Monday, October 2

Christopher Walken (‘The Outlaws’) steals every scene

Christopher Walken could be walkin’ his way toward a third Emmy nomination with his sparkling role in Stephen Merchant‘s hit Amazon Prime Video series “The Outlaws.”

The show, which aired on the BBC over here in the UK, follows the misadventures of seven strangers who are thrown together when each has to complete a community payback sentence in Bristol, Britain. There, they find a huge amount of money that belongs to Claes Bang‘s dangerous gangster. Walken is one of the many shining lights in the series and plays American Frank Sheldon — a former conman who now lives in the West Country with his estranged daughter and grandchildren.

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It’s no understatement to say that Walken is one of the most watchable actors ever. Whether it’s delivering a monologue about a watch in “Pulp Fiction” or regaling a proverb about two mice and a bucket of cream in “Catch Me if You Can,” Walken’s idiosyncratic speech patterns and vocal inflections make for one of the most unique actors of all time. And here, it’s no different — he’s cheeky, playful, whimsical, has that trademark twinkle in his eye, and is an utter joy to watch, all critics agree.

Nicole Gallucci (Mashable) observed: “I’d be remiss if I didn’t praise Walken, who captures Frank’s personality so precisely that I can’t help but feel he was born to play a ‘lying, thieving, selfish old bastard who can never be trusted.’ The feisty grandfather fresh out of jail has undeniable charisma, spews out-of-date sayings like ‘he’s not the coolest beer in the fridge,’ and sings karaoke to The Pussycat Dolls’ ‘Don’t Cha’ while sporting a Hawaiian shirt. Walken seems almost too comfortable in the role, 100 percent of the time. It’s absolutely glorious.”

Jack Seale (The Guardian) wrote: “Frank is played by Christopher Walken, whose demonic sparkle is one of the many reasons why ‘The Outlaws’ is much more than a bare synopsis suggests.”

Joel Keller (Decider) explained: “As you might expect, Walken steals every scene he’s in, whether it’s with the rest of the crew or with his daughter. When he talks about the dangers of Chinese wine, of course, you’re riveted because he says it in his unique Walkenian patter. But Frank isn’t just there to be a Walken caricature; and Christian isn’t there to just be a reformed gangbanger. The scenes where both get personal are brief but effective glimpses into their inner lives.”

Rick Marshall (Digital Trends) proclaimed: “It’s a near-universally held truth that Christopher Walken makes everything better. Whether it’s a music video, a sketch comedy bit, or a feature-length film, everything is a little bit cooler when the Oscar-winning actor is involved. The Amazon series ‘The Outlaws’ proves that’s as true for British crime comedies as it is for every other genre.”

This makes him a healthy outside bet to land a nomination for Best Comedy Actor at this year’s Emmys, although he is currently outside of our predicted six in that category: Jason Segel (“Shrinking”), Martin Short and Steve Martin (both “Only Murders in the Building”), Bill Hader (“Barry”), Jeremy Allen White (“The Bear”), and Jason Sudeikis (“Ted Lasso”). But don’t count out the living legend just yet because the Emmys love, well, living legends.

In the Best Comedy Actor category, legends such as Short and Martin (last year for “Only Murders in the Building”), Michael Douglas (in 2019, 2020, and 2021 for “The Kominsky Method”), and Ted Danson in (2018, 2019, 2020 for “The Good Place”) have all earned nominations.

The Emmys have nominated plenty of other veteran icons, too, including Henry Winkler (three nominations, one win for “Barry” in Comedy Supporting Actor), Tony Shalhoub (four nominations, one win for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” in Comedy Supporting Actor), Alan Arkin (two bids for Comedy Supporting Actor for in 2018 and 2019 for “The Kominsky Method”), and Morgan Freeman (a 2021 bid for Comedy Guest Actor for “The Kominsky Method”).

Emmy voters love rewarding veteran icons, so Walken’s status as one of those will help him here. Plus, Freeman, Arkin, and Douglas all won Oscars years before their aforementioned Emmy bids — the Emmys clearly like rewarding Oscar winners (it adds to the prestige of the whole thing), so past Oscar-winner Walken benefits here, too. He won Best Supporting Actor for “The Deer Hunter” in 1979.

Speaking of that Oscar win — Walken has tremendous awards credentials. Add to that Oscar win the following: another Oscar bid in 2003 for “Catch Me if You Can;” a BAFTA win for that Steven Spielberg movie; a SAG Award for “The Deer Hunter;” a Golden Globe nomination for “The Deer Hunter;” two Tony Award nominations (in 2000 for Best Musical Actor for “James Joyce’s The Dead” and in 2010 for Best Actor for “A Behanding in Spokane”); and two Emmy bids (more on that below). Walken is a decorated performer across all spectrums — film, theater, and TV. He is so well-respected that many voters in the actors’ branch (the biggest branch), will want to reward this legend that they’ve enjoyed on-screen and been inspired by for decades.

Now, those Emmy nominations. The first one came in 1991 for Best TV Movie/Limited Series Actor for “Sarah, Plain and Tall” and the second came last year for Drama Supporting Actor for “Severance” (he also earned a SAG bid for that show, too). It’s that latter nomination that’s key here. It shows that Walken has recent, current Emmy support — and that’s vital. It also doesn’t matter that the support is for a different show. If anything, it helps.

In 2022, Hader reaped bids for both “Barry” (Comedy Guest Actor) and “Curb Your Enthusiasm” (Comedy Guest Actor); in 2020, Sterling K. Brown was nominated for both “This Is Us” (Drama Actor) and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Comedy Supporting Actor); in the same year, Giancarlo Esposito earned bids for “Better Call Saul” (Drama Supporting Actor) and “The Mandalorian” (Drama Guest Actor); and in 2021, Kenan Thompson was nominated for “Kenan” (Comedy Actor) and “Saturday Night Live” (Comedy Supporting Actor).

Having two shows in the same year is a really good thing, then — it gets you on voters’ screen twice and gets you noticed twice. Walken won’t be up for “Severance” this year (season two is currently in progress) but the fact that Emmy voters liked him in that show will help here anyway. It remains to be seen if all of this will be enough to sneak him into Best Comedy Actor this year, but Walken’s return to our screens is a win for everybody no matter what.

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