In Depth

HBO Is Sure to Win Emmy

All Nominees for Lead Actor in Movie or Miniseries Are From the Pay Cable Outlet

The category of lead actor in a movie or miniseries is sewn up this year by HBO, which had all the nominees in the category. Brit Tom Wilkinson, twice playing American politicians) is nominated in the lead actor category for his portrayal of James Baker III in “Recount,” as well as earning a supporting actor nod for HBO’s “John Adams,” in which he played Ben Franklin.
Bob Balaban, nominated along with Mr. Wilkinson in the supporting actor category (“Recount”), also was nominated for director, miniseries or movie (“Bernard and Doris”), and weighed in on several of the nominees for lead actor in a miniseries.

Directing Ralph Fiennes, who played butler Bernard Lafferty in “Bernard and Doris” (HBO; Trigger Street Independent Productions in association with Little Bird and Chicago Films and HBO Films), was a terrific experience, Mr. Balaban said.

“Ralph’s biggest strength as Bernard was not judging the character, and being able to find enough reserve humanity and intelligence,” Mr. Balaban said. “And he also had a kind of twisted quality to him.

“As a drunkard, [Ralph’s character] got more vulnerable and sweet—but then, he was also a drunkard.”

Mr. Balaban praised Kevin Spacey, who played Ron Klain, general counsel to the Florida recount effort for Al Gore’s 2000 presidential campaign, in “Recount” (HBO; Spring Creek/ Mirage Productions in association with Trigger Street Productions, Everyman Pictures and HBO Films).

“I couldn’t imagine anyone else playing that part. It’s one of his finest performances,” Mr. Balaban said. “Kevin’s a kind of genius—in a real way—and Danny Strong’s screenplay is so intelligently written, he had to be fast on his feet.

“It was such a deep pleasure to see him on all 29 cylinders&mdashand to be able to do all this stuff and make it look easy, which is hard to do. Kevin restrained himself until the last five minutes, and then he just let go.”

Mr. Wilkinson’s portrayal of Ron Klain’s nemesis in “Recount,” James Baker III, also impressed Mr. Balaban.

“He brought a wonderful humanity and deep understanding of what a Southern politician is really like—he really exuded moral rectitude in a human way,” Mr. Balaban said.

“You really got a sense that [Mr. Klain and Mr. Baker] had a genuine respect for each other. I mean, lawyers go to court and they’re yelling at each other, and sometimes they go out afterward and have lunch together, and you realize they’re just doing their jobs.”

Completing the list are funnyman Ricky Gervais as Andy Millman in “Extras: The Extra Special Series Finale” (HBO; BBC and HBO Entertainment); and the widely acclaimed Paul Giamatti in the title role of “John Adams” (HBO; Playtone, in Association with HBO Films). Mr. Gervais won the Emmy last year for lead actor in a comedy series.

Robert Duvall won for lead actor in a miniseries in 2007 for AMC’s Western saga “Broken Trail.”