My Predictions (And Hopes) For This Year’s Emmy Nominations: Week 3, Day 3
OUTSTANDING LEAD ACTRESS IN A LIMITED SERIES/MOVIE
Even if Nine Perfect Strangers had not been turned into a regular series (why Hulu) it was an inevitability that several of Hollywood’s greatest actresses of all time would be among the nominees. For some it is a question of which actresses from certain female led series will be nominated, and there is also a strong possibility that some of Hollywood’s most prominent up-and-comers will end up taking the prize. Here are my choices for the six actresses I think will take the spots.
Jessica Chastain, Scenes from a Marriage
I didn’t think it was conceivable that Jessica Chastain would get her Oscar before she got her Emmy — I clearly had no idea how extraordinary her work in The Eyes of Tammy Faye would be and that it would be enough to carry her. But I was certain from the moment I began to watch her work as Mira way back in September that it was an inevitability she was be among the top ranks of Emmy contenders for Best Actress. And in the past year even among a constant stream of great performances, nothing has changed my opinion on that front.
Chastain’s work as Mira was one of the great performances I’ve seen. She never rang a false note in a single episode of her work, and even though she was the person who had the affair (a change from the Bergman original) you sympathized with her character every step of the way. You could see the desperation she had in every scene, first in order to get out of her marriage, then her determination to get back in, then in the final episode trying to find out where they would end up. In what was at times one of the hardest things on television to watch this year, you could not take your eyes away from either Isaac or Chastain. Both more than deserve nominations for their works and whether they win or not (its unlikely in either case) Chastain should be rewarded for giving one of the most unforgettable performances of this year.
Viola Davis, The First Lady
I’ve made no secret of how vehemently I loathed How to Get Away with Murder. The primary reason I did was that, in my opinion, it wasted the talents of one of the greatest actresses of all time. Now that Davis has given one of the greatest performances in her storied career as Michelle Obama, it is the way that history works that so many fans turned against Davis for — I can’t believe this — how she pursed her lips. As the real life woman she played learned over and over, sometimes you can’t just win. But Davis was perfectly matched as this ground-breaking woman for whom being the first African-American First Lady was a comedown from her previous ambitions. We see her trying to deal with the problems in health care, constantly being torn down by a media that wants to destroy every decision she makes, fighting with Rahm Emmanuel and everyone else on basically everything, and essentially trying to find her own path out of the shadow of her husband. Davis is an iconic actress for an iconic woman and she is utterly worthy of the nomination I derided her for getting for her other iconic (but far less complicated) character.
Michelle Pfeiffer, The First Lady
I realize some people will be irked that I am excluding Gillian Anderson for her extraordinary work as Eleanor Roosevelt in this series. And to be clear I think Anderson is one of the greatest actresses of all time and if she gets nominated I will have no complaints. But Anderson took an Emmy last year for playing an iconic female political figure, so I think she would understand why I want to have this spot filled by another iconic actress who played another iconic political figure.
And let’s be honest, Michelle Pfeiffer has been such a great actress for so long that, almost like Viola Davis, we have a tendency to take her for granted. It boggles the mind that she’s never won an Academy Award, or for that matter, only one Golden Globe. Of the three First Ladies at the center of this series, it was Betty Ford’s story that I found the most compelling. Because of the situation she was forced into against her will of the three ladies, because of all the obstacles she had to overcome throughout her life that she had to mask, either because it was politically or socially acceptable, and quintessentially because of Pfeiffer’s utterly sympathetic performance. Of the three first ladies portrayed here, Ford was the least ambitious, yet paradoxically may have accomplished the most in her brief time in the position. I would like to think the Emmys could do the same for an actress whose reputation has the same luster.
Margaret Qualley, Maid
She is the youngest and least experienced of the nominees in this category, but of all of them she gave what is arguably the greatest performance. Alex had a struggle throughout the entirety of this series that makes the Book of Job look like Eat, Pray, Love where she finds herself consistently drowning and given heavier and heavier burdens the further along she goes. The closer she comes to climbing out, she finds herself back in the same pool this time with a lead life vest. It is somehow a miracle that she manages to find herself in a situation that she was able to pull herself and her toddler daughter out of. And in every single she was remarkable because in almost all of them, no one seemed to be considering a human being — not the social workers, not the people who hired her, not even her own mother. (Oh, we’ll get to her in time.) Qualley has had the misfortune of the greatest performance of her season in the same eligibility period that Kate Winslet was sweeping up awards right and left for Mare of Easttown. Now she’ll ‘only’ have to compete some of the greatest actresses of all time. I think we know by now that, like Alex, Qualley can hold her own against whatever is thrown at her.
Julia Roberts, Gaslit
The only thing keeping Roberts from an Emmy nomination is the network her series is on. Perhaps I’m being too generous. After all, three years ago working in collaboration with Sam Esmail, the producer behind Gaslit she gave one of the greatest performances of her career in Homecoming and she, like the series, were inexplicably ignored by the Emmys. But if she is overlooked by them for her work as Martha Mitchell it will be far more difficult to explain. She appears in a historic mini-series, which is the kind of thing the Emmys. She plays one of the most complicated characters in a virtually untold story about the most documented political scandal in history. She plays so many angles — alcoholic, a dysfunctional wife and mother, a woman being driven crazy by her husband, a victim of a ferocious assault, a woman who is deserted by her family and history, and ultimately a hero. Anyone of these is the kind of performance that traditionally receives Emmys; she has all of them at one time. Do I even need to mention by now she’s one of the greatest actresses of all time? So if she somehow gets overlooked this time around, to paraphrase Gaslit’s slogan: The Emmys are wrong. Julia is right.
Amanda Seyfried, The Dropout
Ever since I first laid eyes on Amanda Seyfried as Sarah on Big Love, arguably the most underrated series on HBO the first decade of his peak greatness, I’ve known that I was looking at a future superstar. I actually picked her for an Emmy nomination one season for her extraordinary performance in the groundbreaking episode ‘Come Ye Saints’. Ever since she left the series in 2010, she has almost always lived up to her potential whether in femme fatale roles in minor masterpieces like Chloe and Lovelace, undervalued masterworks like First Reformed, or singing her heart out in Les Mis and Mamma Mia. But with the exception of a brief return in the revival of Twin Peaks, she has not been back to the medium where she became a star. Until The Dropout.
I know all the controversies behind Elizabeth Holmes and having only seen the first episode, I know Holmes will obviously go into dark territory. But as you watch Seyfried play Holmes you see a woman who no one truly cares about, who everyone (including her mother) thinks a loser, and someone who thinks she has potential that no one will realize. I have no doubt that eventually we will see how corrupt Holmes was and how willing she was to do anything to achieve the appearance of success rather than actual success. But I also know that we will sympathize for her despite that because that’s how Seyfried plays every character we meet. I’m not sure yet if she deserves to win an Emmy but she deserves to earn her spot among the greats.
FOR YOUR CONSIDERATION
Renee Zellweger, The Thing about Pam
Am I making a mistake in using this spot to advocate for Zellweger instead of for Olivia Colman, who played a much more complicated killer in Landscapers? I suppose. But Colman did win an Emmy last year, so I feel less guilty in that sense. More to the point, in a series that I often found deeply flawed and hard to appreciate, Zellweger relentless determination to be so utterly contemptible as Pam, to go against her well-known screen persona and do everything in her power to utterly stomp down the slightest bit of likability, compassion or even humanity in her word as this real life Dateline headliner, made what would have barely had enough material for a TV movie for Lifetime into a limited series that I just couldn’t tear my eyes away from. Every time I wanted to recoil, the simple act of Zellweger’s slurping on a Slushee drew me back in. It wasn’t the most brilliant performance on TV this year by a long shot. But for making something that had no business being a success at all utterly riveting, I think Zellweger deserves something.
Tomorrow, I take on the Supporting Actors in a Limited Series. I’m told they’ll have room for seven nominees this time out. I’m going to need everyone (again Thank God Hamilton isn’t here)