WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: As playwright Paddy Chayefsky, Butz often served as Fosse/Verdon‘s pragmatic voice of reason, who tried so hard to pull Bob Fosse away from his vices. But the actor managed to take a utilitarian role and infuse it with real heartache and inner turmoil, etching Paddy’s concern for Bob all over his face. We were especially moved by Butz’s stunning final scene, in which Paddy urged Bob to appreciate Gwen Verdon properly — and when it comes to Butz’s performance, that’s what we’re asking Emmy voters to do, too.
BRANDON VICTOR DIXON, RENT
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: If you’ve any doubt whether Dixon deserves heaps upon heaps of praise for his performance as HIV-positive activist Collins in the Fox musical, may we direct your attention to his reprise of “I’ll Cover You,” sung at the funeral of his boyfriend, Angel? The quiet control with which Dixon began the mournful ballad slowly grew into a powerful and sweeping testament to the kind of love death can’t end. Damn, the man can sing. And act. And dance. Give him all the awards, already!
CHRIS MESSINA, SHARP OBJECTS
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: As the stymied outsider brought in to help solve Wind Gap’s atrocious murder, Det. Richard Willis was one of Sharp Objects‘ few even-keel characters. And while Messina initially imbued the role with an easy equanimity, his portrayal of the cop’s mounting frustration with the small town’s reticence was captivating. Add in Richard’s confusion as he tried to figure out what Camille was hiding — which coincided with his growing attraction to her — and you’ve got a nuanced performance deserving of an Emmy nom.
BILL SKARSGÅRD, CASTLE ROCK
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Skarsgård’s nameless villain didn’t say much throughout Castle Rock‘s first season — but he didn’t have to. All of The Kid’s confusion, fear, malice and regret played out across the actor’s wide-eyed expression and lanky body, resulting in a character who fascinated us as much as he frightened us. We’re still not entirely sure if this inscrutable man should have been feared or pitied, and Skarsgård’s ability to keep us vacillating all season long is a testament to his phenomenal work.
STELLAN SKARSGÅRD, CHERNOBYL
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: As Boris Shcherbina, the Deputy Prime Minister tasked with leading the Soviet government’s commission on the Chernobyl disaster, Skarsgård captured the essence of a man who, in seeking out hard answers, came to realize that he was symbolic of the broken system he had long defended. Boris, in shadowing scientist Valery Legasov (a terrific Jared Harris), was prompted to reevaluate his choices and stand up for what was right, not what was right for his career. And as he made that pivot, Skarsgård conveyed the character’s alleviated internal conflict.
CALUM WORTHY, THE ACT
WHY HE DESERVES A NOD: Worthy did the near-impossible — he so beautifully portrayed the sweetness and incomprehension in man-child Nick that we wound up feeling as badly for him as we did for his girlfriend Gypsy, the young woman reduced to a chronically ill charity case by her mother. With doe eyes and deliberately awkward body language, the Disney Channel alum made us 100-percent believe in Nick’s sincere desire to be Gypsy’s Prince Charming, no matter how unhappy their fairy tale’s ending.