Best Actor In A Drama
Bryan Cranston, Breaking Bad
At this juncture, there is nothing more that can be said about this actor, what he has brought to the character of Walter White, and the place on the TV landscape that he has managed to carve out for himself. His legacy as one of the greatest actors of all time has been established. His triumph at the Golden Globes and the SAG awards emphasized it. And his victory at the Tonys for playing LBJ just added to the depth he has portrayed. Why, however, am I not sure that he’ll get one more Emmy before he calls it quits? Because of…
Matthew McConaughey, True Detective
Nothing that this actor has done in the past— and yes, I’m counting the Oscar he won earlier this year— could prepare you for Rustin Cohle, the utterly nihilistic, chronically drunk, utterly despairing homicide cop and the investigation that he led, and kept going until the solution was found. (In a perfect world there would be room for Woody Harrelson, who was at least as good as his outwardly more social but equally lost partner.) Cranston is up for the last time. McConaughey is up for the only time. The unstoppable force will meet the immovable object in August, and I’m not sure who’ll prevail.
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Despite the fact that it’s probably going to come down to one of the first two leading men, there were a lot of other great performances. As Philip Jennings, the more conflicted of the KGB double agents that operate out of DC, Rhys was a model of control— until his teenage daughter announced her interest in the one thing know Soviet could support, the church.. At this point, I’m not sure which episode would have contained the better example of his skill: the episode where he exploded at his daughter for giving away her money to church, or the season finale, when he learned how the Kremlin enlisted a teenager as a KGB agent, and his rage at his handlers for even considering his daughter as one of them. Either way, he deserves to make the list.
Michael Sheen, Masters of Sex
He’s already expertly portrayed Tony Blair and David Frost onscreen. Now, this superb actor demonstrates the pioneer of sexuality William Masters, a man so controlled by his work, he shut everyone and everything else out of his life… except for the woman he worked with. The bundle of contradictions behind this man were just one of the most fascinating aspects of this performance. The fact that he was able to lie to everybody else about it— even himself— is just another aspect of one of this years best portrayals.
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards
As Francis Underwood climbed the ladder of power— literally stepping over the bodies of the people he used as he did so, making the viewer aware of every brilliant manipulation, Spacey once again demonstrated why he is one of the greatest actors in history. I’m more than a little terrified as to what kind of President he’ll be when he finally gets there, but he’s already won over D.C. and most of Hollywood, so I imagine the viewer will relish it too.
James Spader, The Blacklist
There’s a reason this series is one of the strongest network offerings on TV, and Spader’s. There’s none of the ambiguity that we got so many of the other antiheroes that have populated TV— Red is a monster, and he knows better than anyone. Watching him maneuver around the FBI, kill Washington insiders, lie to anyone within listening distance, all the while insinuating that something far worse was just below the surface— it takes a great actor to make this work. Spader is perhaps the only one who could pull it off.