This year’s Emmy nominees for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie all managed to make a powerful impression in a relatively short amount of screen time: Antonio Banderas (Genius: Picasso), Darren Criss (The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story), Benedict Cumberbatch (Patrick Melrose), Jeff Daniels (The Looming Tower), John Legend (Jesus Christ Superstar), and Jesse Plemons (Black Mirror: “USS Callister”).
Criss and Legend are the only two newcomers to the category, which makes sense since this year marks their first Emmy nominations, period. Legend stole the show as the title character of Jesus Christ Superstar, and utilized his musical talents well on screen. (He already won a Creative Arts Emmy for the project, securing his EGOT status.) Criss meanwhile was the driving force behind nine episodes of American Crime Story, pulling off the unenviable task of making killer Andrew Cunanan understandable and maybe even a little sympathetic.
Banderas and Plemons each have one prior nomination in this category. Before he was Pablo Picasso, Banderas was Pancho Villa. He earned a nomination for his performance in And Starring Pancho Villa As Himself as the titular Mexican Revolution general starring in his own autobiographical film. That 14-year gap between nominations is the biggest in this year’s category. Plemons’ previous nomination came much more recently, in the 2016 category for his starring role in the second season of Fargo.
Daniels is an Emmy favorite, having been nominated three times for Outstanding Actor in a Drama Series due to his lead performance in The Newsroom; he won once, in 2013. This year brings Daniels’ first nomination in this particular category, thanks to his lead role in The Looming Tower, though he’s also nominated in the Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie category for his role in Netflix’s Western series Godless.
Cumberbatch is a heavyweight in this particular category. He earned four previous nominations for his lead role in BBC’s Sherlock, and won the award in 2014. In between Sherlock seasons, he earned another nomination in 2013 for Parade’s End. Even though his role this year in Patrick Melrose is much less well-known than Sherlock, Cumberbatch is clearly a favorite of the category.
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The winners will be announced live on the 70th annual Emmy Awards — hosted by Saturday Night Live’s Colin Jost and Michael Che — on Sept. 17 at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT.