Playing against type is one guaranteed way to get the attention of awards voters. The history of the Emmys and the Oscars are rife with comedic actors who went dramatic and thespians who made us laugh. Voters are always looking for actors who take risks and make us see them in a new light.
Mary Tyler Moore was fresh off a seven-year, Emmy-winning run as adorable news anchor Mary Richards the CBS hit “Mary Tyler Moore” show (1970-77) when Robert Redford cast her as Beth Jarett, the ice-cold mother of two teenage boys, one whose death rocked the family, in the 1981 Best Picture winner “Ordinary People.” Moore’s powerful performance won her a Golden Globe Award for Best Actress (Drama). She lost the Best Actress Oscar to Sissy Spacek for the Loretta Lynn biopic “Coal Miner’s Daughter,” but Redford’s risky casting paid off big-time.
Robin Williams was a comic sensation with one hit series, ABC’s “Mork & Mindy” (1978-82), under his belt when he successfully broke into films with the comedy “Moscow on the Hudson.” He caught the attention of Oscar voters four times, eventually winning Best Supporting Actor for a dramatic turn in the 1997 film “Good Will Hunting.”
On the TV side, Bill Cosby was one of the first talents to win Emmys for crossing over from comedy to drama. He picked up three consecutive statuettes in 1966, 1967 and 1968 for Best Actor in a Drama Series for the NBC hit “I Spy.” Stage actor Carroll O’Connor became a TV star and four-time winner for Best Actor in a Comedy Series for “All in the Family,” but impressed Emmy voters with his dramatic turn as tough Southern cop Bill Gillespie in the TV adaptation of the Oscar-winning movie “In the Heat of the Night.” O’Connor won the award Best Actor in a Drama Series in 1989. (O’Connor also became an early winner of Emmys for comedy and drama, a distinction achieved in recent years by Edie Falco and Uzo Aduba.)
The Limited Series/TV movie category is catnip for actors looking to show their range. Iconic Andy Hardy franchise star Mickey Rooney won a 1982 Emmy for his role as Bill Sackter, an intellectually disabled man who ventures into the world for the first time after spending most of his life in an institution, in “Bill,” based on a true story. Most recently, “Glee” star and musician Darren Criss wowed critics and awards voters with his chilling portrayal of real-life serial killer Andrew Cunanan in the 2016 FX limited series “American Crime Story: The Assassination of Gianni Versace.” Criss was a trophy magnet, picking up an Emmy, a Golden Globe and a SAG award.
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This year, comedian Chris Rock is looking to follow in the footsteps of these performers with his performance as Kansas City crime boss Loy Cannon on FX’s “Fargo.”
A four-time Emmy winner as a writer and performer on comedy specials such as “Chris Rock: Bring the Pain” (1994) and “Chris Rock: Kill the Messenger—London, New York, Johannesburg” (2008), the actor is a well-liked Hollywood figure who hosted the Oscars in 2005. As Cannon, Rock has his richest part to date. In Episode 5, “The Birthplace of Civilization,” he shows his range. Intimidating a shell-shocked cop, shaking down a family that owes him money—it’s pure bravado, and a cakewalk for Cannon. When he utilizes these tactics at home, however, viewers can fully appreciate the depths to which he is sinking—along with enterprise. Rock has his best scene when Cannon treats his wife, Buel (J. Nicole Brooks), with the disdain he reserves for members of the Italian syndicate that wants to run him out of town. “We’re supposed to get rich and stay rich…how?” he says. “By saying our prayers? We’re on the ride now and we can’t get off until the roller coaster stops. Take off your damn coat and get me some f—ing coffee!”
Rock currently has 15-to-2 odds to earn a Golden Globe nomination for Best Actor in a Limited Series/TV Movie. Those odds are likely to improve once “Fargo” reaches its grisly conclusion.
PREDICT the 2021 Golden Globe nominees through February 3
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