Who should be nominated for Actor in a Drama Series at the 2018 Primetime Emmy Awards? We are kicking off our annual CarterMatt Emmy Preview Series with this very question!
Once again, this field is stacked with a number of incredible performers from all walks of life and so many different genres. There are actors who the majority of critics are talking about on our list, and then there are other fantastic performers who have somehow missed out on the critical consensus that seems to drive much of what awards shows and voters tend to follow these days. The goal of the CarterMatt Emmy Preview Series is to give you our picks, curated by our staff following some internal debate, and then give you a venue in which for you to do the same. This has been a lot of fun for us and the readers over the years and we’re happy to keep it going.
In addition to sharing both our dream nominees and some other likely contenders based on current industry projections, at the bottom of this article is a poll for you to vote for your own favorites! We will announce our reader picks on July 11, 2018, one day before the actual Emmy nominations are announced. Hopefully, this is a way to kick off the Emmy campaign period in a fun, super-engaging manner for everyone.
Voting Rules – Vote however many times you like! Voting is open between now and 1:00 p.m. Pacific time on July 11. By voting, you consent to have your vote tabulated in the final result. As a reminder, CarterMatt polls are simply for fun and to help aid in Emmy campaigns. Voting for the Emmys themselves is conducted by members of the Television Academy.
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Actor in a Drama Series – CarterMatt Wishlist
Tom Ellis, Lucifer (Fox) – Many of us at the site have long been fans of the crime series where you mix lighthearted moments with dark subject matter; yet, there’s something about Lucifer as a series that differentiates itself from much of the crowded field. A part of it is the supernatural nature of the series, but another component is the magnetic, unforgettable performance of Ellis who can go from making you laugh to unleashing your tears and turning your heart into ash in a matter of seconds. For a great sense of his range, take a look at the manic obsessions of Lucifer Morningstar in “The Angel of San Bernardino” juxtaposed against the rage and the suffering within “A Devil of My Word.” Every episode Ellis brought something different, and he created a character who, despite being otherworldly, felt grounded and relatable in a way few other characters are.
Omari Hardwick, Power (Starz) – When Hardwick’s character of James “Ghost” St. Patrick began season 4 within a prison, we knew that there was some magic that could be cultivated within those walls. We saw that manifested through Ghost’s physical acts, but then also the fire that burned within his eyes that he was stuck there, separated from his family and the world he held dear. He carried that over into the epic trial sequences at the midway point of the season, where you saw a man whose fire flickered amidst moments of great desperation. By the end of the season, that fire was completely extinguished by the feeling of loss, sorrow, and responsibility. Omari deftly guided you through these emotions, giving you both a sense of his victories and the terrible consequences of his actions.
Sam Heughan, Outlander (Starz) – We have stated for years that Sam is a worthy nominee for his brilliant take on Jamie Fraser, and there is no better example than what he brought us in season 3. He played this character in a painstaking manner across multiple decades of his life and in different parts of the world. Jamie was a hero, a husband, a father, a prisoner, and so much more throughout this season, and Heughan played all of these roles beautifully. Through all of his big moments this season, some of his finest work came in the smaller, more subtle scenes in the episode “Of Lost Things.” Also worth nothing? The epic reunion story in “A. Malcolm” and the many emotional highs and lows within “First Wife.”
Lee Pace, Halt and Catch Fire (AMC) – This is the final year of eligibility for Pace with this show, a brilliant performer who found a way to carve equal brilliance into the character of Joe MacMillan on AMC’s criminally-underrated tale of innovation and advancement. Joe was a pioneer always reaching for something, brilliant and unable to get out of his own way. He sees the vision, but rarely ever sees the process. Through Pace you saw Joe’s detachment, but also his capacity for greatness if he could ever find a way to get there. He is a man of abstract thought and complicated action.
Aidan Turner, Poldark (PBS) – Many times, the performance of an actor can be summed up within the bounds of a single scene. For Turner, this moment came when Ross Poldark had a vision of what he would tell the true love of his life Demelza — that he cared about her more than any other, and that any past illusions that he had of love with Elizabeth were simply that. Yet, he could not form those words and presented himself as a shell on a platter. The subtle distinctions that he put into Ross’ head versus his heart sum up this man even more than him being the military hero or the family man intent on doing battle with George Warleggan.
Michael Weatherly, Bull (CBS) – What we knew about Dr. Jason Bull through season 1 was that he was a brilliant, resourceful man who found a way through behavioral analysis to make problems go away and verdicts swing in his clients’ favor. In season 2, we saw the wheels fall off the cart. Weatherly injected so much pain and vulnerability into this character, whether it be his struggles with his drinking or the connection he had to the job versus the disconnect he had to the life around him. Weatherly made Jason’s flaws increasingly apparent over time, showing them at first as a slow drip before the water started to drown the perception of who Bull wanted to be. There was humor in Bull’s words, but also great heartbreak.
Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us (NBC) – While it remains feasible that both Brown and his co-star Milo Ventimiglia receive nominations for the most devastating season of This Is Us to date, Brown’s emotional fervor as Randall, plus the way in which he masterfully balances relationships, make him a perennial favorite in this category. That’s why, in part, he has cleaned up at so many awards shows to date.
Freddie Highmore, The Good Doctor (ABC) – In his first season, Highmore successfully transitioned over from the creepy world of Bates Motel into a place in the St. Bonaventure Hospital that was full of ambition, care, and at times heated competition. Dr. Shaun Murphy was a completely different character, one confident in his accomplishments, but standing in the face of great obstacles. Highmore guided us on a journey of discovery, and with his past awards-show record, he has a very good shot of scoring a nomination.
Dan Stevens, Legion (FX) – Stevens has an opportunity to break a frequent Emmy trend of comic-book inspired characters being ignored by voters, and for good reason given the haunting power in which he brought to David Haller, a man who carries with him shattered potential and a sense of uncontrollable madness. He takes you into a mind of a powerful man — and, in turn, redefines how we think about men and women with powers in this genre.
Donnie Wahlberg, Blue Bloods (CBS) – While considered a longshot by many within the Emmy community, Wahlberg was the recipient of immense, well-deserved praise as Danny Reagan during the soul-crushing season 8 premiere of the series. He was able to tap into the heartache that he knew viewers would feel over losing Linda (Amy Carlson) from the series and transform a confident, capable man into a façade barely able to make any aspect of life work. He took his time in the midst of Danny’s reparation, and allowed for every moment of growth to be believable.