Jalal Haddad looks at 2017 Emmy® supporting drama races. With so many new options, what surprising performances are on the cusp of a nomination?
The supporting drama races will finally see some new names with over half of last year’s supporting nominees in both races ineligible, including both winners. Large ensembles from new shows are fighting to standout. On top of that, some old Emmy® favorites enter the race with unlikely projects.
Overall, the supporting races will serve as key indicators on what drama series have the upper hand in terms of popularity. If a show like The Crown or This Is Us or even Stranger Things or The Handmaid’s Tale over performs with multiple supporting nominations, it will be a huge indicator that there is enough support to guide it to win the top award of the night. The actors branch of the Television Academy isn’t known to shower the first season of dramas with more than two acting nominations. Just look at Emmy favorites like Mad Men, Breaking Bad, House of Cards, Homeland, or Game of Thrones. So, any ensemble will enter the final round of voting with an upper hand.
The Crown Three months from now John Lithgow will go into the Emmy ceremony as the biggest lock of the night for his work as Winston Churchill in The Crown. The 5-time Emmy winner already won SAG and Critics’ Choice awards for his work. Besides Lithgow, just how popular will The Crown be with Emmy voters? This same voting group showered Downton Abbey with nominations. So, it seems all the more likely that at least one other supporting performance will show up on nominations morning. Jared Harris received Emmy attention before for his work on Mad Men, and there are probably a lot of voters who thought he should have won that year. The only downside to his performance in The Crown is how brief it is. If it weren’t for multiple minor flashbacks, he would be the frontrunner in the guest race.
Over on the supporting actress side, Vanessa Kirby has a strong chance of sneaking into the race. Throughout the first season, the Princess Margaret story line was one of the most buzzed-about arcs. A nomination for Kirby would provide a huge indicator of just how strong the support for The Crown is and if it will have the upper hand going into the final round of voting.
This Is Us Instead of going down the usual route of submitting the entire cast in the supporting drama races, NBC made the strategic decision to push multiple actors into the lead races. That freed up space for even more acting nominations. Chrissy Metz is already the breakout star of the show, and she doesn’t have to compete against her TV mom Mandy Moore. Therefore, she sees an easy path to her first Emmy nomination and in the process becomes the underdog favorite to win.
Ron Cephas Jones deserves his gained momentum as Randall’s recently reunited biological father dying of cancer. When NBC sent out screeners to the Television Academy, one of the three episodes they received was “Memphis” which was essentially a two-hander between Jones and Brown leading up to the climax of RCJ’s arc on the show. With almost no buzz, Justin Hartley could sneak into the race if This Is Us overwhelms with nominations. Although being nominated is a long shot, his character arc about being an actor longing to be taken more seriously might hit home with actors in the industry.
House of Cards The acting branch of the Television Academy displayed a growing infatuation with House of Cards even after other branches have moved on from the show. Just last year, the show earned eight acting nominations (more than Game of Thrones and Veep). Yet, with tepid reactions to the just-released fifth season from critics, it might be harder for the show to continue its path of success at the Emmys. On top of that, SAG skipped over the cast for the first time this year in the Drama Ensemble race in favor of less obvious awards contenders.
For the past two years, Michael Kelly has been the sole supporting performance nominated. Yet, because Doug Stamper is so unlikable, this might be the year he is edged out of the race. Still, it’s not common for voters to completely overhaul any given category. With three of last year’s nominees not eligible to return, he stands a good chance of receiving a third nomination in a row. The supporting actress race is wide open which creates an opportunity for Neve Campbell or Patricia Clarkson to be nominated. Yet, neither actress has much to do in the first half of the series (Clarkson doesn’t even appear until the seventh episode), making it unlikely that voters will have time to even watch their best material
Stranger Things After earning three SAG nominations earlier this year (Drama Ensemble, Winona Ryder, Millie Bobby Brown), the Stranger Things cast has to be taken seriously as bona fide contenders in the Emmy race. The Female Actor in a Drama Series category at the SAG Awards displays a formidably strong track record at the Emmys. With so many open slots this year, nominations for Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown feel almost certain. Still, both actresses don’t necessarily feel like typical Emmy nominees. A child actor as young as Brown hasn’t been nominated since The Cosby Show, and Ryder is a similar star to Christian Slater who was infamously snubbed last year for Mr. Robot.
There also seems to be growing momentum for David Harbour in the supporting actor race. Harbour would be a welcome surprise in a category that has been consistently boring over the past couple years. Anything beyond Ryder and Brown, though, seems more like wishful thinking that likely contenders.
Westworld Although it’s based in sci-fi/fantasy, Westworld is the type of genre show that actors probably admire. Members of the ensemble were given some of the most physically difficult material of any major show this year, portraying different forms of robots. Because of that, actors like Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright probably have the strongest chances of receiving nominations. Newton was the only cast member to receive an individual SAG nomination. In fact, she was nominated at SAG, the Golden Globes, an even won the Critics’ Choice award.
The rest of the supporting cast will likely have a harder time standing out against each other with actors like Ed Harris, James Marsden, and Jimmi Simpson all entering the supporting actor race. If a second actor is nominated, Ed Harris probably has the best shot, although he risks being looked at as a simple moustache-twirling villain compared to more nuanced characters on the show.
The Handmaid’s Tale Hulu’s first major awards contender has enough supporting actress contenders to fill up the entire Emmy race including Yvonne Strahovski, Ann Dowd, Samira Wiley, Alexis Bledel, and Madeline Brewer. After her performance in the fifth episode “Faithful,” critics and fans rallied behind Yvonne Strahovski. She deserves to be singled out by voters, although she might have a difficult time standing out so late in the campaign season.
Ann Dowd is a character actress that has been slowly gaining awards momentum after her performance in the indie film Compliance. Emmy voters love to embrace character actors who have consistently worked in television, and voters could use this opportunity to finally celebrate the work of Dowd.
Better Call Saul Jonathan Banks has been singled out for the first two seasons of Better Call Saul, giving him a career total of four nominations for playing Mike. For Season 3, Banks could potentially be joined or replaced by costar Michael McKean who continually gets rave reviews season after season. There has been hope that Giancarlo Esposito might return to the Emmy race after his character Gus finally made an appearance in Better Call Saul, but leading up to the finale in two weeks, there hasn’t been as much buzz around his return as initially expected.
Margo Martindale (The Americans) Margo Martindale received nominations for all four seasons of The Americans. She even won for the past two years after voting was opened to the entire branch in a simple popular vote. For the current fifth season, she appeared in eight out of ten episodes, forcing her to compete in the supporting actress race for the first time. Her role in the show might not seem significant enough to warrant a supporting nomination, but voters proved that they will nominate her no matter what. Because of that, she can easily become a contender no matter the category.
Uzo Aduba (Orange Is The New Black) Last year, voters surprisingly left out Uzo Aduba from the supporting drama actress race after winning the year before. Voters don’t often bring back actors they’ve moved on from. Yet, Aduba continues to receive individual SAG nominations, and Netflix ensured voters had the entire fourth season at their fingertips early on. They’ve had plenty of time to fall back in love with Crazy Eyes.
Asia Kate Dillon (Billions) Emmy voters completely skipped over the first season of Billions last year. However, after finding a bigger audience in Season 2, voters have the opportunity to embrace the show in a very major way. Asia Kate Dillon received more buzz than any other member of the cast for successfully petitioning the Television Academy to allow them to compete in the supporting actor race. That heavily covered event brings a huge spotlight to gender-fluid/nonbinary actors in the industry and to Dillon’s amazing performance.
Jon Voight (Ray Donovan) Jon Voight is an actor that has popped in and out of the supporting actor race over the years for his work on Ray Donovan. He might simply be a name voters gravitate towards when they don’t have any other options in a thin list of contenders. The Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series race already needs to fill three vacant slots. That makes it hard to imagine they’ll kick out Voight.
Alfre Woodard (Luke Cage) With 17 nominations over the past 32 years (for 16 different shows), you can never count out Woodard as a possible Emmy contender. Luke Cage doesn’t emerge as an obvious Emmy contender. Yet, it was so popular that fans shut down Netflix servers when the show was released. That popularity mixed with goodwill towards Woodard might result with a surprise 18th nomination for the actress.