Supporting Actor in a Drama

[Note: These candidates were selected by Cultural Learnings as the seven individuals, in series that we’ve watched, worthy of Emmy consideration. If people are missing from this list, we probably don’t watch the show in question. Enjoy.]

Best Supporting Actor in a Drama

Michael Emerson (Ben Linus)


Last season, Michael Emerson made an impact on Lost as Henry Gale, the captured Other who was kept within the Hatch for an extended period of time. He gave an eerie and compelling performance, but we were not yet truly introduced to the character in question. It is thus impressive that Ben, the leader of the Others, has managed to develop into a full fledge part of this ensemble cast with mysteries, intrigue, and a fantastic performance from Michael Emerson worthy of an Emmy nomination for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama.

Emerson deserves Emmy attention because he has managed to keep Ben a mysterious and powerful figure even after a lot of that mystery was blown away. Revealed as their leader, his allegiances and influences remain secret, and his true power has yet to be revealed. A quiet and meek performance at times, Emerson is at his most powerful while sparring intellectually with those around him. He plays mind games with friends and foes, twisting a web of deceit; the result is a lot of meaty dialogue and character work for the actor. It is his words that are the most powerful: even crippled in a wheelchair, the actor stepped up to the plate with vicious exchanges.

In an ensemble cast that often is unable to garner attention thanks to its size, Emerson deserves commendation for not getting lost in the shuffle. His performance as Ben has always hit the mark, and when he was asked to step up to the plate for his backstory in The Man Behind the Curtain he did so in spades. With performances like that one, Emerson deserves a shot at Emmy gold.

Episode Selection: “The Man From Tallahassee” (Airdate: March 21st, 2007)

While it might make more sense to show voters the episode that features Ben’s flashback, I have selected an episode that I think has Emerson’s strongest supporting performance. In The Man from Tallahassee, a bedridden Ben is the ying to Locke’s yang as we finally learned how Locke broke his legs. Emerson’s performance in this episode is powerful, even as he remains immobile. He is damaged, weak, and yet still he isn’t helpless: his balance of these perspectives is an acting tour de force, which is why I have selected it. That said, The Man Behind the Curtain features many of the same themes, and is the more likely choice.

YouTube: The Man from Tallahassee

Michael Hogan (Col. Tigh)

Battlestar Galactica

While I am personally more fond of the performance of James Callis as Gaius Baltar, I cannot deny what PopWatch and others are saying: if there is ever a chance for Battlestar Galactica to get some attention, it might well be in Hogan’s performance as the alcoholic mess that Sol Tigh became on New Caprica after the occupation. Newly eyepatched after time spent in a Cylon prison, he emerged from that experience a broken man.

That broken man that had to bring himself to come to terms with what happened on New Caprica, and he never really recovered: he is still the same broken man when he takes the stand at Baltar’s trial at the season’s conclusion. This does make his performance somewhat one note, but yet also all the more tragic. When we, as an audience, see what has truly happened to him, we see that it all makes sense: no man could recover from the things he had to do, the decisions he had to make.And that’s what gives him a shot a this: out of all of Battlestar Galactica’s performances, his has the most emotional resonance and distance from the show’s sci-fi elements. Callis’ turn as the president turned prophet is a strong one, and also has a shot, but I think that Hogan has perhaps the most powerful and universal character arc in the series’ short life. And thus, Michael Hogan could hear his name called on July 19th.

Episode Selection: Exodus (Airdate: October 16th and 23rd)

It was the decision that changed Tigh’s life, and yet one he had to make. He sacrificed everything for the resistance: his eye, his sanity, but more importantly his wife Ellen. In his final moments on New Caprica before Galactica returned to rescue them, Tigh’s wife makes a decision to steal an integral map that puts the entire rescue mission in jeopardy. As a result, Tigh takes care of it by poisoning his wife. At episode’s end, as everyone is celebrating their rescue, Tigh cannot. He is forever changed. That, my friends, is a powerful character arc.

Youtube: “Exodus”

Dominic Monaghan (Charlie Pace)


I would not be putting Dominic on this list three weeks ago, which I guess is somewhat contradictory. Charlie has been absent from key storylines for a very long time this year, and I was amongst many who was happy to see that he was fated to die according to Desmond’s flashes. And yet, perhaps spurned on by his imminent departure from the show, Charlie began to become likable again. No longer saddled with nothing of consequence, Dominic delivered a performance towards the end of the season that almost made Charlie likable before finally nailing it by season’s end. And that delivery, making me actually care about his fate, is enough for me to deem him worthy of a potential Emmy nomination.

I don’t think we can hold Dominic responsible for many of Charlie’s problems. As more and more characters were introduced over the past two years, Charlie has been shoved aside in a major way. His addiction problems solved, the second season only saw Charlie devolve (His relationship with Claire falling apart in an incredibly lame and inconsistent fashion). The character just wasn’t given anything to do, anything to make him important in the long-term. Dominic has gone on record as being kind of frustrated by it, but the fact remains that he soldiered through.It was shortly after the winter hiatus that Charlie became important, if only by being fated to die. Desmond’s flashes gave Charlie purpose, and Dominic stepped up to the plate. While I was initially almost happy to see it happen, over time it became bittersweet, before I finally realized that I wasn’t ready for Charlie to die. Without Dominic’s performance that wouldn’t have been possible, and as a result I submit him for consideration for an Emmy award.

Episode Selections: “Greatest Hits” and “Through the Looking Glass” (Airdates: May 16th and 23rd, 2007)

The only reason I’m really even considering this is the contents of these final two episodes of the season, because within them Dominic gives his best performances to date. “Greatest Hits” is literally the Charlie show. As he says goodbye to Claire, to Hurley, he knows that he is heading to a watery grave according to Desmond’s vision. As a result, he begins to craft a “Greatest Hits” list of his most important life accomplishments for Claire. It is touching, meaningful, and well portrayed. Follow this up with the culmination of Charlie’s arc in the finale, along with some fantastic banter with the occupants of The Looking Glass, and you have a winning performance.

YouTube“Greatest Hits”

Jack Coleman (Mr. Bennet)


Although the academy will not be handing out awards based on an entire season’s work, the journey of Jack Coleman over the span of this past year has been one of the most intriguing in all of television. Introduced as a shadowy villain without a name, Noah Bennet quickly became a conflicted father, a reluctant conspirator and, eventually, a hero in his own right. When we finally learned his first name in the show’s season finale, one felt that a real arc had been created: this person who we barely knew but 22 episodes ago was now perhaps the character we knew the best. And it is Jack Coleman’s portrayal of this character that makes him deserving of Emmy Award recognition.

A lot has been said about series co-star Masi Oka, whose lovable Hiro is most certainly an integral part of the show’s appeal. I agree, and think he may be nominated, but Coleman’s work is more subtle, less central. At the beginning of the season, we had to believe that he was an evil villain, out to destroy the heroes central to the story. As the season progressed, we had to buy his protectiveness of his daughter Claire, and we had to view him as a dangerous figure who certainly has a softer side. And, in the end, we had to buy him as a hero in his own right, someone fighting for the common good. While Hiro may have had a more substantial character arc, it was Coleman who had the most dramatic range and pulled it off with apparent ease.

Voters may not notice Coleman when Emmy time rolls around: he’s not a major name, and he certainly doesn’t have the same level of media attention as Masi Oka. However, I believe that they should be looking in his direction. While some Heroes characters got muddled in repetitive and boring storylines, Coleman always elevated Bennet to a different level. And in the end, I think that makes him the most deserving member of the Heroes cast when it comes to the Emmy Awards.

Episode Selection: “Company Man”

You have no idea how hard it was for me to write the previous three paragraphs without trampling all over this one. Company Man, the best episode of Heroes produced in the past year, was a stunning piece of work almost entirely due to Coleman’s performance as the titular employee. In this one episode, he had to justify all of his past actions, while also justifying all of his present and future ones. While Bryan Fuller’s writing was certainly a great part of this, Coleman elevated to a new level. This episode will be making the rounds as the Emmy submission for other Heroes actors, and I can only hope that they see just how integral and fantastic Jack Coleman is within it. Far and away, Jack Coleman gives the best performance in the show’s first season in “Company Man”. And it is certainly Emmy worthy. [Unfortunately, the below video misses out on my favourite flashback, where we see Bennet tell Claire that he isn’t her real father while picking out his distinctive horn-rimmed glasses. But trust me, it was great.]

YouTube “Company Man”

Zach Gilford (Matt Saracen)

Friday Night Lights

When I wrote a review of the Friday Night Lights pilot, I classified Matt Saracen as something akin to a contrived cliché in character form. Backup quarterback, never played a game in his life, throws footballs through a tire, takes care of his ailing grandmother, and in a moment of tragedy he is forced to step up and put the weight of an entire town on his shoulders. Within the context of the pilot, it was certainly a cliché series of events. However, what I did not realize at the time was that the show was also asking for a lot of weight to be placed on Zach Gilford’s shoulders, and much as his character led the Dillon Panthers to State so too did Gilford take this character and portray him as a real teenager, with real anxiety, and with real heart. And even in his understated fashion, without a single breakout scene to blow Emmy voters away, this young actor absolutely deserves to be considered this award season.

More than anything else, Gilford excels at playing a teenager. In an age where teenagers are 90% of the time played by actors who haven’t been in high school for at least five years (Gilford is 25), it is amazing to see someone finally reach a level to which they are able to play an insecure, uncertain, honest to goodness teenager without seeming juvenile. Gilford makes Matt’s teenage moments as realistic as possible, with just the right combination of nervous speech, glances, while also maintaining the maturity that Matt does indeed have. It would be very easy to play this young man, forced to grow up so quickly taking care of his ailing grandmother after his father went to Iraq, as someone worldly beyond his years. However, it always feels right.

And yet, Gilford manages to excel also at playing a high school quarterback, and playing a girl’s first boyfriend, and playing someone who is quick to accept advice about his own life, and yet also able to dish it out to those around him. Just as the Dillon Panthers were forced to rally behind a young quarterback with no experience in key situations, so too did Friday Night Lights rely on Zach Gilford. Sure, Kyle Chandler was always there for the glory, but this show could have been a half-rate O.C. knockoff if not for Gilford (And the rest of the ensemble around him) being able to pull off these teenage characters the town gathers behind each week. And that, understated or not, is a fantastic supporting performance worthy of recognition.

Episode Selection: “Nevermind” (Airdate: January 3rd, 2007)

While I will always prefer some of his more subtle moments with Julie and Coach Taylor, Gilford’s acting chops are best at display in this tour de force of emotions. Faced with his father’s return from Iraq, Matt falls apart on the football field and in his personal life. His frustration over his war-torn father is real, visceral, and yet youthful. He reacts as a teenager in love with his game, falling for his girlfriend, and finding that his already tough life only gets tougher when his stability disappears. Pulled from the game, struggling to pull himself together, he lashes out at his father with intensity and yet a real sense of something that isn’t teenage angst, but rather teenage frustration. Gilford balances it all with wisdom beyond even his real age, and with this submission tape the young actor should certainly be considered this Emmy season.

YouTube – “Nevermind”

John Pyper-Ferguson (Joe Whedon)

Brothers & Sisters

Brothers & Sisters is a show about an extended family dealing with the death of its patriarch and all of its other problems. This family is a bloody mess, and they all know it. As a result, I always feel the worst for those who chose to be a part of it. They married these people, and found that they had married into a crazy house. As a result, I also feel the most for these actors who have to react in a natural fashion to the problems that this situation creates. And, as a result, I have chosen to highlight John Pyper-Ferguson, who plays Sarah Walker’s husband Joe, for Emmy consideration.

Previously divorced with a teenage son to show for it, tempted by other women, and eventually making out with his wife’s half-sister, Joe is a complicated character. However, somehow, all of Joe’s actions are never overplayed. They always seem to have the right balance of internal problems (He has womanizing issues) and the external pressures of this family. He reacts as we would, really, having to deal with the insanity that is thrown at him. His breakdown with Sarah at the end of the season felt real, not fake.

Pyper-Ferguson isn’t always even, as some moments feel almost too understated. However, it would be so easy to play Joe as either a complete womanizer or a complete victim, and he has never crossed that line. Considering that balance, I can’t help but be compelled to consider him for an Emmy award.

Episode Selection: “Bad News”

It is a sad state of affairs, but Brothers & Sisters is also low on the YouTube totem pole, it appears. As a result, I can only tell you about Pyper-Ferguson’s performance in this episode where his marriage with Sarah breaks down. I think that his character is put in some tough corners by the show, and it basically turns him into a villain. As a result, without a balanced performance, the character could spiral out of control…but he doesn’t. When he shows up an episode later in an awkward situation, he seems changed and yet still the same. It’s a powerful performance of a man trapped in a family that now despises him, and it works well.

Supporting Actor in a Drama

Terry O’Quinn (John Locke)


I’ve saved Terry O’Quinn until the end not because I don’t know what to say, but rather because it almost feels unnecessary to say it. After unjustly losing the Emmy two years ago, Terry O’Quinn has unfortunately gone unrecognized for his role as John Locke, and in a way it makes sense. The 2nd season wasn’t a big one for Locke, as he lacked a true defining moment. It was more of a general pattern, his obsession with the Hatch being a long, drawn out affair as opposed to a single emotional moment. However, I will make no excuses for the Emmys or any other awards show when it comes to the coming awards season. Because, when it comes to supporting performances, no character had a bigger episode this season than John Locke, and no actor stepped up to the plate like Terry O’Quinn. And for that, my friends, Terry O’Quinn deserves an Emmy.

This season, Locke was given the opportunity to finally reconnect with the island, the very thing that had so tempted him in the first season when he stumbled upon the hatch. Without that hatch to rely upon, Locke was asked to step up to the plate and lead his people after Eko’s untimely death. The result of this was Locke regaining his faith, of sorts, from Eko’s scripture-laden stick, and sending him on a journey to find the Flame Station, the Others’ compound, a certain submarine, a magic box, a gruesome task, a fateful journey, a mysterious encounter, a near fatal shooting, a visitor from his past, and a final plea to Jack to not allow outsiders to enter the sacred island he now calls home. That journey, taking place in the second portion of the season, hearkened back to the Season One Locke we knew and loved.

And O’Quinn was right back with it. Don’t call it a comeback for O’Quinn, though, because he was just as solid in the second season as he was here. However, the content of each season can’t be compared: whereas Locke became marginal in season two, he was the centre of attention in season three. And O’Quinn rose to the occasion, never backing down from a challenge and marking some memorable exchanges with Sayid, with Jack, and with the leader of the others, Ben. At all times, O’Quinn played Locke like the man of faith again, the man who believes when others don’t and, perhaps, might just be onto something. Lost wouldn’t be the same without Locke, and the Emmy Awards will not be the same without Terry O’Quinn. They made a mistake two years ago, and it’s time they made it up to him.

Episode Selection: “The Man From Tallahassee” (Aired March 21st, 2007)

In Season One, Terry O’Quinn should have won that emmy for Walkabout, the episode where we learned he had previously been in a wheelchair (One of the show’s best reveals, perhaps only topped by this season’s finale). In Season Two, O’Quinn was at his finest when sparring with Henry Gale, the prisoner in the hatch who we later learned was the leader of The Others. The Man from Tallahassee takes these two elements (Locke’s past paralyzation and his confrontations with Ben) and puts them into the same episode. The result is a philosophical and powerful hour of television that wraps itself around the island as a character, Locke’s journey, and most importantly: we finally learn how Locke lost the use of his legs. It is perhaps the final chapter in Locke’s journey, that final piece of the puzzle, and Terry O’Quinn knocked it out of the park. If this performance isn’t worthy of an Emmy, I don’t know what is.

YouTube“The Man from Tallahassee”

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