Bob Odenkirk, Brian Cox, Jeff Bridges, Jeremy Strong and Pedro Pascal were also up for the award
It was a night to remember for the 2023 Emmy Awards' outstanding lead actor!
Succession's Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong and Kieran Culkin scored half this year's nods, with The Old Man's Jeff Bridges, Better Call Saul star Bob Odenkirk and Pedro Pascal from The Last of Us rounding out the category.
After Culkin, 41, was announced as the winner — following victories at both the Golden Globe Awards and Critics Choice Awards over the past eight days — he took the stage where he teared up as he thanked his mother "for giving me life and my childhood, which was great. So thank you for that."
Culkin also thanked his "beautiful wife," Jazz Charton, "for sharing your life with me and for giving me two amazing kids."
"And Jazz, I want more. You said maybe, if I win!" he concluded with a laugh, as Charton, 35, laughed and applauded from her seat.
Culkin reprised his role as Roman Roy in the final season of Succession, portraying the typically cocky character's descent into a battered place both physically and emotionally.
The actor opened up about building chemistry with his costar J. Smith-Cameron, telling the Associated Press, "It's nice to work with that lady, I mean, look at her ... it's a joy. I've been friends with J for nearly 20 years or so. I was just really excited when she got to play this part, which I believe was initially written to be a man."
"It feels like the [chemistry] thing just sorta happened on its own and grew," Culkin noted. "She's a lovely scene partner and it's fantastic to work with her."
Succession dominated the 2023 Emmys nominations with a whopping 27 nods this year.
For the final season of the Breaking Bad spinoff Better Call Saul, Odenkirk returned as titular criminal–turned–lawyer Saul Goodman.
"Everybody's been asking me how I feel about saying goodbye to Saul Goodman and Better Call Saul, and I'm not good at answering the question," the 61-year-old actor shared following the show’s series finale, "because it's frankly hard for me to look at that experience, and even at that character, too closely. It's too many moving parts, and they fit together too beautifully, and it's a mystery to me how it even happened."
In addition to praising Saul's co-creators Vince Gilligan and Peter Gould, Odenkirk shared his appreciation for fans' support over the years.
"Thanks for giving us a chance. We came out of maybe a lot of people's most favorite show ever, and we could have been hated for simply trying to do a show," he said. "But we weren't. We were given a chance, and hopefully we made the most of it. Thank you for staying with us."
Odenkirk has previously been nominated five times in this category for his role in Better Call Saul. The show is also up for outstanding drama series and Odenkirk’s costar Rhea Seehorn received a 2023 nomination for outstanding supporting actress in a drama series.
Cox played media patriarch Logan Roy on Succession for three seasons and as many episodes up until the character's shocking death early into the final season of the HBO series.
The 77-year-old actor, who has previously been nominated three times in the same Emmys category, opened up about how the success of the show was related to how it held a mirror up to society.
"I think it's a brilliantly observant show of our time," he told Entertainment Tonight. “And the man who plays an obscenely rich media tycoon on TV added, "Especially as the world is getting richer on one side [and] getting a hell of a lot poorer on the other side."
Cox went on to reveal what he would miss most about working on Succession: "It's the cast. I'll miss the cast and the crew, the camera guys, we got great camera operators. We got to be we've got a couple of great DPs. So you know, it's the whole shebang."
In the first season of The Old Man, based on a novel by thriller master Thomas Perry, Bridges starred as Dan Chase, a retired CIA agent who emerged from seclusion to find that old enemies were still out for blood.
When asked if his character was attempting to find his true identity, the 74-year-old actor responded at an FX FYC panel in June, “Aren’t we all? I certainly am, especially in these times. You don’t really know who you are until you’re tested, somehow.”
“These times are testing us all, I think. And Dan Chase gets very tested,” Bridges added of the character, per Variety. “He’s a CIA guy doing CIA work, pretending to be somebody else. He’s acting for his life, man.”
“The script keeps giving you more balls to juggle,” he continued with a chuckle.
Strong, 45, returned as Kendall Roy for the final season of Succession. After the finale aired in May, the actor opened up about saying goodbye to the character.
“It was hard for me to watch last night, what he goes through, because he's become very real to me, and in a way is indistinguishable from myself,” he told Vanity Fair. “This, to me, was a life and death thing. And I took it as seriously as I take my own life.
“When you're doing it, the whole world turns on it, and it matters more than anything in the world to me,” Strong continued. “But then when it's over, it's, it's like vapor. So I feel very detached from it. As an audience member, it feels like I'm watching somebody else.”
Pascal, 48, stars in The Last of Us as Joel, the stand-in father figure on a mission to deliver 14-year-old Ellie (Bella Ramsey) into the hands of scientists in hopes she can save a post-apocalyptic world.
The two stars formed a close friendship off screen. “I couldn’t have asked for a more anchoring, generous, thoughtful teenager. And I don’t mean to say that in a patronizing way,” Pascal said during a Variety’s Actors on Actors chat with Beef star Steven Yeun.
He continued, “I relied on Bella for so much of the experience. We were both scared and shy about that, but Bella just inspired me to be mature about it.”
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The Last of Us also scored a nod for outstanding drama series, and Ramsey, 20, earned a nomination in the outstanding lead actress in a drama series for their performance.
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