Actors Draw Portraits From Real Life

Actual Events, People Inform Actors' Performances in Telefilms

The last time Robert Duvall was up for an Emmy Award for a televised Western was in 1989, as Augustus "Gus" McCrae in acclaimed miniseries "Lonesome Dove," for which he went on to win a Golden Globe Award.

Now, Mr. Duvall is an Emmy contender again for playing another stoic cowboy, Prentice "Print" Ritter in "Broken Trail," the well-received AMC miniseries. As executive producer, Mr. Duvall was the driving force in bringing the story to the screen.

The actor prepped for the role for nearly a year, buying a quarter horse to ride in order to get into shape. "I ride only if I have an objective," said Mr. Duvall. "I wanted to make sure I was ready with a horse that was bomb-proof. I wanted to develop a good seat and practice drawing a weapon. All you need for a Western is a good hat and a good horse."

For the milieu of the cowboys in "Broken Trail," driving horses a great distance more than a century ago, Mr. Duvall said he was inspired by the history of a family he knows in Arthur, Neb., whose great-grandfather drove a herd of nearly 500 horses from Oregon to Nebraska.

Matthew Perry is Emmy-nominated for his lead performance in TNT's "The Ron Clark Story," which takes place in Harlem. The telefilm is based on the true story of a teacher from a small town who moves to New York and teaches economically deprived fifth-graders at a public school.

"The movie is about never giving up on yourself and meeting somebody in life that is just a hero," Mr. Perry said. "It's a story about one of the toughest schools in Harlem and a guy from North Carolina who came in and changed their view of themselves and life. Without being corny, it told a truly inspirational story.

"The most challenging part with [director] Randa [Haines] is if she saw any part of Chandler in 'Friends,' she would just stop the camera and stop me from falling into an old, sarcastic bent that just wasn't going to work," Mr. Perry said. "The challenge for me was to believe it was interesting if I didn't do all the stuff.

"The most fulfilling part is that I realized I could be sort of interesting being real and not resorting to old wink-at-the-camera tricks," he said.

Jim Broadbent already has a BAFTA TV Award for his performance as the title character in HBO's "Longford." The British actor earned his second Emmy nomination for playing an eccentric member of the House of Lords who is motivated by his Christian faith to befriend prisoners and read to them.

"It's a character study of someone who does something so unpopular, a character that is very powerful and riveting," said Kevin McDonough, United Feature Syndicate's TV critic. "His performance is astounding because he's so unattractive and alienates his wife and daughter because of his obsession with helping a person who may or may not be a child murderer."

In the fourth installment of the Jesse Stone movie series on CBS, Tom Selleck is vying for an Emmy for reprising his role as a small-town police chief who reopens an old murder case while coping with his penchant for beautiful women and alcohol.

"He gave a solid performance," Mr. McDonough said. "He can still be a romantic lead, a cop of few words, and kind of an old-fashioned gentleman. It's a tough sort of acting, to go from being a sex symbol to where he is today, but Tom Selleck has accomplished it. He's a man's man."

William H. Macy, a six-time Emmy nominee and winner for 2003's "Door to Door," is up for playing two characters, Clyde Umney and Sam Landry, in TNT's "Nightmares & Dreamscapes: From the Stories of Stephen King." One is a figment of the other's imagination, a character in a book who comes to life from a different era.

"The idea of playing two roles is delicious -- and two very distinct characters, and something that was going to be a hoot," Mr. Macy said. "We hired a guy who looks like me, Paul Gleeson. He sort of doubled me, and I got to act with someone instead of with a blank screen."

To prepare, Mr. Macy said he watched noir films from the '30s with director Rob Bowman and imitated himself as the fast-talking announcer in "Seabiscuit" to play Clyde.

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