Best Actress

Eva Green

Emmy-worthy Eva Green possesses viewers’ minds, hearts, and souls in Showtime’s gothic horror series Penny Dreadful

Eva Green’s season one Penny Dreadful performance was the stuff of legends. For such a beautiful woman with that china doll’s face, Green demonstrated a proficiency for contorting her entire physique to render the tortured character of Vanessa Ives. Green astonished with an impossibly nimble interpretation that, during one early season seance, seemed to suggest that Ives was a marionette’s doll, fighting against her master’s strings. It wasn’t simply a well spoken performance. To coin a phrase, Green acted the shit out of that character. Emmy sadly failed to notice though.

To be fair, Penny Dreadful premiered late in the Emmy cycle and chose to defer its eligibility into the next Emmy year. While Emmy watchers certainly understood it, it’s possible Emmy voters were simply confused after the faded a bit by the time it was eligible. Most likely, though, is the series’ status as the textbook definition of an acquired taste. In a recent interview with AwardsDaily TV, Bates Motel writer/producer Kerry Ehrin lamented the fact that someone referred to her acclaimed series as one where “they just kill people in the motel every week?” Penny Dreadful likely suffers from the same preconceived notions. Looking from the outside in, casual viewers unfamiliar with the material may simply consider it extremely well art directed gore.

And they’d be half right, of course. Yet, what sets it apart from such a close-minded reputation is the passion star Eva Green pours into the material. While season two does not give her as many stand-out, buzzy moments as season one, Green is allowed to portray a much broader experience, a challenge that she clearly accepts and exceeds.

Eva Green
Photo courtesy of Showtime.

The first half of the season throws many obstacles at Eva Green’s Vanessa Ives. The assailants – Satanic female monsters led by witch Evelyn Poole (a brilliant Helen McCrory) – hardly matter. In fact, the less you know about them and their backstory, the better off you’ll be as an Emmy voter. The focus here is Vanessa Ives’ increasingly unstable and beleaguered persona, culminating in a near-mental breakdown in the middle of the season. Ives retreats with Ethan Chandler (Josh Hartnett) to a cabin owned by a former mentor, the Cut-wife (Patti LuPone).

This episode, “Little Scorpion,” gives Eva Green her finest moments of the season. I would argue she excels here because she’s allowed to play something of a normal, well adjusted human being. Arriving at the cottage, Ives is a mass of jittery, unsettled nerves. She is constantly looking over her shoulder at the potential evil mere steps behind. It’s not until she and Ethan begin setting about the average, everyday tasks of setting up a house – finding a bedroom, clearing up the cobwebs, finding food, and lighting candles. There must always be candles. At least 42 of them.

Green’s performance completely amazes here thanks to the effortless joy she employs when relaxed and entranced by Ethan Chandler. Green even smiles and laughs broadly. Those of you who know Penny Dreadful are well aware what a unique event that is, and Green wears it exceedingly well. Her conversations with Hartnett may appear to be throw-away material, but this is Green spreading her acting wings and showing how brilliantly she can perform the easier acting notes provided in the series. She clearly loves a challenge, but there must be valleys to accompany the peaks. A true sign of acting genius is how confidently you play the valleys while waiting for the peaks. These quiet, comtemplative, and dialogue-heavy scenes are perfection thanks to Eva Green’s confidence as an actress.

That’s not to say she doesn’t have peaks in the episode. Season two liked to give her extended sequences in which she launches into nearly possessed states as she rattles off Satanic spells in an ancient tongue. She has one near the end of “Little Scorpion” where she exacts revenge against a local who recently insulted her but was directly responsible for the death of her beloved mentor. Green again contorts and constricts her body into near-impossible states as she flies through what could be pages of otherworldly dialogue.

Eva Green
Photo courtesy of Showtime.

She has a similar moment in the season two finale where she summons the rage and aggression collected over the course of the season and unleashes it against Poole and her creepy collection of possessed dolls. An amazing sequence, it perfectly completes the high-tension Penny Dreadful season two.

Whether or not Emmy voters love these scenes is up for debate. I, however, remain a committed fan of Eva Green’s work here. She has mastered the brilliant interpretation of the complex and damaged character that Vanessa Ives has become. Green has ignored the season breaks and uses all material at her disposal from season one to build an extremely convincing air of despair and anguish from year to year. When Green/Ives finally breaks at the end of the season, it is a staggering achievement of acting brilliance.

Or, to coin a phrase, Eva Green just acted the shit out of Penny Dreadful season two.

Penny Dreadful season three continues to air Sunday nights on Showtime at 10pm ET. 

ADTV discusses the challenges of acting and directing with House of Cards‘ Robin Wright

House of Cards season four ended with TV’s powerful and ruthless couple Francis and Claire Underwood (Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, respectively) creating fear, terror and war. As a growing power influence both in front of and behind the camera this season, Wright recently made headlines, and deservedly so, for fighting to receive an equal pay check to that of co-star Kevin Spacey. This season, Wright directed four episodes of House of Cards and is also an executive producer.

I met with the actress, director, and executive producer recently. On TV, actress Robin Wright plays the icy and fiercely powerful Claire Underwood, but, off camera, she is anything but that as she cracks a joke about how cold London was while she was there filming….

AwardsDaily TV: Congratulations on another fantastic and phenomenal season of House of Cards. Did you ever watch the original UK version of the show?

Robin Wright: I did not. I deliberately avoided that. I never did that in the past. Even in the past, if someone was making a remake or adaptation, I’ve never wanted to watch the original so as not to be influenced. Actually, David Fincher said, “There’s not a necessity for you to watch it because the character that we’re developing, Claire Underwood is going to be exponentially larger.” Was that true? Did you watch the UK version?

ADTV: I did. I have to say, Claire Underwood is in a league of her own.

RW: Yes. Good, that was the intention.

ADTV: When you first got the script, did you base her on anyone?

RW: I didn’t base her on a female politician. I didn’t base her on a human being. When David Fincher said, “I don’t know what to tell you. Here’s a template idea for you to start with.” This was long before the episodes were written. The one description that stood out was that he said, “Imagine she’s a marble bust, that you would see in a museum and that she’s an iconic figure and there’s a stoicism, and you can crack that marble. That’s what we’re gonna do over the course of the show. We’re going to slowly make cracks in her marble.” I read it, and said, “OK, I get it. That’s enough.” That’s all I needed really.

Physically that’s the way I work over just replicating or emulating someone in particular. I take the fabric of things. I went for an animal. I thought about the bust, and I thought, “What acts like that stoic bust with a regality?” It was the American eagle. I studied the American eagle on YouTube, and they way they hover over their prey. When they go for the kill, it’s with the utmost force and conviction. It was so smooth and stealth like. That’s what I used for her as an idea. Then once you put on her outfit or a dress and Louboutins, you’re kind of there.

It was a lot of physical stuff to help me find her to tell you the truth.

ADTV: Well, on the subject of physical was the dream sequence – the fight. Did you get injured at all?

RW: I used a piece of that in my episode that I directed. We were shooting very late that night because we had to get that scene. That was a mother bear of a day… a 16-hour day. Kevin and I were so giddy because you’re living on ether at that point, you’ve been working for so many hours. We were padded up, and had stunt people there, but we both went for it. We were both very bruised I have to say. We were giggling about it, saying we didn’t have to go for it 150 percent but we did. We threw ourselves on the desk. We had fun shooting it.

ADTV: What about directing yourself? Claire is such a complex character. What’s it like directing yourself in this?

RW: Kevin and I do this in our sleep at this stage. There’s not a lot of forethought needed with separation. So, it’s really not that complicated. It’s like anything, like any skill that you have. It’s like someone who rides a unicycle every day. They’re not even thinking about it anymore. They get on the unicycle and do it. It wasn’t an interruption to be directing myself while directing the show.

I would have much preferred to not be in front of the camera because I love being behind the camera now. I can’t wait for my scenes to be over, and I can get back behind the camera. That’s the truth. [laughs]

ADTV: How did Beau Willimon approach you this season to direct more episodes?

RW: I think Kevin was considering directing an episode or two. I remember being in the room when they were talking about it. I said, “Hey, I wanna direct one.” Beau said, “Let’s investigate that.” I said, “Yes, I’m scared shitless, but I’ve been in this business over 30 years.” I’d been on the show long enough, I knew the protocol, and I know the story and the style. I know the crew, they know me, and they’ve got my back. We all just joined forces and said, “Let’s make it happen, and they did.”

ADTV: It is tough to direct the smaller scenes with you and say one other, or are the larger scenes, like the church scenes harder?

RW: That is definitely tougher, when Kevin and I are in the same scene, and it’s a complicated scene. Like the scene where he discovers that she puts the earrings in his safe deposit box. That was a tough scene to direct. We didn’t have time to rehearse it. It was also re-written at the very last minute. We were getting changes moments before. We were all collaborating on the changes because once you get out there and you rehearse that long scene, that was a 7-page scene which we shot at the end of the day. That was just a disservice to all of us because we were all so tired. That was really tough. You learn from those mistakes as a director. I would never do that again to Kevin, myself, and the crew. I’ll never do it. I will make sure that we allot a whole day for a scene like that, especially given the nature of pace. We don’t even know if we’re going to have time to rehearse it. It’s going to evolve into something else. We need to give it time and to allow for that time as the production board. But, you live and learn. Always living and learning.

ADTV: Another fantastic moment this season was having Ellen Burstyn in the show. Those scenes. What was that like working with her and directing her?

RW: She was fantastic. I was so honored doing that. She was one of the first actresses I remember watching in Alice Doesn’t Live Here Anymore. Ellen was one of the first I remember witnessing. There was a specialness.

ADTV: You are a leader. You’ve got a role as a leading lady in a top show. You’re also a female director in a field that’s dominated by men. What is that like for you?

RW: We can use the cliche of female empowerment. There’s something with that union of Team Underwood, with Francis and Claire, and the point of their unification is to say she is the best of both sexes. There’s almost an androgyny there. She is strong like male and female, and that in concert with Francis in the power seat, is almost like, she is the side car. They’re both propelling each other. They’re both a part of the same vehicle. She’s both.

ADTV: They’re quite a couple. They’re very addictive.

RW:[laughs] That’s a good word for it.

ADTV: Aside from Fincher, who else has influenced your work?

RW: Anthony Minghella was the one that touched a lot of people clearly. His process resonated. His delicacy with actors with when and how much do you speak to. You don’t want to drown out your actors. You need to let them breathe. There’s a way to let them breathe while simultaneously feeding them active verbs to play.

He was very good this way. He would tell a story instead of saying, “Give me more energy on this take, or be more sadder on this take.” You can’t play energy. What gives you energy? Give me an example that would make me feel “I have more energy.” Or give me an example or a memory or something that creates a factor in my body. Don’t just say, be sadder or be happier. He was a storyteller and a beautiful director that way. He created an environment and a world for you to embody the character within.

ADTV : It’s so apparent that you have the directing bug. Would you like to do more of it and direct a film one day?

RW: Definitely, I am pursuing directing. Yes.

ADTV: When did you first get the bug?

RW: I had it in my mind years ago. I think I was too scared, I wasn’t ready, but I knew I always wanted to do it. I just wanted to feel qualified to do so. Again, you don’t get qualified until you keep doing it which I realize now. Practice makes perfect.

ADTV: Do you have a favorite episode looking back on the season?

RW: I do like the one with mom and Tom. I like that one. I also like episode four – the assassination attempt. That was full and two very different ones at either end of the spectrum. I was very blessed with the writing of those two.

ADTV: Would you ever consider writing?

RW: I wish I could write. I can’t write. I can re-write a scene. We do it with the writers, restructuring and juxtaposing words and arc. I do that all the time. If somebody said sit down at a typewriter and write a story, I’d panic.

Robin Wright and all seasons of House of Cards are now streaming on Netflix.

Robin-Wright-and-Kevin-Spacey-in-House-of-Cards-Season-4

Taraji P. Henson

ADTV discusses the challenges of being Empire‘s Cookie Lyon with Taraji P. Henson, the woman behind the sass

Earlier this year, Taraji P. Henson took home the Golden Globe for Best Actress in a Drama for her portrayal of Cookie Lyon on Fox’s Empire. Cookie is outspoken, fierce, and bold. Henson’s character is a heroine to the 10 million viewers who tune in each week to follow the adventures and saga of the Lyon family. Later this year, Henson will publish her memoir, “Around the Way Girl,” and she will stretch her acting chops with Hidden Figures, an upcoming drama detailing the story of Katherine Johnson. Johnson was the African-American mathematician who helped NASA make huge strides in the Space Race.

I caught up with the actress in Hollywood on an unusually chilly L.A. day to talk Cookie, what she hungers for as an actress, and the challenges in creating such an iconic character.

AwardsDaily TV: How is it filming Empire in Chicago?

Taraji P. Henson: It’s good. I really love the city. They have great food. It’s beautiful in the summer with the lake. I can’t complain. It’s a change of pace. The people are different. They seem a bit more authentic there than here. No one’s chasing stars there.

ADTV: L.A. is a world of it’s own. OK, that last episode of Empire. Oh my God! I’m still picking up my jaw from the shooting and the wedding. The whole season is crazy. I don’t even know where to begin?

TPH: [laughs] Good luck because I don’t either.

ADTV: Congratulations on a great season. What’s it like delivering those blunt lines?

TPH: It’s a lot of fun. She’s my Sasha Fierce. She’s my big sister. That’s what Cookie represents for me, that bold person who speaks up for me when the bully comes.

ADTV: Is that what makes her resonate with the audience?

TPH: I think she represents that for everyone, the voice… that inner fight that everyone has. Sometimes people are afraid to unleash because they need to be politically correct, and we know Cookie is far from anything politically correct.

ADTV: Is that hard for you delivering those lines that aren’t all PC? I don’t care. I’m a Brit so nothing offends me. We say anything.

TPH: I know! I’ve seen TV there. I love it because Cookie gets to say it. She says the things that people are thinking but are too afraid to say. I think that’s why she’s registered and resonates across the board. It doesn’t matter what color, what sex, who they’re sleeping with, they just love Cookie. [laughs]

ADTV: Well, it’s been such a long time since we’ve had such a great character like Cookie on screen. In the 80’s we had [Dynasty‘s] Alexis, then you come along, and she’s bad ass.

TPH: I love it. It was a scary character to take on because I didn’t know how she’d be received. America is tricky. People are tricky. They could turn on you real quick. It was very important as to how I played her. I couldn’t play her as a loud mouth sass because she wouldn’t resonate to most people. I had to figure out a way to make people empathize with her struggle.

I grew up in the hood, so I know what it’s like when you can’t make ends meet working at McDonald’s or a job that pays minimum wage, and all you have is crack to sell to make sure your family can eat, or hustle, or whatever it is you gotta do. When you come from the hood, you don’t have those options. She sold drugs. Was it the best thing to do? No. But what she did was prevent her three sons from becoming statistics. She did what mothers do, she made the ultimate sacrifice.

ADTV: And some of the best scenes are when Cookie goes all out protecting those boys. Where does that emotion come from?

TPH: From a mother’s love. You sacrifice your life getting that child here healthy. I became pregnant in my junior year in college, I was very young. That’s when you party and drink, and do whatever. I didn’t do it. I chose not to. Those are sacrifices I made to bring a healthy child into this world. Once I had him, I had further sacrifices to make, I couldn’t go clubbing because of the type of mother I wanted to be. As a mother you’re always sacrificing because it is your job to make sure these kids are good and they become productive citizens by any means necessary. You want them to survive.

ADTV: How has Cookie changed your life?

TPH: I can’t go anywhere. That’s how she’s changed my damn life. I am now Cookie. Everywhere I go, people ask, “Are you Cookie?” No, I am Taraji. [laughs]. I understand the love they have for her.
“Fans, please understand when you call me Cookie, it reminds me of work.” It’s work.

ADTV: But she’s going down in history as an icon.

TPH: I hope so. She’s the kind of work I’ve always wanted to do. I pray that’s the case.

ADTV: Do you have any scenes that have stood out for you this season?

TPH: The scenes where I slapped all the boys. I think I got Terence one good time, and now they all brace themselves when they see me.

ADTV: You connected?

TPH: Each and every time. [laughs] I have crew members saying, “Can Cookie slap some sense into my children?” They make me Facetime and threaten their kids.

ADTV: What about this relationship between Cookie and Lucious. Every episode they are flipping from love and hate. Last night, I was watching it and they’re on the couch. There was a moment when I thought, “She hasn’t learned from last season.”

TPH: Well, that’s a love you can’t describe. When you’ve been through so much with a person that love never really goes away. You may not love them romantically anymore, but there’s a deep underlying love that you can’t even put into words. When you find that, it doesn’t come often. Cookie and Lucious will probably always date other people, but they will never find that kind of love again.

ADTV: What can we expect in season three?

TPH: [laughs] I have no idea. They tell me nothing. I wish I knew.

ADTV: Ok, I have to talk about her wardrobe, because it’s outrageous. Do you get a say in what Cookie wears?

TPH: I don’t really want a say. I let Paolo [Nieddu] do his job. He really loves me because he calls me his Barbie. I’m a producer as well, so I just know that you hire people to hire their job. I’m an actress. I’m not a wardrobe person. I don’t study the upcoming fashions. That’s why I hire a stylist in my personal life. That’s why you have wardrobe in film and TV. I let that person do their job.

It’s my job as an actor to materialize that. I’ve done my research, they’ve done their research and we marry the two. I have to make it work. I might not like it, but it’s Cookie who’s wearing it. He did the character research. My main concern is fit. Does it fit? If it doesn’t we move on. I think Paolo is quite a genius. The outfits he puts together are ones I would have passed a thousand times in the store, but everything he puts me in, I want. But once Cookie wears it, it’s over.

Taraji P. HensonADTV: You have an exciting 2016 ahead. Your memoir, “Around The Way Girl,” is coming out which I can’t wait to read. What can you tell us about the title? 

TPH: I think people recognize me for being That Girl Around The Way for being tangible to them. I’ve reached this great success in my career, and people say, “You’ve never changed, you still feel familiar. I feel like I know you and you’re my BFF.” I think it’s because I would not allow Hollywood to dictate who I was. Yes, I’m this edgy girl and I speak with this accent, but I am a trained actress. I get paid to play characters. That’s not who I am. It was a struggle to get through the industry like that. When I walked in the room, I was just Taraji from around the way, but they just saw an edgy girl who couldn’t give them characters. I’ve had a lot to prove, but anyway, here we are and I get to tell my story.

I think it will resonate not just with women, or girls, but boys and men because the story is very real. I’m very proud of it.

ADTV: On the subject of Hollywood and its challenges, what obstacles have you faced?

TPH: There are roles that I didn’t get that I should have had, but when you look back in retrospect they weren’t my blessing. They belonged to someone else. I don’t really see them  as obstacles. I just work. Hopefully those obstacles lessen, and they become obsolete.

I really can’t say that the industry is tough because I’ve been successful in this business. I can’t say the business has been bad to me. I carpe diem. I was nominated for an Academy Award. Great. I continue to do independent films, and, because I’m a theatre actor too, I hunger for roles that I can sink my teeth in to. I thirst for roles that will scare me. I don’t go for easy.

ADTV: On that note, you have Hidden Figures coming out early in 2017.

TPH: That was the hardest thing for me in life. I am not mathematically wired. She is the polar opposite of everything you’ve ever seen me do. Everything. She is a genius. She’s a mathematician. She sees numbers in the sky. She doesn’t speak unless she has something to say. She’s a very proper woman, and she was hard to play. I’m notch ten in my personal life.

I leave this character who speaks her mind, and then you take me to Katherine [Johnson] where I have two lines in three pages. When I got home, I felt like I’d just worked out because I had to sit on all of that energy. There are scenes with racial tension, and I couldn’t say anything? That was a workout.

ADTV: Did you know about Katherine Johnson?

TPH: No, I didn’t. When I took it on, that’s when I started to hear about her. It was interesting. The movie was perfect timing. I remember reading the script and asking if she was still alive, if so, I wanted to meet her. I remember how regal she was, and how smart she was without saying anything. She was very sharp. She’s 97 1/2. What I found interesting was that, I’m a people watcher, so I was scanning her room, and I saw that she had two Scrabble games under her sofa. I thought to myself, she’s still challenging her brain to think. I wouldn’t even want to play Scrabble with her. She’d make me look stupid.

Watch full episodes of Taraji P. Henson on Empire on Fox.com.

Lady Day

Audra McDonald serves up an astonishing Lady Day. Your move, Television Academy.

There is a reason that Audra McDonald is the most awarded actress in Tony Awards history. The beloved Broadway star won 6 Tonys, and she has won every category in which she was eligible. One who is unfamiliar with her work might go to see one of her performances with cautious or reluctant expectations. I’ve never been fortunate to see Ms. McDonald perform live, but HBO’s presentation of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill allows me to see her true star power without having to travel to New York City. Audra McDonald’s embodiment of Billie Holiday is what Hollywood biopics are made up—she’s absolutely astonishing.

Set in a small bar in 1959, Holiday’s doing what she loves best. Performing for a small group of people, you can tell that this is what Holiday loves best. She repeatedly refers to the audience as her friends and she is very relaxed and casual as she recounts stories about her mother and her former lover. There are a lot of comparisons with Bessie Smith, and she even mentions that Smith “stopped recording her last record just three days before I made my first.”

When Lady Day debuted on Broadway in 2014, all the reviews constantly talked about how McDonald truly sounded like the late singer. Normally, McDonald’s voice is crystal clear, and her voice carries an enormous amount of emotion. Audiences who became aware of her from NBC’s live presentation of The Sound of Music (her rendition of “Climb Every Mountain” is the highlight of entire production) should also look up her performances of “Mr. Snow” and “The Glamorous Life.”

As Billie Holiday, McDonald ably carries the same amount of emotion, but it’s simultaneously guarded and open. She’s inviting you into this world to enjoy her music and her experiences, but you may not be prepared for the amount of pain she exudes in her singing. When she’s performing for the crowd, Holiday appears to have a set body language, and as soon as a song is over, her physicality completely changes. We watch the music almost literally give her life to live.

The more Billie performs, the more she drinks. Lady Day takes place four months before Holiday passed away. The alcohol she consumes (trust me, she downs a lot) surely only added to her death. The audience is witnessing her descent into sloppy drunkenness, and it’s really sad to watch this star slowly extinguishing herself. The play is presented as an immersive experience, and, at one point, she shuffles behind the bar to pour herself a full glass of gin. As she downs the glass, the bottle of booze acts almost as a cane or anchor. She seems to forget that there is an audience there, and, by the end of the show, her speech is low and almost unintelligible.

While this is a magnificent star turn for McDonald, the script isn’t the strongest. It merely meanders around while providing us some insight into Holiday’s fears and experiences. The camerawork is sometimes a bit erratic, but these are minor quibbles.

Why hasn’t Ms. McDonald been given the chance to show her musical chops for something larger than the stage? She should be starring in a big movie musical adaptation (surely a larger part than the feather duster in the upcoming Beauty and the Beast live action musical), but maybe she wants to stay on the stage? Her performance in Lady Day proves what a ferocious talent she is—other stage actresses wouldn’t be able to translate that emotion through the television.

This is a true high-wire act.

Lead Actress in a Limited Series

Sarah Paulson brings the trials of Marcia Clark to life in American Crime Story

Sarah Paulson is always the bridesmaid, never the bride.

That’s a vaguely offensive statement, isn’t it? I intend it with nothing but good will for this brilliant actress. It’s meant to highlight how, after four straight nominations, she has yet to finally receive an Emmy. I doubt she’s losing much sleep over this. Great actors are seldom in it for the hardware. Still, I was certain she would take home gold last year with her complex performance as Dot and Bette Tattler, the singing conjoined twins in American Horror Story: Freak Show.

I’ve come to terms with the loss some six months later. Expertly performed by Paulson, the role was probably too out there for the broad Television Academy. The same could be said for her searing work in this year’s American Horror Story cycle, Hotel, as the perpetually crying Hypodermic Sally.

But Ryan Murphy giveth and giveth again.

Paulson is certain to be Emmy nominated again for her work in Murphy’s other American production, The People V. O.J. Simpson. Here, she has the iconic role of Los Angeles prosecutor Marcia Clark and brings unexpected depth, gravitas, and pathos to the character. Where Clark was once the butt of many Simpson trial-related jokes (more on that in a bit), Paulson has effectively eliminated all of that with a single hour of television, the best hour American Crime Story has produced thus far.

Airing last night on FX, “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” is an ode to not only the trials of Marcia Clark but also the plight of all women. It was a heartbreaking hour of television. It made you feel for the woman, a woman that had to this point suffered the slings and arrows of O.J. Simpson’s defense team as much as that of a focus group gathered to discuss her perceived bitchiness. It made you understand not only what it was like to be Marcia Clark at the center of the Trial of the Century but also what it feels like for a woman. It gave the audience a dramatic reinterpretation of Marcia Clark, She Who Could Not Win.

The episode started with Clark in the midst of a difficult divorce hearing against her soon-to-be ex-husband. Having suffered through that, Clark arrives late in the courtroom and is promptly humiliated by Judge Lance Ito. Setting aside the shit she has to put up with in the courtroom, she then goes home to overhear a trashy tabloid program dissect her hair and wardrobe choices. I’m sorry, but I thought she was there to prosecute O.J. Simpson, not walk a red carpet. Shaken, Clark carries on even as boss Gil Garcetti offers the assistance of a stylist.

Yeah, her boss…

She finally decides to begin the infamous makeover, shrewdly set to Seal’s “Kiss From a Rose.” Excited and tightly permed, Clark confidently strides into court and turns all heads in the process. And not the kind of head turning she anticipated. By the time Judge Ito unprofessionally comments on her appearance, Clark is emotionally bruised and battered. Only a kind note from co-prosecutor Christopher Darden (Sterling K. Brown) salvages the moment.

Still, it did result in this fantastic line…

“Goddamn, who turned her into Rick James?” asks a reporter.

I know that was mean, but goddamn it was funny.

Anyway, Clark continues to suffer at the hands of women and men at every turn. Perhaps the most damaging is an incredibly painful exchange with a convenience store clerk as she buys tampons. His unwarranted feedback insinuates that it would be a tough week in court thanks to her cycle. After Clark is faced with the betrayal of her first husband (he sold nude photos to a tabloid), she mentally collapses in the courtroom, erupting into tears. What’s meant as an act of kindness by Judge Ito is the ultimate insult: he calls court in recess to allow the one strong woman in the room to collect herself.

And Sarah Paulson conveys it all with style and amazing skill. Gone is the cock-sure early season Clark interpretation, the one you knew had to collapse but never this painfully. What replaces it is Paulson’s dramatization of Clark’s public unravelling. Her performance in “Marcia! Marcia! Marcia!” may be the finest acting she’s ever done on television. I’m not even talking about the meltdown scenes, which were of course very convincing. I’m talking about the pensive looks into the mirror, the massaging of her long curly hair, the undeniable joy at trying something new, and the heartbreaking humiliation of knowing they’re all laughing at you.

When Sarah Paulson looks in the mirror and twists those famed curls, I’m reminded of Meryl Streep’s great performance in The Bridges of Madison County where twists of a dress and a shy hand on the back of her neck conveyed repressed longing. But, here in American Crime Story, similar movements on Paulson’s part convey shattering insecurities and the pressure of being a working woman on an international stage. Sarah Paulson gently eviscerates the steely exterior of Marcia Clark and reveals the crushed woman inside.

When Marcia Clark erupts into tears at the end of the episode, it represents the cries of everyone – both women and men – who have suffered such complete humiliation. It is the most relatable and honest moment thus far in the great FX miniseries. Sarah Paulson deserves the Emmy this year now more than ever because she was able to give us new perspectives on a woman we thought we knew so well via courtroom cameras. Turns out, we didn’t know her at all. She’s just like millions of women facing the same struggles at home and at the workplace every day.

Television Academy, please make this Sarah Paulson’s year.

Drama

The number of ladies eligible for this year’s Lead Actress in a Television Drama Series is surprisingly large. They come from popular network dramas as well as small, fan-driven favorites. Can Ruth Wilson manage a back-to-back win for the underrated The Affair? Or will Cookie Lyon be way too big to ignore? Or will the dreams of the 3 M’s be dashed when Melissa Benoist flies in as Supergirl?

Taraji P. Henson, Empire – Cookie could land at the very top of the list for two reasons: people still love her and she’s the best thing about the first season of the breakout show. Henson grabbed an Emmy nomination this past season, but she lost to Viola Davis for How to Get Away with Murder. I don’t see how she can miss out on a nomination, but is the buzz fading away from Empire a bit this time around? If the HFPA is still on a season 1 high, she could win this category.

Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder –Everyone thought that Davis would have picked this up last year for the freshman season of the twisty soap, but she win a Screen Actors Guild trophy. There’s no way she can miss, right? Is it even worth pondering?

Claire Danes, Homeland – Danes has won two consecutive Globes for her role as Carrie Mathison, but she’s not always a sure thing. She missed a nomination 2 years ago, but Homeland seems to have picked back up in quality. Danes is always a contender.

Julianna Margulies, The Good Wife – Speaking of mainstays, you can’t talk about consistency without bringing up Margulies for The Good Wife. She has been nominated in this category for the last 6 years, so you definitely can’t count her out. I’ve heard from fans that the show is definitely on a good season, so that could solidify her chances even more. They clearly love her.

mad-men

Elizabeth Moss, Mad Men – Will the HFPA fall back in love with the AMC drama in its last season? Moss had a good final bow, but she hasn’t been nominated in this category since 2010.

Ruth Wilson, The Affair – Last year’s surprise winner is certainly in talks to grab another nomination for the second season of the Showtime drama. Will she be able to land another nomination after the show shifts its focus to other characters? Will Maura Tierney’s storyline overshadow Wilson’s?

Priyanka Chopra, Quantico – One of the steadiest debuts this fall was the twisty terrorist drama, Quantico, and right at the center is international star Priyanka Chopra. Similar to the structure of How to Get Away with Murder, the show has garnered a devoted following, and reviews have said nothing but positive things about Chopra. She’s also a total knockout and would amazing on the red carpet.

Robin Wright, House of Cards – Wright should never be discounted for her work on Cards, and people have been saying this is her best season yet. She won in this category 2 years ago, and she could pull off another win.

Alexa Davalos, The Man in the High Castle – Amazon’s newest sensation definitely has people talking (check out that subway display!), and the HFPA might fall in love with the warped period drama. Is it only the show that will get praised and nominated, or will some of the actors get swept along as well?

Orphan

Tatiana Maslany, Orphan Black – To be totally honest, Maslany should be considered every year for her obviously layered work in the clone drama. If you don’t like one of her characters, you’re bound to like another one. Fans have cried for years that she should be nominated for an Emmy, and it finally prevailed this year. Maslany was nominated at the Globes in 2013 in this category, but was left off last year. Will she return after being nominated for an Emmy?

Kerry Washington, Scandal – Surely 3 women from Shondaland won’t make it, right?

Caitriona Balfe, Outlander – If there is a contender that fans are getting behind for any sort of awards contention, it’s Balfe from Starz’s Outlander. The romantic drama has both devoted television and book fans behind her, and when she failed to secure an Emmy nominee this past year, fans were claiming it as one of the biggest snubs of nomination morning. Is Outlander even on anyone’s radar? Is the noise loud enough to garner her a nomination from the HFPA? I don’t think it’s out of the realm of possibility.

Jaimie Alexander, Blindspot – If we are talking about freshman dramas, we can’t forget about NBC’s Blindspot, one of the biggest new network dramas this fall. Can Jane Doe stand out alongside such strong competition?

supergirl

Melissa Benoist, Supergirl – This could actually happen, so just be prepared.

Krysten Ritter, Jessica Jones – This Marvel hit is relatively new to the mix, and its received stellar reviews across the board. At the very center is Ritter’s career-changing turn as the lead character. She’s most well known as the B in Apartment 23, but Jones allows her to dive into something far grittier and hardcore. Everyone should be behind her.

Much like this year’s Emmy race, there are a lot of women in the running for this year’s Best Actress in a Television Comedy Series. Will Veep’s big night at the Emmys sway favor for Julia Louis-Dreyfus? Will Amy Poehler make a comeback for Parks & Recreation? Or will another young unknown be up for the prize? Let’s take a look at the contenders.

Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep – It’s hard to believe, but she has never won a Golden Globe for playing Selina Meyer. Even though she has won the last 4 years at the Emmys, she has only taken home one Globe back in 1994 for Seinfeld. Veep and American politics might not be the Hollywood Foreign Press’ cup of tea, but she will definitely be nominated.

Lena Dunham, Girls – Interestingly enough, Dunham has been nominated every year that Girls has been on HBO. She won for the freshman season when the series also took home Comedy Series. Is it dumb to take her out at this point, or should we play safe?

Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin – Rodriguez took home the prize last year, and she’s definitely a huge crowd favorite. Ratings for Virgin have only dipped slightly from the first season, so the show hasn’t taken a swan dive after the birth of her baby. Enthusiasm for the show seems to have waned a bit, though.

Amy Poehler, Parks & Recreation – Ahhh, Leslie Knope. Screw the Emmys—you don’t need them! After Poehler won in this category 2 years ago, she was absent when the nominations came out last year. Did she simply fall through the cracks? The show ended a while ago, so she could be ignored again.

Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt – Hopefully the Hollywood Foreign Press won’t ignore her like the Emmys did. Kimmy Schmidt is a lot broader than other new programs, so it could score big this year. Don’t let us down HFPA! Kemper is the beating heart of this Netflix show. Don’t follow in the Emmys footsteps!

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie – Both Fonda and Tomlin are in acclaimed film performances this year (Fonda is generating some Oscar buzz for her small part in Youth, and Tomlin is fantastic in Grandma), so they could both become double nominees this year. When the Emmys rolled around, I (stupidly) predicted both would get nominated for their duel starring roles on Grace and Frankie. Tomlin triumphed with a nomination.

Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend – Is this prediction from left field? I don’t think so. While the show’s ratings haven’t been too great, she’s a newcomer, and the Golden Globes LOVE a fresh face in this category. Plus, she’s the only one that is in a musical. Do some research and you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Emma Roberts and Jamie Lee Curtis, Scream Queens – The HFPA love Ryan Murphy shows, and this is one of the flashiest shows of the fall. Curtis could fall into the supporting category, but her star power could grab her a slot. Lea Michele was nominated for Glee for the first season, and Jessica Lange has been nominated each season of American Horror Story. Prepare for me to roll my eyes if this happens (even though I love Jamie Lee on the show).

Constance Wu, Fresh Off the Boat – She’s definitely still the strongest thing about this ABC show, but is anyone watching it?

Edie Falco, Nurse Jackie – Final season love?

Taylor Schilling, Orange is the New Black – I am very skeptical that this can happen since a lot of people were mixed on the most recent season. The constant flip flopping between comedy and drama categories in various awards shows doesn’t help any performers’ chances either.

If I had to pick the nominees right now, I’d have to go with the following:

Rachel Bloom, Crazy Ex-Girlfriend
Julia Louis-Dreyfus, Veep
Lena Dunham, Girls
Gina Rodriguez, Jane the Virgin
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

Note: This post is the latest in an on-going series of pieces exploring the major categories at the 2015 Emmy awards. We will cover actors, actresses, and series – Comedy and Drama – through the end of the voting period on August 28. See something you like or a performance you’d like to single out? Share the posts and create some Twitter buzz! We’ll see you at the Emmys. 

The following is an analysis of the six actresses voted into the Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series Emmy race for the 2014-15 broadcast season. Television is the place to be for female actors. There were arguably enough talents in this field to fill three six-nominee lineups. Even the incumbent winner Julianna Margulies for The Good Wife did not receive enough votes to get back into the race. It’s a cutthroat year for the win and the competition is beginning to bloom.

 

Performer: Claire Danes as Carrie Mathison in Homeland

Episode: “From A to B and Back Again” (Season 4, Episode 6)

Highlights: Carrie fakes her own kidnapping to prompt Aayan to lead the CIA to the season’s “big bad,” Haqqani. She also lashes out at several co-workers who disagree with her tactics in the mission. Then, Carrie witnesses Aayan’s death by his uncle’s hands, which ignites some traumatic emotions for her since she extracted information from Aayan using her sexuality.

Why she could win: Danes is an Emmy champ having won this category for this role twice and likely came in second place last year. The Emmys love what she brings to the table, and now they have a reinvigorated love for the show; Homeland made a comeback this year and reclaimed its Drama Series nomination, along with being shortlisted for directing. Leaving the Drama Series race for season three and managing to maneuver its way back in for season four is an indication that voters may have watched the all twelve episodes and saw everything Danes created within the role this past season. Her submission has few effective moments, like when she verbally reprimands a subordinate and when she recklessly reacts to Ayan’s death.

Why could she lose: After three years of picking flawless Emmy submissions for Homeland, Danes didn’t pick a winning tape this year, and she had one a monster of a submission in “Redux,” which could have wounded the strongest episodes from the likes of Viola Davis and Taraji P. Henson. Danes’ performance isn’t the main attraction in “From A to B and Back Again”, and even if it were, it’s hard for viewers to root for Carrie’s actions in this episode specifically: she uses a younger man sexually, chastises the most sympathetic character in the fourth season, and gives a command that could have killed her most trusted friend.

 

Performer: Viola Davis as Annalise Keating in How to Get Away with Murder

Episode: “Freakin’ Whack-a-Mole” (Season 1, Episode 6)

Highlights: Annalise defends a man’s death row appeal, visits her client in prison, reassuring him of her confidence in his case and goes before the Supreme Court to cross-examine a senator about his involvement in the original trial. The episode concludes with a scene between Annalise and her husband where she exposes her vulnerability and tells him how much she relies on him in spite of the problems in their marriage.

Why she could win: Having a “money moment,” where an actor completely obliterates a scene with huge emotions like hysterical breakdowns or heady speeches, is the safest way to secure an Emmy trophy. In “Freakin’ Whack-a-Mole, Davis gets a long-winded tirade in court and has several scenes where she cries. Some of the material she is asked to play cheesy, but Davis teases out mammoth emotions from even the most subtly written scenes. It almost creates this bulldozing effect as the episode continues and she continues to bury the viewer with her acting, which only gets more and more intense. She’s one of the most respected actresses out of any medium—television, theater, or film. The tone of Davis’s acting is in keeping with the Emmy’s past preferences, despite her show sliding off the rails into cheaper, MTV-like territory.

Why could she lose: Unless there’s a secret uprising of support for Robin Wright or Taraji P. Henson within the Academy, the path is clear for Davis to win with this rock-solid submission. “Freakin’ Whack-a-Mole” is a very safe tape despite her having bigger moments in episodes like “Let’s Get Scooping” and “Kill Me, Kill Me, Kill Me.” Several actors from Scandal and Grey’s Anatomy have also won Emmys by way of being a Shonda Rhimes creation, so even if they aren’t enamored by the show itself, the Academy has proven they respond to the type of acting in Rhimes’ shows.

 

Performer: Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyon in Empire

Episode: “Pilot” (Season 1, Episode 1)

Highlights: Cookie is released from jail and reaches out to her estranged sons after years of incarceration. She also demands her fair share of the company her ex-husband began using her money, the money which earned her a lengthy prison sentence. The episode contains flashbacks informing the viewers of crucial moments in the family’s past, all of which chiefly feature Cookie.

Why she could win: Empire was a sensational hit with the general public in its first season, attaining the biggest popularity and buzz for a broadcast show since cable began to surge years ago. Henson, an Oscar-nominated actress, is arguably the exclusive component to that success. She’s an icon in pop culture now thanks to her work as Cookie, and Henson’s wave of popularity could help her win the Outstanding Actress Emmy. Not only is she the trending star of the year, but she also submitted a dynamite episode to the Emmy judges. Henson is in the spotlight for the majority of Empire’s pilot; the whole episode revolves around her release from jail and how that creates a ripple effect in awakening the first season’s storylines. Her gregarious work is hilarious, naughty, and emotionally compelling. It’s going to be hard for voters to miss her name after the huge comedic and shocking dramatic impact Henson leaves behind.

Why could she lose: Cookie is unrefined, gaudy, and tacky. The Emmy’s typically select winners with more snob appeal in the Drama Lead Actress category (like Julianna Margulies, Claire Danes, and Glenn Close), not performances that shed soapy flavors. Empire was widely seen as a likely candidate for Drama Series because of its cultural effect and commercial influence, and voters have already proven the personality of the show is not to their liking by snubbing it in every category except Costume Design and Lead Actress.

 

 Performer: Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning, Alison Hendrix, Cosima Niehaus, Helena, Rachel Duncan, and Beth Childs in Orphan Black

Episode: “Certain Agony of the Battlefield” (Season 3, Episode 6)

Highlights: Alison has seemingly got the juices flowing in her marriage to Donnie. Cosima is shacking up with Shay, to the jealousy of scorned Delphine. Helena is on the run again, and eats her scorpion. Sarah is still captive and seeing visions of her daughter. Rachel is feeling the wrath of Felix.

Why she could win: Another trait in an episode submission that helps an actor win an Emmy is for voters to see them play more than one character/more than one version of the character, showing range. Maslany has this attribute in spades with her performance in Orphan Black. Every character she plays is uniquely sketched out and definitively her own, which is likely to impress, along with the raw emotions and baity character situations she is assigned to play in “Certain Agony of the Battlefield.” Voters have finally given Maslany a shot after two seasons of snubbing her critically lauded work on the thriller series, and receiving your first nomination in your third season after the novelty wears off (for a genre show, no less!) is not the type of recognition to discount. The Television Critics Association and Critics Choice Awards rallied behind her in the first two seasons, so the question becomes how welcoming will the television Academy be?

Why could she lose: Unfortunately, the nomination is probably the reward for Maslany. Overcoming the very much real genre bias and the prestige of being nominated is likely as far as the Academy will go for a couple reasons. One, I’d wager most Academy members are not watching Orphan Black religiously – not like they watch Downton Abbey or Mad Men – so when they see her tape, voters will likely have no idea what’s actually going on in the massively complicated story. Two, her performance is fascinating but because the show is so different in spirit and structure than what they’re used to, it’s likely they won’t feel the emotional weight of the episode more than they will watching Davis’s, Henson’s, or Wright’s performances in more traditional Emmy shows that are easier to swallow for non-viewers.

 

Performer: Elisabeth Moss as Peggy Olson in Mad Men

Episode: “Person to Person” (Season 7, Episode 14)

Highlights: In Mad Men’s series finale, Peggy adjusts to the new workplace environment, while pondering an offer from Joan to start a new business together. She also speaks to Don on the phone, who has been missing for several weeks, and tries to console him as he trembles over the edge of an emotional precipice. Meanwhile, she and her longtime co-worker and trusted friend, Stan, admit their unrealized feelings to one another.

Why she could win: The Mad Men nostalgia is alive and Moss’s nomination is proof of that. She was invited back into the club after being snubbed last year when she had a larger role invested in the plot. In the episode she chose, “Person to Person,” Peggy has a good deal of screentime; it’s probably the most she is featured in any of the last seven episodes. Her sappy union with Stan as the conclusion to her story is something tangible for voters to latch onto.

Why could she lose: As much as we love Peggy Olson, Moss’s nomination surprising to begin with since Peggy had so little to do this year. (Moss was oddly absent from most pundit predictions before nominations were announced.) If anything, Christina Hendricks was the most important actress of the past season and is correctly competing in the supporting actress category, while Moss—who is secondary to her this year—is a ‘lead’ actress? Anyway, “Person to Person” is not what Peggy will be remembered for from the second half of season seven, not more than her epic walk down the hallway in “Lost Horizon,” or the confession about her giving up Pete’s child for adoption in “Time and Life.” Moss has been nominated six times over Mad Men’s run, so if it voters have not felt the urge to reward her yet, chances are this is not the year either, especially when the other nominees turned in titanic artistic works for consideration.

 

 Performer: Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in House of Cards

Episode: Unknown

Highlights: Since the episode she submitted has not be disclosed, Wright would have been wise to pick one of the following: “Chapter 32,” where Claire commiserates with a gay man being held in a Russian prison and makes a bold political move against President Petrov; “Chapter 39,” which studies the emotional buildup to Claire’s decision to leave Frank; or “Chapter 28,” where Claire faces drawback from government and the media while perusing a career as an ambassador.

Why she could win: After years of sitting on the sidelines, Wright finally got her turn to shine in the third season of House of Cards. In the years prior, Claire was more of a supporting role than a leading one, but all of that changed this year. Creator Beau Willimon let her drive the smooth, logical arc of the season, even more than Frank in some ways. Wright bit into the full-length material she was given. There was something she did in every episode that was memorable, even in shows that were lighter on Claire’s storyline. Wright’s performance is maybe the one thing the supporters and detractors of House of Cards Season Three can agree upon. Having the leaner screen time was always what that held this role back from blossoming into its full potential, and episodes like “Chapter 28,” “Chapter 32,” and “Chapter 39” show Claire Underwood at her full potential. (If Wright did in fact submit “Chapter 32,” it’s anyone’s guess who wins between Davis, Henson, and her because that episode is tailor made for an Outstanding Actress Emmy win.)

Why could she lose: It all comes down to her episode selection. Many pundits last year thought Wright could beat Margulies and Danes had she submitted “Chapter 17,” but she didn’t and instead betted on winning with the Season Two finale where Claire had minimal screen time. If she went with a less inclusive episode again, it could immediately take her out of the running again. Also, Wright unfortunately had her best season ever in the same year Davis and Henson entered the race, and they both have more momentum behind them for the win.

Note: This post is the latest in an on-going series of pieces exploring the major categories at the 2015 Emmy awards. We will cover actors, actresses, and series – Comedy and Drama – through the end of the voting period on August 28. See something you like or a performance you’d like to single out? Share the posts and create some Twitter buzz! We’ll see you at the Emmys.

The Emmy nominees for Outstanding Actress in a Comedy are all over the spectrum in terms of the way these women make people laugh. There’s dark comedy (Falco), sketch humor (Schumer), and the Hollywood unthinkable: humor from women over 70 (Tomlin). Julia Louis-Dreyfus has dominated this category for the past few years, but, this year, there’s a general sense that the time has come to pass the trophy to another actress, and that actress is likely to be Amy Schumer from her sketch show Inside Amy Schumer.

Here’s a look at the episodes these actresses submitted for Emmy consideration:

EdieFalco

Performer: Edie Falco as Jackie Peyton in Nurse Jackie

Episode: “I Say a Little Prayer” (Season 7, Episode 12)

Highlights: Jackie spends her final day at All Saints Hospital.

Why She Could Win: *Spoiler Alert* Of all the roles in this category, this one is the most dramatic. In this final episode of the series, Jackie may or may not have died from a drug overdose after seven seasons of battling addiction. The final scene leaves it open to interpretation. Falco won in 2010 in this category, so there’s definitely an affection for this character. Plus, it’s Falco’s final opportunity to win again for this role, so there’s that going for the performance, as well.

Why She Could Lose: While having the most versatile role may be an asset, it may also be a drawback. Voters may be more apt to reward a straight-up comedy consider. Plus, there’s another actress in this category whose series ended this year that’s never won an Emmy for her iconic role.

LisaKudrow

Performer: Lisa Kudrow as Valerie Cherish in The Comeback

Episode: “Valerie is Taken Seriously” (Season 2, Episode 5)

Highlights: Valerie convinces everyone she’s a legit actress and stands up for herself.

Why She Could Win: Of all the Friends, Kudrow is the most Emmy nominated with 7 nominations. She also was nominated in this category in 2006 for her role as Valerie Cherish on the first season of The Comeback. In her submitted episode, Kudrow does something tricky: She makes a cartoonish buffoon actually good at something in this case proving to herself and colleagues that she actually can act. It’s reminiscent of when Office fans learned that Michael Scott was actually good at remembering colleagues’ stories and was good at staying connected to customers.

Why She Could Lose: The Comeback was deemed a ratings dud, so voters may not be keen on rewarding a “failure.” The nomination here may be the ultimate reward. Plus, the second season finale in which Valerie wins an Emmy but spends the ceremony at her ailing friend’s side may have been a smarter Emmy submission.

Veep-Election-Night

Performer: Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer in Veep

Episode: “Election Night” (Season 4, Episode 10)

Highlights: In the season cliffhanger, Selina is caught in a tie for the presidency.

Why She Could Win: The academy loves Louis-Dreyfus and has awarded her this category for the last three years. She’s also risen to be called a comic genius by her peers and is having the best decade of her career since Seinfeld.

Why She Could Lose: The last person who wasn’t Julia that won in this category was Melissa McCarthy, fresh off of her Bridesmaids summer blockbuster. Another newbie in this category is also coming off of a Judd Apatow blockbuster and could steal the crown. Plus, Veep was more uneven this season than its previous ones.

AmyPoehler

Performer: Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope in Parks and Recreation

Episode: “One Last Ride” (Season 7, Episode 13)

Highlights: Parks and Rec concludes with a look at how Leslie Knope has touched everyone’s lives.

Why She Could Win: Amy Poehler won the Golden Globe in 2014. Plus, she’s riding high this summer with Inside Out and Wet Hot American Summer: First Day of Camp. It also doesn’t hurt that P&R’s finale is probably the strongest episode of the bunch in this category.

Why She Could Lose: The old adage “always the bridesmaid” applies to P&R. It typically fails to get nominations (it only has two) and wins.

Amy Schumer

Performer: Amy Schumer as Various in Inside Amy Schumer

Episode: “Cool With It” (Season 3, Episode 2)

Highlights: “The Amy Schumer Doll,” being cool going to strip clubs, and a One Direction parody

Why She Could Win: She’s everywhere right now – definitely the hottest actress in pop culture within this category. Plus, she starred in a recent high-profile Judd Apatow comedy (worked for Melissa McCarthy in 2011).

Why She Could Lose: “Cool With It” isn’t necessarily the most memorable episode of the season (the 12 Angry Men parody would be the most notable, but it’s more of an ensemble piece). If Inside Amy Schumer wins for anything, it may be in the sketch comedy category.

LilyTomlin

Performer: Lily Tomlin as Frankie Bergstein in Grace & Frankie

Episode: “The Vows” (Season 1, Episode 13)

Highlights: In the season finale, something happens between Frankie and Sol that could change people’s lives.

Why She Could Win: She’s Lily Tomlin, veteran comedienne. Out of Grace & Frankie, Tomlin has the most vulnerable performance.

Why She Could Lose: Grace & Frankie received mixed reviews. Plus, Tomlin has won Emmys before, so maybe the Television Academy is apt to award someone new.

Remember Christine Cagney and Mary Beth Lacey?

Rhetorical question to emphasize solid, prominent women on television. I mean, between them they won about thirty Emmys in the ’80s. Then there was Dana Scully, the level-headed, grounded FBI special agent with a scientific brain. Emmy liked her too (more than her male partner). Good actresses win Emmys, sure, but I see strong women winning Emmys. They liked that Manhattan police detective Olivia Benson. And that super-smart fact-finder from the Los Angeles police Brenda Leigh Johnson. They were also a fan of that psychic lady Allison DuBois. And that mafia boss Tony’s wife Carmela. Women and performances of influence and awe.

What about Sarah Manning from Orphan Black then? She is an underdog, she is gritty and determined. She is street-wise and smart – even in the midst of ultimate danger. Doesn’t she fit the bill? She goes head-first through all manner of obstacles you or I could hardly imagine, but you buy into it. Sarah is a female protagonist with grit between her teeth. In fact she crunches it up and spits it out. Sure, she had a tough upbringing, raised by her foster mother with her little brother Felix. Sarah also has a little girl. That’s right, she is a mother too. A single mother. She has neglected her daughter somewhat, due to circumstances perhaps out of her control, but by God is she ruthlessly firing on all cylinders to make up for that now. Her character is not over-the-top, it is just that she runs faster than our eyes can see. She has too.

Some of those character traits run right through those other leading ladies in Orphan Black. Have a look at the enigmatic Cosima Niehaus. She brings sexy back to science and nerdville. She is a hell of a lot more than that though. Cosima wears her freshly broken heart on her sleeve while still working with the very woman she loves – neither able to completely trust her or be with her. Ouch. That pain shows, all the while hanging tight, trying desperately to brush over the day-to-day severity of her own could-be-fatal biological illness. Hang in there Cosima.

Consider Alison Hendrix too, Orphan Black‘s most humorous and subtle acting brilliance. A model-family woman who lives in the suburbs, organised and highly-maintained, her life is anything but ideal or simple any more. Hey, her own husband was her monitor. And after letting her “best” friend die, she heads for rehab herself. Whether it is mending her marriage, conducting narcotics deals, or burying a dead body correctly, Alison remains conservative and longs for order – even as the falling dominoes start to scatter chaotically out of line. Vote Alison.

And how can you possibly ignore the illustrious Helena? A ferocious, fearless, bushy-haired cuckoo. I am, of course, being too harsh, she may be the sanest one of all. You are at first made to believe she is the enemy, and then grow to admire her. You have no choice in that. For the record, Helena is the character in Orphan Black I love the most. Her up-bringing was also a sheltered one – she appears to be a prisoner whether locked inside a cell / box / bunker or not. As an adult now she is a spontaneous, vengeful woman, she would beat up and slice up anyone who would even mention hurting those she loves. And so she does. But her heart is in the right place, truly.

The most amazing and compelling aspect of Orphan Black (as if you did not know by now) is that all of those incredible characters, and a few others, are portrayed by the majestic Tatiana Maslany. That fact alone warrants strong recognition and admiration. The potent and virtuoso way Maslany executes these roles, in all their variations and mimicking of one another, is a feat of astonishing bravura. After three seasons, my relentless marvel and opinion has not altered. Not for one single episode, a scene, or moment. And I know I am not the only one. The performances in bringing Helena, Alison, Cosima, and Sarah to the screen are all worthy Supporting Actress contenders in their own right. This is one actress, though, doing work like nobody else. Anywhere. An accomplished actress proving herself worthy of the mantel “Best” over and over.

Bravo Tatiana Maslany, Emmy should have been considering you long before I wrote this.

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