OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS MOVIE/MINI SERIES
Amy Adams, Sharp Objects: 5–1
For Playing: Camille Preager, the physical and emotionally scarred reported coming back to Wind Gap to find that old ghosts are still there. Pro: Just because Adams is the only actress who plays a fictional character in this category doesn’t make her performance any less of an achievement. Just wearing the makeup of the carvings her character has driven into her skin is an accomplishment in itself. Coupled by playing a woman so crippled from a childhood that she’s never been able to escape, and facing a crime that is so close to home she can’t see it was one of the most incredible performances of the season. Con: For all her incredible work, she went basically hungry during the award season running up to the Emmys, and that was before so many other brilliant performance showed up. I want to see her win, but I just can’t see it in the cards.
Patricia Arquette, Escape at Dannemora: 39–10
For playing: Joyce ‘Tilly’ Mitchell, the wife of a prison guard who begins a sexual relationship with two prisoners that leads an escape. Pro: Arquette’s transformation into Mitchell was, if anything, even more remarkable than Adams. And her performance as a woman who ambitions lead her to break the law and whose bad fortune ended with her in prison was one of the most astounding of the entire year. Critics agreed in the early stage — she won the Golden Globe, the SAG and tied with Adams for Best Actress. And that was one of two extraordinary performances she gave this year (see Supporting Actress). Until a few weeks ago, I thought she was a lock for an Emmy. Con: The race has tightened dramatically in the last month. I still think she’s got an excellent chance, but the odds have diminished.
Aunjanue Ellis, When They See Us: 7–1
For playing: Sharone Salaam, the mother of Yusef. Pro: Ellis work as a mother making the most urgent push to get her son out of a rapidly unfolding situation is one of the highlights of this series, and her work as a mother who does the most to try and support her son out of prison is particularly good. Con: The vast array of nominations for this series may have led some Emmy voters to make bad judgment calls when it came to categories. I would classify Ellis’ work as fitting more with the Supporting roles. And compared to some of the other actresses in this series, her role was far less significant.
Joey King, The Act: 13–2
For playing: Gypsy Rose Blanchard, a child who spends her life the victim of her mother’s Munchausen by Proxy, and as a result, turns to murder. Pro: In a category filled with some of the greatest actresses working today (one of whom she’s competing against) the youngest actress in this category gave one of the most remarkable turns of all playing both victim and criminal. Even in a category with tragic characters, Gypsy’s is by far the saddest, and it’s a credit to King — and a revelation — that she can stand with the best of them. Con: The Emmys has a terrible track record when it comes to recognizing teenage actors and actresses, no matter how wrenching their performances. In King’s case, it probably is an honor just to be nominated
Niecy Nash, When They See Us: 6–1
For playing: Delores Wise, Corey’s mother, who undergoes the greatest trauma of them all. Pro: Nash is one of the great television actresses in history, and one of the great pleasures of the New Golden Age has been watching her work. From a compassionate caregiver on Getting On to the ruthless salon owner on Claws, she has delighted in showing that there’s nothing she can’t do. And as much as Corey was the key character in the series, her role in the last episode, where she was the only real link she had to his old life and almost his only hope — was yet another remarkable feather to add to her cap. Con: As good as Nash is, much of her work is far more subtle than the other nominees. This may very well work against her.
Michelle Williams, Fosse/Verdon: 37–10
For playing: Gwen Verdon, the Broadway legend behind some of the greatest musicals in history — and the creative spark behind one of the greatest creative forces. Pro: I’ll be honest. Williams is one of the greatest actresses working in whatever medium she graces with her presence. And in a way, playing Marilyn Monroe was a warm-up for this iconic star that has almost entirely been forgotten except by those who love Broadway. And Williams was every bit the equal of Rockwell in this series, in the early episode was she was the star, in the middle when she was the mother, and in the end when she was trying for a comeback, and was betrayed by the person she should’ve trusted the most. It’s not her greatest performance, but it’s one of her most accomplished. The TCA agreed and gave her the award for Best Dramatic Performance. She has the momentum. Con: It’s going to come down as to whether they think Williams or Arquette gave the more bracing performance. And unfortunately, Williams hasn’t had a lot of luck with awards in general.
It’s a horse race between Arquette and Williams. Williams may manage to win by an eyelash — but watch out for Adams.