Golden Globe omissions: Rufus Sewell’s ‘tour de force’ performance on The Man in the High Castle

There were several Golden Globes snubs from the list of nominees. Among them was the masterful turn by Rufus Sewell as John Smith on The Man in the High Castle.

If you were as bored by this year’s Golden Globes nominees as I was, you were probably wondering why some of the best performances of the year were missing. One of those was the ‘tour de force’ from Rufus Sewell in The Man in the High Castle. The British actor has given us a riveting John Smith for the last four seasons, but he achieved boundless layers that made the character fill up every inch of the screen in this last one.

It’s outrageous that such a courageous portrayal will go unrewarded. Much of High Castle rested on the shoulders of Sewell’s Smith, who found new depths in a role that audience members should have hated. As the head of the American Nazi Party in the fourth season, it was clear that his evolving ambition was an impossible allure for him. Despite the intoxicating power, you could sense the underbelly of conflicting emotions in each scene.

We finally got more of the backstory of Smith in the penultimate season, a masterclass of emotional depth over betraying friends during the roundups, his great shame over his son’s circumstances, the pain of a dissolving marriage, and the dissolution of his family dynamic. All of that simmered underneath a thick layer of ruthless, brilliant ambition to survive and persevere against all the odds.

When his wife asked him to put a stop further plans for the Reich, a clearly despondent Smith admitted, “I don’t know how.” This was a calculating, villainous man who had murdered countless individuals, destroyed families, and even callously pushed a rival off the top of the American Nazi skyscraper headquarters. Yet beneath it all, Rufus Sewell always found a way to underscore his portrayal with moments of tremendous humanity. It takes a great actor to convey such a strong paradox, shading a terrible person with empathetic shades of gray.

We know Smith was capable of terrible acts, but we also sensed his deep love for his family. Nothing brought this home quite like the episode “Mauvaise Foi.” The moment he sees Thomas for the first time in the alternate dimension, after having dealt with his heartbreaking death in the Nazi dimension, is so full of raw emotional power. The way he follows his son, seeing him for the first time healthy and vibrant, was every parent who has suffered heartbreak over a child.

He continued to grapple with the shame and guilt over repeating the same mistakes in the alternate timeline as he watched his son leave him once again. His great shame when he came face-to-face with his Jewish friend in the new timeline, after having betrayed him in his own realm, was too much to bear. Sewell wore all this pathos while putting into place his overreaching ambitions for survival.

Rufus Sewell’s performance is another example of the Golden Globes ignoring some of the best work to their peril. Since it was High Castle’s last season, the role will go unrecognized by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association. Emmy nominations are due next year, and I’m hoping that someone has the good sense to rectify this omission. Sewell received his first Emmy nod last year, for his captivating guest role on The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel. He is yet to receive a nomination for his remarkable work on High Castle.

The 52-year-old Rufus Sewell is in good company, however. Anthony Hopkins never won a Golden Globe, even though he was nominated seven times in his entire career, including for The Remains of the Day, The Silence of the Lambs (for which he won the Oscar), and Nixon. He seriously never won for any of those roles but was honored with the Cecil B. deMille award in 2006.

The HFPA didn’t even bother to nominate him for one of his best roles, on Westworld. Hopkins, however, got an Emmy nom for playing the fascinating architect of AI on the HBO sci-fi drama but lost out to Sterling K. Brown (This is Us). Hopkins did receive a Globes nod this year for his wonderful work in The Two Popes, in which he chews up the screen.

Next: Best role from The Crown also left out of Globes

Hopkins and Sewell are set to star in The Father, one of the most anticipated movies of next year, to debut at next month’s Sundance Festival.

The Golden Globe Awards will take place on January 5, 8:00 p.m. ET, to be broadcast on NBC.

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