Make Your Case: Actor in a Drama Series

For the next week, (Pop) Culturally Informed will be running a brand new series called Make Your Case, where Ben and Nina will take on one major category in turn for next week’s Emmys, pick who they think should win, and make their case. Note: We aren’t going to say who WILL win, but who should. Sometimes these will be one and the same- but we like to choose the road less traveled. Enjoy!

Okay, let’s get this out of the way: if Jeff Daniels wins again, I’m done. Seriously, I’m done forever. I’ll leave Earth.

That aside, this category could not be more packed with talented dudes. We’ve got both leads from True Detective, Matthew McConaughey and Woody Harrelson. We’ve got Bryan Cranston, fresh off the final season of Breaking Bad. We’ve got Kevin Spacey, fresh off a Southern-fried murder spree on House of Cards. And we’ve got poor old Jon Hamm, whose work on Mad Men will go unrecognized forever and ever because the world is a horrible place. But, that being said, I have to get behind a continued McConaissance – Matthew McConaughey, for the win.

Look, I know this might not be a popular decision – not even with my co-editor, Ben, who I know for a fact is backing Cranston tomorrow night. God knows I have nothing against Cranston. The man is straight-up brilliant. His performance in Breaking Bad as a whole was a revelation, but the final episodes were nothing short of extraordinary. That being said – Cranston has won twice for this role, and the stars of True Detective have just one chance to win for what is technically a miniseries (but… let’s not get into that). And, speaking of the stars of True Detective, Woody Harrelson was definitely great too, but I just don’t think he can hold a candle to McConaughey’s tortured, brooding Rust Cohle. Kevin Spacey hopefully won’t be this year’s weird upset – his hammy House of Cards performance is, well, a little much. And, sadly, Jon Hamm will continue to be overlooked and ignored despite his consistently spectacular performances on Mad Men.

So, if Jon Hamm isn’t going to win, I’m willing to give it to McConaughey, and not just because I want to hear “all right, all right, all right” in another acceptance speech. (I do really want McConaughey to EGOT but that’s kind of a separate matter.) It’s just… remember that line “time is a flat circle?” Yeah, so does EVERYONE ELSE. McConaughey took on Rust Cohle – a difficult character in one time period – and portrayed him flawlessly in two. 1995’s Rust was straight-laced, uptight and quiet, but so obviously troubled, which we gett to see in 2012 Rust, a gaunt, chain-smoking alcoholic brought back in to investigate a ritualistic murder.

McConaughey has spent his return showing us how excellent of an actor he is, sure, but we’ve also seen him go through some insane physical transformations. Though 1995 Rust still has a hint of hollow cheekbones (probably leftover from Dallas Buyers Club), 2012 Rust bears NO resemblance to the McConaughey of years past – specifically, the McConaughey who spent a lot of time shirtless on movie posters. Sex symbol no more, the long-haired, modern Rust is the kind of guy you might not make eye contact with if you passed by him on the street, and McConaughey plays him perfectly, taking long, existential speeches about the concept of time and making them fascinating (say what you will, but not every actor could have pulled that off).

I guess I’m a sucker for what my old acting teacher would call a “transformative performance,” but of all the lead actors this season, McConaughey disappeared the most into his character – even in Cranston’s case, you could see the actor bleeding through sometimes. McConaughey became Rust Cohle just as he became Ron Woodroof, and that’s what should win him yet another major award tomorrow night.

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