Critics and pundits are universally predicting this category is a lock for Bill Murray. His performance in HBO’s Olive Kitteridge was both compelling and sentimental to watch at the same time. Murray submitted the limited series’ fourth episode, “Security,” which is the bulk of his performance. In a small amount of time within this episode Murray was able to provide audiences with a character who is just as emotionally lost as the title character, to which they find themselves bonded together as a result. Bill Murray proved with this performance that sometimes all an actor needs is a handful of minutes to deliver a performance that is equally as powerful as one that took hours to develop. However, all predicting a Murray win have to be honest about one thing: This lock and predicted win is more about sentimentality than acting content. This is the honest truth that nobody seems to want to admit, but it is true. In contrast to his competition, Murray’s performance is somewhat inferior. Yet with Bill Murray being so beloved and admired, how could one not want him to win. His biggest challenge was actually getting the nomination. Now that he has achieved that he is guaranteed the win that will somewhat honor his lengthy career. Bill Murray hasn’t won an Emmy since 1977 (for writing on SNL) and has never been awarded one for acting. This will undoubtedly change with this year’s Emmys unless a major upset occurs. However, lets make one thing clear: If Bill Murray wins, it will be more due to nostalgia than being the best performance. Murray’s performance was acting excellence, but it is not the best performance in this category.
There are a couple of opportunities for some upsets in this category. Richard Cabral provided both an ambiguous and tragedy-stricken performance in American Crime as an individual who is judged for his background and is manipulated into providing evidence of a crime that would benefit others at his expense. Damian Lewis perfectly captured the hot and cold demeanor of the true-life Henry VIII in Wolf Hall. Lewis maintained historical accuracy in a performance that is hard for viewers to not pay attention to. The biggest chance for an upset in this category is Lewis, and he is a genuine threat to Murray. This is mostly due to Lewis achieving perfection in a historical performance, a feat in itself that Emmy voters tend to favor over contemporary performances. Another threat is Michael K. Williams for his scene-stealing performance in Bessie as the blues singer’s bodyguard and eventual husband. His performance demanded the attention of the film viewer and he got precisely that. Much like the character Williams portrayed, he took the scenery from every scene and made it his own. Williams also could ride on the Bessie momentum if Emmy voters allow for the TV movie to sweep all categories it’s nominated in.
However, the two more worthy of achieving upsets are Denis O’Hare and Finn Wittrock for American Horror Story: Freak Show. O’Hare submitted the episode, “Pink Cupcakes,” which is a fantastic episode for O’Hare that captures his character’s ability to manipulate all those around him. The episode exposes his character’s obsession with glory and his sickening fantasies as to how he would achieve such glory. O’Hare is well liked among Emmy voters and many have felt he was robbed a win for the first season of American Horror Story. Awarding O’Hare a win could serve as compensation for that 2012 loss. However, the real standout and the most deserving of the win in this category is Finn Wittrock for his frightening portrayal as a man-child serial killer in Freak Show. Wittrock was the very definition of unadulterated diabolical evil in the show’s fourth season. Wittrock was able to achieve this with careful precision by not allowing for the character to become a caricature. Instead, he provided one of the most compelling metamorphoses ever put on television of an already sociopathic individual who slowly gives into his homicidal tendencies to become one of the most vicious murderers ever put on television. His submission episode, “Bullseye,” provides voters with a perfect snapshot of his character’s obsessive behavior that is fueled from delusion and his unpredictable rage that has undertones of violence when he doesn’t get his way. Wittrock deserves this Emmy more than any other nominee, but will likely lose due to a lack of name recognition in contrast to the more notable names in this category. It is unfortunate, but Finn Wittrock should be proud of at least having gotten the nomination in this category in a very competitive acting year.
Richard Cabral – American Crime
Damian Lewis – Wolf Hall
Bill Murray – Olive Kitteridge
Denis O’Hare – American Horror Story: Freak Show
Michael K. Williams – Bessie
Finn Wittrock – American Horror Story: Freak Show
Will Win: Bill Murray
Could Win: Finn Wittrock
Should Win: Finn Wittrock
Could Upset: Damian Lewis