WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: If they gave out Emmys for making viewers’ skin crawl, Dencik would have this one in the bag. The Swedish actor was supremely creepy as Puss, the scraggly-haired older man who romanced rebellious teen girl Mary in Sundance’s riveting crime drama. Armed with an obnoxious self-importance and an empty stare that could make your blood run cold, Puss was a nightmare personified for Mary’s parents, and Dencik deserves a lot of credit for bringing such a detestable monster to life.
BRANDON VICTOR DIXON, JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR LIVE IN CONCERT
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: JC is great and all, but Andrew Lloyd Webber’s rock opera has always been Judas’ show — and what a powerhouse NBC found in Power star Dixon, a Broadway triple threat who was a huge factor in the live musical’s success. His versatility made the performance a can’t-miss, dazzling us with his energy in “Superstar” one moment and his vulnerability in the “I Don’t Know How to Love Him” reprise the next — a divine casting choice, indeed.
CODY FERN, THE ASSASSINATION OF GIANNI VERSACE: AMERICAN CRIME STORY
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: We didn’t expect a show with Versace’s name in the title to stray so far from its apparent focus — but if it hadn’t, we never would have experienced the rollercoaster relationship between Andrew Cunanan and his friend-turned-victim David Madson, embodied with haunting realism by Fern. From his horrified spiral upon discovering Andrew’s dark impulses, to the imagined closure he got with his late father in death, Fern delivered a touching performance that embodied the series’ overall themes of rejection and despair.
JASON RITTER, THE TALE
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: As Jennifer Fox’s running coach-turned-sexual abuser in HBO’s chilling film, Ritter made us deeply, profoundly uncomfortable — and that’s a credit to the actor’s performance as much as the subject matter. With every scene, Ritter transformed his genial athlete into an untrustworthy predator; by the time Bill was alone with 13-year-old Jenny, Ritter had mastered an unnerving combination of kindness and control. It’s difficult to praise the portrayal of a sickening character, but Ritter’s work is certainly worthy of Emmy recognition.
JIMMI SIMPSON, BLACK MIRROR
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: The Westworld star just about vaporized our hearts in the Season 4 sci-fi adventure “USS Callister,” as his alpha-male executive James Walton was reduced to a whimpering servant in space captain Robert Daly’s interstellar torture chamber. Walton was desperate to keep his innocent son out of Daly’s evil clutches, and Simpson masterfully played every note of his emotional evolution, from lecherous boss to wisecracking crew member to unlikely hero.
HUGO WEAVING, PATRICK MELROSE
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: The Matrix alum’s bone-chilling turn in Showtime’s darkly comic miniseries may haunt us as long as it haunted the title character. As Patrick’s pompous and domineering father David Melrose, Weaving pulled no punches, setting aside any vanity to show us the full scale of David’s callous cruelty in a series of pivotal flashbacks. To sympathize with Patrick, we needed to know how terrible his father was, and the miniseries simply wouldn’t have worked without Weaving’s unsparing, hard-hearted performance.