WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Glover’s lead role on his breakout FX comedy is deceptively simple: His character Earn is often the straight man while bolder personalities like Paper Boi and Darius bounce all around him. But Glover picks his spots to make full use of the comedy chops he honed on Community. And Earn’s burning desire to make something of himself and become the father his baby girl deserves is honestly affecting, thanks to Glover’s subtle, insightful performance.
HANK AZARIA, BROCKMIRE
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: The ubiquitous character actor is a man of a million personas (see: The Simpsons), but it’s the role of Jim Brockmire that may very well define Azaria’s enviably diverse career. One need only look at his work in the series premiere, during which he delivered his play-by-play legend’s on-air meltdown with Network-esque vigor. But above all else, it was his ability to humanize his drunken, drug-addled alter ego that made his performance truly one of a kind.
JEFFREY TAMBOR, TRANSPARENT
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Sure, he’s won this category two years running… but we’re not going to penalize Tambor when his performance as Maura Pfefferman is still so rich and rewarding. A Season 3 health scare spurred Maura to push further in her journey towards self-discovery — a little too far for some of her fellow Pfeffermans to handle. But Maura soldiered on, and Tambor painstakingly (and hilariously) added yet more shading and detail to his portrait of a fascinatingly flawed woman.
TOMMY DEWEY, CASUAL
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Frankly, Alex Cole isn’t a great dude. He’s selfish, rude and unrepentant. And yet, throughout Casual‘s sophomore run, we still found ourselves rooting for the guy — and that’s precisely why Dewey landed on our Dream Emmy roster. In moments both absurd (Alex buying his ex-girlfriend 100 cows as a wedding gift) and melancholy (finally confronting his estranged father about his loveless childhood), Dewey brought heart, humor and incredible depth to a character we just can’t help but cheer on.
TED DANSON, THE GOOD PLACE
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: The TV Hall of Famer added to his legendary résumé with his endearingly goofy turn as afterlife architect Michael. Danson made Michael’s ignorance of human habits utterly charming — he’s a big Friends fan now! — and when Michael revealed his true intentions in a shocking finale twist, Danson handled the jarring switch with ease. Angel or devil, Danson’s work here is heavenly.
BILL HADER, DOCUMENTARY NOW!
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: A comedy Swiss Army knife during his years on SNL, Hader let his trademark versatility run wild in Season 2 of IFC’s relentlessly clever sketch anthology. He played a cutthroat, James Carville-esque campaign manager; a pompous Hollywood producer in the mold of Robert Evans; and, most hilariously, a Spalding Gray type performing a one-man theater show about his crazy New York life. You don’t need to know which films are being mocked to appreciate Hader’s fiercely committed, seemingly effortless chameleon act.