At the 65th Annual Primetime Emmy Awards at the Nokia Theatre in Los Angeles last night, awards were given out for outstanding achievement in comedy, drama, best actor and best actress, among many other achievements. One of the biggest upsets of the evening — particularly if you are a fan of the critically acclaimed drama Breaking Bad — was Bobby Cannavale's win for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Category for his role as Gyp Rosetti in Boardwalk Empire.
Cannavale's competition in the category was Jonathan Banks (Breaking Bad), Aaron Paul (Breaking Bad), Jim Carter (Downton Abbey), Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones) and Mandy Patinkin (Homeland). If you were laying bets on which actor would take home the statuette, the odds were on Paul for the win, special mention for Banks because he, too, comes from the Breaking Bad family and Patinkin. Patankin slipped into the odds simply because Homeland is a great show, showcased by fantastic writing (as noted by their Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series win), and Patinkin is generally well liked.
Poor Carter and Dinklage weren't even in the running, and if Cannavale was a major upset, he wasn't a contender, either.
Here's the problem with that line of thinking. Every year when awards season comes along, whether it is the Emmy Awards for television or the Academy Awards for movies, certain shows or movies seem to sweep the nominations. It sends a message to the general public that a) an academy of voters has only limited time to investigate potential nominees and falls back into their comfort zone, or b) if you're not lucky enough to have found your way to a masterful piece of work, then your individual effort won't be recognized.
The funny thing with the nominees across all categories of the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards was that none of them came from dark horse entries. All of the series are critically acclaimed and the work done by those representing the shows are also generally well regarded in their field. To say anybody who took home the award in the Outstanding Supporting Actor category was an upset would have been a stretch.
Cannavale has been a hard-working actor for the past 17 years. He has been nominated for three other Primetime Emmy Awards, including a second nomination for the 65th Primetime Emmy Awards for his guest-starring role on Nurse Jackie and a 2005 win in the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series for his portrayal of Will's boyfriend in Will and Grace.
Cannavale can easily transition between straight-up comedy and darkly-comedic roles. He first showed his talent for dark comedy in The Station Agent in which he starred with fellow nominee Peter Dinklage in 2003. Together with the rest of their cast, they were nominated for a Screen Actors Guild Award for Outstanding Performance by a Cast in a Motion Picture. Cannavale is no stranger to awards.
Cannavale joined Boardwalk Empire in the Season 3 premiere as Gyp Rosetti, and the immediate reaction to his presence was overkill. Gyp was a fictional character in what had, to that point, been a fairly accurate description of the times. To top it off, Gyp was borderline cartoonish with his behavior. It's doubtful many would have been surprised if he had used some sticks of dynamite wired up to a red box with ACME on the side to take out an enemy. He was a one-man killing machine without morals. What Cannavale did with Gyp was take a quiet, introspective drama examining the violent brutalities of 1920s prohibition-era gangsters and turn Boardwalk Empire into an anything-goes dark comedy of excess.
Paul won two Emmys for his portrayal of Jesse Pinkman already (2010 and 2012), and the odds are looking good for him to win a third given the second half of Breaking Bad Season 5. For one actor to enter an established program like Boardwalk Empire in Season 3 and bring dramatic change to the integrity of the series, most likely changing the way its story is told going forward long after his character's death — that man deserves an Emmy. That man is Bobby Cannavale.
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