Welcome to Emmy Experts Typing, a weekly column in which Gold Derby editors and Experts Joyce Eng and Christopher Rosen discuss the Emmy race — via Slack, of course. This week, we tackle Best Drama Actor, a category with a seemingly rock solid top three from two shows.
Christopher Rosen: Hello, Joyce! Emmy voting has started. We’re back and with a hearty eff off to the other categories, this is our main event: Best Actor in a Drama Series, where “Succession” kings Jeremy Strong and Brian Cox will compete for the top award — and potentially lose to Lee Jung-jae from “Squid Game.” As we know, Lee was the winter awards winner, pulling off a Screen Actors Guild Award victory and subsequent coattail win at the Critics Choice Awards. The logic here is that Cox and Strong are so evenly matched that they’ll split the vote and leave daylight for the “Squid Game” favorite to prevail. I could see that happening, of course, but I remain steadfast in my support of Cox. The stuff he does as Logan in Season 3 is unbelievable — not just when he’s piss mad and upset about imaginary dead cats, but later in the season when he systematically dismantles Kendall and Roman. This is King Stuff and I don’t think even the great Jeremy Strong can touch the hem of his garment in Season 3. Cox is going for it too: he’s part of the recent Hollywood Reporter drama actors roundtable where he spent most of his time matching get-off-my-lawn energy with Samuel L. Jackson. What a legend. Joyce, I’m all about L to the O.G., but I know you — like Jessica Chastain, Anne Hathaway, Michelle Williams and Aaron Sorkin (who doesn’t have social media) — have been a Strong supporter. Make the case for the Roys’ failson.
joyceeng: Oh, you mean you wanna see if the son who always goes rogue goes rogue? (Shout-out to “Girls5eva.”) I love that you’ve brought up that excellent roundtable — no offense to Oscar Isaac, Tom Hiddleston and Quincy Isaiah, but I can listen to Cox, SLJ and Michael Keaton vent all day about why self-tapes and monitors are bad, how contemporary acting can feel like a “knockoff of a knockoff of a knockoff,” and finding themselves acting opposite influencers with 15 million followers — but on the very day that dropped, so did Strong’s Actors on Actors sesh with Queen Anne. They both came to play. I’ve previously shared my ideal scenario of both of them winning before “Succession” ends, so I suppose I should be backing my birthday twin Cox, who’d be an all-time winner (truly, give it to him just for his imitation of Shiv). I probably would have him in first if it weren’t for Strong’s driveway breakdown and confession to his sibs that he committed vehicular manslaughter (who hasn’t clipped the odd kid with a Porsche?). Some people’s thinking two years ago was that Cox would prevail because the bluster of Logan and boar on the floor are too loud to ignore, but the internalized pain and agony of Strong’s performance just cuts deeply and continued to do so in Season 3. Cox has also never beaten Strong when they’ve been nominated together since the latter also won the Globe. You can say that voters might feel like they took care of Strong last time so now it’s Cox’s turn, but if we’re split on this, will Lee just benefit? I never thought Cox and Strong would split the vote in 2020 because they felt like they were so far ahead that one of them would win and there was no consensus alternative that year like there is now.
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Christopher Rosen: I do think Lee could benefit! “Squid Game” is poised to grab double-digit nominations and could threaten to lead the entire Emmys ceremony in nominations. Logically, a show that big will have to win something big, right? And since there really isn’t another spot where it could absolutely win — why not Best Actor? That’s part of the calculus, I guess, and something we’ll likely be chatting about for weeks (weeks!) since the Emmys don’t even take place until September. But let’s look at the rest of the category. So many faves, so few spots. Jason Bateman, Bob Odenkirk, Kevin Costner, Sterling K. Brown, my beloved Quincy Isaiah, your beloved Hiddles. At the moment, I’ve got Bateman, Costner, and Brown filling out the rest of the ballot. But I’m not sure if Costner and Brown can get in — even though both of their shows have remained pretty noisy in the conversation. Where are you leaning here?
joyceeng: I do not have our favorite cowboy, but I do have Brown, who has never missed for “This Is Us.” The show’s Emmy performance has fluctuated, but the one constant has been Brown. He also won his third Emmy in a third different category last year, Best Narrator, beating three-time defending champ Sir David Attenborough, Sir Anthony Hopkins and Sigourney Weaver, so voters are not sick of him yet. In lieu of Costner, I have Odenkirk, who, yes, was shockingly snubbed last time, and no, I do not think the acting branch is watching “Better Call Saul.” Is this a hopediction? Maybe? And I’m not saying people will vote for him because he survived a heart attack last summer, but one of the few times everyone was in agreement about anything in recent years was when we all came together and hoped that Bob Odenkirk would be OK. Just another reminder to appreciate people while they’re here. Before I get all sappy here and make you cry, let me ask you about some other first-year hopefuls. There’s also Isaiah’s co-star John C. Reilly, and Apple has a trio with Adam Scott, Gary Oldman and Lee Min-ho. Meanwhile, Amazon is out there with Josh Brolin of “Outer Range,” who already won the campaign game with his incredible one-on-one.
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Christopher Rosen: Joyce, are you getting sentimental on me? I don’t have Odenkirk in there because I don’t feel like “Better Call Saul” really broke through this season beyond its set fan base. It just seems like if Odenkirk was overlooked previously, he might be again. As for the others, I’d put Adam Scott out in front of the pack. “Severance” is almost assured a Best Drama Series nomination and I think he should be seriously considered as a threat here. Not that I have him in at all. Let me stump for my “Winning Time” pals: I had Reilly in here for a long time because I think that performance is tricky. He’s funny and it could be titled toward comedy — remember how Will Ferrell was maybe going to play this part? — but Reilly also really gets the trauma of Dr. Jerry Buss and his toxicity. But now I think maybe Isaiah is the best part of the show (and not just because I’ve interviewed him). I watched “They Call Me Magic” this week and while there are definitely differences between that docuseries about Magic Johnson and the dramatic interpretation of “Winning Time,” one thing is clear: Isaiah is absolutely uncanny as young Magic in his look, sound, and attitude. It’s just a great performance and one I really think about a lot! (It’s true!) I don’t think he’ll in against some of these heavy hitters, but maybe Season 2?
joyceeng: “Maybe Season 2” is sort of how I feel about Scott, who was in my lineup for a while before I dropped him for Brown. If Scott makes it in, it won’t be surprising at all. It’s funny how this category will have a lot of turnover but not really: Brown is the only eligible returning nominee from 2021, but we could have four of the six nominees from 2020. That’s the other thing: Strong couldn’t defend his crown last year. And while there hasn’t been a repeat winner in this category since Bryan Cranston, if anyone can pull it off, it’s Strong. Besides, he owes Hathaway — and us — a rap. Preferably with Squiggle on the decks.
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