SAG Awards nominee profile: Hugh Grant (‘The Undoing’) is vying for his first win with his deceptive turn in the mystery series

You could say that Hugh Grant has been taken for granted. In his 39-year film and television career, he has collected only one major industry peer group award: a BAFTA for his starring role in the 1994 British rom-com “Four Weddings and a Funeral” (which also won him his only Golden Globe). Now the actor is looking to grab his first Screen Actors Guild Awards statuette for his dramatic turn as the multi-sided Jonathan Fraser in the HBO miniseries “The Undoing,” which earned him a limited series/TV movie actor bid, bringing his career haul to four citations.

In his category, Grant is nominated alongside Bill Camp (“The Queen’s Gambit”), Daveed Diggs (“Hamilton”), Ethan Hawke (“The Good Lord Bird“) and Mark Ruffalo (“I Know This Much Is True”). Of the bunch, only Ruffalo is a previous champion, having bagged a solo win for the telefilm “The Normal Heart” in 2015 and then a prize as a member of the “Spotlight” ensemble cast in 2016. Like Grant, Hawke now has four noms without a victory under his belt, having been cited individually for “Training Day” in 2002 and “Boyhood” in 2015 and as a member of the latter film’s ensemble cast. Meanwhile, Camp and Diggs both landed their first-ever nominations this year.

Grant’s four bids are evenly split between film and TV. He scored his first two on the film side, as a member of the “Sense and Sensibility” cast in 1996 and individually for his supporting role in “Florence Foster Jenkins” in 2017. Then he broke through for TV just two years ago for the limited series “A Very English Scandal.”

Written by David E. Kelly and directed by Susanne Bier, “The Undoing” follows a successful therapist (Nicole Kidman) and her oncologist husband, Jonathan (Grant), whose privileged New York City life is upended by the murder of Elena Alves (Matilda De Angelis), the mother of one of Jonathan’s patients. Spoiler alert! After an investigation into the homicide paints several different people as potential suspects, the roads lead right back to Jonathan himself. It’s revealed that he had been having an affair with Elena, whom he brutally murdered after ordering her to stay away from his family.

While Grant isn’t the only nominee in the category with a showy part — Ruffalo plays troubled twins, Hawke stars as fiery abolitionist John Brown, and Diggs does double duty as French aristocrat and military officer Marquis de Lafayette and founding father Thomas Jefferson — he might have an advantage in that he is playing against type. Known primarily for romantic comedies, he effectively uses his characteristic charisma to deceive viewers into believing that his character is innocent — in similar fashion to how Jonathan himself fools everyone around him. Grant switches between the loving family man and the sociopathic killer with such ease that it’s hard to believe he isn’t playing two different characters. This is a testament to the actor’s range, which his peers may find hard to resist.

For his work on the show, Grant additionally accrued Critics Choice and Golden Globe nominations, which he lost to John Boyega (“Small Axe”) and Ruffalo, respectively. What could give him the edge at the SAG Awards is that Kidman was also nominated in the TV movie/limited actress category. Not only does her inclusion there indicate strong support for the show, it also gives Grant a historical advantage: only three of the last 10 limited series/TV movie actor winners triumphed as their show’s lone nomination. Camp, whose “Queen’s Gambit” co-star Anya Taylor-Joy is also nominated, is Grant’s only rival who could similarly benefit from that fact, but Camp’s relatively small role and limited screen time could end up hurting him, opening the door for an overdue Grant triumph.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “SAG Awards nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2021 contenders in film and TV.

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