SAG Awards nominee profile: Oscar Isaac (‘Scenes from a Marriage’) delivers an acting masterclass

Oscar Isaac has been one of the hottest actors of the past decade, starring in a number of acclaimed films and box office smashes. But it is only now that the actor is getting recognition from the Screen Actors Guild, for his soul-bearing performance in the HBO limited series “Scenes from a Marriage.” Isaac’s delicate work opposite Jessica Chastain landed him a nomination in Best TV Movie/Mini Actor at this year’s SAG Awards, where he stands a chance of winning on his first try.

Isaac is joined by two other first-timers in TV Movie/Mini Actor, both from HBO miniseries of their own — Murray Bartlett (“The White Lotus”) and Evan Peters (“Mare of Easttown”). The other two nominees have a decent SAG history including Ewan McGregor (“Halston”), who scores his first individual recognition after three ensemble bids for “Little Voice” (1998), “Moulin Rouge!” (2001), and “August: Osage County” (2013). Michael Keaton (“Dopesick”) is the only previous SAG winner of this group, winning three ensemble awards as part of the casts of “Birdman” (2014), “Spotlight” (2015), and “The Trial of the Chicago 7” (2020), on top of two individual bids for “Birdman” and “The Company,” a miniseries from 2007.

Over the last 10 years, Isaac has built up a stellar resume, starring in films like “Inside Llewyn Davis,” “A Most Violent Year,” “Ex Machina,” the miniseries “Show Me a Hero,” and a little film franchise called “Star Wars.” Just this past year, he not only co-led “Scenes from a Marriage” but took on a key supporting role in “Dune” and starred in “The Card Counter,” for which he has earned a handful of nominations from critic awards. He has earned a plethora of kudos from critics groups throughout the 2010s but hadn’t quite received industry recognition until this nomination from SAG.

With extensive monologues and arguments, “Scenes from a Marriage” is a dream project for any actor, centering on a married couple whose relationship is gradually coming apart. It would be easy to match the theatrical quality of the writing with an equally over-the-top performance, but Isaac smartly underplays his part as Jonathan, a philosophy professor grappling with the fact that his wife is cheating on him and wishes to end their marriage. Their conversations feel more grounded than the material, which can be attributed to both Isaac and Chastain and the electric chemistry they share. Isaac’s performance rarely hits a false note, even when displaying the full range of emotions required for the role. With the combination of Isaac’s very actor-friendly performance and his soaring career in the industry, it would be foolish to count him out for a win.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “SAG Awards nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2022 contenders in film and TV.

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