By Peter Knegt and Ben Travers | Indiewire June 25, 2014 at 12:00PM
If we left it up to the networks and their campaign departments, almost no one worthy of an Emmy nomination would make the cut (stop nominating Jim Parsons!). So we here at Indiewire are hoping to start some grassroots campaigns of our own, pushing the best of the unlikely nominees to the forefront and hoping to receive some support from you, our wonderful readers. Below you'll find our picks for the lead comedy actors we'd like to see honored by the Television Academy, as well as video evidence of their talents. Next week, we'll pick our favorites for comedy series, then drama series the following week before the nominations are announced July 10th. Without further ado, our picks:
6) Keri Russell - "The Americans"PK: Of all the lists we've been offering over these weeks, this is the one that to me I'm amazed I even have to vouch for -- as in it's kind of shocking these folks aren't already shoo-ins. But that goes to show just how insanely stacked dramatic television is right now, and maybe suggests the Emmys should take their six and raise it to 10. But I digress.
Let's start things off with someone whose long been ignored by Emmy: Keri Russell. First with "Felicity," and now -- more tragically, in my opinion -- with "The Americans." The show was one of the biggest snubbees at last year's Emmys, and given there's even more competition this time around, it's hard to imagine them making up for it. But they should. Because "The Americans" is one of the smartest shows on television, and certainly one of the best acted. I'd vouch for the entire cast to get nominated (and already did for Annet Mahendru a few weeks back), but Keri Russell's work as KGB agent Elizabeth Jennings would arguably make me the happiest.
6) Karl Urban - "Almost Human"BT: It is rather shocking the Television Academy isn't expected to catch up with "The Americans" this year, though every awards show must have its unheralded critical darling. I guess "The Americans" is the Emmys version of "Inside Llewyn Davis." Anyway, my sixth pick is for a show absolutely no one will remember next year since it wasn't renewed for a second season. "Almost Human" wasn't a critical darling -- nor should it have been -- but Karl Urban deserves some kudos for his portrayal of an angry, emotionally blocked future cop. It's not a Daniel Day-Lewis-esque transformation for the man who played Judge Dredd with an equal amount of sternness, but Urban is an ideal TV lead who deserves to be clowning around in buddy cop setting. He almost had it plus some depth (his leg! his wife!), but alas, another one bites the dust.
5) Freddie Highmore - "Bates Motel"PK: You almost made me want to watch "Almost Human," haha. Yeah, Urban is about as long a shot as it gets but I appreciate your stretching outside the typical conversation. I'll at least search "Karl Urban Almost Human" on YouTube later. My No. 5 pick is somewhat more of a likely bet, but it's still highly improbable: Freddie Highmore in "Bates Motel." His co-star and onscreen mother Vera Farmiga got a nod last year, but younger actors have it tough at the Emmys, and Highmore has some pretty remarkable competition in his category. But here's hoping he sneaks in anyway. As young Norman Bates, Highmore gave us an intense season where his character was on the verge of many an unfortunate thing. And like co-star Farmiga, Highmore managed to carefully walk quite a few lines to keep the series from going too far in one direction or another.
5) Nathan Fillion - "Castle"BT: Little Freddie has done some growing up over the first two seasons of "Bates Motel" -- it's hard to remember him as Charlie from "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" after seeing him get his hands dirty on A&E. Anyway, I'll be touching on this show a little later, but let me first draw some attention to another actor with no shot at a nod. Nathan Fillion will always be beloved by Whedonites for his work on "Firefly," but mainstream America knows him as Rick Castle, the sassy novelist turned part-time detective on ABC's episodic crime "drama." I say "drama" because it's really a comedy with dramatic elements interfering with Fillion's effortless charm and impeccable delivery. He's been terrific for years now, and anyone who can get me to watch episodic TV deserves an award.
4 & 3) Hugh Dancy & Mads Mikkelsen - "Hannibal"PK: I'm cheating for like the fourth time during our little series here, but I just couldn't leave out one of the "Hannibal" boys so I'm vouching for both (which makes me feel like I've betrayed Vera Farmiga and Matthew Rhys in the last two entries) -- because "Hannibal" is one of the best shows on television. And it's somehow on NBC, despite content that's occasionally a bit much even for cable and a show with dwindling ratings. And it's also something Emmy voters are probably going to ignore all over again during Season 2. But they absolutely should not, least of all for it's outstanding cast led by Dancy and Mikkelson, who electrified anyone lucky enough to watch the season with their portrayals of Will Graham and Hannibal Lector, two of the most of interesting characters on television in no small part due to the actors behind them.
4) Timothy Olyphant - "Justified"BT: Well, now you're making me feel guilty for my pick later in this list. Luckily, there's only one lead on "Justified." For receiving mostly positive reviews if not raves, this Kentucky-set modern western feels like a cult show. People who watch it love it, and people who don't have never heard of it. Yet the FX drama deserves all the kudos it doesn't get -- in six seasons, Graham Yost's adaptation of Elmore Leonard's character has earned a decent amount of love from the Emmys with two wins (Margo Martindale and Jeremy Davies in 2011 and 2012, respectively). Its lead actor, however, has only been nominated once -- let's see if we can change that heading into the final season.
3) Vera Farmiga - "Bates Motel"
BT: ...And I guess I better keep going so we can keep this witty repartee flowing properly. You vouched for one star of "Bates Motel" earlier, and I'll make a push for Vera now. Farmiga actually scored a nomination last year, so her odds in 2014 aren't too bad. The competition has increased, but the veteran actress didn't let up in Season 2, and voters may feel more comfortable pushing for a familiar name like Vera's than a newbie like Lizzy Caplan or someone less popular like Michelle Dockery. More importantly, she deserves a slot, even if the only way is expanding the number of nominees -- as you suggested earlier.
2) Lizzy Caplan - "Masters of Sex"PK: Speaking of Lizzy Caplan, I'm all for them feeling comfortable voting her in (hopefully alongside Vera -- but yes, there needs to be like 12 slots for me to satisfied in that category). I've been a huge fan of Caplan for a while, largely from comedic roles in "Mean Girls" and "Party Down," and I was so happy to see her take this very meaty role and do so much with it. As eventual sexologist Virginia Johnson, Caplan more than holds her own against her more established dramatic co-star Michael Sheen, offering a subtle sincerity that makes Johnson one of the most interesting female characters on television (alongside a lot of women on both of our lists).
2) Mads Mikkelsen - "Hannibal"BT: I fell for Caplan in "Party Down" as well, but she really won me over in "Bachelorette." Coke-snorting Caplan reuniting with Adam Scott was all I needed. Anyway, on to my No. 2. Not to take anything away from Hugh Dancy's portrayal of the socially awkward genius cop hunting the titular cannibal, but only "True Detective" competing as a drama series made me happier than NBC's decision to run Mads Mikkelsen as a lead actor in "Hannibal." He might have better odds in the supporting race -- the same as Woody Harrelsen on "True Detective" -- but I admire NBC's decision to stick to its guns. Mikkelsen's performance shouldn't be downgraded at all -- his stature is equal to Dancy's, and he's my personal favorite of the duo (though with Laurence Fishburne and Gillian Anderson rounding out the cast, it's an impeccable group).
1) Tatiana Masiany - "Orphan Black"
PK: Mads somehow makes for the first time we've crossed over on any of these lists, so I couldn't agree more. Though I'd be even happier to see Tatiana Masiany, who somehow was not nominated last year for her epic performance as like a dozen characters in Season 1 of the clone drama "Orphan Black," get nominated. I'll be the first to admit Season 2 was a little frustrating to watch by comparison, but not to any fault of Masiany. The Canadian actress -- who has been nominated pretty much everywhere else but the Emmys -- was still mind blowing as Sarah Manning and her many clones, and while I think there's a good chance voters will make up for last year's snub this time around, it's no sure thing (though admittedly, I am predicting it -- hopefully not just out of wishful thinking).
1) Jon Hamm - "Mad Men" BT: We're going from one actress who's been nominated everywhere but the Emmys to an actor who's been nominated but never won. For all the love "Mad Men" has received at the Emmys, Jon Hamm has never taken home a trophy. As the star of the show with four Best Drama wins, he's never won. I know those three sentences are a little redundant, but emphasis needs to be placed on this fact, a troubling idea that's looking to become a trivia answer for decades to come along with past snubees like Steve Carell on "The Office" and Jason Alexander on "Seinfeld." This is not his year either. I'd still put him on the short list to land a nom, but many have shuffled him off in a crowded 2014 field. "Mad Men" is on the outs, after all, both in public conscious, ratings, and in that it's literally ending next year. He'll never topple Bryan Cranston or Matthew McConaughey this year, but a nod would keep him in the Academy's favor heading into his last shot at Emmy in 2015. Here's hoping.