In a year with so many costars going head-to-head who will come out ahead in the lead acting races in the Limited Series/TV Movie categories?
Feud, Big Little Lies, and The Night Of comprise a competitive Outstanding Limited Series lineup. However in an interesting setup, the stars of each show face their biggest competition in their costars. Riz Ahmed and John Turturro compete against each other to be the winning actor from The Night Of. Nicole and Reese as well as Jessica and Susan comprise the most competitive (and Oscar heavy) lead actress lineup quite possibly in the history of the award. In fact, so many factors are at play in the limited series/TV movie acting races resulting in endless theories and predictions all focused around potential vote splitting.
Splitting the vote never used to be a major influencer at the Emmys®. In fact, being nominated against your costar used to be a huge advantage. Prior to last year, winners were determined by a ranked ballot. If a program had major support, multiple nominations would eventually lead to a consensus pick. This is how Jessica Lange was still able to win for Grey Gardens and Kathy Bates was able to win for American Horror Story: Coven.
Starting last year, the Television Academy simplified the voting process. Now, winners are determined by a simple popular vote amongst peers. Without any past history precursor, Emmy pundits were convinced vote splitting would hinder the chances of shows like Game of Thrones, Veep, and American Crime Story because they overwhelmed with nominations. This was at least partially true, especially in categories with no clear frontrunner like writing, directing, and the Game of Thrones supporting acting races. Voters proved though that, with a clear standout, they were still able to rally behind them. In the end, Courtney B. Vance and Sterling K. Brown won their first Emmys.
This year, a lot of those factors aren’t so clear. Is there a hands-down favorite between Riz Ahmed and John Turturro? Yes, Nicole Kidman and Jessica Lange seem to be the clear favorites of their respected shows, but there is also a lot of goodwill for Reese Witherspoon. I can’t say the same for Susan “More Dangerous Than Trump” Sarandon.
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie
The sleeper success of The Night Of with Television Academy voters (especially the actors branch) was proven when four of the show’s actors received nominations. Voters demonstrating excitement by this limited series serves as a huge sign that one of its two leads appears popular enough to win an acting award, especially in a category with little competition.
Riz Ahmed has a lot of positives in his corner. He’s the true lead of the show with a performance critics applauded. Since then, his star power has only risen with a supporting role in last year’s Rogue One as well as a second Emmy nomination this year for his work on Girls. Still, Emmy voters don’t always embrace the young newcomer.
John Turturro in a lot of ways is the opposite of his costar. He’s a well-respected actor that has been working in the industry for decades and has previously won an Emmy for his guest work on Monk. While voting for Ahmed might feel like a welcome to the industry, a vote for Turturro is likely a celebration of a long career.
Just as difficult as deciding between the two men of The Night Of is figuring out who is most likely to benefit from a vote splitting situation. Benedict Cumberbatch has shockingly (and undeservedly) pulled off an upset in this category before when voters couldn’t decide between the two men of Fargo and Mark Ruffalo of The Normal Heart. That was when Sherlock was at the height of its nomination popularity however. Ewan McGregor on a technical level shows everything voters want as a likable movie star who came to television and played polar-opposite twins. After the third season debuted, it became clear that the buzz was premature, and there was nothing innovative or new behind his two performances.
Ten years ago, this category would have been an easy race between Robert De Niro and Geoffrey Rush. Both actors are highly regarded Oscar winners portraying real people. The Wizard of Lies came from HBO, and Genius was the collaboration of some of the best producers in the industry. In 2017, neither project thrilled audiences or voters. Still if one is able to win, the likely choice would be Robert De Niro simply for being Robert De Niro.
With so much passion behind The Night Of and a lack of enthusiasm for any of the other nominees, the most likely scenario is that most voters flock to the two men. It’s just a matter of if they want to see a newcomer or a veteran behind the podium.
Riz Ahmed, The Night Of
John Turturro, The Night Of
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock
Robert De Niro, The Wizard of Lies
Ewan McGregor, Fargo
Geoffrey Rush, Genius
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Limited Series
A category filled with impossible choices to the point where it is almost unfair. How are fans of Big Little Lies supposed to choose between Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon? With Feud illustrating the dangers of pitting women against each other, how are voters supposed to turn around and pick between Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon for an award? Whether we like it or not, it’s happening. Fans of Big Little Les seem to be rallying behind Nicole Kidman while fans of Feud are rallying behind Jessica Lange. It’s the category every actressexual has been waiting for, and the moment that will be rewound on ever DVR for decades.
After winning two Oscars, Jessica Lange slowly made her transition to television where she was quickly embraced by Emmy voters as the queen of camp. She’s already won three Emmys over the past eight years for her work on American Horror Story and Grey Gardens. An award for playing Joan Crawford in the Whatever Happened to Baby Jane era feels like the natural next step.
Nicole Kidman is going through a career renaissance right now with countless factors that might be able to push her to her first Emmy, especially with a popular vote. Big Little Lies is hands down the most popular limited series with fans. Ratings show it, and fans flood every Emmy poll online. On top of her work in Big Little Lies this year, Nicole Kidman had four projects debut at this year’s Cannes Film Festival. Some critics have even hailed her performance as Celeste as a career best. On top of a performance completely worthy of every award, Kidman is also one of the only movie stars left that still holds onto that old-school sense of mystery. Television Academy members and fans alike secretly would probably vote for her just for the chance of seeing her onstage.
It’s been a while since the Emmys have had a category with so many viable options and everyone in the awards stratosphere strongly picking a side. Just look at how Oscar heavy the competition is: 5 awards and 18 overall nominations. Because of this, Carrie Coon is the apple in a bag of oranges. With the double whammy of her leading roles in Fargo and The Leftovers,she is the clear critical favorite. There might be plenty of Emmy voters who are tired of movie stars coming to television and would rather award a lesser known but equally talented actress like Coon.
In the end with such a close race, the winner will in all likelihood be determined by momentum giving Nicole Kidman the slight edge.