Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Kyle Chandler (Eric Taylor)

Friday Night Lights

A small town football team is only as good as its coach. While there may be individual stars, while there may be supportive fans, they will be nothing without the guidance of a coach who can step forward and lead his or her team to victory. Much like a small town football team, a television drama is nothing with its lead actor, and in this case this analogy could not be more apt. Kyle Chandler delivers a career performance as Coach Eric Taylor, a man who is still overwhelmed by the spectacle of small town Dillon, Texas, but is always powerful and strong when it comes to leading his team. I don’t think I knew Chandler had it in him: to be so vicious and intimidating in the locker room at halftime when his team needs encouragement or discipline takes a lot of skill, and Chandler always nails it. Coach Taylor is never too mean, too vindictive, and yet is never too soft in the process. Even as we see his softer side at home with his family, we always still believe he could kick our ass if he put his mind to it. That duality is brought to life in Eric Taylor by Kyle Chandler, and it is most certainly an Emmy worthy portrayal.

Faced with a tragedy in his very first game, Eric Taylor needs to take a team reeling from the loss of their star quarterback and keep the town from turning against him. As the show’s drama creates racial tensions, steroid problems, family drama, relationship drama, Taylor has to keep all of it from seeping onto the field. That job is not an enviable one, and it certainly provides a lot of stress for Taylor. And yet, more importantly, this is combined with his own family life. A daughter dating his quarterback might be tough enough, but then there’s his wife. Tami Taylor is opinionated, charming, and is simultaneously his rock and the thorn in his side. Chandler is so deftly able to balance being a father, being a husband, being a coach that I don’t know if I’d define him as just one of them in any situation. He never seems superhuman, dealing with all of this, and yet he never seems vulnerable either.At the end of the season, he faced a decision between his family and his future, putting everything on the line…and we never found out his decision. Whatever it will be, I believe that it will seem natural, honest in the hands of Kyle Chandler, and will be yet another reason why he deserves an Emmy nomination.

Episode Selection: “Eyes Wide Open” (Aired October 10th, 2006)

In the first episode written by series showrunner Jason Katims, Eric Taylor is in pretty well full-on Coach mode. While I talked a lot above about how his duality is perhaps his greatest quality, I cannot argue with this submission. His relationship with his wife is more suited to Connie Britton’s Emmy reel, and I figure that any attention she receives will likely showcase that side of his character. For Emmy voters, the powerful coach who is capable of inspiring even a terrified backup quarterback who has never played a full game in his life is the best angle. Chandler’s inspirational speech within this episode was just perfect: he is everything a coach should be, as relatable as a friend but as insightful as an elder. I’ve had this YouTube video selected since the idea for this preview began, and I won’t be switching now. It is one of the most inspiring dramatic performances of this past year, and is certainly worthy of Emmy consideration.

YouTube “Eyes Wide Open”

Matthew Fox (Jack)


Matthew Fox has the rather unfortunate reputation as being someone who fans of Lost don’t really care about. Locke is the badass, Hurley’s the comic relief, Ben is the villain, Sawyer’s the rebel, and Jack is just kind of there. It didn’t help that this season we had to sit through one of the series’ most pointless backstories, a muddled mess of crazy tattoos and other such things from Jack’s past. “Stranger in a Strange Land”, and all of this talk of Jack lacking a hook needs to be put to rest, however. What makes Matthew Fox’s performance so strong as Jack is that, believe it or not, he’s all lies. He was on this island as a man damaged by his past, but he had to become a hero. Becoming a hero basically neutered Jack as a character, which is why there are very few who claim him as their favourite. However, there needs to be recognition for those who step up and who are conflicted heroes struggling to keep it together. Jack Shepherd is one of those characters, and Matthew Fox’s portrayal of him is worthy of Emmy consideration.

This season was really the one where Jack was forced to question who or what he believes in. Captured by The Others and forced to collaborate with them, he began to come to terms with his tenure on the island and his true purpose. Leaving himself behind while allowing Kate and Sawyer to escape, Jack worked within the Others in an attempt to go back to the outside world. When that went up in flames, Jack was suddenly back in his old role as leader…and struggling. He didn’t trust Kate, after her lust-filled cage stay with Sawyer, but his trust of Juliet was questionable. The people in the camp didn’t trust him, and yet they still went to him for some level of guidance. Jack was a stranger, in a sense, to these people, as his time away made room for other leaders and other symbols of guidance. What Fox brought to the role was, ironically, a sense of leadership that was bestowed as opposed to gained. He became a de facto leader in season one, and now people are starting to wonder who died and made him king…and he’s reacting. And that reaction, which brought the entire story together, is what makes Matthew Fox an Emmy contender.

Episode Selection: “Through the Looking Glass” (Aired May 23rd, 2007)

Now, parts of this episode feature overacting on Fox’s part, especially within the convention-breaking flashforward. However, and this is a big however, this episode is more important for the meaning behind the flash forward, which Fox plays extremely well in conjunction with his island actions. On the island, Jack is leading a group of castaways to a radio tower in hopes of getting them rescued, finally living up to his promise to these people. All the while, his leadership is being questioned (Leaving people behind to shoot dynamite, as an example), and he feels that he has something to prove. For him, he wants to get these people off this island so that he won’t have to bear their weight on his shoulders.

And yet, in his flash forward, we realize that he got off the island…but that weight didn’t disappear. Something that happens is still carried on, destroying him from the inside; something about Jack is off, and the real tragedy is that he could have stopped it. When Ben warns him of Naomi’s true purpose, of the boat coming not being a friendly vessel, Jack’s response is to pound the crap out of him. That moment of tragedy, of fighting for what he believes is right while damning himself and all of the people he’s trying to save, is just perfectly acted by Fox, and it provides a brilliant cap to his season-long story arc that Emmy voters should take notice of. He’s submitted another episode as far as we know (Season Premiere “A Tale of Two Cities”), but he should have darn well switched to this one.

YouTube“Through the Looking Glass”

Kiefer Sutherland (Jack Bauer)


Jack Bauer ended season five of 24 abducted by Chinese authorities for his fourth season antics at the Chinese consulate. It was the kind of cliffhanger the show had never really attempted, not to this degree anyways, and the result was what seemed like an opportunity for Kiefer Sutherland to really play around this season. Released by Chinese authorities after some form of convoluted plea agreement we never got a chance to understand (and that didn’t matter two hours later), Jack returned a damaged man struggling to come to terms with the torture he endured. Over the first four hours, Jack Bauer was a damaged man; while instinct and adrenaline kicked in as they usually would, Jack was slow on the draw in pretty well every instance. Kiefer Sutherland portrayed this character with just the right amount of breakdown: Jack was still Jack, but it was now more of a costume than it was his true feelings. That performance was won that could have won Sutherland his second straight emmy, and it is still worthy of a nomination. However, unfortunately for Sutherland, the rest of the season let Jack down.

One of arguments I’ve read about the season is that Jack didn’t have enough action this season, that he never really got to be Jack Bauer. I would actually argue that the problem with Jack this season was that he was exactly like Jack Bauer, and his torture-riddled body was magically perfect from hour five onwards. What could have been a dramatic arc for the character basically became an excuse to gain a strong opening set of episodes, and the result was that Jack didn’t have a purpose during the middle of the season. Combine this with the lack of action, and you had a character without character, never really allowed to have any emotional depth.

Despite this, Kiefer is here is because he is both likely to be nominated and probably deserves it. I hold the writers responsible for all of the problems Kiefer faced, and he always lived up to whatever they asked of him. Also, while it was too little too late, the end of season arc featuring Audrey gave Sutherland a chance to return to the more emotional arc that was stronger at the beginning of the season. The thing about Sutherland is that his performance is always strong: even when the series dipped in season 4, for example, Sutherland was never responsible. From an acting perspective, Kiefer delivered an even performance pretty well all the way through Season Six, which is worthy of Emmy consideration.

Episode Selection: “6:00am – 7:00am” (Aired January 14th, 2007)

However, his chances of winning will all come down to which episode of the show he submits, and he has chosen to submit the first hour of the show’s two-hour season opener. This submission will pretty well ensure that he gains a nomination for the series: it shows the pain he suffered while in China, it shows him resolving to give up his own life for his country, and at the end of the episode he goes all Vampire on one of Fayed’s men and escapes their clutches. That combines the type of emotional storyline I discussed above with the bad-ass Jack that Dave and others were looking for. I think that the episode’s potential for Jack’s character wasn’t lived up to, but Emmy voters don’t know that. And, as a result, this episode will be more than enough to put Kiefer Sutherland up for Emmy consideration.

YouTube“6:00am – 7:00am”

Michael C. Hall (Dexter Morgan)


Michael C. Hall spent years on Six Feet Under as perhaps the least nominated star of the HBO series. When it ended, he was probably not expected to make a huge splash compared to his high-profile co-stars like Peter Krause. Well, Michael C. Hall proved them all wrong, landing the starring role on Showtime’s Dexter and knocking it out of the park. Dexter is a character that needs to be likable and yet contain the type of rage and emotional distance required to represent his tortured past. Hall manages to walk this fine line in his various relationships on the show, and I believe that he has one of the toughest roles of any of the drama candidates. While so many of these actors need to act a certain way, Hall needs to present a character who is acting nearly all the time, lying to all those around him. And his deft ability to do so makes him worthy of Emmy consideration.

Dexter Morgan is a character that is a forensic blood analyst by day, but moonlights as a vigilante law enforcer, torturing and murdering people who have wronged others and slipped through the cracks of the justice system. Michael C. Hall brings him to life…well, that’s the wrong term, because part of Dexter (The caring, emotional part) is dead. As the season progressed, it became harder and harder to keep up his lie, and he even found himself regaining some of his emotions with his relationship with Rita. Combine this with the fact that an ice truck killer knows Dexter’s secret and is taunting him, and you have a man in a dire situation.

And Michael C. Hall always represented that. His delivery, his mannerisms, his actions, they all fit the incredibly hard to nail down profile of vigilante murdered lying to his friends and family and incapable of controlling his anger or caring about others. Dexter is not evil: he kills only those who deserve it based on rules set forth by his adopted father. And somehow, even as he murders someone almost every episode, Hall manages to make us empathize and care about this murderer, and yet still fear who he is and what he does. And that is a performance worthy of Emmy consideration.

Episode Selection: “Shrink Wrap” (Aired November 19th, 2006)

The season finale (“Born Free”) of Dexter is what has actually been selected, and it is still a fantastic piece of acting from Michael C. Hall. With his sister in danger and the ice truck killer’s identity revealed, Dexter must face his torturous past while making a final decision: does his past define him, or can he decide his own fate with his sister and the people who care about him? Both offer the titular freedom, but in very different ways, and Hall makes that decision just as hard as it should be.

But I think that the best episode for Dexter is “Shrink Wrap”, where he heads to a therapist as part of a case and ends up finding need for his services himself. It’s a powerful performance from Hall, as the following scene shows: Dexter finally tells someone the truth, if only right before he kills them.

YouTube“Shrink Wrap”

Edward James Olmos (Admiral Adama)

Battlestar Galactica

Emmy voters like to pretend that Battlestar Galactica doesn’t exist, but I don’t really understand this perspective. The show is incredibly powerful television, and while its writing can be uneven I believe that its cast is always its strongest asset. And, as the pivotal figure at the center of it all, Edward James Olmos’ Bill Adama is the show’s rock if you will. This past season has seen Adama face a wide variety of different emotions, struggling to come to terms with his abandonment of his own crew on New Caprica and once again the betrayal of his son in a time of need. What Olmos brings to Adama, and to the show, is a sense of maturity; while the rest of the characters around him fall into various turmoil he is left to reassure and comfort all of them while also struggling with his own inner demons. That portrayal, voter ignorance or no voter ignorance, is worthy of Emmy consideration.

What makes Olmos so powerful in this role is that he has to wear so many hats (Note: none of these hats are literal, but I’d picture him in a nice fedora). He has to be admiral to the crew of the Battlestar Galactica. He has to be shrewd negotiator (And romantic tension partner) with President Roslin. He has to be father to Lee, and to more or less his adopted daughter Starbuck, but at the same time they are crew members and need to be treated accordingly. He needs to be friend and AA sponsor for Col. Tigh, and he also has to, you know, protect the entire flight from the pursuing Cylons. And, at season’s end, he sits on a tribunal which judges the guilt of Gaius Baltar in the mass murder of numerous humans on New Caprica.

And through it all Olmos is equal parts fatherly, orderly, strong, vulnerable, empowering, inspiring and just plain fantastic. There are parts of the show that we may criticize, but there can be no one who speaks ill of the performance from Edward James Olmos. Plus, he had a kickass moustache for a while this season. And all of those qualities, especially the moustache, make him worthy of Emmy consideration.

Episode Selection: “A Day in the Life” (Aired February 18th, 2007)

I don’t like this selection for one main reason: I didn’t particularly enjoy the episode. What frustrated me about this episode was that its gimmick, Adama’s wife comes back to haunt him in the present, just isn’t that engaging and seemed to be airing at a time when I really wanted the series to return to its more entertaining elements. However, I can’t deny that it perhaps contains the most dramatic and central performance that Olmos was able to give all season. It shows his tough life, having to balance all of those various roles while also struggling to come to terms with his past. It might not be my favourite episode (definitely isn’t), but I think that it has a decent chance with Emmy voters.

However, my selection would be “Unfinished Business”, where a series of boxing matches and flashbacks tell multiple stories, including Adama’s. Since so many BSG YouTube videos are fan shipper videos, I have to settle for a YouTube clip of this episode. Which is awesome.

YouTube“Unfinished Business”

Hugh Laurie (Gregory House)


Alone amongst procedural dramas, there is no question that there is a single star of FOX’s House; Hugh Laurie’s portrayal of the prickly doctor has perhaps been one of the most universally loved in recent years. There is something about his demeanor that is so incredibly engaging, and there is little question that it elevates this drama from being a mid-level success to one of the highest rated dramas on television. And yet, there is something more to House than just his jokes; he is a damaged man, struggling to come to terms with his own lot in life. While the character can occasionally be written into a bit of a hole (And parts of the season find him mired in annoying legal drama), Laurie always manages to pull something out of his ass that is sheer genius. What makes his performance Emmy worthy is that in those moments that the show reveals itself as the shallow procedural it is at its core, Hugh Laurie’s House always shines through as a beacon of hope and high class television. It may just be my affinity for British accents, but I must consider Hugh Laurie as a serious Emmy contender.

What Laurie brings to the table, every time, is a sense of complete and total apathy for his co-workers, his patients, and pretty well everything around him. It’s a difficult role to play while remaining likable, but Laurie always does it. Whether he’s tearing apart Chase, Cameron and Foreman, or sparring with Wilson, or torturing Cuddy, it always seems like House is having a hell of a lot of fun with himself. For an entire episode he exists only in that mode, but then he ends up stepping in by episode’s end, meets the patient, interacts with them, and all of a sudden he cares. It’s like a light switch very suddenly turns on, and Laurie makes that transition every time without seeming too obvious about it. I keep waiting to see whether House will at some point cross a line between cantankerous doctor and insufferable jerk, but Laurie always walks that line extremely carefully. And, in his show-making efforts, Hugh Laurie turns in an Emmy worthy performance.

Episode Selection: “One Day, One Room” (Aired January 30th, 2007)

Smartly, the episode Laurie is submitting is the one where all of that is challenged, and where someone sees him for the tortured soul he really is as opposed to the façade he places in front of people. Unfortunately, it’s not the episode I would have picked. One Day, One Room isn’t his selection, but I like it more than “Half-wit”. When a rape victim enters into the clinic and spends time with House, who of course is his usual clinic self, and decides that she will only speak to him. She realizes that he is kind of like her, in a way…or maybe she’s just crazy. Either way, the entire episode lets Hugh Laurie enter into deep philosophical discussions, and under the guise of “drama” I believe that it is his strongest performance of the season. Of course, he submitted a different episode (One where he treats Dave Matthews’ musical savant) that is also good, but I like this one better. So tough, Hugh Laurie.

YouTube“One Day, One Room”

Enrico Colantoni (Keith Mars)

Veronica Mars

I was somewhat surprised to see that Veronica Mars’ Enrico Colantoni had submitted in the Lead Actor category, as I really never saw his performance as being on that level. Sure, I love Keith just as much as the next fan of the show, but he’s being classified a lead actor purely due to his acting pedigree. In reality, I’d call Jason Dohring more of a lead actor this season than Keith was, but I have to go with what was submitted. It’s really not that hard, however, to make a case for Colantoni’s Emmy worthiness. Keith is a memorable television father whose love for his daughter faced many challenges over three seasons but never waned. As the show comes to an end, it is unlikely that it will be garnering Emmy attention as it doesn’t seem to write Emmy bait episodes like other series. However, there is something about Colantoni’s performance that simultaneously portrayed Keith as kind, concerned, protective and pretty darn cool: and that’s worthy of Emmy consideration for the Veronica Mars actor.

It was an uneven year for Keith, to be entirely honest with you: while he enjoyed an end of season run as Neptune’s sheriff, he also spent a fair amount of time in an adulterous relationship with guest actress Laura San Giacomo (His co-star on Just Shoot Me). Keith never quite found his own plots this year: some of the stuff while he was sheriff was just poorly written as a whole. However, Keith was always strong in his relationship with his daughter, and this is where Colantoni shines. This dynamic, between father and daughter, could not have been better handled by Colantoni. Whether it was comic exchanges or dramatic confrontations, he was a consistent influence in his daughter’s life and this is almost entirely due to Colantoni’s performance. And, if Emmy voters see enough of Colantoni with Kristen Bell, I believe that he should be worthy of consideration.

Episode Selection: “The Bitch is Back” (Aired May 22nd, 2007)

This decision is easy, in a sense, because I didn’t actually like any of what you would call Colantoni’s “lead” roles during the season other than this one…and even it’s a stretch. With his daughter caught up in a secret society’s business and struggling to keep her identity a secret while gaining the information she needs, Keith has to deal with the fact that she was perhaps the perpetrator. Keith was usually able to deal with her criminal actions, but here she was caught: he found a fiber from her sweater on the doggy door, and she was caught on camera. Battling between his role as sheriff and his love for his daughter, Keith has to make a decision and picks his daughter, erasing the DVR with the tape and being put up on criminal charges right before his Sheriff’s election. This final sacrifice is Colantoni’s strongest character arc all season, and is the proper episode selection for the actor.

YouTube – “The Bitch is Back”

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