Week 1, Part 5: Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama
Not that I’m not glad there are eight nominated performers, but did you have to only choose from three series to get there? Leaving The Handmaid’s Tale aside, even I think one of the choices you made for The Crown was excessive. Did you just not see This is Us or Pose? All right, let’s get on with it.
Gillian Anderson, The Crown: 39–10. For Playing: Margaret Thatcher, the first female Prime Minister of Britain. Pro: Set ahead the makeup and the work on the accent. Anderson’s performance completely outdid anything Meryl Streep did in her Oscar-winning portrayal. And we got a far clearer — and frankly, much darker look — at one of the most significant and controversial figures in history through Anderson’s incredible performance. Anderson inhabited Thatcher, there’s no other term and she was so formidable that every time, she and the Queen sat down; you knew Elizabeth was completely overmatched. Anderson already has a shelf full of awards for her portrayal of a fictional female icon — Dana Scully. She’s already got a shelf full of awards for playing Thatcher so far this year. What could possibly stop this Iron Lady? Con: Honestly, some of her competition from her show could be Anderson’s only obstacle.
Madeline Brewer, The Handmaid’s Tale: 17–2. For Playing: Janine, another member of the survivors. Pro: Say what you will about the excess nominees from this series, at least The Handmaid’s Tale gives them more to do than much of the male nominees. Journeying with Janine trying to escape Gilead, helping June acclimate in Chicago, even making a deal with the devil to try and save a Handmaid-in-training — there’s wrenching material here. Con: Like every other actress in the cast, you do sometimes wonder why this actress and not another? It’s like with Game of Thrones near the end, a lot of them seem arbitrary.
Helena Bonham Carter, The Crown: 7–1. For Playing: Princess Margaret, the Queen’s sister who is becoming increasingly lost in her world. Pro: Fact: Carter has been acting for nearly thirty five years — and has won nothing. Not an Oscar, not an Emmy, not a Golden Globe. This is, like so many of the other nominees in this category, her last chance to win for playing Margaret, one of the most tragic stories in the family. Then consider her performance in ‘The Hereditary Principle’, where she realized she would never have love, never have the same share of influence and learned the story of insanity in her family — and the great betrayal of some of its members. Then consider the ending, where despite everything that her relationship to the crown has cost her, she refuses to abandon her position. The last images of that episode are among the most haunting of the entire series. Carter earned an Emmy for that. Con: She had a far better chance last year. Considering that Gillian Anderson has basically had a lock on the prize since February, it seems unlikely Carter’s losing streak will end here.
Ann Dowd, The Handmaid’s Tale: 13–2. For Playing: Lydia, an Aunt dealing with a Gilead — and a world — in revolt. Pro: Unlike the lion’s share of nominations from this series, I get the logic here. Dowd has been one of the most dominant figures in this series and she’s had more reason for big moments than most of the nominees, reeling from the loss of 86 children, extracting vengeance on June, dealing with a new Handmaid going on a hunger strike. She’s a great actress and deserves the attention. Con: Same problem as every other nominee from The Handmaid’s Tale. Plus, I think the Emmys are rewarding her for the wrong post-apocalyptic show. Shouldn’t she have won for The Leftovers?
Aunjanue Ellis, Lovecraft Country: 17–2. For Playing: Hippolyta Freeman, the matriarch of the Freeman clan. Pro: Ellis gave a lot of memorable bits as the wife of George, the brave explorer of the family. But I’m relative certain that the reason Ellis is here, rather than say Wunmi Mosaku, who also gave an exceptional performance, comes down to a single episode: ‘I Am.” When Hippolyta went inside the machine that controlled the destinies of perhaps the world, she got to see the entire history of womankind and just about every possible outcome for a black woman in history. Visually and thematically this episode was Lovecraft Country’s equivalent of last year’s Watchmen episode ‘This Extraordinary Being’, which swept last year’s Emmys. It was a masterwork and Ellis more than earned a nomination for it. Con: Honestly, in an alternate universe, Ellis would be the frontrunner for this award. But like everyone else tied to Lovecraft Country, she’s not going to have enough momentum.
Emerald Fennell, The Crown: 19–2. For Playing: Camilla Parker-Bowles, Charles’ mistress and true love. Pro: Fennell’s role this season was small, but every time we saw her, she made an impact. Even though she was utterly destroying the life of the most sympathetic character on the series, given everything we know it was hard not to feel sympathy for her. Over and over she tried to get Charles to let go of her. Even given what we know, Fennell’s portrayal made us sympathize more with her than him. Con: Fennell’s role, compared even to some of the other female performers eligible was smaller than a lot of good candidates. I honestly believe the main reason Fennell is being recognized is less due to her acting then to a much bigger film earlier this year: Considering her scorching writing-directing debut A Promising Young Woman — which the Oscars completely shut out — maybe the Emmys felt they had to recognize her here?
Yvonne Strahovski, The Handmaid’s Tale: 8–1. For playing: Serena, Captain Waterford’s wife, at the center of a struggle for power. Pro: In theory, I don’t have a problem with Strahovski’s nomination: she’s given great performances that she was ignored for in other series. And as the woman at the center of June quest for vengeance, there are great things here: dealing with the birth of ‘her’ child, trying to manipulate another Handmaid, her confrontation, court trial and ultimate battle with June. Hard to argue there weren’t big moments here. Con: If the Emmys wanted to give Strahovski a nomination for playing a clever, monstrous woman, they could have given her one — for Dexter. Honestly, she was more likable as a serial killer.
Samira Wiley, The Handmaid’s Tale: 15–2. For Playing: Moira, June’s ally in resistance. Pro: She’s a rebel and a pretty dark one and there were some strong moments — her first mission in the field, and getting caught in a war over the soul of one of her friends. Con: I don’t know if this counts for anything, but she’s already got an Emmy for this role. As good as Wiley is, I’m beginning to wonder what the rules are between guest actors and regular are on this show.
PREDICTION: Expect more than one person to be shouting: “NO! NO! NO!” if Anderson doesn’t win on Emmy night.
Be back Monday with predictions on Comedy — and a bit more.