WINNER: BRYAN CRANSTON, BREAKING BAD, AMC
Who didn’t love Bryan Cranston in Malcolm in the Middle? The goofy faces. The Jacques Clouseau-esque bumbling. A court jester surrounded by a family of court jesters. Apparently, playtime is over. Cranston’s brilliant turn as cancer-stricken drug dealer Walt White has proven to everyone that this guy can do drama — and he does it better than just about anyone on TV today. Cranston’s talent is his ability to navigate the darkness while sparring with his troubled conscience, always challenging the audience and taking his character to new places in every episode. Even in a show filled with pain and sadness, Cranston’s mastery is a joy to watch.
Edward James Olmos, Battlestar Galactica, SyFy: Few actors could have brought Bill Adama alive quite like Olmos. It was as if every line on his face told a story, and Olmos’ understated delivery lived just under the surface.
Michael Chiklis, The Shield, FX: We’ve had plenty of run-ins with TV cops, but Chiklis’ ever-corrupt Vic Mackey was the baddest. The Commish this is not.
Jon Hamm, Mad Men, AMC: Hamm pounded the pavement in Hollywood for years before his unlikely break as a stoic and mysterious pitchman. It was worth the wait. Hamm gets better every season. He is Don Draper. Period.
Jonathan Rhys Meyers, The Tudors, Showtime: Rhys Meyers has evolved from a murderous social climber in Match Point to an even more murderous social kingmaker as Henry VIII. But will he eventually have to wear a fat suit?