Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Emmy Winner Predictions: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Nominees are listed in alphabetical order. Submitted episode titles are in parentheses. Beware of minor spoilers for listed episodes.

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut, Better Call Saul (Witness)
This is Banks’ fourth nomination for this role, with nods the past two years for this series and in 2013 for “Breaking Bad.” He was also nominated in 1989 for “Wiseguy.” Banks being recognized is yet another instance of questionable watching by viewers of the show, since costar Michael McKean should have had this spot this year. In Banks’ submitted episode, former fellow nominee Giancarlo Esposito is the one who has a more prominent showcase thanks to his long-anticipated return, so I don’t imagine this will be the year that Banks takes home the gold.

David Harbour as Chief Hopper, Stranger Things (The Upside Down)
This is the first Emmy nomination for Harbour, an actor who has appeared in a number of projects throughout the years. I remember him best from “The Newsroom” and “Black Mass.” He’s one of just two cast members from his show nominated, and his performance as Chief Hopper is one that’s mostly comical but also full of deadly seriousness, as demonstrated in his very strong choice of the season finale, which humanizes him by flashing back to an impactful loss in his life while chronicling an attempt to save another in the present. He’ll get some votes, and he could theoretically win, but he’s not nearly as popular as his younger female costar.

Michael Kelly as Doug Stamper, House of Cards (Chapter 64)
This is Kelly’s third consecutive nomination. I’ve argued that he is far from the most deserving member from his cast to be recognized these days, but he does still turn in a fine, focused performance as a man called upon to move mountains and sacrifice himself so that others can remain in power. His submitted episode is the ultimate example of that, and Kelly still makes him a complex character who may well have known the whole time that this is where he was headed. I don’t see him winning in any scenario, but he’ll get some votes.

Ron Cephas Jones as William Hill, This Is Us (Memphis)
This is the first awards nomination of any kind for Jones, who has appeared on a handful of other TV shows in less prominent supporting roles over the past two years. Jones is an easy pick for the most sentimental of all the roles on an already excessively sentimental show, and submitting the episode in which he goes on a final road trip with his son is almost a guaranteed way for him to win. Consider him pretty likely.

John Lithgow as Winston Churchill, The Crown (Assassins)
Lithgow, who I prefered this season for his turn in NBC’s comedy “Trial and Error,” is an Emmy juggernaut. This is his twelfth nomination. He has won five times, including three trophies for “3rd Rock from the Sun” and one for guest-starring on “Dexter.” Now, he’s playing a famous historical figure, who in his submitted episode must confront the fact that he is aging when he sits for a painting. It’s a superb showcase and no one will deny that Lithgow is excellent in the role.

Mandy Patinkin as Saul Berenson, Homeland (America First)
This is Patinkin’s third nomination for his role and his first since 2014, the only other year when his show also wasn’t up for Best Drama Series. He won an Emmy back in 195 for “Chicago Hope.” He represents just one of two nods for his current show, which is also up for directing for his submitted episode. The season finale finds Saul choosing the right side after walking the line for a while and getting penalized for it. I think this show is way past its prime, and just because Patinkin is still a good actor doesn’t mean the show or his character should be winning awards these days.

Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe, Westworld (The Well-Tempered Clavier)
Wright won an Emmy in 2004 for his supporting work in the miniseries “Angels of America,” beating out three costars from the same project. Now, Wright is the only member of his cast nominated in this category, despite an expected fellow nominee and another who would have been deserving too, for his portrayal of a man who treats his work as a Westworld programmer as that of a scientist. His selected episode, the penultimate installment of the season, is a superb showcase of Bernard as he learns much more about his origins, and makes a phenomenal argument for the respected actor, who many thought would be nominated for “Boardwalk Empire” a few years back, to take home the award again this year.

Who should win (based on entire season): Wright
Who should win (based on individual episodes): Wright, Lithgow, or Jones
Who will win: This is a two-person competition between Jones and Lithgow. I’m inclined to go with the former since I think that his show will be recognized for some of its acting, giving Jones and his onscreen son twin trophies. Don’t be surprised at all if Lithgow wins though - he’s the more distinguished choice, mainly because of the classical quality of his show.

Next up: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series


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