Emmys 2019: Are Sam Heughan, Tom Ellis, Richard Madden, Freddie Highmore worthy of Drama Actor nod?

Outlander season 4

Welcome to CarterMatt’s 2019 Emmy Preview series! This is an annual tradition that we’ve done on the site since 2013, which revolves around us highlighting some of the best from the TV world. These choices were voted on by our staff, and they represent what the ideal Emmy nominations would be for each category. To go along with that, we then ask you which one of our choices you most want to see recognized with a nomination. It’s strictly for fun, but it’s one of our favorite polls to run and it’s a great way to get the word out there about shows and performers during this key campaign window.

Today, we are spotlighting an always-competitive category in Actor in a Drama Series, and one that routinely ends up being one of the most popular in our Preview Series in terms of reader votes. One of the reasons why is that because of the quality of the work in this field, as you feel such personal connections to all of the actors. They bring you into their world and you feel every single moment they have as their characters. Whether it be via personal, intimate moments or action-packed sequences that feel like life and death, the seven actors we’ve chosen this year showcase precisely what it means to be an exemplary performer in 2019.

Below, you can see our choices for this category — following the description of our “nominees,” you can find the poll to vote for your favorite. (We’re also including some other popular contenders within that poll to widen the field.)

Voting Rules – Voting will remain open until Monday, July 15 at 1:00 p.m. Pacific time, which is the day before the official nominations are announced. The length of the poll coincides with both Emmy campaigns and lead-up to the official nominations being announced. You can vote however often you’d like; for more technical information if you’re having issues, check out the bottom of this article.

David Boreanaz, SEAL Team – Devastation, exhaustion, fear, and family. These are four of the primary driving forces emotionally for Boreanaz’s Jason Hayes at the heart of SEAL Team season 2. This is a season that tested David as a performer and pushed him to its limits. Jason lost Alana, nearly lost his life on a multitude of occasions, dealt with enormous threats all over the world, and also had a find a way to send his daughter to college. This performance was grounded in relatability and jam-packed with heart. It’s easy to label Jason an action hero because of what he does, but this performance was breathtaking mostly in its gritty sense of humanity.

Sterling K. Brown, This Is Us – It’s not a statement we use lightly given Brown’s work on both seasons 1 and 2, but season 3 may be his best year yet as Randall Pearson. This was the season that tore down some of the preconceived notions of Randall as this perfect husband/father figure and showed more a deeply ambitious but deeply flawed man, someone who thought he could bend reality to be a superhero for all people at all times. It was painful watching Randall and Beth struggle because we know their hearts and how much love they have for each other. Brown’s commitment to showing all sides of Randall outstanding, whether it be an aspiring politician or a guy who wants nothing more than just a pie to take home, to think that this could change his world.

Tom Ellis, Lucifer – Even though this is Tom’s second straight year of being on our wishlist, we still don’t think he receives anywhere near enough credit for the work he’s done as Lucifer Morningstar. Think about the challenges of this character — we’re talking about an ancient being who has witnessed all degrees of darkness and light, someone who is in constant conflict with labels and the pain of his past. He is full of fury at times but also something that he hasn’t quite known before Chloe Decker — love. Season 4 brought at times great fun for Lucifer, but also tremendous sorrow and opportunities to explore his past like never before. This is a tough character to nail because of his complexity and Tom nails every moment.

Sam Heughan, Outlander – One of the Emmys’ most-overlooked contenders year in and year out, Heughan offers up every part of himself in devotion to making Jamie Fraser feel like a fully fleshed-out man. You see the moments of him being a leader, but then also ones where everything crumbles to dust on the ground. Take the confrontation within the cabin in “The Deep Heart’s Core.” Meanwhile, in “Man of Worth” you see both Jamie the action hero and Jamie the father figure. Heughan offers up the right mixture of tenderness, strength, and dedication so that Jamie feels real within every scene. Whether it be his time spent with William or him meeting Brianna for the first time, there are so many fantastic moments in season 4 that it’s easy to be in awe of every moment.

Freddie Highmore, The Good Doctor – It’s easy to get stuck on his “I am a surgeon” confrontation with Dr. Han at the end of season 2, largely because this is one of 2019’s most-powerful scenes. Yet, across the board in season 2 you see from Highmore a sense of commitment like no other to Dr. Shaun Murphy. He’s a character who deals with daily challenges due to his autism, but also shows time and time again his brilliance as a physician. He’s often misunderstood, but when he is vulnerable, he brings out a sense of breathtaking power you rarely see. Highmore’s scenes with Richard Schiff are a masterclass of acting and because of his dedication to the role, every victory for Shaun feels earned.

Richard Madden, Bodyguard – David Budd wants nothing more than to be a good PPO and overcome the demons of his past; yet, he constantly finds himself through season 1 of Netflix’s thriller struggling under the weight of unexpected burdens. His relationship with Julia Montague spirals out of control, he faces off against unexpected threats, and what little personal life he has crumbles. Madden plays Budd with an unparalleled sense of intensity and desperation; you’re right there with him through every moment, and yet somehow still out of reach to where you can’t help him, even if you wanted to. Bodyguard was a series where you could barely ever catch your breath, and Madden’s performance kept you glued to the screen from start to finish.

James Spader, The Blacklist – The sixth season may be overall considered to be one of Spader’s best, mostly because of the opportunities it provided to see Raymond Reddington struggle. This is a man who is often brimming with the confidence of a Chessmaster who is always three moves ahead; yet, here he finds himself locked up in prison and, at one point, staring a lethal injection in the face. It brings out vulnerability, but also hurt and betrayal. Reddington unravels and questions the loyalty of all who are close to him. It’s a painful season for the character, but Reddington (as often does) finds a way to bounce back. Sure, you have the sense of familiar charisma from this character (the UN speech was incredible), but there’s something more this time around. There is a fear of his world crashing down.

Photo: Starz
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