WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: As the acclaimed SundanceTV drama drew to a quiet close, Crawford had us feeling Teddy Talbot’s assorted pains as hesimultaneously came to terms with the end of his marriage to Tawney, the dissolution of his family’s tire store “dynasty” and some new truths about Hanna Dean’s rape and murder. Eliciting that level of sympathy from the audience was no small feat, given our initial feelings about accused rapist/murderer Daniel’s onetime bully of a stepbrother.
RON CEPHAS JONES, THIS IS US
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Jones handled comedy and tragedy — sometimes within beats of each other — with gentle precision during the NBC sobfest’s freshman run, making Randall’s reticent biological father one of the coolest, kindest characters on the ensemble drama. Jones was excellent all season and against all scene partners (remember his kitchen-table pep talk to Kevin?), but we just can’t shake that final exchange between William and Randall, with Jones giving so much meaning to just a few words as the older man admitted he was scared to die. Though the power of flashbacks mean Jones isn’t leaving the show, it’s not likely he’ll have such stellar material again on This Is Us.
SCOTT GLENN, THE LEFTOVERS
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Emmy voters would have to be even nuttier than The Leftovers‘ Kevin Sr. not to recognize the work that his portrayer did in the HBO drama’s final season — and Kevin Sr. was nutty enough to have once consulted with a clairvoyant chicken! In particular in “Crazy Whitefella Thinking,” Glenn committed so wholeheartedly to his character’s batty belief that only he could stop a biblical flood that we damn near bought it ourselves.
JOHN LITHGOW, THE CROWN
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Finally, an American actor steals a British role for once! Lithgow has the booming voice and haughty affect required to play legendary Prime Minister Winston Churchill in Netflix’s royal drama — and he nails the accent, by the way. But it’s the vulnerability he brings to the role, as Churchill’s aging body begins to betray him, that makes his work truly award-worthy. (For proof: Watch “Assassins,” the episode where Churchill rages against an unflattering portrait of himself.)
MICHAEL MCKEAN, BETTER CALL SAUL
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: McKean’s co-star Jonathan Banks is a mainstay in this category, and rightfully so, but McKean made a great case for himself with his dazzling Season 3 work as Jimmy’s pompous brother Chuck McGill. The comedy veteran went chillingly dark as Chuck connived to sabotage Jimmy’s law career, but his mask slipped in the showcase episode “Chicanery,” as he melted down on the witness stand, A Few Good Men-style. Just watch that episode, members of the jury — we have nothing further.
JEFFREY WRIGHT, WESTWORLD
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Put aside the measured emotional responses, the clinical detachment, that heartbreaking bedside scene with his dying child and that withering stare over the top of his reading glasses. Wright needs some Emmy love this year because he played two characters for most of Westworld‘s first season, and only after the revelation that Bernard was a robotic clone of Dr. Ford’s deceased business partner did the differences — and yep, they’re totally there — between those two characters become apparent. If you’ve re-watched the sci-fi drama’s first season, you’ve noticed that Wright gave Bernard a slight groundedness that made his interactions a shade warmer than that of his android doppelganger. It’s a small yet masterful thing to pull off, and it’s evidence that he deserves a spot in this year’s running.