together in the 18th century colony of North Carolina. The season delivered on many fronts, including the highlight as Jamie and Claire’s daughter Brianna (Sophie Skelton) makes her way back in time and encounters Jamie, the father she never knew.

SEE Caitriona Balfe (‘Outlander’) reveals ‘This is a very different side of Claire this season’ [EXCLUSIVE VIDEO INTERVIEW]

It was a particularly strong season for Heughan. Season 4 featured the usual twists and turns that we’ve come to expect from the show, building up to a number of climactic reunions and reveals towards the end of the season. For instance, the ninth episode (“The Birds & The Bees”) featured the much anticipated first encounter between Brianna and Jamie, who are both shocked and overjoyed that they have finally met each other after being literally centuries apart. We called it a “stunningly beautiful scene” in our video recap of that episode, and declared, “Sam Heughan, you are one of the best actors on television, and you do not get enough credit!” Then in the 10th episode (“The Deep Heart’s Core”), tensions boiled over as it is revealed to Jamie that his daughter was brutally raped by his nemesis Stephen Bonnett (Ed Speelers). In our video recap of that episode, we proclaimed that “this is Sam’s season” and said that “people will make assumptions about Sam Heughan, like he’s second fiddle, or a pretty boy, or there’s no substance to his performance, but that’s just nonsense, because he’s really, really amazing.”

Best Drama Actor is ridiculously competitive every year. What helps Heughan this time around is that the category is to some extent wide open, with last year’s champ Matthew Rhys (“The Americans”) no longer in contention, and both Ed Harris and Jeffrey Wright (“Westworld”) taking the year off. While Jason Bateman (“Ozark”), Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia (“This is Us”) look likely to return as nominees, three open slots means that Heughan has a glimmer of hope that he might finally break through, even with previous nominees like Liev Schreiber (“Ray Donovan”), Bob Odenkirk (“Better Call Saul”) and Kit Harrington (“Game of Thrones”) possibly returning, as well as Golden Globe winner Richard Madden (“Bodyguard”), Globe nominees Stephan James (“Homecoming”) and Billy Porter (“Pose”) and SAG nominee John Krasinski (“Jack Ryan”).

PREDICT the Emmy nominees now; change them until July 16

Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before nominations are announced on July 16. And join in the fun debate over the 2019 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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