Emmy voting has just completed. Over the next few weeks, I'll be laying out who I hope gets nominated in the drama, comedy, and limited series categories in this space, looking specifically at achievements in acting, writing, and directing. Below are my six personal picks for supporting acting in a limited series or TV movie, with my preferred winner in bold.
Longform Supporting Actress
Laura Dern, Big Little Lies
Felicity Huffman, American Crime
Regina King, American Crime
Mary-Louise Parker, When We Rise
Lili Taylor, American Crime
Robin Weigert, Big Little Lies
(alt: Julie Walters, National Treasure)
Over three seasons, American Crime did many wonderful, groundbreaking things—but in the end, what I’ll treasure the most about the series was how it gave Felicity Huffman, Regina King, and Lili Taylor (three of our finest actors) the chance to play three completely different, equally rich roles and just run with them. This was never more evident than in the series’ final year: season one standout King as an overworked social worker gradually reevaluating her priorities; season two standout Taylor as a wealthy housewife with an undercurrent of menace; and, most thrillingly, season three standout Huffman as a woman growing attuned to the everyday atrocities being committed around her. It’s a great category beyond them, too. Laura Dern chewed on Big Little Lies’ Renata Klein with her signature blend of manic and empathy, and Mary-Louise Parker anchored the last two hours of When We Rise with determined passion. Special shoutout, finally, to Robin Weigert, who took on a tertiary part on Big Little Lies as a therapist, but found startling nuances and power to play in the character. It’s the definition of an outstanding supporting performance.
Longform Supporting Actor
Benito Martinez, American Crime
Adam Scott, Big Little Lies
Alexander Skarsgard, Big Little Lies
Michael Stuhlbarg, Fargo
David Thewlis, Fargo
Michael K. Williams, When We Rise
(alt: Idris Elba, Guerrilla)
Adam Scott’s dramatic work is always underrated, but I hope voters find room to recognize his excellent, subtle Big Little Lies turn, punctuated by that marvelous (if lip-synced) Elvis Presley impersonation. His co-star Alexander Skarsgard made for a monstrous villain with just enough humanity to stay interesting—while David Thewlis, meanwhile, managed to be equally monstrous and interesting without eliciting much sympathy at all in Fargo. His co-star, Michael Stuhlbarg, was good as ever, too. Over on American Crime, Benito Martinez made a powerful impression in a brief arc as an undocumented immigrant searching for his missing son. And in the end, my favorite performance of the bunch came courtesy of an actor I always seem to return to. Michael K. Williams has played queer characters before, but his physical and emotional transformation in the period piece When We Rise was devastatingly authentic. The otherwise-mediocre miniseries is likely to be snubbed, but if voters make room for one element of the production, I hope it’s Williams.