Maybe no categories in the 2017 Emmys races have more potential for surprises and breakthroughs than the supporting actor and actress fields. And in part, it’s a matter of sheer numbers—supporting performances nominations extend across three categories of programming: drama, comedy, and limited series/TV movie.
Expected nominees include returning favorites like Maura Tierney (The Affair), Uzo Aduba (Orange is the New Black), Kate McKinnon and Alec Baldwin (SNL), Anna Chlumsky and Tony Hale (Veep), Judith Light (Transparent), and Louie Anderson (Baskets). There are also new faces everybody’s hoping to see in the mix, thanks in part to the absence of Game of Thrones from this year’s race due to its later premiere date. Those include John Lithgow (The Crown), Jeffrey Wright and Thandie Newton ****(Westworld), Chrissy Metz and Ron Cephas Jones (This Is Us), Brian Tyree Henry (Atlanta) and Winona Ryder and Millie Bobby Brown (Stranger Things). In the Limited Series/TV movie category, Big Little Lies and Feud: Bette and Joan are going head to head: Laura Dern, Shailene Woodley, and Judy Davis are shoo-ins. Also expect Sarah Paulson for American Horror Story: Roanoke… she’s practically the grande dame of this category.
It’s hard to argue with any of the above performances, even if some of them err on the side of predictability. The diversity represented could also make for an exciting year for the not terribly progressive TV Academy. Still, here are a few upsets that I’d like to see:
Someone whose performance has stayed with me is Jeannie Berlin, who played district attorney Helen Weiss on The Night Of. The daughter of comedy legend Elaine May, Berlin scooped up an Oscar nomination in 1973 for The Heartbreak Kid; by 1990, she’d dropped off the radar, only to re-emerge 20 years older in Kenneth Lonergan’s 2011 film Margaret. Who does that? Since then, the actress has chosen a mere handful of prestige projects as her re-entry to the industry, Paul Thomas Anderson’s Inherent Vice, and Woody Allen’s Cafe Society among them. Her performance in The Night Of was a sharply-drawn, witty character sketch of a no-nonsense veteran of the New York legal system, holding her own opposite John Turturro and stealing every scene she was in. I can’t wait to see what sort of project she picks up next, but I know that whatever it is will be weird, wonderful, and one-of-a-kind.
Another great performance was Alessandro Nivola’s turn as Mark Madoff in Barry Levinson’s The Wizard of Lies. Hank Azaria is the favorite to be nominated for the HBO movie, and he does a lot of scene chewing—some comic, some wonderfully appalling—in his portrayal of Madoff lacky Frank Dipascali. But in my opinion Nivola deserves as much of a shot. As Bernie’s son Mark, Nivola must navigate Mark’s confusion about his father’s secret-keeping, his outrage when the Ponzi scheme is revealed, and his inability to forgive the man he once idolized. As he comes to be misrepresented and despised by former friends and associates, his decline into hopelessness and despair—and, ultimately, suicide—is utterly heartbreaking.
Esteem for House of Cards has been waning, which is too bad. The show can still be excellent at times. This season, Neve Campbell and Damian Young delivered a haunting two-hander as LeAnn Harvey, the Underwoods’ campaign manager, and Aidan Macallan, a data scientist and NSA tracker the Underwoods employ to hack into telecom systems in a plot to tilt the election in their favor. Playing political pawns whose own spinelessness catches up with them, Campbell and Young both give powerful performances—hers as a panicked staffer who must cover her tracks to save her career, and Young as someone who slowly realizes the betrayal that will cost him everything. I can’t imagine where they get this stuff.
Speaking of political stagecraft, Tony Hale is brilliant on Veep season after season, but why not make room for another cast member who stepped into the center of the action this year? To me, that’s Timothy Simons, whose vainglorious dunce Jonah Ryan has been an aggravating foil to Julia Louis-Dreyfus’s Selena Meyer for all of the the show’s 58 episodes. This year, Jonah became a bigger thorn in Selena’s side than ever by becoming a congressman and announcing his run for president. I would argue that Jonah Ryan has become iconic, and perhaps more importantly, a shorthand term for millennial office trolls around the country. Everybody has their own Jonah Ryan; maybe it’s time to give this one a statuette for his sacrifice.
Two icons of a different sort are also deserving of a spotlight this season: Andrea Martin, for Difficult People, and Carol Kane, for The Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Martin is performing double duty, also starring in NBC’s Great News, but I think her character in Hulu’s underrated comedy series is nothing short of brilliant, twisting self-aware clichés into new ingenious territory as a psychologist who relentlessly manipulates her clients—and her daughter—for her own narcissistic gains. And while Kane has been a key player in all three seasons of Kimmy Schmidt, this season she pulled focus with Lillian’s new foray into political activism and her breakup with serial killer Bobby Durst. Both actresses are over 60 and hitting new strides in their careers thanks to television (and Tina Fey). Nothing is possibly cooler than that.
Nicole Kidman, Milo Ventimiglia and 11 More Actors Who Prove that Television Has Never Been Hotter
“In the show I play an abused woman, and I felt very exposed and deeply humiliated. I remember lying on the floor in the bathroom at the end of a difficult scene, and I wouldn’t get up between takes. I was just lying there, basically naked in half-torn underwear, and Jean-Marc Vallée [the director] would come over and place a towel over me. It was very hard.”
Kidman wears a Miu Miu dress and coat.
“As a girl, I was obsessed with the program 20/20—especially with the coanchor Hugh Downs. I thought I was going to marry Hugh Downs for a really long time. He was so dignified. Everything was going to be all right because Hugh Downs was going to tell you the important story you needed to know that Friday night. They just don’t do newsmen like him anymore.”
Marling wears a Prada dress.
“My first crush was Jessica Lange in Tootsie. I was maybe 8 or 9 when I first saw the movie, and I had never felt anything for a girl before that. I was just mesmerized by her. I watched the film over and over again because of Jessica Lange. I’m still not over her. Every time I meet someone, I compare her to Jessica Lange in Tootsie. That’s probably why I’m not married.”
Skarsgård wears a Cleverly Laundry robe; Schiesser Revival shirt.
“The Americans mostly takes place in the ’80s, during the Cold War. Anytime you’re wearing clothes that are unlike yours, it just heightens the moment. When I wear heels and silk shirts, slacks and blouses, it makes me feel like an adult. On the show, I wear a cat eye with black eyeliner, and it makes me feel like a panther. It’s so unlike me as Keri—this tired mom in flip-flops and jeans. And I love that transformation.”
Russell wears a Michael Kors Collection top; Philosophy briefs; Manolo Blahnik shoes; Louis Vuitton bracelet.
“For Homeland, I made an audition tape with a point-and-click camera and sent it in. The ratio was off. It was out of focus. I was also wearing the wrong thing, and I filmed it against a door that they later told me made it look like I was in a mental asylum. The producers were like, ‘Where the hell is this kid?!’ In the end, I did seven separate audition tapes of the same scene. They finally said yes.”
Friend wears an Hermès sweater; Sunspel boxers; his own ring and socks.
“I went to work on The Crown four months after giving birth. The queen didn’t wear a corset, but I did in the beginning. Now, in the second season, I have to wear a significantly padded brassiere. In the first season, it was all my own breast work, but now it’s ‘Ha! Where have they gone?’ The queen would be so ashamed of me.”
Foy wears a Louis Vuitton dress; Messika Paris bracelet.
“I usually get stopped in the U.K. before I board a plane. What’s funny is that Heathrow is in a heavily South Asian neighborhood, and the kids working at the airport are fans of mine. So while they’re swabbing me for explosives, they’re asking me for selfies. While they’re going through my underwear, they’re quoting my raps back at me. It’s quite a surreal experience that speaks to the insider/outsider status I’ve felt all my life.”
Ahmed wears a Bottega Veneta sweater; Jeffrey Rüdes pants.
“Even with the show, I still live at home in Liverpool. I can’t bring myself to leave just yet. My brother is 21 and he’s still at home, too. I said to my mom, ‘We’re going to be 30-, 40-odd years old and we’re still going to be living in the kids’ rooms.’ I’m hoping I will be able to leave the nest at some point.”
Comer wears a Marc Jacobs dress; Jennifer Meyer necklace; Larkspur & Hawk ring.
“During the screen test for Stranger Things, one of the directors came up to me and said, ‘Bzzz,’ over my head. He then asked, ‘Are you ready?’ I was like, ‘For what?’ And he said, ‘To cut all your hair off!’ The next day I got the job and I cut it. My hair was down to here, but it’s only hair. After that, I was called ‘boy’ a lot.”
Brown wears a Balenciaga dress and tights; Chanel shoes; Jennifer Meyer ring.
“I worked at McDonald’s for a few months, and I got a couple of dates from taking orders at the drive-through window. I was enrolled in an acting class, and I would practice different accents. I was really bad, but people believed me. A young lady would say, ‘Oh, I forgot to order the strawberry milkshake’ and ask me about my Italian or Irish or Brooklyn accent. We would go out on a date, go back to the McDonald’s parking lot, and make out. Eventually, I had to break it to them that I wasn’t Italian or Irish or from New York. The girls would usually end it right then and there.”
Franco wears a Prada shirt.
“In playing Albert Einstein, I found out that he was not the archetypal absentminded professor. He was an energetic, slightly rebellious, rakish, sort-of-bohemian poet. And he was quite amorous—he had many lovers. Einstein wasn’t exactly a ‘player,’ but he enjoyed women, and when his first marriage fell apart, he became what you would call a ladies’ man. He gave up on monogamy.”
Flynn wears a Calvin Klein Jeans Established 1978 jacket and pants.
“My dad, Stan Lathan, was one of the first black TV directors. He used to direct Sesame Street, and he blindfolded me once, and when he took the blindfold off, I was on the set. I got to meet Big Bird. It was my birthday, and the whole cast sang to me. That was the biggest thrill of my life.”
Lathan wears a Lanvin coat.
“I’m not a big crier. But family stuff gets to me. Fathers and brothers and children. If I wasn’t on This Is Us, I’d be a wet noodle watching the show. I’d be crying along with everyone else.”
Ventimiglia wears a Current/Elliott shirt; his own chain.
Watch video interviews with Nicole Kidman, Millie Bobby Brown and more of this year’s nominees here: