Outstanding Supporting Actress Movie/Limited Series
Patricia Arquette, The Act: 4–1
For playing: Dee Dee Blanchard, a mother whose constant inflicting suffering on her daughter leads to murder. Pro: What are the odds? The two favorites in this category are two character actresses named Patricia playing mothers who use Munchausen by proxy on their daughters that leads to murder. The main differences’ Arquette’s series is true, and she ended up the victim of the ultimate crime. This was as transformative a performance for her as the one in Dannemora, and in any other year, she might go two for two. Con: For one, there’s the other Patricia (see below), and the Emmys rarely reward a person twice for acting. (And given Arquette’s luck, she may have less).
Marcia Stephanie Blake, When they See Us: 13–2
For Playing: Linda McCray, the mother of Anton, who fights the hardest and the longest to keep her family together. Pro: In many ways, the McCray family made up the backbone of the series, and Linda had to play peacemaker, trying to keep her son’s spirits up, while explaining why her husband wouldn’t come to visit her son. Years later, she had to serve as caregiver to a rogue husband now suffering from kidney disease. One of the more solid character portrayals in the series. Con: As good as Blake was, in comparison to some of the other actresses, especially Nash and Farmiga (and to an extent, Felicity Huffman), her role was not nearly as well defined.
Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects: 69–20
For playing: Adora Crellin, the ice queen mother and princess of Wind Gap, whose austere manner hides darkness. Pro: Clarkson is one of the world’s greatest character actresses, and while I’m loathe to use the phrase ‘role of a lifetime’ for anybody, it’s hard to look at her work as Adora, and not consider it. Clarkson was extraordinary as one of the most terrifying maternal figures in history, a woman who didn’t have a bone of compassion in her body, who was concerned with appearances more than reality, who could tell her own daughter she never loved her — something that might have saved her life in the end. Finding out that she wasn’t the killer at the center of Sharp Objects was remarkable because you could believe her capable of anything. Winner of the Golden Globe and Critics Choice in this category, this is hers for the taking. Con: It’s been nearly a year since Sharp Objects ended. Are Emmy voters’ memories that short?
Vera Farmiga, When They See Us: 11–2
For playing: Elizabeth Lederer, the woman who ends up prosecuting the Central Park Five despite her misgivings — and more than a decade later, ends up being the force that leads to their exoneration. Pro: One of the things When They See Us illustrated was how flawed and ruthless the justice system can be. So to see Farmiga playing the only character in the prosecution with doubt, and the only one who sees where they went wrong, was brilliant work. The fact that Farmiga is one of the stealth performers of film and TV adds to her stature. Con: Bates Motel pretty much proved that Farmiga has no luck with the Emmys, even when she’s nominated. Considering the level of performances in this category, the odds are stacked against her.
Margaret Qualley, Fosse/Verdon: 7–1
For playing: Ann Renking, the muse that Bob Fosse ends up with near the end of his career — and life. Pro: Qualley was one of the great discoveries of 2019, her brilliant work in this as well as Native Son revealing that she is a true talent that will go far in whatever field she practices. And playing one of the great musical actresses of our time is no mean feat. Con: It was a shock that the voters even remembered Qualley’s work beneath the towering portrayals of Rockwell and Williams, and considering that sometimes it was hard to even know when she was there, it may just be an honor to be nominated.
Emily Watson, Chernobyl: 5–1
For playing: Ulana Khomyuk, the investigative scientist who tries to find out what caused the events leading up to Chernobyl. Pro: Watson is nearly as great an actress as Skarsgard is an actor — the sole difference being she hasn’t been doing it for nearly as long. It was a shock when we learned at the end of the series that Watson’s character was merely a composite; she did so much work making her fully dimensional and the one voice for truth in a society that stomped on any result that disagreed with the State. It’s hard not to watch her performance and not be shaken. Con: As good at Watson was, much of her work paled beneath Harris’ and Skarsgard. It seems likely that yet again, she will be ignored for more showy work.
Nothing will stop Patricia Clarkson from prevailing.
See you Monday with my reactions to the winners — and to see how well I did.