It is a testament to actor Mark Ruffalo’s acting prowess that he currently tops the list of actors likely to be Emmy-nominated for their work in a TV movie or limited series despite his current project being sight unseen save for trailers. He also does not lack for competition, either, considering he is up against the likes of Russell Crowe in “The Loudest Voice,” Aaron Paul in “El Camino,” Jeremy Irons in “Watchmen,” Hugh Jackman in “Bad Education” and Andre Holland in “The Eddy.”
One reason why Ruffalo is already ahead of the game with 731 Gold Derby users predicting him to win at 71/20 odds is that he is playing identical twin brothers. One is a paranoid schizophrenic while the other tries to be an advocate for his sibling’s emotional well-being in a six-part adaptation of author Wally Lamb’s nearly 900-page novel, “I Know This Much is True,” a drama that is set in the ’90s during the Gulf War.
Also upping his chances of a win is that the actor rarely does TV projects. In 2014, he received his only Emmy for executive-producing 2014’s “The Normal Heart,” based on Larry Kramer’s play about New York City’s HIV-AIDS crisis in the early ’80s. He was also up for as a lead actor in a miniseries or movie. Ewan McGregor was previously nominated in the same category for his double duty as twins Ray and Emmit Stussy on FX’s “Fargo” in 2017.
Ruffalo, a three-time Oscar-nominee for his supporting work in 2010’s “The Kids Are All Right,” 2014’s “Foxcatcher” and 2015’s “Spotlight” probably couldn’t resist playing such a juicy dual role. His Dominick Birdsey, who must deal with his own issues involving emotional wounds that stem from a traumatic childhood, is dedicated to protecting his disturbed brother Thomas, who ends up in a maximum security ward at a state mental hospital. The family saga, directed and co-written by Derek Cianfrance (“Blue Valentine,” “The Place Beyond Pines”), will premiere on May 10. There is an expansive cast on board, including Melissa Leo, Rosie O’Donnell, Archie Panjabi, Imogen Poots, Bruce Greenwood, Juliette Lewis and Kathryn Hahn.
Watching the trailer above, you can get a sense of how Ruffalo plays each brother as they share a booth in a restaurant. An agitated Thomas says, “We’re living on borrowed time, Dominick. We are wallowing in our grief and spiritual filth and now it’s time to pay.” Dominick plays it cool, saying, “Not to change the subject, but how’s the coffee, buddy?” His attempt to calm his brother doesn’t work, as he implores, “How are we gonna prevent the vengeance of God if we have no respect for human life?”
Dominick tells another family member in the car that it’s not their mother’s fault that his brother is a paranoid schizophrenic. In another scene, a doctor (Panjabi) tells him there was “an incident.” That leads to Thomas being declared seriously mentally ill and taken away, as his brother tries halt those in charge. The most significant spoken line that likely sums up the underlying theme of the limited series, “You don’t just give up on the people you love.”
Ruffalo has always been great at nailing complicated flawed men who often harbor a compassionate side, starting with his 2000 breakout movie, “You Can Count on Me.” Judging from this preview, some considerable investment in Kleenex should be advised.
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