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

This week, we’re taking a look at this year’s Emmy nominees and digging into their past work and credits that may have influenced their Emmy-nominated work this year.

For the third year in a row the Best Limited Series/TV Movie Actor category is chaos—only two of the nominees Michael Keaton (Dopesick) and Sebastian Stan (Pam & Tommy) appear in a Series up for the top prize. The good news someone is about to win their first Emmy. 

Colin Firth

Nominated for: The Staircase

Past Emmy Nominations: Best Limited Series/TV Movie Supporting Actor for Conspiracy (2001)

Previous Awards: Best Actor Oscar win for The King’s Speech (2010) and Oscar Nomination for A Single Man (2009)

Firth, like many other actors got his start in British television most notably as Mr. Darcy in the mini-series Pride and Prejudice– making him an instant heart throb. He would then go on to have small roles in The English Patient (1996) and Shakespeare in Love (1998 both films won the Oscar for Best Picture. But it was his role as another Darcy—Mark Darcy, Renee Zellweger’s love interest in Bridget Jones’s Diary (2001) that started earning him attention in America. He briefly went back to more serious fare in a television film Conspiracy (2001) about Wannsee Conference where the Nazi’s came up with the final solution. Firth played Wilhelm Stuckart an SS lawyer opposite Kenneth Branagh and Stanley Tucci. 

Similar to his Bridget Jones’s Diary  co-star Hugh Grant, Firth kept making charming comedies whether it be What a Girl Wants, Love Actually, (2003)  Bridget Jones’s Diary: Edge of Reason (2004), Nanny McPhee (2005) and Mama Mia! (2008). Everything changed in 2010 when he took the starring role of George in Tom Ford’s film debut A Single Man, earning his first Golden Globe (Drama), SAG and Oscar Award nominations and he won his home award—BAFTA. But he wasn’t done yet his next role as the stammering King George VI in The King’s Speech would once again earn awards attention. Firth found that playing a real life person was a great way to win accolades taking home all four of the major awards—Oscar, BAFTA, Golden Globe (Drama) and SAG Award. The King’s Speech was the third Best Picture winner.  Firth along with almost every other male British actor of note briefly appeared in 1917 (2019)—the first time a film he was a part of lost the Oscar for Best Picture. 

Firth this year took on the complex role in The Staircase—a reminder of what he’s actually capable of. And is now nominated for an Emmy for the second time. The bar was extremely high as he plays documentary subject Michael Peterson an American accused and convicted of killing his wife while being the subject of a documentary of the same name over a 16 year period. Firth masterfully makes the role his own instead of being a copy of the real-life Peterson. Many of the film’s scenes mirror the documentary readily available on Netflix. Firth makes his Peterson an enigma never letting us truly decide did he kill his wife?

Since, Firth really doesn’t have a Hidden Gem how about a Fantasy Emmy Presenter Duo: 

Who’s the hottest Mr. Darcy? TV Darcy–Firth or the Film Darcy—Matthew Macfayden? Macfayden is nominated again for Best Drama Supporting Actor for “Succession.” And it would be fun (or hot) to see these two together on the Emmy stage settle this once and for all. 

Andrew Garfield

Nominated for:  Under the Banner of Heaven

Past Emmy Nominations: N/A

Previous Awards: Best Actor Oscar Nominations for: “Hacksaw Ridge,” (2015) and “tick, tick… BOOM!” (2021). Tony Award Best Actor in a Play for “Angels in America” (2018)

Garfield began his career in television with roles in Sugar Rush (2005) and the long running Doctor Who (2007). But it was his role as Eduardo Saverin in The Social Network  (20100 that put him on the map. His portrayal as the back-stabbed best friend of Mark Zuckerberg (Jesse Eisenberg) that was the heart of the film. While Garfield

Like many actors of his generation he next moved to more popular fare with two outings as Spiderman starring in The Amazing Spider-man (2012) and The Amazing Spider-man 2 (2014). But he quickly went back to more serious fare with an intriguing performance in “99 Homes”(2014) sadly most of the attention was lavished on his costar Michael Shannon. Next up he would star in Hacksaw Ridge as  Desmond T. Doss  the first man in American history to receive the Medal of Honor without firing a shot. The film had its detractors but it landed Garfield an Oscar, Golden Globe (Drama), SAG and BAFTA Award nomination for Best Actor. Unfortunately his next prestige project, Silence was largely overlooked—mostly due to its late release. Up next, Garfield headed to Broadway winning praise and a Tony Award for his performance as Prior Walter in Angels in America (2018). 

2021 has been Garfield’s best year to date starring opposite this year’s Best Actress Oscar winner Jessica Chastain as Jim Baker in The Eyes of Tammy Faye. He starred as famed composer Jonathan Larson in tick, tick BOOM! showing off not only his considerable acting talent but his singing ability also. BOOM! earned Garfield a Golden Globe (Comedy) win along with another Oscar, SAG and BAFTA nomination for Best Actor. He even found time to surprise and delight audiences with a surprise reprisal of his role as Spider-man in Spider-man: No Way Home

Garfield, has now earned his first Emmy nomination for his work as Detective Jeb Pyre a devout member of church of LDS whose faith is put to the test while he investigates a brutal murder committed by LDS fundamentalists in Under the Banner of Heaven

Hidden Gem: Silence (2016)

Oscar Isaac

Nominated for: Scenes from a Marriage

Past Emmy Nominations: N/A

Previous Awards: Golden Globe and SAG Award nomination for Scenes from a Marriage Golden Globe win for Show Me a Hero (2015)

Isaac like so many other actors got his start on television with a guest role on Law & Order: Criminal Intent (2006). But his breakthrough role wouldn’t come for six years and after over a dozen small roles paying his dues in the Coen Brothers Inside Llewyn Davis (2012). The role earned him his first awards attention with a Golden Globe (Comedy) nomination for Best Actor. 

Isaac was just getting started and next up was the new Star Wars Trilogy (2015, 2017, 2019). Isaac played a mayor of Yonkers dealing with the issue of public housing in Show Me a Hero earing Isaac a Golden Globe (2015).  Isaac would next appear in A Most Violent Year (2014) with Juliard alum and friend Jessica Chastain. He’s recently appeared in both Dune (2021) and the television series Moon Knight (2022). But his biggest moment of the year probably came on the red carpet with Jessica Chastain caressing her arm—to the jealousy of every other woman.  For Scenes from a Marriage Isaac has received both a Golden Globe and SAG Award nomination.

Hidden Gems: Ex Machina (2014)   

Michael Keaton

Nominated for: “Dopesick”

Past Emmy Nominations: Best Nonfiction Special for “Fred Rogers: America’s Favorite Neighbor” (2004) 

Previous Awards: Golden Globe, SAG, and Critics Choice Award Winner and TCA nominee for “Dopesick.” Oscar, SAG, BAFTA nomination and Golden Globe (Comedy) win for “Birdman”

Keaton is a legend. Before it was almost mandatory for every actor to play a superhero—Keaton was Batman—the o.g. Batman starring in Tim Burton’s Batman (1989) and Batman Returns (1992). Keaton stole scenes in Beetlejuice (1988). 

Keaton took time off from film and came back in a big way giving a performance only he could in Alejandro Iñárritu’s Birdman (2014) earning him an Oscar, SAG, BAFTA nomination and Golden Globe (Comedy) win. Next up was Spotlight (2015). Keaton was back and on a roll appearing in consecutive Best Picture winners. He appeared last year in his third film Best Picture nominee—“The Trial of the Chicago 7” (2021). 

Keaton has given the rare guest appearance but he’s primarily worked in film. He was attached to play Dr. Jack Shephard on Lost (2004) but when they decided the character wouldn’t be kiiled off Keaton declined the role. In Dopesick, Keaton plays another doctor  Samuel Finnix working in Appalachia giving a truly transformative performance from doctor to addict to a man looking for redemption. For his efforts he’s won a Golden Globe and his first individual SAG Award and a Critics Choice Award and was nominated for TCA.  And if that wasn’t enough it was recently announced that he will once again be putting on the batsuit appearing as Batman in The Flash next year.

Hidden Gems: My Life (1999) and The Founder (2016)

Himesh Patel

Nominated for: Station Eleven 

Past Emmy Nominations: N/A

Previous Awards: N/A

Patel, is just getting started and what a start its been. Patel, got his start on the long-running British drama Eastenders (2007-2016). He would have supporting role in the ensemble Comedy Avenue 5 (2020). His first notable starring role came in the film Yesterday (2019) as the only person who can remember The Beatles. Patel would also appear in Christopher Nolan’s latest film Tenet (2020). And as part of the large ensemble of Don’t Look Up (2021) which earned him his first major award nomination for Best SAG Ensemble. 

However, it was the post-apocalyptic saga of survivors of devastating flu as they attempt to rebuild their lives that would put Patel on the map. Regardless of what happens at this year’s Emmys Patel is one to watch going forward.

Hidden Gem: Yesterday (2019)

Sebastian Stan

Nominated for: Pam & Tommy

Past Emmy Nominations: N/A

Previous Awards: N/A

Stan, like many a New York based actor got one of his first breaks with a guest role on the long running Law & Order. Stan, would go on to star as Carter Baizen on Gossip Girl (2007-2010), appear in the short-run drama Political Animals (2012) and as The Mad Hatter on Once Upon a Time (2012-2013). 

But it was his role in the Marvel Universe as Bucky Barnes aka The Winter Soldier that would put him on the map. Stan has mastered this role appearing in films: Captain America: The Winter Soldier (2014); Captain America: Civil War (2016); briefly in Black Panther (2018); Avengers: Infinity War (2018) and Avengers: Endgame (2018). And last year he starred in The Falcon and the Winter Soldier television series for Disney+. 

While Marvel provided steady work, I, Tonya (2017) was his first foray into prestige film. Stan with no prosthetics just a fake mustache disappeared into the role of the notorious Jeff Gillooly. Stan was overlooked for awards attention but his costar Margot Robbie would receive an Oscar nomination and Alison Janney would win an Oscar. The film itself did receive a Golden Globe nomination for Best Film (Comedy/Musical).

Stan would once again pull off an impressive disappearing act as infamous drummer Tommy Lee in the Limited Series Pam & Tommy. Stan would bare all—including prosthetics until we was unrecognizable from the character he portrayed. Giving an over-the-top but contained performance of a man who’s one mistake may have cost him the love of his life.

Hidden Gem: The Bronze (2015)

Who will win? Will Spider-man best the King? Will the force be with the Moon Knight? Does the “Winter Soldier” have what it takes to assassinate the competition? Could it be the Eastender? OF will the o.g. Batman prevail? We’ll find out on Monday, September 12th.


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Written by @msamandaspears

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