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Emmy Analysis: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Anthology Series or Movie

Year after year, Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Anthology Series or Movie is stacked with A-list stars and breakout talent. In years past, we saw Jharrel Jerome‘s win for his moving performance as Korey Wise in Netflix’s When They See Us create a moment for the actor, which shifted the course of his young career. Last year, we saw established star Mark Ruffalo sweep for pulling double duty in gut-wrenching performances as the Birdsey brothers for HBO’s I Know This Much Is True.

This year, we have performances from the most sought out actors in Hollywood. For this particular category, lead performers don’t select a single episode like performers in other categories. Instead, those nominated for the limited anthology portion submit the whole body of work.

The nominees for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Anthology Series or Movie are Paul Bettany as Vision in WandaVision (Marvel), Hugh Grant as Jonathan Fraser in The Undoing (HBO), Ewan McGregor as Halston in Halston (Netflix), Lin-Manuel Miranda as Alexander Hamilton in Hamilton (Disney+), and Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr in Hamilton (Disney+).

Paul Bettany, Vision / WandaVision

If there was ever a frontrunner in this category it’s Paul Bettany as Vision. Bettany has been churning out layered performances for decades now. His versatility as an actor made his performance riveting as viewers watched the actor hop in and out of different sitcom conventions as the Marvel character. Watching Paul Bettany and Elizabeth Olsen play these two Marvel characters within the stylistic tones of I Love Lucy to Growing Pains seemed like a fun new twist in the MCU, but it actually made room for unearthing the way these superheroes grieve. In episode 8, Bettany’s Vision consoled Olsen’s Wanda as she expressed her grief over the multiple deaths she’s endured, and his quote, “But what is grief if not love persevering?” was a gut-punch to an audience already in mourning. The scene is arguably one of the most emotionally charged acting pieces we’ve seen from the series and became the show’s beating heart. It spoke to where we were collectively and it’s a moment voters probably won’t soon forget.

Hugh Grant, Jonathan Fraser / The Undoing
Emmy voters like to see when actors stretch themselves beyond the typical work they’re known for, and Hugh Grant is an excellent example of this as he peeled off that charming image to take on the role of Jonathan Fraser in the HBO series “The Undoing.” In the show, he’s husband to Nicole Kidman’s Grace and becomes a murder suspect in a whodunit that kept viewers on the edge of their seats. Viewers watch Grant’s nuanced portrayal as the character shifts from charming to a conniving sociopath. It’s also worth mentioning that the actor has been nominated before for his 2019 performance in “A Very English Scandal.” Given the popularity of the HBO show and Grant’s old-school Hollywood charm, he might have a chance in nabbing the gold.

Leslie Odom Jr, Aaron Burr / Hamilton
Lin-Manuel Miranda might be the name out in front of Hamilton, but when it comes to performances, Leslie Odom Jr. as Aaron Burr is one to beat as he matches Miranda in intensity and passion. Odom Jr.’s emotionally charged performance as Hamilton’s nemesis is incredibly powerful, and he leaves it on the floor in the show-stopping “Wait For It.” The grit and vulnerability Odom Jr. brings to the overlooked Burr makes the character worth rooting for despite his tragic missteps. Aside from the show, Odom Jr. has been all over the awards trail for last year’s Oscar nomination for “One Night in Miami” and coming off of that season might put him front and center in the minds of voters. The thing he might have working against him is the split Hamilton vote.

Lin-Manuel Miranda, Alexander Hamilton / Hamilton
When it comes to awards buzz, Lin-Manuel Miranda has it in spades. Already a 2014 Emmy winner for Outstanding Original Music And Lyrics, Miranda has the Midas touch. While The Oscars denied entry of Hamilton, the Emmys were on board when it was released on Disney+. Beyond that the show has a homegrown pedigree thanks to its Broadway run and subsequent Tony, Grammy, and Pulitzer wins. Due to it already being an awards darling, Emmy voters might have Lin-Manuel Miranda’s performance top of mind. Despite the show running on Broadway for years, the decision to put the taped performance on Disney+ was wise. Not only did it create accessibility beyond the Broadway stage, but it generated even more publicity for both Miranda and the show.

Ewan McGregor, Halston / Halston
Halston just made the Emmy window with Netflix’s May 14th release date. In the biopic, McGregor plays Halston, the well-known fashion designer who skyrocketed to fame in the 1970s. McGregor’s performance, which spanned decades, is the film’s strongest point, but the film itself didn’t create great buzz between its late entry and failing to win over critics. Even more so, there’s been a bit of a backlash in regards to McGregor portraying the queer fashion icon. So while voters do tend to veer from popular opinion, the latter might be a sticking point and hurt the actor’s chances.

Prediction: Paul Bettany
Preference: Paul Bettany
Sleeper: Leslie Odom Jr

Predicted ranking
Paul Bettany – WandaVision
Hugh Grant – The Undoing
Leslie Odom Jr. – Hamilton
Lin Manuel-Miranda – Hamilton
Ewan McGregor – Halston

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Written by Niki Cruz

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