Week 3, Part 3: Outstanding Actress in a Movie/Limited Series
I’m even more astonished by the Academy’s record here, not only because they only chose five nominees, but that they left some of the most obvious names out. Reese Witherspoon was ignored for her extraordinary work on Little Fires Everywhere, and they ignored both Kaitlyn Dever and Merritt Weyer for their incredible work in Unbelievable, which received nominations from practically everybody but the Emmys. Nevertheless, there are some prime candidates here.
Cate Blanchett, Mrs. America: 39–10. For Playing: Phyllis Schaffly, the nemesis of the ERA and feminism in general. Pro: By now, we should all know that there’s no character at all that this exceptional actress can’t play, from Elizabeth I to Katherine Hepburn to Bob Dylan. So seeing her take on the role of this character that was detestable for millions of people and show her human side in a way that you wouldn’t expect — as well as spell out the contradiction that in her opposition of the ERA she became pretty much what she was warring against — was one of her great triumphs, particularly considering this is her TV debut. If the Emmys just covered 2020, she’d be a lock. Con: But the Emmys don’t cover just this calendar year, and considering some of her competition, I’d say the odds of her winning are remote.
Shira Haas, Unorthodox: 4–1. For Playing: Esther Shapiro, an orthodox Jewish woman who flees her arranged marriage to start a new life abroad. Pro: The youngest nominee as well the only (relatively) unknown actress is this stories field, Haas has been working in Israeli TV for awhile. Which doesn’t make her performance any less of a revelation. As we follow Esty to Berlin as she tries to build a new life and have every aspect of her old life challenged, Haas’ work was a beacon of steadiness as tried to find a port in the storm. Con: Despite doing surprisingly well in the nomination and among a fan base, this was not the series that Netflix probably thought would be leading for consideration in this category. This may end up working against Haas in particular.
Regina King, Watchmen:16–5. For Playing: Angela Abar/Sister Night, the Tulsa detective vigilante at the center of a conspiracy surrounding so many of her fellow cops. Oh, and a plot to take over the world. Pro: Was there a time when King wasn’t even nominated for Emmys, much less won them? I’m reluctant to say this, having watched her extraordinary work in American Crime and The Leftovers, but this may be one of King’s greatest performances. She spent as much of the series trying to understand the conspiracy that involved a family she didn’t even know about, only to find out she ended up causing so much of the destruction. (Believe me, it makes sense if you watch the show. Sort of.) But watching her deal with the fact that so many of the people she loved were lying to her her entire life delivering the level of humanity that this spectacular visual series needed for its heart. She already won a Best Actress Award for Watchmen. I don’t think anything other than the intervention of Dr. Manhattan could stop her from winning her. Con: Maybe they feel she’s won enough Emmys already and want to share the love. That’s really the only argument I can come up with.
Octavia Spencer, Self Made: 9–2. For Playing: C.J. Walker, an African American entrepreneur who became the America’s first female self-made millionaire. Pro: No one had heard of C.J. Walker before Self-Made aired. That’s true about a lot of the incredible characters Spencer has played over a long career. And watching her doing over the course of a limited series is just another of the great performance Spencer can do. Hell, it wasn’t even her most intense drama portrayal this year (see Truth Be Told). We don’t need to be reminded that Spencer is a great actress. We just have to enjoy the fruits of her labor. Con: This is the only nomination that the series got. And considering the high-level of so many of the high-profile actresses in this category, it’s going to be hard even for Spencer to stand out.
Kerry Washington, Little Fires Everywhere:9–2. For Playing: Mia Warren, an African-American single mother, who finds herself growing closer to a white teenager while struggling with questions with her own child. Pro: I’ll be honest. Before the nominations, I would’ve considered Washington a heavy favorite in this category. This may be the greatest single performance she’s ever given on TV, which given her track record is impressive. Watching her try to keep secrets and her daughter safe, while exposing herself in ways she can’t seem to help herself from doing, she started out as extremely unsympathetic and ended up by far the character with the most personal integrity as well as being the better mother to both her actual and surrogate child. This was as gripping as TV gets. Con: When the Emmys chose to make Washington the only nominee from the series in any acting category, they demonstrated their lack of appreciation for this incredible show. Consider how little attention it got overall, I sadly think Washington’s odds are quite remote — at least for an Emmy.
PREDICTION: Regina King in a landslide. Blanchett and Washington will cleanup in the 2021 awards — maybe.