The case for Michael McKean being the real winner of this year's Emmy Award for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
The biggest snub I saw in this year's Emmy nominations was Michael McKean, who plays Chuck McGill in AMC's Better Call Saul. In Season 3 of BCS, McKean got me verklempt, seething with anger, deeply compassionate, and in awe of this afflicted character.
For those who haven't gifted themselves with McKean and the rest of this exemplary cast in BCS: Chuck is Saul's driven calculating lawyer-brother, who says he suffers from a disease that makes him violently ill when he encounters any type of electricity. Cellphones, electric lights, appliances, barcode scanners are all off limits to Chuck.
What McKean does with that odd sickness is truly remarkable: his face contorts in unbearable pain when someone uses a cellphone near him, with all of that emotion straining through his clenched eyes, seething lips. McKean doesn't overact here but conveys that inner struggle he's facing as someone who wants to be respected by his peers, and seeks to save face, but can't contain the illness raging through him.
His performance alone relating that pain should give him at least a nod on the Emmy list for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama. But Chuck McGill isn't just there to evoke sympathy from Saul, who is slowly breaking bad every season. Chuck is a dick, plain and simple. We see that dickishness even more on display in season 3. We want to hate how Chuck treats his brother.
Without giving much away, I can say there were moments I was hoping Chuck would just get his for the bullshit he gladly put Saul through. And judging by fan reaction on the sub-reddit dedicated to the show, my feelings were't isolated.
But through McKean's genius of acting just enough but not so much it veers into melodrama, Chuck steers our sympathies towards his own battle as a plagued lawyer-legend hoping to reclaim his glory from yesteryear. How the Emmy folks didn't see the fantastic work by McKean here as even worth an Emmy nomination is beyond me.
You might know McKean's work as a steady fixture of comedic characters found in Christopher Guest classics such as This Is Spinal Tap and A Mighty Wind. But the funny chops take a backseat to a deep vitriol and a side of desperation that rarely blend into a TV character's psyche.
Thanks to his work on Better Call Saul, I'm greatly invested in seeing what else McKean does next in film or television. Without a doubt, he made an already engaging season 3 of this show even more addictive.
Finally, A hat-tip to Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould for casting a star whose light truly deserves to shine to all corners of the TV world.
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I write about journalism, freelancing, the arts, Toronto, technology, sports and why egg nog is under-rated.