WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: In the hands of a less capable performer, Mo Monroe could have been one-dimensional: a cocky Wall Street trader with an affinity for four-letter words. But Cheadle found a way to make us root for him, turning Mo into the vulgar, cocaine-tarnished heart of Black Monday. With an electric, no-holds-barred performance, Cheadle brought fascinating complexity to his character, ensuring we saw the traces of loneliness and dissatisfaction that have come with a life in the finance world.
TED DANSON, THE GOOD PLACE
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: We almost feel guilty expecting anything more from a living legend like Danson, but he continued to bless us with his expertly calibrated deadpan act in Season 3 of NBC’s afterlife comedy. He was delightfully befuddled as Michael attempted to untangle the massive bureaucracy surrounding the Good Place, and his growing affection for his human counterparts was genuinely touching. He even flossed! Any performance that involves the former Sam Malone attempting a kids’ dance craze earns an automatic spot on our Emmy shortlist.
JOHN GOODMAN, THE CONNERS
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Because he gave good, nuanced grief. As his alter ego grappled with sudden widowerhood, Goodman infused the seemingly unbreakable Dan with heartbreaking — and at times hilarious — vulnerability. In moments both small and big, the acting vet dug deep into Dan’s psyche to depict all the anger, sadness and denial that follows such an unimaginable loss.
BILL HADER, BARRY
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Whether getting soundly beaten up by a teenage girl or bumbling his way into a coveted movie audition, Hader’s hitman-turned-actor did deliver plenty of laughs in Season 2. But it was Barry’s wrenchingly dark night of the soul, and his earnest exploration of his own morality, that helped his sophomore run top even his Emmy-winning work last season. We weren’t even sure we wanted a Season 2 of Barry… but it was worth it for Hader’s magnificently layered performance alone.
JIM PARSONS, THE BIG BANG THEORY
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: He stuck the landing, that’s why. In the CBS sitcom’s 12th and final season, Parsons not only made Sheldon Cooper the insufferable, infuriating, idiosyncratic brainiac that we’d long known and loved, he opened the heart of his emotionally obtuse alter ego wider than ever before. And, as the Nobel Prize winner expressed his affection for his friends with a genuineness that felt at once unprecedented and entirely in character, another victory for his portrayer seemed ever more assured.
DREW TARVER, THE OTHER TWO
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: For a character whose biggest acting credit is “Man at Party Who Smells Fart,” Tarver’s Cary Dubek is as layered and evolutionary as the questionable hairstyle he briefly sports in the latter half of The Other Two’s freshman season. Whether feuding with a crew of Instagays dressed in animal onesies or finally demanding more of his “straight” roommate-with-benefits, Tarver really sells every step of Cary’s desperate (and seemingly never-ending) quest for validation and relevance. And even if none of that was true, we’d still give Tarver an Emmy nod for the spot-on Call Me By Your Name recreation pictured here.