The past couple of years have seen an interesting trend in the limited series/TV movie supporting races. Recently the actor’s branch has started voting for winners and nominees in groups – picking a few favorite shows and voting for it across the board. American Crime Story, Olive Kitteridge, and Big Little Lies nearly swept all of the acting prizes. Last year the bulk of the supporting nominees came from a few popular shows.
This year seems to be breaking that trend with no single limited series dominating the conversation. Sharp Objects, Escape at Dannemora, When They See Us, Chernobyl, and Fosse/Verdon are at the top of everyone’s list but there are plenty of other shows with such strong ensembles that they’re bound to catch the attention of Emmy voters. Catch-22 and The Act feature cast filled with Emmy and Oscar nominees. Ben Whishaw swept through the winter awards. For the first time in 13 years, Deadwood is back in the conversation. Even ABC is looking to bring Marla Gibbs back to the Emmys to celebrate a long legendary career.
After winning the Golden Globe and Critics’ Choice Award it’s pretty safe to assume that Patricia Clarkson is the early frontrunner in this year’s supporting actress category. Clarkson plays the perfect villain. She’s the mother from hell with connections all around town literally and figuratively poisoning her children. And Clarkson does it deliciously. In a category that has showcased iconic southern mothers from Hell like Jessica Lange and Kathy Bates, Clarkson’s performance seems like an obvious successor.
If the actors branch is completely won over by the southern gothic mystery there are a couple of other actors that might benefit. Newcomer Eliza Scanlen definitely left an impression on audiences in those final moments and although this is her introduction to American audiences she has quickly become the new ingenue in Hollywood recently being cast in the upcoming Little Women adaptation.
Chris Messina is on the verge of his first Emmy nomination this year as a Detective entangled with Camille. But while the rest of the cast is asked to take Tennessee Williams and times it by a hundred Messina just isn’t given the same material to work with. If he makes it into this year’s supporting actor category it will be off the sheer popularity of Sharp Objects and a bigger hint that it can still win some of the major awards.
Escape at Dannemora
While Patricia Arquette is getting all of the attention for her work in Escape at Dannemora there are a couple of supporting actors that deserve to be in the conversation as well.
As one of the two murderers escaping Dannemora Paul Dano is really the third lead of the acclaimed limited series. Dano isn’t as big of a star as the other two leads so it’s easy to see how the category decisions were made. While I’m a huge fan of Dano’s performance and his career as a whole it’s not the case with everyone. He’s had plenty of performances on the verge of major awards consideration but there are also those that roll their eyes at his boisterous, borderline petulant characterizations. But here he is just as strong as his costars and I would argue a lot more understated and he deserves to be at the top of any supporting actor list.
The other performance in the supporting actor race that fans of the show have singled out is Eric Lange as the devoted husband to Arquette’s Tilly. Lange went through a complete transformation for the role gaining 40 pounds. He also breathes this complete sense of believability into this working class upstate New Yorker from his demeanor to almost too good to be true accent. In a show full of characters making selfish decisions and convicted murderers Lyle is also the most sympathetic character and audiences and critics have responded well to him. He was nominated by the Critics Choice Awards last winter alongside the three leads and it won’t come as a surprise if the character actor is nominated for his first Emmy.
Beyond Michelle Williams and Sam Rockwell Fosse/Verdon doesn’t feature as many standout performances as you would think from a show with so many high profile names. Yes, the limited series features characterizations of some of the biggest names in Broadway history like Paddy Chayefsky, Ann Reinking, Neil Simon, Liza Minnelli, and Chita Rivera – but they aren’t really given the material to work with. It’s really a two-hander between its two leads.
If anyone stands out to voters it will likely be Norman Leo Butz as playwright Paddy Chayefsky. The two-time Tony winner is great in the role but he’s basically playing second fiddle to Rockwell as Fosse. He is, however, the only supporting actor that was brought alongside the two leads around town to various panel discussions.
Margaret Qually, the 24-year-old daughter of Andie McDowell, is having a big year. She portrayed Ann Reinking on Fosse/Verdon, helped bring Native Son to the modern era, and in a couple of weeks will be seen in Tarantino’s Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. In Fosse/Verdon her strongest scene doesn’t come until the end when Reinking returns to audition in front of Fosse himself. But is the role big enough to warrant a nomination and will a branch full of actors hold her age against her?
When They See Us
Just how do you tackle the impossible decision of singling out a few names from When They See Us, one of the single strongest ensembles of the year? The cast is filled with Oscar nominees and Emmy winners, actors that have been working for decades and some that are being seen for the first time. They’re playing traumatized kids, grieving parents, corrupt DAs and cops. It’s an ensemble so strong that it almost seems unfair singling one out over the other.
The supporting actress race is a little easier to predict after Niecy Nash and Aunjanue Ellis were submitted in the lead race and Felicity Huffman was shamed out of the conversation. That leaves a lot of room for Vera Farmiga to stand out. Farmiga portrayed Elizabeth Lederer the prosecutor on the case who questioned the evidence presented but chose to be complicit anyway.
Some of the other actresses in contention include Famke Janssen, Marsha Stephanie Blake, Kylie Bunbury, Isis King, Dascha Palanco, and Adepero Oduye – although none of them probably have enough screentime to stand out to voters. It’s disappointing that Nash and Ellis were submitted in the lead actress category because both could easily be nominated here in supporting and there is a good chance Nash could have won her first acting Emmy here.
In the supporting actor category, two of the likeliest nominees include past nominees Michael Kenneth Williams and John Leguizamo as fathers struggling with what is happening to their sons. Williams plays a father who couldn’t handle the pain of the trial and abandons his son turning up later in life as he is suffering from a terminal illness. Leguizamo plays another father struggling to support his son as he is released from prison while also supporting his new unsympathetic family.
There’s a lot of talk about the bigger names that appear throughout the four-part series but in an ideal scenario, the nine actors that would be nominated are the nine that play the exonerated five. Asante Blackk and Justin Cunningham portrayed Kevin Richardson. Caleel Harris and Jovan Adepo portrayed Antron McCray. Ethan Herisse and Chris Chalk portrayed Yusef Salaam. Marquis Rodriguez and Freddy Miyares portrayed Raymond Santana. Jharrel Jerome who portrays Korey Wise was submitted as a lead actor. Different performances are going to resonate with different audiences but for whatever reason Blackk and Miyares are the two that immediately stand out on a personal level.
Hulu’s recent adaptation of the classic novel features a cast that screams for awards contention. How are voters expected to choose from Hugh Laurie, Kyle Chandler, and George Clooney? The three famous actors perfectly encapsulate the absurdity and toxicity of war and our institutions surrounding it and very well can fill out the category. But in such crowded category, voters might be bored with another literary adaptation. If one rises above the rest it will likely be Clooney who on top of giving his most interesting performance in recent memory also produced and co-directed the series.
The Act has become one of the biggest surprise hits of the year breaking streaming records for Hulu. We’re in a time where audiences are completely transfixed by true crime stories and The Act features one of the best ensembles exemplifying the genre.
Patricia Arquette is probably on her way to a double nomination this year and is a frontrunner in the supporting actress race for playing Dee Dee Blanchard the infamous mother who tortured her child until her murder in 2015. Surprisingly the category is likely a battle of the Munchausen by Proxy mothers both played by a Patricia. This is truly the year of Patricia Arquette between her performances here in The Act and Escape at Dannemora. In both cases, she brings out these deep psychological depictions of working-class women at the center of these stories that captivated the country.
If voters go all out for The Act there’s a chance that Chloe Sevigny and Calum Worthy. Sevigny plays the one fictional character at the center of this true story representing a voice of reason and the one person who is skeptical of Dee Dee’s scams. With a completely different type of performance, Calum Worthy transformed into Nick, Gypsy’s boyfriend that ultimately murders her mom. After years as a Nickelodeon actor, this was a completely shocking turn for an actor like Worthy and he captivated voters at various panels detailing his borderline method approach to becoming this deeply troubled young man.
Other Ensembles to Keep an Eye On
Voters tuned into the third installment of True Detective this year for Mahershala Ali giving them the opportunity to be introduced to a couple of other performances in the conversation. Carmen Ejogo, Stephen Dorff, and Scoot McNairy were standouts throughout the third season but Emmy voters have never nominated a supporting performance from True Detective in the past.
As one of the last programs to enter the conversation Chernobyl has quickly become one of the most revered shows of the year and the top rated show on IMDB in the history of television. The conversations so far have focused primarily on the technical aspects of the five part series but there are a couple of names being singled out. Watson plays a fictional scientist, a sort of composite of the group of scientists who put themselves at risk to fix what was happening. In the supporting actor race, Stellan Skarsgård is the most likely supporting actor nominee as the Council of Ministers’ deputy chairman.
Deadwood has come back as an HBO film with a large cast of well-liked names that are no stranger to the Emmy race. Actors like Gerald McRaney, Anna Gunn, Robin Weigert, and Kim Dickens all reprised their original roles 13 years later. The actor seemingly gaining the most momentum this year is Robin Weigert. As Calamity Jane she was the only actress nominated throughout the show’s original run and this year she has the benefit of appearing week after week as the therapist on Big Little Lies.
Earlier this year Ben Whishaw won a Golden Globe, Critics’ Choice, and BAFTA for his work in A Very English Scandal. Modern American audiences were mostly ignorant to the shocking true story of a British MP conspiring to murder his secret gay lover played by Whishaw. After years of work in British television and multiple BAFTAS American audiences are finally more familiar with Whishaw as an actor and this is a very deserving first Emmy. But as the limited series field became more crowded the British series as a whole, risks being forgotten hurting Whishaw’s chances of continuing his winning streak.
Maniac may not be on its way to very many Emmy nominations but in a wide-open supporting actress lineup an icon like Sally Field shouldn’t be counted out. She has a long history at the Emmys with nine nominations and three wins. In the penultimate episode Field and Stone have a scene together about coping in life with grief and pain and it’s a scene that will stick with voters if they manage to get through the show.
In a change of pace for the limited series acting races, there is now a long list of big names recreating classic Norman Lear sitcoms All In The Family and The Jefferson’s. As audiences rely more and more on nostalgia a quick and satisfying show like this ABC Special has the opportunity to really surprise at the Emmys. The actress to keep an eye on is Marla Gibbs who reprised her iconic character, Florence Johnston. Gibbs was nominated five times throughout the original run of The Jefferson’s and bringing her back into the Emmy race would be a fun way to celebrate a long career in television.
Earlier this year I Am The Night captivated audiences with the shockingly true story of Fauna Hodel. At the core of its mystery was the revelation that LA doctor and socialite George Hodel was behind the Black Dahlia murder. Jefferson Mays played Hodel to sinister effect and while the two leads of I Am The Night face a lot of competition he might be the show’s best shot at acting recognition.
The Layout of the Races
|Frontrunners||Strong Contenders||In The Conversation|
|Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects||Patricia Arquette, The Act||Vera Farmiga, When They See Us
Sally Field, Maniac
|Emily Watson, Chernobyl||Robin Weigert, Deadwood||Carmen Ejogo, True Detective
Chloe Sevigny, The Act
|Marla Gibbs, ABC Special||Eliza Scanlen, Sharp Objects||Jessie Buckley, Chernobyl
Emma Thompson, King Lear
Margaret Qually, Fosse/Verdon
|Frontrunners||Strong Contenders||In The Conversation|
|Paul Dano, Escape at Dannemora||Michael Kenneth Williams, When They See Us||John Leguizamo, When They See Us||Ben Whishaw, A Very English Scandal||George Clooney, Catch-22||Kyle Chandler, Catch-22
Norbert Leo Butz, Fosse/Verdon
|Chris Messina, Sharp Objects||Stellan Skarsgard, Chernobyl||Eric Lange, Escape at Dannemora
Hugh Laurie, Catch-22
Calum Worthy, The Act
Jefferson Mays, I Am The Night