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‘Feud,’ ‘Big Little Lies’ Ensembles Dominate Limited Supporting Races

With massive ensembles to sift through, what programs will Emmy® voters prioritize while filling out their ballots in the Limited supporting races?

In recent years, Emmy voters used the supporting races in the Limited Series/TV Movie field as a reaffirmation of their favorite shows. Last year, shows like The People v. O.J. Simpson and Fargo confirmed their frontrunner status by claiming half of the Limited supporting race nominees, even for laughable performances like David Schwimmer’s Kardashian. This year, voters have massive casts to choose between like Feud: Bette and Joan and Big Little Lies. Over-performing in the supporting races will serve as the massive indicator needed to hint at what limited series will have more overall support going into the final round of voting.

The Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie race feels like the category to watch this year. The category holds around twenty viable contenders depending on who you ask. On top of the popular series hoping to earn some acting nominations, a significant amount of well-respected names are part of the conversation for projects that hardly made an impact. The Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series/TV Movie race registers as much less crowded. It holds the potential to be rounded out by Emmy favorites in minuscule roles or by actors on the verge of their first nominations

Notable Casts

Feud: Bette & Joan By now, it goes without saying that no one knows how to get an actor invited to the Emmys better than Ryan Murphy. Different projects from The Normal Heart to American Horror Story and The People v. O.J. Simpson went on to reap three or four nominations in a single supporting category. Feud may not have a big enough supporting cast to dominate, but a few names will likely earn their first nominations.

Two supporting actors should make it into the race: Alfred Molina and Stanley Tucci. Molina, director Robert Aldrich, holds the more substantial role and is the early frontrunner. With significantly less screen time, Tucci feels like the type of actor that his peers love. He received eight nominations with three wins.

The Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series/TV Movie race is a little more up in the air. Eleven-time nominee Judy Davis as gossip queen Hedda Hopper and her hats became scene stealers throughout the series. This feels like an easy go at another Emmy for Davis. Throughout the run of Feud, fans became more and more intrigued with Mamacita, Joan Crawford’s maid played by Jackie Hoffman, which very well could lead to Hoffman’s first career nomination. Oscar-winner Catherine Zeta-Jones plays Olivia de Havilland, and although she has a small role, she begins the entire series making her standout.

Big Little Lies HBO’s high profile limited series gives some of Hollywood’s greatest working actors their best work to date. So, there is a good chance the actors branch of the Television Academy will rally behind Big Little Lies leading to the possibility of the entire cast being embraced.

As beloved as she is, Laura Dern is the safest bet at a supporting nomination. After spending the entire summer campaigning for the Emmys as well as for the upcoming Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Science election, she will easily win over the hearts of more than enough voters. Shailene Woodley dipped her feet in both the lead and supporting races over the past few months. However, she is officially going supporting and will likely be nominated simply for the size of her role. The nomination to look out for will be Zoe Kravitz. Her role is small and she doesn’t seem to be on the radar of most awards pundits. Still, voters might embrace her because she becomes an integral pat of the ending. If it does happen, it will be a huge indicator of Big Little Lies‘ popularity. If that support exists, then the series has the possibility to an upset in Outstanding Limited Series.

If voters fully embrace the limited series, they might make room for Alexander Skarsgard and Adam Scott over in the supporting actor race. Skarsgard received a lot of attention for playing the abusive husband of Nicole Kidman. His biggest hurdle to overcome will be voters separating character from performance. Adam Scott worked with a lot of people over the past ten years, and it’s only  a matter of time until his first  nomination.

The Wizard of Lies HBO films used to dominate the Emmy races, but as the world of TV expanded, the traditional HBO biopic hasn’t resonated as strongly with audiences and voters. The Wizard of Lies doesn’t seem to be doing any better with the only major supporting contender being Michelle Pfeiffer. Even she isn’t the lock she would have been in the past. Pfeiffer has a couple of interesting scenes but not enough to make her a viable contender which is unfortunate since 2017 was supposed to be the year she finally becomes an awards contender. The rest of the Madoff family (played by Alessandro Nivola and Nathan Darrow) weren’t given any material to attract voters at all.

Buzz seems to be building behind 12-time nominee and 6-time winner Hank Azaria who played Madoff’s CFO. It was a relatively small role, but many pundits count on the good will towards Azaria to push him through in such a stale year.

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks Of the two HBO films released this year, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks is by far the more accessible film. Rose Byrne competes in the supporting race with a co-lead performance and might be able to sneak into the race even if her character is underwritten.

Reg E. Cathey surprised time and time again at the Emmys with repeat nominations and a win for his guest work in House of Cards. That raises the question of whether or not voters will embrace him for two scenes.

Fargo Throughout the first two seasons, Emmy voters always made room for the standout ensembles from FX’s anthology series Fargo, but the excited reaction from fans might not be there for the third and possibly final season. Emmy voters have an unusual amount of limited series and TV movies to screen. With Fargo premiering so late in the calendar year, a lot of voters might simply not get around to it. Still, at least one member of the ensemble stands out, Mary Elizabeth Winstead. No other actor better represents the world of Fargo than Winstead.

Over on the supporting actor side two names have been floated around: David Thewlis and Michael Stuhlbarg. As a creepy mysterious British businessman, Thewlis is more likely to standout to voters, but it’s more likely that neither actor stands out against bigger names and more popular series.

(Photo: FX)

American Crime The ABC anthology series has one of the strongest ensembles on television, and over the past two years has been nominated seven times including two wins for Regina King. After being cancelled earlier this year, the buzz around the series died out. The only actor that is certain to still stay on the minds of voters is Regina King who, after three seasons, was given her best material as a single social worker looking to have a child. If voters actually watch the season, Benito Martinez will standout to voters as an immigrant father traveling through the United States in search of his son. On top of that, all of his scenes are in Spanish (which is unheard of for network TV).

American Horror Story: Roanoke As anthology and limited series become more prominent across television, the once groundbreaking American Horror Story becomes less and less relevant. The only reason Roanoke is in the conversation this year is because of perennial nominees Kathy Bates and Sarah Paulson. In the end, name recognition only gets you so far, and this might be the end of Paulson’s streak especially after she finally won an Emmy last year. If anyone sticks around, it will be Kathy Bates who was given her most deliciously campy character since her first season. Although, if there is any justice in the world, Adina Porter will be the actress singled out by voters.

Custody The Lifetime movie Custody has popped up in awards conversations lately solely because of the names attached to the project, Ellen Burstyn and Viola Davis. Burstyn especially has been an Emmy favorite for a long time, and Davis is fresh off of her Oscar win. Still if it weren’t for their name power, no one would be paying attention to the film. Recently voters have gotten better about nominating actors they like for projects they don’t care about.

Standout Performances

Martin Freeman (Sherlock) After shockingly beating out Matt Bomer in this race a few years ago, Martin Freeman is always a possibility in the Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series/TV Movie race. Still, voters skipped over him last year hinting that voters only throw him in when there are spaces to fill.

Diane Keaton (The Young Pope) Hollywood legends in HBO projects almost always receive Emmy nominations. Yet, there are a lot of doubts on whether or not The Young Pope will resonate with Emmy voters. There doesn’t seem to be passion behind the show, and Keaton doesn’t have a lot of showy scenes. Still, she is beloved, and she did receive a lot of recent coverage for being honored with the AFI Life Achievement Award which airs on TV in the thick of voting.

Adina Hinds (Shots Fired) After disappointing ratings, Shots Fired isn’t going to be a major Emmy contender, but after a breakout year, Hinds has been earning a lot of deserved attention for her work in the FOX limited series as well as for her portrayal of Harriet Tubman in Underground. Fans of her performance sing her praises, and if nothing else, hopefully this breakout year will lead to more Emmy worthy performances.

Early Predictions

 Supporting Actress
1. Laura Dern, Big Little Lies
2. Judy Davis, Feud: Bette and Joan
3. Regina King, American Crime
4. Shailene Woodley, Big Little Lies
5. Jackie Hoffman, Feud: Bette and Joan
6. Michelle Pfeiffer, The Wizard of Lies
7. Mary Elizabeth Winstead, Fargo
8. Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Roanoke
9. Gugu Mbatha-Raw , Black Mirror: San Junipero
10. Catherine Zeta-Jones, Feud: Bette and Joan 
11. Zoe Kravitz, Big Little Lies
Other Names in The Race: Aisha Hinds (Shots Fired), Rose Byrne (The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks), Viola Davis (Custody), Diane Keaton (The Young Pope), Ellen Burstyn (Custody), Sarah Paulson (American Horror Story: Roanoke), Kelly Bishop (Gilmore Girls: A Year in the Life), Emily Watson (Genius).
Supporting Actor
1. Alfred Molina, Feud: Bette and Joan
2. Stanley Tucci, Feud: Bette and Joan
3. Alexander Skarsgard, Big Little Lies
4. Reg E. Cathey, The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
5. Hank Azaria, The Wizard of Lies
6. Adam Scott, Big Little Lies
7. Benito Martinez, American Crime
8. David Thewlis, Fargo
9. Martin Freeman, Sherlock
10. Idris Elba, Guerrilla
Other Names in The Race: Alessandro Nivola (The Wizard of Lies), Michael Stuhlbarg (Fargo), James Cromwell (The Young Pope), Nathan Darrow (The Wizard of Lies), Michael Kenneth Williams (The Night Of)