The Primetime Emmy voters have actually already had their say. Ballots were due last Friday, and the nominations will be announced on Thursday, July 10th. In the meantime, though, we at The Wire feel it's only fair that we should have our say. Hindsight is not only 20/20, it's also fun, and if on Thursday July 10th we can't point at the Emmy voters' choices and say WRONG!, why are we even in this business? So these are the picks that Emmy voters should make. In the interests of a level playing field, we're limiting ourselves to the official Emmy ballot, though we've made sure to do our fair share of complaining about who was left off of that.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama
Honorable mentions: This is always one of the most stacked categories, and many stars on the ballot have been honored at least with nominations before, or belong to very crowded ensembles like The Good Wife or Mad Men with lots of outstanding acting. Nicholas D’Agosto did great and surprising work on Masters of Sex this year. Peter Dinklage is pretty much a lock for a nomination for Game of Thrones. Walton Goggins should always be in the conversation for Justified. Jack Huston would get a send-off nod in a less crowded year for Boardwalk Empire. Ted Levine was the most underrated part of the generally underrated The Bridge. Mandy Patinkin is always good on Homeland but that show is losing steam. Aaron Paul is a lead actor on Breaking Bad but wisely continues to pretend otherwise to get out of Bryan Cranston’s way.
Josh Charles, The Good Wife
He wasn’t even in the entire season, and the circumstances of his exit remain a little annoying, but Charles had a fantastic exit arc on The Good Wife this year. The abrupt loss of Will Gardener, which leaves so many emotional threads dangling for Alicia, is the most memorable thing, but just look at Charles’ work in episodes like “The Decision Tree” where he wrestles with Alicia’s betrayal of the firm. Will could have easily been this season’s villain or hero; instead he was far more complex.
Charles Dance, Game of Thrones
This was a borderline call between Dance and Dinklage, and honestly the entire male ensemble of Thrones is worth considering, even great actors like Rory McCann who didn’t even submit to the ballot. But this was the season of Tywin Lannister, presiding over the empire he won and watching things crumble away from him without ever admitting his mistakes. Dance’s scene with Cersei in the finale is a masterpiece of emotional restraint on his end.
Noah Emmerich, The Americans
On an incredibly well-acted show, Emmerich is often a standout for his work as conflicted FBI agent Stan Beeman. His feels like such an overdone storyline: the handler who falls for his confidential informant. But Emmerich does such a good job keeping everything bubbling under the surface, and making Beeman seem like a tender human being as well as someone trying to do his job. Plus, Emmerich’s just one of those character actors who’s long-overdue for recognition
Matthew Lillard, The Bridge
This really came out of nowhere, but Lillard is absolutely the standout of FX’s flawed crime drama. Initially playing just a recurring role as a journalist who almost gets blown up in his car for pushing too hard on a story of women disappearing along the Mexican border, Lillard did welcome, surprising work as a man who has pissed his talent away and rediscovers his thirst for what he’s good at.
Dean Norris, Breaking Bad
Aaron Paul did great work in the final episodes of Breaking Bad, but honestly, even forgetting his blurry category status, Jesse was removed from so much of the action. Norris, though, has never been Emmy recognized for his incredible, evolving performance as Hank Schrader, who finally puts it all together about Walter, all too late. God, that scene with Skyler in the diner where he realizes she’s not going to cooperate with him.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama
Honorable Mentions: A supporting actress is only as strong as the material given her, so while Christine Hendricks (Mad Men) and Mae Whitman (Parenthood) are among the more reliably excellent actresses on TV, their shows either didn't give them enough to do (Hendricks) or gave them really cliched/uninteresting things to do (Whitman). Over on HBO, there's a grab-bag of possibilities from the Game of Thrones cast, but neither Lena Heady nor Sophie Turner nor Natalie Dormer was given quite enough to do in order to vault them ahead of the following six.
Christine Baranski, The Good Wife
If you don't watch The Good Wife, Baranski's four consecutive (and counting) nominations might seem like perfunctory nods for an actress that Academy voters approve of (she's got seven other Emmy nods to her name, with one win for Cybill in 1995). If you do watch The Good Wife, you're wondering how she hasn't won for this show yet. The shocking events of this season gave Baranski ample opportunity to once again prove herself as the MVP of the Good Wife ensemble, delivering grief and steel and savvy and vulnerability.
Laura Fraser, Breaking Bad
Guys, remember Lydia? What started as a kind of tossed-off character designed to bridge the corporate world of the meth trade with the on-the-ground gruffness of men like Mike and Walt, Lydia's jitters turned out to be quite the commentary on the economy of evil at work throughout Breaking Bad's final episodes. Fraser's Lydia was frazzled enough to show how out of place she was among drug dealers, but just as often that weakness allowed her to make some truly vicious calls. A poor man's Tilda Swinton in Michael Clayton to some, but that's still pretty damned good.
Anna Gunn, Breaking Bad
Is there anything further than can even be said about Anna Gunn on this show? It feels almost like a cop-out to include her on this list, because OBVIOUSLY. She's amazing. And the drain down which Skyler spiraled in the final few episodes of the series gave Gunn ample opportunities to show once again that she was giving one of TV's best performances.
Olivia Munn, The Newsroom
That's right! Not even trolling. ...Well, maybe a little trolling, but this is an honest call. Munn is giving easily the most likeable performance on Aaron Sorkin's dramatic scolding of ... well, everybody, and she's doing so with a character who is written into basically every corner you can imagine. Setting aside for a moment how disappointing it is that they're pairing Sloan and Don romantically, (probably) ruining what had been a great platonic TV friendship; Munn played even those scenes with empathy and a sense of humor that far too few on that show possess.
Sandra Oh, Grey's Anatomy
You can take all your "is Grey's Anatomy still on TV?!"s and stuff them in a sock. Yes, it's still on TV, yes this was Sandra Oh's last season playing Dr. Cristina Yang, and yes she deserves an Emmy nomination. For her body of work across the whole series, yes, but also for her work this year in particular, where Cristina's usual heroic shouldering of the gravitas was paired with a storyline in which Oh had to make a 3D-printer seem like a suitable device for driving four months' worth of plot.
Bellamy Young, Scandal
As for a Shonda Rhimes show that people you know actually do watch, Young's Mellie was increasingly the best thing about the show through its sometimes-bumpy third season. This was the year we got to see Mellie's backstory, where her rampant bitchiness and self-destructive march to the sea were given context and motive and no small amount of empathy. It was already pretty difficult to be on Fitz's side after two seasons worth of sneering declarations of love for his mistress; by the end of season three, if you weren't hoping for Mellie to take a very real flamethrower to this very fictional White House, it's tough to imagine what show you were watching.