WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Three words: football-field monologue. Kevin’s Season 2 descent into drugs and alcohol gave Hartley plenty of opportunities to play him as despondent and achingly fragile. But the pinnacle of the season for the actor was Kevin’s breakdown on the gridiron in “Number One.” Hartley took a beast of a one-man scene and made it sing. He’s attributed the moment’s success to the show’s writers and crew, but we — and hopefully, the Emmy Powers That Be — know the truth: Hartley is the real deal.
SHAWN HATOSY, ANIMAL KINGDOM
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Because in Season 2 of TNT’s brutal drama, he did the unimaginable: He made us feel for — even root for — Pope. Though Hatosy kept his character as scary as they come, he also revealed just how tragically broken Pope was. In the ex-con’s interactions with girlfriend Amy and daughter figure Lena, we saw in his portrayer heartbreaking hints of the decent guy that the psycho might have been, had mom Smurf not twisted him into a killer.
MILES HEIZER, 13 REASONS WHY
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: We can debate the value of the Netflix drama’s second season all day long, but there’s one thing on which we can all agree — Heizer delivered a powerhouse performance as Alex, a “broken” (his word!) young man struggling to rebuild his life after attempting suicide. In a world where people are encouraged to bury their feelings, Heizer brought a degree of honesty and vulnerability to Alex that opened everyone’s eyes (and hopefully Emmy voters’ minds).
DOUG JONES, STAR TREK: DISCOVERY
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Even under layers of alien makeup, Jones made us feel the humanity — er, Kelpienity? — of Starfleet commander Saru in CBS All Access’ shiny new Trek series. In the grand tradition of Spock and Data, Saru is an analytical outsider whose non-human ways provide some much-needed comic relief on the Discovery bridge. But when the cowardly Saru summoned up the strength to take charge, Jones showed us the alien has a courageous heart, as well. (If Kelpiens even have hearts, that is.)
NOAH SCHNAPP, STRANGER THINGS
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Thanks to the 13-year-old wunderkind, fans of the Netflix hit didn’t have to imagine what it would be like to share “now memories” with the Shadow Monster. (Shudder.) As the Mind Flayer took up residence in Will’s head, Schnapp laid bare the horrors of the possession, demonstrating remarkable range as his embattled alter ego oscillated between petrified and menacing. After witnessing such a display, even an actual Zombie Boy would have to be moved enough to nominate Schnapp.
MATT SMITH, THE CROWN
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: It truly takes talent to make us hate a character as much as we hated Elizabeth’s husband Philip in Season 2 of Netflix’s royal drama. When the obnoxiously smug Philip wasn’t avoiding his wife, he was peppering her with cruel jabs about her appearance, and Smith’s warts-and-all performance didn’t sugarcoat his (many) failings. Smith also gave us a peek into Philip’s wounded psyche in a flashback to his difficult childhood, painting an expertly shaded portrait of a fascinatingly flawed man.