2020 marks an interesting year for the drama supporting races because it will be the first year in a while that the categories won’t be overflowing with Game of Thrones actors. Peter Dinklage won’t continue to be the perennial winner in the supporting actor race, and now the handful of major dramas can finally compete for these races.
The race for Outstanding Drama Series is also the most competitive it has been in years. Succession and Ozark are shaping up to be the early frontrunners, but we also know that the actors branch is obsessed with The Crown and The Handmaid’s Tale. When the nominations are announced the morning of July 28, these will be the two categories to keep an eye on. The actors peer group is one of the largest branches of the Television Academy, and now with the two supporting categories expanded to eight nominees each it will be very telling what shows they lean towards.
And the two categories could go in any direction. This is the strongest the supporting actor field has been in years after what has felt like years of default nominees. The race is about to have a major shakeup with new names and beloved character actors rising to the top. The supporting actress field is the complete opposite with a handful of past winners and Oscar favorites taking over the category.
These categories also come with a lot of possibilities that have fans excited. Is this the year that the Emmys finally nominate Rhea Seehorn after years of stellar work on Better Call Saul? After snubbing the cast of Succession for its first season, will they make up for it with multiple nominations for the Roy family? Can someone like Billy Crudup earn the first major nomination of his career after decades in the industry?
For the second year in a row Succession is by far one of the best ensembles on TV. None of us can get enough of the Roy family, and anyone who isn’t paying attention probably assumes that they’ve all been nominated for endless awards. That’s what makes these categories so hard. While every other major guild has singled the family drama out even giving it their top prizes, SAG and Emmy voters have never nominated the ensemble. Has it just taken actors a while to catch up with one of the most popular dramas on TV? Are there just too many options in the pitch-perfect ensemble for voters to choose someone to rally behind?
This year should be the year that things change. HBO has made the smart decision to submit Sarah Snook in the supporting actress race. Shiv took a center role in the second season becoming a major threat to take over as her father’s successor until she screwed it all up. The supporting actress race is bound to be filled with past winners and A-list stars, and someone like Snook could easily surprise everyone and win the entire thing.
The supporting actor race is much more complicated. There are a handful of actors that could be singled out, and the supporting players come with some of the more memorable moments and one-liners. Kiernan Culkin is the only actor to be nominated twice at the Golden Globes, and Roman’s relationship with Gerri is one of the most twistedly satisfying duos on TV. Macfadyen’s groveling Tom is probably the single best supporting performance in the lineup, but he doesn’t seem to be as taken as seriously as the others.
If voters decide to fully embrace the drama, then we might even see some surprises like J. Smith-Cameron or Nicholas Braun. They play relatively minor roles in the show, but they are by far some of the most popular. True fans understand that Gerri should be the true heir to the Roy family operation, and if the actress lineup were less crowded, the character actress would be an obvious contender. Braun is someone that on paper isn’t someone that the actors branch would single out, but cousin Greg is one of the few characters most don’t end up hating at one point or the other even as he lurks in the background.
If the third season of Ozark truly is the drama series to watch, then we’ll see that come to fruition in the supporting races. Last year, Julia Garner won a much deserved Emmy as Ruth Langmore, and she is already the early frontrunner for the acclaimed third season. Her arc in the third season revolves around a side of her we have never seen as she falls in love with Wendy’s brother Ben. Played by Tom Pelphrey, he barreled through the season climaxing in the most intense episode of television this year.
Pelphrey’s portrayal of someone living with bipolar disorder was one of the most talked about elements of the season. Although he is up against much bigger names, he will be the one to watch come Emmy night. His biggest challenge will be the nomination.
Then there’s the case of Janet McTeer. Expanding on her chilling demeanor from the second season, the Oscar-nominated actress was finally given more to do as we see her shed these layers and explore her family life. But the supporting actress race is stacked with strong contenders, and if McTeer can overcome that it will be even more assuring that Ozark is on its way to a big night.
The second season of The Crown was a big hit at the 2018 Emmys with Foy finally joined by Matt Smith and Vanessa Kirby. This year the updated ensemble is competing at the Emmys for the first time without a clear consensus of how popular the third season was. The royal drama did win the SAG ensemble prize for the first time, but it took audiences a while to warm up to the new cast after loving the first generation so much.
After becoming the MVP of the third season, Helena Bonham Carter is still the early favorite to win the supporting actress race. As Carter took the reins, watching Margaret’s tragic life took on an entirely new dimension. It also helps her that while the other major contenders have to compete against their costars, Carter is the definitive supporting actress player of The Crown sharing the spotlight with no one.
If The Crown continues to be a major contender we could very well see someone like Josh O’Connor in the supporting actor lineup. The up-and-coming actor earned great reviews as a young Prince Charles, but he also doesn’t have the screentime or name recognition to make him a major threat on his own.
The Handmaid’s Tale
We already know that The Handmaid’s Tale is a favorite of the actors branch. The first two seasons have already produced nine different Emmy nominees representing everyone from Elisabeth Moss to Kelly Jenrette. Just last year, the drama took home both guest awards for a handful of hanging episodes. It’s clear that voters can’t get enough of the Emmy winning series, so why should this year be any different?
After winning last year’s guest actor race, Emmy favorite Bradley Whitford took on an enhanced role in the third season as one of the founding commanders of Gilead. It’s one of his best roles in years as a man who you never quite understand the motives of, breathing new life into a repetitive season. He’s a conflicting figure, and in the third season his relationship with his wife is one of the strongest arcs. In under 20 years, he has won three Emmys with six nominations, and in such an open field he seems like one of the only sure contenders.
The supporting actress race is a lot more complicated. The first two seasons have produced four nominees in the supporting actress race. As various actresses jump back and forth between supporting and guest, Ann Dowd has become the only constant in the category with the character actress winning for the first season. In season three, just as you think Aunt Lydia is overstaying her welcome, we are finally introduced to her backstory in an episode that ends with a surprising drunken karaoke night reminding audiences why she was so compelling in the first place. If anyone is brought back into the competitive category it will be Dowd.
Beyond Dowd it is unclear just how many other actresses will be recognized, even with an expanded lineup. Yvonne Strahovski was nominated for the second season (and many will argue she deserved to win). The third season follows Serena as she tries to re-gain custody of her daughter, and if the show is still as popular as it was two years ago, she can easily earn a second nomination, although she is up against much stronger competition.
Wiley was submitted in the supporting actress category again after her guest nomination last year, and although she appears in more episodes, she doesn’t have as much to do. It would be great to see someone like Amanda Brugel nominated who after two and a half seasons was given an incredibly powerful episode with the third season finale.
Big Little Lies
No matter what voters think of the second season of Big Little Lies, it’s going to be extremely difficult for them to resist names like Meryl Streep and Laura Dern. They are two of the most popular actors working today, and just the mention of their names brings automatic awards attention whether it be at the Emmys, Oscars, or Golden Globes.
For the past two years, ever since it was announced that Streep was joining the second season, it has pretty much been a forgone conclusion that Streep would be a major Emmy player. Those first couple of episodes did not disappoint; she let out a blood-curdling scream at a dinner table, read Reese Witherspoon for filth on multiple occasions, and the season even ended with her going head-to-head with Kidman herself. But it is also one of the more confusing Streep performances, for better or worse.
Then there’s Laura Dern, the actress that was probably given the most viral moments of the past year from dancing to Diana Ross to her infamous “I will not, not, be rich” line reading to her destroying that tacky train set. Renata Klein will go down as her best role, one that she’s already won an Emmy for. As juicy of a role as it is, it’s gone beyond the performance. It will be interesting to see if actors feel the need to reward it still.
The categories are probably too crowded for the rest of the ensemble even those that were nominated for the first season. After being nominated for the first season, Shailene Woodley was more of an afterthought. Alexander Skarsgard only appeared in the season in quick flashbacks. Adam Scott is someone who is on the verge of the first nomination of his career although it probably won’t be this year. The second season spent a lot of time exploring Bonnie after criminally ignoring Zoe Kravitz. It’s one of the best roles Kravitz has ever had and she rises above the material but that might not be enough to make it in.
Better Call Saul
In its penultimate season, Better Call Saul has finally started to come into its own and voters are paying attention. The prequel has yet to win any Emmys, even though its racked up 32 nominations. Last year, on top of nominating Odenkirk and Banks, voters brought Giancarlo Esposito back into the category for the first time since his final season on Breaking Bad.
The bellwether of the season’s popularity will be whether or not voters will finally nominate Rhea Seehorn. Year after year, she gives one of the most underrated performances on television, one that fans can’t get enough of but awards groups largely ignore. This year was among her best season yet, and TCA singled her out nominating her over any lead actress contender.
One of the biggest questions of the year is what exactly will voters make of the third season of Westworld? Two years ago, the second season premiered right before voting, and even though it confused more than satisfied, voters ended up nominating it more than the year prior before it was eventually abandoned by guild voters. So will the same thing happen to the third season or have voters finally learned from past mistakes?
Either way we shouldn’t discount Thandie Newton and Jeffrey Wright. They are clearly well-liked actors and Newton even pulled off an upset two years ago winning for the second season. Wright won an Emmy for the Angels in America adaptation back in 2004, and he’s been singled out for his performance as Bernard both in the supporting and lead categories. Now that they are both competing in the expanded supporting categories, there’s a good chance that actors will single them out as a way of representing the entire cast even if fans were disappointed in Newton’s storyline.
The Morning Show
As high-profile of a debut as The Morning Show had, the only guild to nominate the new streaming drama was SAG going all out with three nominations. Does that mean that it could become a major contender across the board in the acting races?
The biggest surprise of the SAG nominations was the inclusion of Billy Crudup. Voters rarely single out supporting performances in a lineup that doesn’t distinguish between performances, but Crudup was able to stand out based off of one of his most interesting roles in years after over 25 years as an actor. Crudup plays a slimy executive at the news corporation, and it will be interesting to see if voters embrace the performance or find that it hits a little too close to home.
Over the past couple of weeks, Gugu Mbatha-Raw has received a lot of newfound attention for her performance in the first season which is telling since it first premiered all the way back in the fall. The actress plays an employee of the network and becomes the gateway for audiences to understand the pain at the heart of Mitch’s actions. The show has come under fire recently for the way the character was explored, but most agree that Mbatha-Raw was a standout of the season.
With the third season of Stranger Things premiering a year ago, it doesn’t seem like the pop culture phenomenon is captivating audiences the way it once did. Guild groups have largely moved on, and it lost the SAG ensemble award for the first time. Voters probably won’t bring Millie Bobby Brown back into the supporting actress race, but what about David Harbour? He was still singled out at the SAG awards, beating out plenty of lead performances and over the years he has become the face of the show.
Last year as many shows took the year off, multiple names were brought into the supporting acting races as a kind of alternative to the massive Game of Thrones ensemble. Two of those actors Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve) and Chris Sullivan (This is Us) are expected to drop off as their shows become less popular with audiences. However, with eight nominees in each category, we could see either actor continue to be singled out.
Long after Homeland lost favor with Emmy voters, the actors branch continued to single out Mandy Patinkin, even bringing him back into the race after previously moving on. Is there a chance that we are underestimating the actor for the final season? The notoriously fickle actor is very popular amongst his peers, and he’s a surprising figure on Twitter throughout quarantine.
So far, Emmy voters have completely ignored the trailblazing actresses at the center of Pose. Although that isn’t likely to change this year no one is more deserving of a supporting actress nomination then Angelica Ross. After her character is brutally murdered while working as a sex worker the fourth episode of the season dedicates itself to Candy as she visits the cast one by one culminating in one of the best musical numbers of the year. She deserves to be nominated and in a normal Emmy season it’s the type of episode that would have had lavish FYC events organized around it to get the word out.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
In The Conversation
|1. Kieran Culkin, Succession
2. Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
3. Billy Crudup, The Morning Show
4. Tom Pelphrey, Ozark
5. Bradley Whitford, The Handmaid’s Tale
6. David Harbour, Stranger Things
7. Matthew Macfadyen, Succession
8. Giancarlo Esposito, Better Call Saul
|9. Josh O’Connor, The Crown
10. Jeffrey Wright, Westworld
11. Nicholas Braun, Succession
12. Mandy Patinkin, Homeland
13. Chris Sullivan, This Is Us
14. Joseph Fiennes, The Handmaid’s Tale
15. Adam Scott, Big Little Lies
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
|Possible Contenders||In The Conversation|
|1. Julia Garner, Ozark
2. Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown
3. Meryl Streep, Big Little Lies
4. Sarah Snook, Succession
5. Laura Dern, Big Little Lies
6. Thandie Newton, Westworld
7. Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale) & Janet McTeer (Ozark) (Tied)
9. Rhea Seehorn, Better Call Saul
10. Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale
11. Fiona Shaw, Killing Eve
12. J. Smith-Cameron, Succession
13. Gugu Mbatha-Raw, The Morning Show
14. Holly Hunter, Succession
15. Millie Bobby Brown, Stranger Things