There are many, many Emmys, but none so prestigious as those given for the top actor categories. Robin Wright and Kerry Washington are two first-time nominees going head-to-head for one award, while veteran actors Jeff Daniels and Harry Hamlin are up for recognition in their roles as a lead and guest actor, respectively. Then there is true newcomer Emilia Clarke, the darling and daring queen of the horse peoples in Game of Thrones. A favorite in the press and among GoT fans, Clarke faces some very tough competition – and from some much beloved actors and actresses.
Jeff Daniels (The Newsroom, HBO)
Jeff Daniels is a very strong contender for Best Drama Actor, in part because of the strength and presence of his anchorman character Will McAvoy on HBO’s "The Newsroom." The Athens, Georgia native is two years shy of 60, and has played a wide variety of roles, from noble and heroic leaders such as George Washington and Civil War General Joshua Chamberlain to silly and stupid slapstick parts in movies like Dumb and Dumber and Purple Rose of Cairo. Always genuine, no matter how dramatic or comedic the part, Jeff Daniels is an actor everybody likes – with the exception of the Tea Party crowd, which is as offended by his character on HBO as is Will McAvoy’s Republican newsman by them, which he dubs “The American Taliban.”
Kerry Washington (Scandal, ABC)
A gorgeous actress who in the movies was usually cast as the sexy mistress or gorgeous trophy wife, Kerry Washington has proven that there is more to her than just her allure. Yes, she plays a woman who seduces (or at least lets herself be seduced) by the President of the United States (who is of course, a married man) on ABC’s Scandal, but the role is about more than just sex. Ms. Washington plays an intelligent, accomplished woman who must deal with all manners of Washington shenanigans as well as matters of national security. A strong contender for Best Drama Actress, whether Washington wins or not, she can take great pride in noting that she has arrived.
Robin Wright (House of Cards, Netflix)
Among those vying for Best Drama Actress alongside the sultry, smart Kerry Washington is Robin Wright. Known to most as Buttercup in The Princess Bride or as Forrest Gump’s tragic girlfriend, Wright has more than a score of well-received movie roles to her credit. Who else would take on such iconic characters as Moll Flanders one day and then Pippa Lee another? The Texan-born, California-raised former spouse of Sean Penn can play nice, but she truly shines in tough roles – and as Claire Underwood in the Netflix reboot of the British political drama "House of Cards," she has more than enough hard lines to deliver, especially when she goes toe-to-toe with the series male lead, Kevin Spacey.
Harry Hamlin (Mad Men, AMC)
While no longer the golden boy of the 1980s when he was a young and up-and-coming lawyer on "L.A. Law" (or a Greek hero in the original "Clash of the Titans"), Harry Hamlin has aged well – and looks damn good, as his stylish if reserved character on AMC’s Mad Men shows. Up for an Emmy in the Best Drama Guest Actor category, Hamlin makes up in presence what his character lacks in screen time. As this year’s season wound to a close, the mild-mannered, gentle, stodgy character he plays slowly revealed his dark, calculating side – a side that is bound to put him head-to-head with series star Jon Hamm. If that plays out as expected, next year it won’t be just as “guest” actor, but perhaps supporting actor for which he will be nominated.
Emilia Clarke (Game of Thrones, HBO)
Women on "Game of Thrones" are often in nude scenes, and young Emilia Clarke has literally walked through the fire on that challenge as Daenerys Targaryen, Khaleesi (or queen) of the Dothraki barbarian horde on the HBO series based on the George R.R. Martin novels. The youngest of the five actors profiled in this article, the 26-year-old Londoner was classically trained at the Drama Centre London, and paid her dues as a guest star in an assortment of television series and films. In 2011, she won the Scream Award for the HBO role, and was nominated for both a SAG and Critic’s Choice award for the part. Will she get the big prize of an Emmy? Perhaps, but if not this year, she will have at least one, two or perhaps as many a four more shots, as Daenerys Targaryen, like Game of Thrones, will be around for quite a while.
Mark G. McLaughlin is a professional and prolific writer with a proven publishing record in a wide variety of fields. An historian, novelist, freelance journalist, ghost-writer, book reviewer, magazine editor, web and magazine columnist, Mark has more than 30 years of experience. His work can be found at Examiner.com.
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