Jalal Haddad takes a look at the Supporting Actress in a Limited Series / TV Movie Emmy race in a series of posts leading up to the Emmy nomination announcement on July 14th. Over the next month, Jalal will be providing his own expert analysis in individual races and covering the top ten contenders in each category.
The Supporting Actor in a Limited Series / TV Movie race has been the most challenging to confidently rank in order of likelihood. At one point I had three Fargo actors in, and I had previous winners ranked even higher. Out of all the options and confusion with this supporting actor race there is only one thing I am confident in: a certain actor with an inclination to repeatedly utter “juice” won’t be recognized come nominations morning.
1. Denis O’Hare (Liz Taylor), American Horror Story: Hotel
Without a doubt the best performance on the unfocused fifth installment of American Horror Story was Denis O’Hare’s performance as a trans woman modeling her appearance off of the one and only Elizabeth Taylor. Her search for love and acceptance was the only relatable element of Hotel, and Liz Taylor is the perfect showcase for O’Hare as an actor. He has been nominated twice in the past but neither of his previously recognized characters are anywhere as striking as Liz. Voters also need to be reminded that they owe him a statue after completely snubbing him after his excellent turn as Russell Edgington on True Blood. I think he has a good chance of winning the award in September, especially if vote splitting happens for the American Crime Story actors.
2. Sterling K. Brown (Christopher Darden), The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story
At first Sterling Brown wasn’t getting a lot of attention for his portrayal of Darden compared to the big names on the show portraying larger than life personalities but as the show went on Brown’s performance became one of the favorites of fans and critics. Not being a huge personality or star might help Brown’s Emmy chances in the end. Voters won’t be comparing his work to their off-screen impressions of them (John Travolta, Cuba Gooding Jr.) or judging larger than life characters (the Kardashians, Faye Resnick, OJ Simpson). Instead voters will be able to focus on the most likeable character in the series and appreciate the least hammy performance in the ensemble.
3. John Travolta (Robert Shapiro), The People vs. OJ Simpson: American Crime Story
John Travolta’s performance as Robert Shapiro is the exact opposite of Sterling K. Brown’s Darden and is the type of flashy performance from a movie star that voters will pay attention to throughout the anthology and remember come voting time. This is Travolta’s best performance in ten years and it will likely earn him his first Emmy nomination unless voters are distracted by his makeup prosthetics and the nature of his over-the-top presence. There is a chance some voters might be turned off by his off-screen antics over the years especially relating to his relationship with Scientology.
4. Forest Whitaker (Fiddler/Hank), Roots
Forest Whitaker is the type of well-respected actor that could gain the attention of Emmy voters even when giving a performance on a program they might have originally passed up. The Oscar winner’s performance was cited by just about every critic and he was used in all of the promotional material. Whitaker has been campaigning hard and was the only supporting actor in a limited series to be featured in the drama actor roundtable with The Hollywood Reporter. In a weaker year Whitaker would be a lock for a nomination but in a year with so many high-profile limited series in contention this year it will all depend if voters find the time to actually watch the Roots remake.
5. Connor Jessup (Taylor Blaine), American Crime
Connor Jessup gave the most heartbreaking performance of the television season and if it were up to critics he would be winning the Emmy this year. Recent events in the United States make the show all the more timely and voters could Jessup’s performance even more to keep the conversation around gun violence going. In the past I would have completely dismissed any talk of him getting nominated but last year Emmy voters proved that they have the ability to nominate deserving up and coming actors in the supporting races (Finn Wittrock, Richard Cabral, Zoe Kazan) and if they continue to love American Crime as much as they did last year it will be very hard for them to pass up Jessup even if he is probably the least known major contender in any category.
6. Nathan Lane (F Lee Bailey), The People vs OJ Simpson: American Crime Story
Emmy voters love to nominate Lane in the guest categories, having been nominated six times over the past 20 years for his work on The Good Wife, Modern Family, Mad About You, and Frasier. As beloved as Lane is amongst the actors’ branch he is competing against a lot of his own costars who have more significant screentime. In the past however, when the acting branch has liked a limited series/TV movie in the past they have a tendency of going overboard (most recently when The Normal Heart took up 4/6 of the supporting actor slots). American Crime Story will be the biggest show this year in the limited series race and if the voters feel like it they might just fill the entire category with the cast.
7. Frank Langella (Sen. Richard Russell), All The Way
I really didn’t care for HBO’s All The Way (and from the sound of it neither did the rest of the ADTV team). I felt the performances were loud caricatures that said nothing new about the civil rights movement or the people they depicted. Nothing about Langella’s performance made him stand out, but he is the type of beloved actor that Emmy voters would vote for (even though he hasn’t been nominated since 1983). HBO will be able to get All The Way at least one supporting nomination and it really could be Langella, Mackie, or Whitford but they seem to be campaigning Langella the most.
8. Martin Freeman (John Watson), Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
The British actor stole Matt Bomer’s Emmy a couple of years ago when he was part of a bigger Sherlock sweep across the limited series/TV movie categories. He was nominated twice that year, in the supporting category for his work on Sherlock and in the lead category for his work on Fargo (where he lost to his Sherlock costar). Emmy voters love to repeatedly nominate certain actors to the expense of better performances but there is a good chance that Emmy voters have forgotten Freeman after Sherlock’s two year hiatus.
9. Ted Danson (Hank Larrson), Fargo
The second season of Fargo is filled with so many strong supporting performances that you could fill up the category with the cast alone (Bokeem Woodbine, Jeffrey Donovan, Nick Offerman, Zahn McClarnon, Jesse Plemons) so it’s a little crazy that the actor I am arguing has the best chance of receiving a nomination is Ted Danson. He has the least interesting material to work with and a lot of people were critical of his alien conspiracy theory plot, however in such a crowded year he might be able to earn more votes than his costars off of name recognition. Emmy voters are very fond of Danson, having nominated him 15 times in the past and in such a large cast anything to help you stand out to voters is a good thing.
10. Anthony Mackie (Martin Luther King Jr.), All The Way
As I said earlier HBO knows how to campaign in the limited series/TV movie races and this year they gave us a lot of portrayals of past politicians to choose from (Greg Kinnear, Wendell Pierce, Bradley Whitford, Alfred Molina) but the problem is they were all pretty underwhelming and came across more as caricatures than full portrayals. My personal vote would go towards Greg Kinnear or Alfred Molina but voters will probably gravitate towards Anthony Mackie’s performance of Martin Luther King Jr. His portrayal is fine but his biggest detractor is that it is nowhere as strong as the unbeatable performance by David Oyelowo in 2014’s Selma. No one should be surprised if Mackie or any of the other political portrayals mentioned are nominated but they should be disappointed in the television academy for lazy voting if they do take up space in such a crowded competitive category.
Worth Mentioning: Greg Kinnear, Jesse Plemons, Alfred Molina, Wendell Pierce, Bokeem Woodbine, David Schwimmer, Taylor Kitsch
Readers, which six actors do you think will be nominated come announcement morning? Are we completely overestimating or underestimating someone on this list? Sound off below in the comments!