Michael Sheen is one of those under-sung actors who rarely disappoints. The curly-haired Welshman who brought TV interviewer David Frost to life opposite Frank Langella‘s Tricky Dick in 2008’s “Frost/Nixon” and played Prime Minister Tony Blair — his second of three times — in 2006’s “The Queen” alongside Helen Mirren as Elizabeth II. But despite solid notices, he was mostly overlooked for his performances when it came to awards. He did land an Emmy nomination for his repeat portrayal of Blair in the 2010 TV movie, “The Special Relationship.” And 2003’s “The Deal,” which featured his first depiction of the British PM, at least won a BAFTA TV award for Best Single Drama.
Anyone who saw him as volatile English football coach Brian Clough in 2009’s “The Damned United” couldn’t help but think he was cheated out of an Oscar nomination. But he also scored high-profile roles in such horror-tinged big-screen hits as the central werewolf Lucian in 2009’s “Underworld: Rise of the Lycans” and as Aro, the head of an ancient vampire coven known as the Volturi, in three “Twilight” films: 2009’s “New Moon,” 20011’s”Breaking Dawn Part 1″ and 2012’s “Breaking Dawn Part 2.”
But Sheen might have his showiest, most frightening and, perhaps, most divisive role yet on the just-begun third season of “The Good Fight,” CBS All Access’s Trump-era legal spin-off of “The Good Wife,” which was an Emmy nomination magnet with 39 nods and five acting wins. So far, the streaming-only “Fight” has only received recognition for its music.
Sheen might change that. He is a disreputable, unethical and obscenely eccentric attorney named Roland Blum, an acolyte of the notorious Roy Cohn and a dirty trickster in the mode of Roger Stone and given to such pronouncements as “You never, ever apologize.” When we first meet him, he is pants-less while injecting Botox in his forehead. Oh, he is also being pleasured by someone unseen who is kneeling. He is fond of fentynal lollipops — he gives one to Maia — and keeps a stash of hospice care packages with anal suppositories with narcotics on hand.
The boorish Blum is partnered with Rose Leslie‘s young lawyer Maia, whose background is also tainted thanks to her jailed Ponzi-schemer dad, as they join forces with co-defendent clients tied to the murder of a journalist. He likes to quote Coleridge and get down to the nitty gritty. “Let’s talk strategy. As attorneys, we aren’t finders of fact. We are tellers of stories.” When a man who lost money because of Maia’s dad’s financial sins harasses her, Blum calls him “Gollum” and tells him to take “a f***ing hike.”
It will be interesting to see where this odd couple relationship goes. Thanks to being off-network, “The Good Fight” can go places that network shows aren’t allowed to, for better and for worse, at least when it comes to Sheen’s out-there character who reminds me of Russ Tamblyn‘s freaky shrink on the first go-round of “Twin Peaks.” The TV critic jury is somewhat split on whether Sheen’s interpretation is over the top or right on. Entertainment Weekly found Sheen’s theatrical performance “exhausting.” The AV Club found Blum to be a “surprising misfire” for the series.
But The Hollywood Reporter declared Sheen to be “exceptional,” while offering this description: “With crazy eyes, a bushy beard, and a waffling Bronx accent, Sheen’s giving a performance of utterly manic grandeur. … It’s a mad, mad, mad performance, and there’s hardly a purpose in awards existing if there’s no room to recognize Sheen’s berserk commitment.” Vulture’s take is somewhere in the middle: “Sheen is right on that line between the sublime and the ridiculous for me, gobbling up so much scenery that it’s hard to even remember what else happens in the episode.” At least they are talking about the actor and his outsized effect on the show. That just might be the first step towards awards-ville.
In the near future, you can check out how our experts rank this year’s Emmy contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own 2019 Emmy predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on July 16.