Jalal Haddad takes a look at the Lead 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 week, Jalal will be providing his own expert analysis in individual races and covering the top ten contenders in each category.
1. Sarah Paulson (Marcia Clark)
The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Over the past four years of continuous nominations, Sarah Paulson has become the most overdue actor working on television. Two of those years, she entered the ceremony as the odds on favorite to win only to go home empty handed. That’s not going to happen this year. American Crime Story is the most buzzed about show on television and her performance alone is enough to make her the obvious choice. On top of that bloggers and critics have done an amazing job of making sure she is the obvious choice.
2. Kerry Washington (Anita Hill)
On paper, Confirmation is the perfect Emmy vehicle for two-time nominee Kerry Washington. In fact, she became the frontrunner to win the second HBO announced they were producing the Anita Hill biopic. Unfortunately for Washington, Confirmation came and went with a whisper in a year dominated by some of the best limited series in the history of television. Any other year she would be a lock to win, and she will still be nominated. Sadly for Washington, a traditional biopic for once isn’t going to earn her that Emmy.
3. Kirsten Dunst (Peggy Blumquist)
After a string of indie hits, Kirsten Dunst had a career-defining performance as the catalyst character in the second season of Fargo. She won the Critics’ Choice last winter but lost the Golden Globe to Lady Gaga (which caused a lot of outrage on Twitter). Six months later, she has lost a lot of that awards steam to overdue actors like Paulson and Washington, but it would still be shocking if voters overlooked her for a nomination.
4. Felicity Huffman (Leslie Graham)
Felicity Huffman became the only star of Desperate Housewives to win an Emmy for being the most relatable and likable of the four women, a stark contrast to her frigid and harsh characters on American Crime. There is no doubt that Emmy voters will continue to nominate her for her work on the anthology series, but she doesn’t have the material to stand out against any of the frontrunners to actually win.
5. Lili Taylor (Anne Blaine)
Lili Taylor gave the most heartbreaking performance of the category as a single mother trying desperately to help her son survive. If I were an Emmy voter, she is who I would be voting for. Voters are probably going to love the second season of American Crime, but Taylor has never been able to gain major traction for her performance probably because she is the least known name out of the major contenders.
6. Rachel McAdams (Detective Ani Bezzerides)
Yes, the second season of True Detective was one of the biggest disappointments on television in recent memory, but McAdams was the only element of the season to which people had positive reactions. She has also been receiving a lot of attention for her supporting performance in Spotlight which earned her a surprise Oscar nomination. She could easily be the sixth nominee but voters might be so turned off by the disappointing season that they ignore the show completely.
7. Blythe Danner (Ruth Madoff)
Madoff was a modest success for ABC in terms of ratings and reviews. If the limited series aired on HBO, Danner would be a major Emmy threat. She is a 6-time nominee and won two for her role in Huff so there is no doubt she is on the radar of at least some Emmy voters. If she does end up with a surprise nomination, it will be because of name-checking, especially since ABC seems to only be heavily campaigning Dreyfuss.
8. Audra McDonald (Billie Holiday)
Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill
Earlier this year, HBO filmed and aired the Tony-winning production of Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grill. McDonald is getting a lot of Emmy buzz for her performance. Thanks to her live performance and musical elements she will probably stand out to Emmy voters. The only problem is that the acting branch doesn’t nominate just any live taped performance. They usually go for very well respected actors in highly regarded productions like Ian McKellen in King Lear or Emma Thompson in Sweeney Todd. She is at least on the radar of Emmy voters, having been nominated four times (two for acting and two for special class program).
9. Kristen Wiig (Dolores DeWinter)
The Spoils Before Dying
Seve7-time Emmy nominee Kristen Wiig is so popular with Emmy voters that she earned a surprise nomination for The Spoils of Babylon, the small IFC comedic limited series poking fun at the over-the-top miniseries of the 70s. She could easily be nominated for the follow-up, The Spoils Before Dying, but the category is much more crowded this year, and she is competing against herself in Lifetime’s A Deadly Adoption.
10. Lady Gaga (The Countess)
American Horror Story: Hotel
Lady Gaga replaced Jessica Lange as the face of American Horror Story for the fifth season. While some people grew to like her performance on the horror anthology, a lot of people were left feeling underwhelmed after four legendary years of Jessica Lange. Emmy voters don’t usually embrace pop stars, but they might embrace her since they haven’t shown any signs of moving on from American Horror Story with last year’s Freak Show earning the most nominations of any of the installments.
Worth Mentioning: Shanice Williams, Uzo Aduba