My Predictions (And Hopes) For This Year’s Emmy Nominations: Week 2, Day 3
Outstanding Lead Actress in A Drama
This is going to come across as a rant. I don’t particularly care. I am painfully aware who the frontrunner in this category is. I know she’s an inevitable nominee and currently the favorite. There is no force on earth that will let me consider Zendaya or anything remotely connecting with Euphoria for an Emmy. I’ll make some accommodations for Ozark and Succession. Euphoria is the prime example of everything that repulses me in the era of Peak TV, even more than Elisabeth Moss’ ridiculously over-recognized work for The Handmaid’s Tale. I will go to my grave before I acknowledge either. Is that clear? Rant finished.
That being said, there are a lot of great actress who are likely to be contending for the Best Actress slot. And by chance, a lot of them are former child stars who have matured into giving some of the greatest performances in recent years. I hope that many of them will be nominated along with She-Who-Will-Not-Be-Named; I hope that the Emmys might consider some other great actresses instead of her. Here are my choices.
Jennifer Aniston, The Morning Show
Is The Morning Show actually a good series, or just another example of what I have advocated as being the definition of the Emmy bait series — something that has all the actors and pieces of a great show, but really isn’t one? Two seasons in, the debate on that has not been resolved one way or the other. It has definitely received multiple awards shows nominations, but no one seems willing to say it deserves them. There are only two actors in the entire cast who have more or less escaped with their reputations intact and Aniston’s work as Abby. I realize part of this may be the country’s national obsession with the last actress who reliably could be called Hollywood’s It Girl, but I’m willing to give more than enough credit to a woman who can handle drama just as well as she can comedy. Am I happy that Reese Witherspoon gets dropped to Supporting Actress as a result? (We’ll see.) But I don’t have a problem with Aniston taking another run at the Emmy.
Carrie Coon, The Gilded Age
For the past decade, Coon has been one of the great talents of Peak TV, from her exceptional work at the center of the under-recognized The Leftovers to her stunning work in Season 2 of The Sinner and as the moral center of Season 3 of Fargo, it’s kind of insulting that she’s only gotten a single Emmy nomination for all of her great work. It is therefore an exaggeration to say that her work as Bertha Russell is her greatest performance to date, but it does more to show her range as an actress than anything else. Her prior work has inevitably shown her as a presence unable to come into the light or not even being recognized by the world. As Bertha, she plays a woman where the society she hopes to break into refuses to acknowledge her and her utter determination to break the door down no matter how many are slammed in her face. Is any wonder that her husband won’t even think of being unfaithful to her? (I’d argue for Morgan Spector to get a nomination as well, but that’s for another day.) Coon commands the screen in a way she always does when she’s on camera, and you know that society and history can not stand against her. The odds are she will get a nomination eventually: I’d argue the time is now.
Laura Linney, Ozark
I meant everything that I said about how overrated I believe the series. My opinion of it, however, does not extend to the two primary actresses involved with it. I have always been one of Linney’s greatest fans for more than twenty years. I find it appalling she has yet to win an Academy Award, but that’s neither here nor there. Her work in television has always been nothing short of sublime, and I thought her performance in The Big C was worthy of more than the single Emmy she got. And however many problems I had with the overarching story of Ozark, the work that she did as Wendy was nothing short of superb whose effort to protect her family always seemed misguided at best, and who only near the end of the series finally seemed to take some (but not nearly enough) responsibility for her actions. In a way I don’t understand why Wendy Byrde never received the same amount of hatred that so many wives of antiheroes such as Carmela Soprano or Skyler White did, even though the number of crimes Wendy committed for worse and even more willing than anything they were accused of. In another way I do. It’s because the humanity of Linney is presence in every character she plays, no matter how deeply flawed. I don’t know if she deserves an Emmy for the final season, but I have no problem with her being nominated.
Juliette Lewis, Yellowjackets
For the past decade Hollywood has had no idea what to do with Juliette Lewis. She’s been squandered in roles that were absolutely ill-suited for her in series that were unworthy of her. Then she took the role of Natalie, the survivor of the plane crash who is the most obviously damaged of the four lead actresses. The rest, as they say, is history.
Lewis tears into this role like she hasn’t in decades, showing the promise she did when she burst on to the screen in Cape Fear and Kalifornia. Her rage and anger are turned up to eleven from the star, but in this series that works for her. We know even before her character got on the plane that Natalie was broken beyond repair, now she’s trying to find a focus and she’s hoping that she can hurt someone before she does. Her scenes with Christina Ricci are master classes every time they share the screen (believe me, I’ll be dealing with her later) and you just tell that of all the survivors, the rage is looking for an excuse to come out. Other actresses in this series will almost certainly get nominated this year (I’ll deal with one next) but Lewis is more of a dark horse. She’s absolutely earned a bite at the apple, and I know she’ll get another chance if she doesn’t year. But really, do you want piss her off? Give her what she’s owed.
Melanie Lynskey, Yellowjackets
Much like Shauna, Lynskey burst on to the scene in her film debut in Heavenly Creatures starring as a child whose friendship with Kate Winslet’s character leads to lesbianism and murder. Unlike Winslet, despite the fact Lynskey had some shining moments as an actress particularly in the last decade, Lynskey’s never achieve the superstardom her co-star did. I have a very strong feeling this is about to change.
Lynskey’s character of Shauna has been trying to stay to close to normality and is now dealing with the more pedestrian problems of her marriage breaking up and an extramarital affair, along with the not so minor detail that the secrets the survivors have been keeping are bubbling to the surface. Of the four leads, she’s done the best job of hiding her trauma, but you know there’s something in her not satisfied with just being a wife and mother. Watching her spy on her husband and jump off a bridge with a near stranger (before having sex in his car) is dazzling to watch.
Lynskey was the upset winner at the Critics Choice Awards for Best Actress in a Drama, and has been rising in the odds as the most likely contender. I’m not necessarily she’s the best candidate, but as someone whose character matches the actress she is, I think she’s earned it.
Mandy Moore, This is Us
Seriously, what have the Emmys been thinking during the entire run of This is Us in giving Moore just one Emmy nomination in the last five years. Her work is the equal of any of the women who have played Elizabeth in The Crown so far, and it’s clearly superior to Elisabeth Moss work in The Handmaid’s Tale. As Rebecca, the mother who has had a hard life ever since her husband passed and who has spent the past three season slipping into an increased dementia, she has more than deserved a nomination more than some of the frequent flyers such as Viola Davis and Robin Wright (at least for the last season of House of Cards) Isn’t playing someone slipping away awards bait, or is that only true for the Oscars? And seriously, if ‘The Train’, the penultimate episode of the series already considered a masterpiece isn’t the kind of thing that should guarantee her an Emmy, well, then its official, the Emmys has decided nothing on broadcast TV can ever equal the most mediocre work on streaming. Listen to Brown and everyone else: Give Moore an Emmy! I’m warning you.
Sandra Oh, Killing Eve
Over the last few years I have come to realize that much of the hostility I have felt towards Sandra Oh was more towards the character she played on Grey’s Anatomy then any problem I have with her as an actress. In the last several years in a variety of roles, she has come to demonstrate a humanity and depth that she never got to in a decade playing Christina Yang. (Indeed, her work as the lead actress on the Netflix comedy The Chair was so wondrous that I would have advocated her for a Best Actress in a Comedy in another season. Hopefully, she’ll get another chance at it.) But her work as the title role of this exceptionally well done series is arguably the best thing she’s done on TV in her entire career, and it’s a little shocking that she’s won every award for it but the Emmy. No stain on Jodie Comer, who is the equal of Oh in every way on this series, and you can understand why so many people were…dismayed by the series finale. But at least Comer got an Emmy before she was through. I have little doubt that Oh will get another chance at this, but can we give her a nomination in a category she deserves to win in?
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Louise Jacobson, The Gilded Age
Yes, I’m advocating for another actress in these series. But in the midst of three of the actresses in television history facing off, along with at least four or five of the most undervalued actresses in television in most of her scenes, it would have easy for any young actress to get buried as merely be functionary, a character who merely serves as a conduit between so much of the action between the Van Ryan household and the Russell’s. But Jacobson, much as the representative of the new age that she constantly advocates for as Marion, manages to seize your attention with every single scene she’s in. Every time she’s onscreen you want to believe in the optimism this young ingénue has, rather than the cynicism her Aunt represents. You want to believe in the purity and idealism that love will conquer class and money — even though Marion heartbreakingly found out in the final episode that, in her case, it did not. If Agnes Van Ryan represents the past and Bertha Russell, Marion represents the future. And it’s a credit to Jacobson that she made us root for her all the way. I’d say that we’re witnessing the debut of a brilliant star. Just like her older sisters. And her mother, Meryl Streep.
Tomorrow I start with the Supporting Actors. Yes, there will be some actors from Succession here. (Sigh).