Emmy Circuit: Michael McKean’s Snubbed Past Makes Him A Potential Frontrunner in Guest Actor


Welcome to the 2019 Emmy Circuit series. We are now in the Emmy post-nomination phase, where we watch all the nominated Emmy episodes and predict their chances of winning. The Creative Arts Emmy will reveal their winners Saturday, Sept. 14, while the Primetime Emmy Awards airs on FOX Sunday, Sept. 22. Tune in week after week as we tackle all things Drama, Comedy, Limited Series and Variety.


This esteemed Guest Actor in a Drama series category is often comprised of perennial favorites — movie star and television glory-day performers alike — and ascending stars whose talents are finally being recognized by their peers. In some cases, nominations are given in response to beloved characters making a brief appearance after written off their program. Either way, the category can make for an interesting competition considering its potpourri assembly. With HBO’s “Game of Thrones” once more excluded from the category, the Emmy is up for grabs. Based on the past two years, NBC’s “This Is Us” appears like it’s primed for a three-peat, but the surrounding pool of juggernaut contenders could end its streak. Let’s break down this stacked crop of gentlemen.

And the Nominees Are…

  • Michael McKean as Chuck McGill in “Better Call Saul”
  • Bradley Whitford as Commander Joseph Lawrence in “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  • Glynn Turman as Nate Lahey, Sr. in “How to Get Away With Murder”
  • Michael Angarano as Nick Pearson in “This Is Us”
  • Ron Cephas Jones as William Hill in “This Is Us”
  • Kumail Nanjiani as Samir Wassan in “The Twilight Zone”

NOMINEE #1 — Michael McKean, “Better Call Saul”

A legend who’s never received the adoration he merits, Michael McKean was the biggest Emmy snub last year in the “Supporting Actor in a Drama Series” category. His ruthless, calculated portrayal of the older brother of Bob Odenkirk’s titular antihero makes Chuck McGill one of the most complex villains in modern storytelling. Back in a guest-starring role for the fourth season, McKean finally has the opportunity to be indemnified for last year’s heinous omission.

McKean’s perennial status, attachment to a heralded spinoff of “Breaking Bad,” and former neglect from the Academy all coalesce into a frontrunner candidacy. With the “This Is Us” duo possibly dividing the fanfare, McKean is in a prime position to pull ahead for the prize. It would be the first acting Emmy given to a “Better Call Saul” cast member, and the Academy would treat this win as a commendable yet small bone they can throw to the series.

NOMINEE #2 — Bradley Whitford, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Bradley Whitford’s inclusion will not be an easy pill for some to swallow given his nomination is derived from the tail end of a season that released over a year ago, its last few episodes barely eligible for this year’s Emmy broadcast. Whitford plays another of Gilead’s “Commanders” to increasingly chilling effect, and is all the more frightening in comfortable parlor attire.

Although the show’s goodwill and buzz has died down, it remains Hulu’s top prestige program. Whitford’s role appears marginalized because of the odd deadline constraints, though he’s not one to be underestimated. Just four years ago, “The West Wing” alum took home the Emmy in this very same race for portraying a transgender woman in Amazon’s “Transparent.”

NOMINEE #3 — Glynn Turman in “How to Get Away With Murder”

Glynn Turman’s vexing portrayal of an inmate, who finds himself repeatedly thwarted by the justice system because of the color of his skin, offered one of the most difficult yet powerful story arcs this past television season. Its conclusion is tragic beyond measure, but Turman’s impassioned, prideful, and pleading performance made Nate Lahey, Sr. the face of a broken legal system whose familiar story almost becomes bigger than the show.

Turman has had a long and respected career, and is a previous winner in this same category for HBO’s “In Treatment.” The biggest hurdle he has to face is the recent bias against network television, especially belonging to a program that achieves the bulk of its audience upon uploading to Netflix. There’s also Cicely Tyson’s devastating loss to contend with for this same show and category, stunning the majority of pundits who were convinced she was the guaranteed favorite. However, with Viola Davis’ first appearance back in the category for the show since Season 3, perhaps the legal thriller has more love tucked away than previously assumed.

NOMINEE #4 — Michael Angarano, “This Is Us”

Michael Angarano comes across like a rising star even though he’s been a working actor for decades, most recently turning out a chilling performance in the under-seen “The Stanford Prison Experiment.” He’s an actor many recognize but whose name draws a blank. There’s no forgetting this time, as his name is forever engraved as a 2019 Emmy nominee for “Guest Actor in a Drama Series.”

As a member of America’s favorite television family, the Pearsons, he’s already got the sentimental vote wrapped up. The NBC series — which just completed its third season — shows no signs of slowing down in the acting recognition department. To date, the show has produced an impressive eleven separate actor nominations, including Angarano. Unfortunately, Angarano’s younger age compared to his veteran peers has historically been an Achilles’ heel in Hollywood, though if the trend were indeed to buck, Angarano’s touching story arc could do the deed.

NOMINEE #5 — Ron Cephas Jones, “This Is Us”

As last year’s previous winner in this undervalued category, Ron Cephas Jones is both the incumbent contender and repeat nominee. As William Hill, Cephas Jones has anchored the show with everlasting spirit despite his character passing away at the end of the inaugural season. Flashback episodes and figure allusions have kept the actor coming back to wet eyes year after year.

Newcomer Angarano might either take some of the spotlight away from the returning champ, not to mention the pair could split votes from TV Academy members unsure of which actor to support from their favorite tear-inducing performance.

NOMINEE #6 — Kumail Najiani, “The Twilight Zone”

While it’s heartwarming to see one of the nicest guys in Hollywood get his first Emmy nomination, it’s debatable how much “acting” is done with the role considering Nanjiani is playing a heightened iteration of his profession. Nanjiani’s growing profile as an Oscar-nominated screenwriter for “The Big Sick” (2017), his recent starring role in “Stuber” (2019),” and his honorary membership as a fan-favorite in HBO’s “Silicon Valley” largely contributed to his presence in this field. Moreover, seeing as how his episode, “The Comedian,” was the only one available for free without a CBS All Access subscription, Nanjiani received a wider audience than his fellow actors from the rebooted anthology series.

Nanjiani’s participation scores CBS’s streaming service its first upper echelon Emmy nomination. This honor hopefully extends to co-creator Jordan Peele’s reboot of the original 1959-1964 series that likewise focuses on weird occurrences in the contemporary beyond. A Mr. Congeniality prize certainly isn’t outside the realm of possibility, and while Nanjiani rides the evolving dark tidings of the episode extraordinary well, the nomination itself is a testament to a rising star worthy of accolade spotlight.


  1. Michael McKean, “Better Call Saul”
  2. Michael Angarano, “This Is Us”
  3. Ron Cephas Jones, “This Is Us”
  4. Glynn Turman, “How to Get Away With Murder”
  5. Bradley Whitford, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  6. Kumail Nanjiani, “The Twilight Zone”

Will and Should Win: Michael McKean, “Better Call Saul”

Should Have Been Nominated: Dylan McDermott, “American Horror Story: Apocalypse”