After a week off, Daily Arts Writers and Editors are back to continue our series on who we think should be among the nominees announced this Thursday. Here’s our look at Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series:

Matthew Barnauskas, TV/New Media Editor:

Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot” — In a world of carefully constructed social media masks and invisible hands of influence, how do we sort through all the lies and discover what’s real? As hacker Elliot Alderson, Malik serves as our guide in this dark age of technology and corporate control in an attempt to discover what lies beneath. Wracked by social anxiety and addiction, Elliot’s struggles are given life by Malik, who conveys as much information in a single vulnerable shift or uncomfortable glance as he does in his incendiary narration. As the series and Elliot’s identity begin to unravel, Malik look inside the character’s own mind shows just how deep the emotional scars run.

Mads Mikkelsen, “Hannibal” — It’s no small task taking on the trademark role of the great Anthony Hopkins, but through three seasons Mikkelsen came to embody the iconic Hannibal Lecter. Spending half the season on the run and the other in prison, Mikkelsen displayed how terrifying Lecter can be, casting aside the mask of humanity and letting the real monster come forth.

Wagner Moura, “Narcos” — “Narcos” had its share of problems in its ambitious premiere season but also several key strengths, the greatest being Moura’s performance as kingpin Pablo Escobar. From his very first scene, Moura dominates the series with power and menace. While he humanizes Escobar, Moura never lets go of how despicable the man can be as the series spirals further and further into darkness with Escobar at the very center of this black hole.

Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul” — Jimmy McGill is who he is, and no amount of company privileges can change that. In “Better Call Saul” ’s second season, Odenkirk continued to deliver a character that is as admirable as he is frustrating in his dedication to who he is. Always a schemer, Odenkirk gifts Jimmy with undeniable charm while illustrating the character’s irritation at being confined to the rules of legitimacy. But it’s in scenes between Jimmy and characters like Kim Wexler and his brother Chuck that we truly see the nuance Odenkirk lends to the future Saul Goodman, revealing a loyal man who will fight to protect those he cares about, even against his better judgment.

Justin Theroux, “The Leftovers” — Wrestling with his demons and the crippling unknown, Kevin Garvey is a man who struggles to establish any sort of control in his life. Theroux’s genuine desperation sells how helpless Kevin is as he fights to keep his family together while forces beyond his control threaten to tear them apart. Taking the character to the lowest of lows and to places beyond comprehension, Theroux walks Kevin and the audience through a valley of despair, all in the hopes that there will be light on the other side.


Hugh Dancy, “Hannibal” — Question: Why isn’t Dancy on the official Emmy ballots for “Hannibal”? Seriously, take a look! Sure, Dancy has a place on the ballot for “The Path,” but there’s no trace of him for his fantastic turn as the tormented Will Graham. I can only speculate as to why Dancy wouldn’t be put up as a lead for the series — perhaps to give Mikkelsen a slightly better chance of actually being recognized or to draw more attention to Dancy’s performance in “The Path.” In any case, it is a true shame that Dancy has no chance of actually securing a nomination for his fantastic turn as series co-lead, Will Graham. Seemingly destined to be trapped in his turbulent friendship/rivalry with Hannibal Lecter, Will formed the fragile emotional core of “Hannibal,” and Dancy delivered in every facet of the character’s often fractured state-of-mind. 

Alex Intner, Summer Managing Arts Editor:

Charlie Cox — “Daredevil”

Rami Malek — “Mr. Robot”

Mads Mikkelsen — “Hannibal”

Bob Odenkirk — “Better Call Saul”

Matthew Rhys — “The Americans”

Because of the specific subset of television I watched, I only have five names who I would put on an Emmy ballot for this category. Each of these actors brings a certain gravitas to their roles. Cox owns New York City as Daredevil. He has to share the screen with big performers like Jon Bernthal, and successfully owns his own. Without Malek, there’s no way “Mr. Robot” would be as good as it is. He brings Elliot’s paranoia and confusion to life, making the story’s twists and turns seem as surprising to him as to us. It’s easy to forget that “Hannibal” season three aired during this eligibility period. While Hugh Dancy only chose to submit himself for Hulu’s “The Path,” I’m glad to be able to put Mikkelsen’s cold, collected performance as Hannibal Lecter. Odenkirk proved to be a master of both drama and comedy on this season of “Saul,” as he made me laugh and feel sick to my stomach (especially with his spine-chilling delivery of the last line of the ninth episode). Lastly, Rhys is just about perfect as Philip Jennings, a character struggling with his role as a father, a husband and a spy. As Philip continues to find his role as a spy more difficult and becomes more vocal with that feeling, Rhys just gets better.

Anay Katyal, Summer Senior Arts Editor

Rami Malek — “Mr. Robot”

Mads Mikkelsen — “Hannibal”

Wagner Moura — “Narcos”

Justin Theroux — “The Leftovers”

Bob Odenkirk — “Better Call Saul”

Kevin Spacey — “House of Cards”

Rami Malek seemingly stole the spotlight from plenty of standout performances (for good reason) this past year with his chilling, pensive role on “Mr. Robot” — a series that has had a similar effect in the realm of cable television. Though serially typecasted as a sinister villain, Mikkelsen’s time on “Hannibal” was a role completely meant for him, as his role as Hannibal Lecter sends shivers down the spines of audiences. Bombastic and boisterous in his demeanor, Wagner Moura’s portrayal of Pablo Escobar in “Narcos” was both a humorous and sobering look at life in Colombia during Escobar’s heyday. In one of HBO’s most underrated programs, Justin Theroux’s presence at the helm is integral for the show’s direction. Bob Odenkirk spins a thrilling tale of his own on “Better Call Saul,” showcasing a kind of resilience, wit and disregard for morality that makes the kind of exciting character that he is. Kevin Spacey’s continued run on “House of Cards” is laudable despite the series’s comparatively weak season, and his performance in the show’s latest iteration exemplifies the actor’s versatility as his character develops in surprising, new ways.

Megan Mitchell, Daily Arts Writer:

Peter Capaldi — “Doctor Who”

Rami Malek — “Mr. Robot”  – Dream Winner

Kevin Spacey — “House of Cards”

Charlie Cox — “Marvel’s Daredevil”

Freddie Highmore — “Bates Motel”

Matthew Rhys — “The Americans”

Though many of the names on the list may fall short of a nomination, their performance this season was Emmy worthy. Take the BBC-produced, worldwide phenomenon “Doctor Who,” which celebrates its first Emmy eligibility in history in the ninth season. Lead actor Peter Capaldi brought an unrelenting dedication to his role, giving way to an outstanding performance over the past two seasons. Capaldi’s portrayal of the Doctor is due in part to his child-at-heart ideology, which he carries onto the set of every episode produced since his arrival. On “Mr. Robot,” Rami Malek weaves an intricate indie film onto the small screen of television. Malek’s character Elliot Anderson cannot trust his own mind and, as a result, Malek’s raw and emotional performance of this deeply disturbed character is easily the best on television. Meanwhile, Kevin Spacey continues on the campaign trail with Netflix’s “House of Cards.” This past season, Spacey switched into a more reserved and closed-in-on-himself gear than previous seasons as the past comes back to haunt him and the future becomes uncertain. Also on Netflix, Charlie Cox’s portrayal of Marvel’s infamous vigilante, Daredevil, has also taken a darker turn. Throughout the second season, Cox’s performance turned genuine emotions towards the screen in a way only a dedicated and aptly fit actor can. (Also, his ninja-esque moves are beautifully choreographed this season.) “Bates Motel” saw an explosive season as a young Norman Bates, portrayed by the incomparable Freddie Highmore, crawls closer and closer to Hitchcock’s “Psycho.” Highmore’s violent mood swings and blank stares are unmatched on television and a feat in itself for the young actor to hold up for long takes, unflinching and unnoticing of the world around him. Finally, Matthew Rhys proves that you can, in fact, have it all as he balances family life and spy life in FX’s “The Americans.” Dealing with a wayward and surly teenager, Rhys brings fatherhood into a high-action drama series — an impressive feat in itself.

Sam Rosenberg, Daily Arts Writer:

Bob Odenkirk, “Better Call Saul”

Rami Malek, “Mr. Robot”

Similar to Lead Actress in a Drama Series, I don’t watch enough drama shows to nominate lead actors like Kevin Spacey for “House of Cards.” However, I do want to highlight two lead performances that will most likely be on the actual Emmy ballot anyways. Considering Bob Odenkirk’s career in both comedy and drama, it’s easy to see why he emulates his titular character in “Better Call Saul” so effectively. As crooked lawyer Jimmy McGill, (his name before “Breaking Bad”) Odenkirk possesses the charisma, lingual dexterity, and deceptiveness to play a character whom we are supposed to hate, but continue to root for despite his morally ambiguous actions — sound familiar?. Equally as compelling is Rami Malek in USA”s “Mr. Robot,” playing mentally ill but highly intelligent hacker Elliot Alderson, with a sensitivity that is both alluring and devastating. In addition to being one of the few male leads of color on television, Malek brings mental health issues to the forefront, as he shows the horrific nature of suffering from social anxiety, clinical depression and schizophrenia.


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