Wednesday, July 10, 2013

My Emmy Ballot: Outstanding Supporting Actor/Actress in a Drama

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau in "Game of Thrones"
In my continuing series looking at the Emmy nominations ballot and laying out who I’d nominate (if I had a vote obviously), today I’m looking at the Best Supporting Actors and Actresses in dramas. These are easily the deepest categories of the year.  I was able to make three lists of actors who I all felt were deserving of nominations and among the women there were several actresses who I really liked who I had to leave off, and that doesn’t even include Maisie Williams, who I would have nominated had she submitted herself for consideration.  But, in the end, I was able to come up with a pair of ballots I was perfectly happy with.

Again, the usual caveats apply.  First, I’m working from the actual Emmy Performer Ballot, so I can’t put leads who submitted as supporting (Amy Schumer) or supporting actors who submitted as leads (Rob Lowe) in their proper category, nor can I nominate somebody who didn’t submit themselves (like the aforementioned Maisie Williams).  Also, I’m only including actors from shows I watch regularly, so if your favorites from Shameless, Scandal, Southland, or Parenthood aren’t here, that’s why.

Supporting Actor
Mads Mikkelsen in "Hannibal"
Supporting Actor in a Drama was by far the deepest category on the ballot.  For example, look at the following ballot:

Michael Cudlitz (Southland)
Alan Cumming (The Good Wife)
Guillermo Diaz (Scandal)
Freddie Highmore (Bates Motel)
Chris Noth (The Good Wife)
Dax Shepard (Parenthood)

That would be a perfectly acceptable ballot, except that I didn’t see any of those shows this season.  I could also make a “Second Six” ballot out of actors in shows I did watch and that wouldn’t even include perfectly deserving men like Jim Carter, John Noble, and Dean Norris.  This says a great deal about how strong the male drama roles are being written right now, but ultimately I had to narrow it down to six.

Game of Thrones has been easily my favorite show for the last two years and while Peter Dinklage has been recognized before  (and won in 2011), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau was also fantastic this season.  I recently rewatched the Game of Thrones pilot and it seems insane that, looking back, the man who pushed Bran out of a window in that final scene (“the things I do for love”) could become one of the series’ most sympathetic characters and one of the few left who I’m actively rooting for.  But Coster-Waldau got the material to do just that this year and he pulled it off spectacularly.  I could watch Jaime Lannister retell the story of how he killed Aerys Targaryen a dozen times it’s so compelling.  And Dinklage did a yeoman’s work this season.  Bereft of his lecherousness from season one and his near-leading role last year, Dinklage’s Tyrion Lannister spent most of the season on the receiving end of his father’s cruelty, stripped of his position in the monarchy and forced to marry a girl he doesn’t love.  But he continues to be one of the most compelling characters on television, thanks largely to Dinklage’s performance.  Coster-Waldau is less likely of the two to be nominated but either would be entirely deserving.

I normally try to spread the Emmy love around multiple shows in each category, but this one in particular requires two cases of doubling up, in this case with Breaking Bad.  Aaron Paul has been nominated for this award three times and has won twice.  In fact, there’s a very good chance that Paul will win again this year and take over the record for most career Supporting Actor in a Drama awards.  Paul may have been given less to do this year (it’s been suggested by some that he should have submitted as a lead actor for the previous two seasons) but when he was on screen, he was mesmerizing, most notably in his scene with Walter in the mid-season finale. 

Jonathan Banks didn’t have as big of a role this past year as did his predecessor Giancarlo Esposito, who was nominated in this category in 2012, but he admirably filled the role of Mike as Walt’s part-ally, part-adversary.  His work in “Say My Name,” particularly, was superb.  It’s hard to imagine Banks unseating Paul from his current reign, especially if Esposito couldn’t do it last year with a much flashier and meatier role, but Banks was fantastic all the same.

Homeland had a lesser sophomore season (I’m not going to call it “down”) after taking home Emmys last year for Best Drama, Best Lead Actor, Best Lead Actress, and Best Writing, but even so, it was still an outstanding show, and one of the big reasons is Mandy Patinkin.  He was left off the ballot last year in what must have been a mistake, because his performance as Saul Berenson has been one of the best things on television for the past two years.  It’s tough to see him submitting an episode other than “The Clearing” (when Saul visits Aileen Morgan in prison) but his smile at the end of the season finale was enough to win me over.

Finally, an actor playing a familiar role on a new show: Mads Mikkelsen from Hannibal.  The show is named after his character, but Mikkelsen’s Hannibal Lecter was so subdued and understated in such an about face from the previous actors to play the role (especially Anthony Hopkins) that it absolutely makes sense to place him in the Supporting Actor category and place co-star Hugh Dancy (as Will Graham) as the Lead Actor.  Mikkelsen had a lot to live up to in taking on this character, but he managed to bring us a different Lecter than any we’d seen before, and one that will certainly be less easily parodied.  His was a calm Lecter, but a meticulous and brutal man nonetheless.  There was always the sense that, while Mikkelsen wouldn’t kill whoever he was with, he could if he wanted.  And that’s what made this iteration of such an infamous character great.

Others meriting consideration: Bobby Cannavale, Jim Carter, Noah Emmerich, Giancarlo Esposito, Jay R. Ferguson, Jordan Gavaris, Walton Goggins, Ryan Hurst, Vincent Kartheiser, John Noble, Dean Norris, Jason O’Mara, Michael Shannon, John Slattery

Supporting Actress
Emilia Clarke in "Game of Thrones"
My “shortlist” wasn’t as long for this category as it was for Supporting Actor, but it was just as difficult to put together a list of six because so many of the performances were so great.  I ended up leaving several deserving actresses off.

Dexter was not a good show in 2010 and 2011 and there was a lot of thought that it was just going to limp off into the sunset in its last two seasons.  Then something pretty incredible happened: it got good again and not least because Jennifer Carpenter’s Deb got to stop being an idiot and started figuring Dexter out.  Bringing Deb in on Dexter’s secret gave Carpenter a ton of great material to mine and she did so wonderfully.  She’s never been nominated before and I have a hard time believing the seventh will be the charm, but she was really good last year and deserves some recognition. 

Game of Thrones seems to have been just off the Emmy acting radar thus far (with the exception of Peter Dinklage) but Emilia Clarke finally got some good material to work with this year and she made the most of it.  I would probably have called her a weak link in the show during its first two seasons, but I’m beginning to think that had more to do with her character not being given anything to do than with anything being wrong with her performance.  It’s tough to believe that such a diminutive actress could command so much respect, but she laces every scene with the just the most thinly veiled hint of a threat and has turned herself into a force on this show.

Breaking Bad had a lot of great moments in its first half of season five, but no image is more indelible than that of Anna Gunn floating, fully clothed, in the pool, hoping to drown her life away.  Gunn’s Skylar has made a remarkable transition from meek responder to Walt’s issues, to strong adversary, to hopeless resignation, most pointedly realized in her confession to Walt that she was merely biding her time, waiting for his cancer to come back.  Just breathtaking work by Gunn this year.

January Jones was nominated once for her role as Betty Draper on Mad Men.  She’s had much less to do the past couple of seasons and, honestly, was sidelined for large portions of season six as well.  But this nomination is based almost entirely on her work in “The Better Half,” when Betty and Don hook up again at Bobby’s summer camp.  It was amazing to see Jones (yes out of the fat suit and blonde again) get to bring Classic Betty back, in complete command of everything.  With just one episode, she made me want to see more of Betty, something I wouldn’t have thought possible a year ago.

I’m just now realizing that four of six women I nominated are the wife, ex-wife or closest significant other to the anti-hero male leads of their shows, but it’s tough not to nominate Kelly Macdonald anyway.  In fact, it’s very easy to view her Margaret Schroeder as Boardwalk Empire’s version of Skylar White (circa season 3 of Breaking Bad) or Betty Draper (circa season 3 of Mad Men).  Stuck married to a man she hates, she finally begins building another life for herself, only to see the man she does love murdered.  Boardwalk Empire isn’t a show I particularly enjoy, and it took a second viewing to really get into this past season, but I was always glued to MacDonald’s scenes.

This last one may be a surprise, and it was even a bit of a surprise for me since it’s an actress I’ve never particularly liked on a show that’s not particularly good, but Olivia Munn was pretty great on The Newsroom last summer.  Her character was slow to be developed and she unfortunately got dragged into the love triangle/quadrilateral/whatever it is now, but in between she did some really good work and her “Don’t call me girl!” retort to Charlie still sends chills down my spine.

Others meriting consideration: Morena Baccarin, Joelle Carter, Natalie Dormer, Michelle Fairley, Christina Hendricks, Annet Mahendru, Maggie Smith

If forced to choose among this fantastic group, I'd probably choose Aaron Paul and Anna Gunn

So thoughts? Questions?  Just want to call me an idiot or tell me my blog sucks?  Let me know in the comments or hit me up on twitter @TyTalksTV

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