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Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

And Now, Looking Ahead to the 2023 Emmy’s: Black Bird on Apple TV+

In the final days leading up to the 2022 Emmy’s, Hollywood’s finest nominees will undoubtedly finalize who they’ll be wearing for the big night, who to thank and trying like hell not to contract Covid. And with final predictions filing in, there’s a sense that SNL’s Kenan Thompson will be the right emcee for the affair – and by that I mean someone who doesn’t get punched in the face.

But this piece isn’t about this year. No, no, no.

As I’ve done in the past, I’m here to talk about 2023 and make predictions about which candidates may be most worthy when the 2023 voting season rolls around next summer. It’s impossible to know what will captivate everyone until then, but this summer has seen a slew of incredibly well-acted series that should no doubt gain consideration and I’m here to shine a light.

It’s never too far in advance to make predictions, so I’d like to submit the following for 2023 Emmy consideration based on a recent binge: Black Bird.

The six-episode miniseries, based on a true story, is about a small-time Midwestern drug dealer (Jimmy Keene) who gets sentenced to 10 years in a minimum-security prison, but cuts a deal with the feds to potentially commute his sentence. To do it, he’ll need to transfer to a maximum-security prison to befriend a serial killer who’s locked up, awaiting appeal, while trying to elicit a confession from him about where the bodies of at least 18 young-girl murder victims are buried.

No small order.

The psychological thriller (which is like watching a movie in six parts) premiered back on July 8th and has captivated audiences due to its tense exploration of dark corners of this world that exist but may be tough to swallow. Yet, as dark as it is, it’s hard to put the series down (like a good book or true-crime podcast) as you convince yourself to invest hour after hour in the story.

It’s a testament to the great performances that lie at the heart of Black Bird. So, along those lines, here are three that are sure to receive a steady dose of Emmy consideration for next year.

Nominee #1: Taron Egerton

Likely Category: Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Taron Egerton needs no introduction. The British actor launched to superstardom as Elton John in Rocketman (2019) yet his breakout as a street kid-turned-special-agent made Kingsman: The Secret Service (2014) eternally watchable. But here, it’s a different type of turn as a bulked-up former high-school-football-star-turned-drug-dealer, where he offers a top-notch performance.

As Jimmy Keene, a small-time offender who gets a 10-year sentence, he has a minimum-security prison wrapped around his finger (if there is such a thing). But when FBI agent Lauren McCauley (played by the talented Sepideh Moafi) lures him into cutting a deal for his eventual freedom, Jimmy heads into the more dangerous max-security prison setting where corrupt guards and terrible humans run amok. Against a ticking clock, Jimmy must warm up to psychopath Larry Hall (Paul Walter Hauser) to see if he can win enough confidence to get him to confess his horrific crimes. If Jimmy succeeds, the FBI will commute his sentence and send him home.

In tense, but extremely well-acted scenes, Jimmy is put in the position to bond with Larry over the vividly constructed memories of his twisted mind – where he is often forced to bite his tongue as he listens to terrible retellings of Larry’s maybe crime spree. How Jimmy digests these stories and positions himself to win Larry’s trust as the prison walls close in – is a thing to watch.

Nominee #2: Paul Walter Hauser

Likely Category: Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

As the maybe serial killer that Jimmy is concerned with, Paul Walter Hauser perfectly balances Larry’s baffling recollections with a sleepy bemusement that belie his creepy confessions. We have no idea what’s true, and what’s not – and though we collectively hope for the latter, Hauser takes us on quite a ride as one of the most authentically broken human beings we’ve seen in a while. Hauser gets a lot of screen time in Black Bird and the series is way better off for it.

As an American actor/comedian, Hauser has done memorable work in films like I, Tonya (2017) BlacKkKlansman (2018) and his acting chops are also on display in the more lighthearted Cobra Kai (2019-2022). But it was perhaps his performance as the oddity known as Richard Jewell in the film, Richard Jewell (2019), as the hero-turned-suspect in the 1996 Atlanta Olympics bombing, that launched Hauser’s career to the next level. In Black Bird, Hauser is capturing attention once again for another immersive, deep dive in the psyche of a possible serial killer.

Who knows, he might just get an Emmy for it.

Nominee #3: Ray Liotta

Likely Category: Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

When it comes to posthumous nominations, the television academy has never hesitated to celebrate late actors when they’re deserving. Simply look at this year’s Emmy nominations for Chadwick Boseman, Norm Macdonald and Jessica Walter as proof of the posthumous instinct.

Since that’s the case, it’s hard to imagine that Ray Liotta won’t get nominated for his performance as Big Jimmy Keene, the father to Egerton’s Jimmy – and not just as a sentimental nod. In Black Bird, Liotta plays a former corrupt cop and loving father who badly wants to get his son out of prison. But the only problem is that his health is in serious decline due to several recent strokes – and his judgment is off. Way off. As Big Jimmy, Liotta does impressive work portraying a man whose mental state is in serious disrepair as he tries to keep it all together.

Liotta, who passed away suddenly in May 2022, is best known for his work as an ambitious young mobster in Goodfellas (1990) and as the ghost of Shoeless Joe Jackson in Field of Dreams (1989), amongst his many other star turns. Incidentally, Liotta has won an Emmy for “Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series” for a stint he did on ER back in 2004.

Expect the late actor to win serious consideration once the 2023 voting period rolls around.

Photo courtesy of Apple TV+

Who do you think should nominated for an Emmy next year? Let us know on our social channels!

For other way-too-early Emmy’s predictions for 2023, please keep an eye out or if you prefer, chime in with your own picks for top performances to consider for the next Emmy season.

Who knows, we might even choose to feature them.

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Roundup of Emmy Contenders: Lead Actress in a Drama Series

Gregg Rosenzweig has been a writer, creative director and managing editor for various entertainment clients, ad agencies and digital media companies over the past 20 years. He is also a partner in the talent management/production company, The Rosenzweig Group.