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Emmys 2012: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

July 11, 2012

Ahh, the Emmys. Every year, I hope that the NATAS gets it right. Every year they prove that there isn’t a “right.” I guess I should just let it be. We know the same people get nominated year after year (whether it’s deserved or not). We know that some of the best performances will be overlooked (because that’s just the way it is). And we know that people who write about television will always make lists. Here’s mine.

Here’s how we’ll play it this year: I am working from the Emmy ballots that were sent out to NATAS members. That means, if Rose Byrne is really considered a supporting actress by the fine folks on the Damages set, I won’t complain. I won’t get it, but I won’t complain. Too much. It is what it is. The voting has ended, and now we’re just waiting to see who makes it into the magic six. The nominees will be announced on July 19.

We’re getting to the tough awards. I thought the comedy supporting actor/actress process was difficult, but let me be clear: the drama category is a rough one. That’s because there are lots of great dramas out there. Hell, The Good Wife alone could fill a category. And they are never even nominated! In any event, here we go… Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series.

ActorMandy Patinkin


Pros: Patinkin is a pro with three previous nominations, including one win for his role on Chicago Hope. Throw him into the most acclaimed show of the year and it should be a home run, but…

Cons: … Homeland might be considered too much of a tour de force by Claire Danes and the supporting roles (including Morena Baccarin’s Jessica Brody) could be left on the wayside.

Bottom Line: Not getting nominated would be a shame.

ActorJohn Goodman


Pros: He’s John Goodman. Eleven Emmy nominations and one win.

Cons: All those nominations and only one win? That’s not a good sign, even if we are just talking about nominations right now…

Bottom Line: Flip a coin. See what happens.

ActorPeter Dinklage

ShowGame of Thrones

Pros: Last year’s winner has only gotten juicer material with which to work.

Cons: None.

Bottom Line: He’ll be on the list.

ActorJon Bernthal

ShowThe Walking Dead

Pros: A slow descent into madness makes sense when your best friend is dead and you start sleeping with his wife and taking care of his son and then you find out that your best friend is not dead after all and that his wife is now pregnant and someone shoots the son and then you have to make a decision to kill that very someone to save yourself and get medicine back to the only doctor in the world, who’s actually a veterinarian, so he can save the little boy from that gunshot and then you spend weeks on end looking for a little girl in vain while others sit at the camp and talk about boring stuff. Oh, and zombies have taken over the world. Bernthal’s last few episodes were excellent as he became more and more off his rocker, culminating in a massacre of a barn full of zombies.

Cons: A lot of people didn’t care for Bernthal’s final days on the show. Beyond that, no one’s giving an Emmy to a show about zombies.

Bottom Line: Nope.

ActorNelsan Ellis

ShowTrue Blood

Pros: Lafayette continues to be a scene-stealing fan favorite for a reason: Ellis has a natural charisma that comes across through the character. That being said, he’s nothing like his over-the-top onscreen persona.

Cons: True Blood‘s Emmy time has come and gone. Sad, but true.

Bottom Line: It looks like everyone I want to nominate is in the same boat.

ActorWalton Goggins


Pros: Another year, another stand out performance by Goggins. Is this his time?

Cons: Everyone on Justified carries their weight, which can sometimes make it all look easier than it is.

Bottom Line: I say yes to a nomination, doubtful he’ll win though.

ActorsMichael CudlitzShawn HatosyBen McKenzie


Pros: The show gets better each year, with the actors burying themselves deeper and deeper into character. Cudlitz’ John Cooper dealt with the aftermath of his surgery and detox from painkillers, got a new partner (a decidedly Emmy-worthy performance by Lucy Lui) and ever-so-slightly reminded viewers that he is, in fact, an out gay man. As usual, he did it with an ease that most actors strive for their entire careers. Hatosy found himself in the role of big brother, trying to reign in McKenzie’s character as he got too involved with a prostitute (not what you think at all…). Everyone on this show knows what they are doing and does it well.

Cons: Four seasons in and the only recognition from the NATAS is a win for stunt coordination. I’m not saying that’s not a valid thing to reward, but come on, these actors are giving us exactly what they get paid to do: entertainment.

Bottom Line: Cudlitz won’t get nominated. Again. Neither will Hatosy. Neither will McKenzie. It’s a damn shame.

ActorsChris NothAlan CummingMatt CzuchryJosh Charles

ShowThe Good Wife

Pros: In terms of dramas, Wife is the one to beat. With a cast as talented as this, it’s easy to see why they have continued to branch out. Noth and Czuchry were busy in the State’s Attorney’s office, investigating Charles’ character’s character, having him (almost) disbarred and stirring up trouble in the halls of Lockhart/Gardner. Cumming was moved into the offices as well to give him more interaction with the rest of the cast and he certainly got it. Honestly, I could see any one – or two – of these guys getting a nod.

Cons: All four of them won’t get nominated, but who will be left out?

Bottom Line: Half and half?

Actors: Christopher HeyerdahlCommon

ShowHell on Wheels

Pros: Common’s Elam is a strong supporting character, helping keep momentum going, with his fight to be seen as a man and not a former slave. Heyerdahl’s The Sweed was on a witch hunt that went nowhere, but provided for great acting.

Cons: There are too many actors with bigger roles on bigger shows for this one to make a dent. Maybe in a couple of years…

Bottom Line: AMC dramas are used to getting viewers – and Emmys. Hell on Wheels won’t be one of those, unfortunately.

ActorsSam JaegerMax BurkholderDax ShepardCraig T. Nelson


Pros: Every guy in this cast, as with the women, does such stellar jobs that it can look like it’s nothing. Even Dax Shepard pulled out some serious chops this year and who would have expected that? Jaeger, while the least-developed character on the show (due to screen time), really got a chance to flex some muscles this year with the surrogate storyline. Burkholder has constantly impressed with his portrayal of the son with Asperger’s. It’s hard for anyone, let alone a child, to know when to go full-throttle and when to reign it in. I really like this kid. And then there’s Craig T. Nelson. I hated Coach. I wasn’t excited about Parenthood because he was cast as the family patriarch. That being said, his scenes with Mae Whitman’s Amber at the beginning of the season just after her car accident, were tender, yet tough. I saw him in a brand new light. That’s acting.

Cons: Parenthood may have one of the best casts on TV but what does that have to do with the Emmys?

Bottom Line: Not a one of them will be nominated. Yet again.

Actors: Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito

ShowBreaking Bad

Pros: Paul won for this role in 2010 (he wasn’t eligible last year) and will definitely be nominated this year. Esposito, too, though, has been on every critic’s tongue, right before or after they say, “Emmy.” So… maybe both of them?

Cons: No cons. This is happening.

Bottom Line: Read the Cons section.

Actors: Jeremy Allen White Cameron Monaghan


Pros: While last season Shameless was, uncategorically, cast as a drama while clearly being a comedy, this season, the drama quotient was punched up (while maintaining the funny), allowing everyone to sink their teeth further into their characters. The oldest two Gallagher boys did just that, with White’s Lip chasing after fake fatherhood and becoming the smartest high school drop out in history and Monaghan’s Ian having a full-fledged sexual awakening.

Cons: Shameless didn’t get but one nomination last year (Joan Cusack for Guest Actress) so don’t expect these guys to get in.

Bottom Line: White did an outstanding job. I wouldn’t be mad at a nomination for him even though that won’t happen.

ActorJohn Noble


Pros: Noble has turned in PhD level performances episode after episode, playing a multitude of variations of Walter, each one with distinct characteristics to make a regular viewer recognize who is who. He should have been nominated the past two years.

Cons: Unfortunately, Fringe is a genre show and while this season was great, last season was even better. Noble wasn’t nominated then and he won’t be this time around either.

Bottom Line: Sad but true… Noble will just have to settle for love from his legion of fans.


Which six (6) actors would you nominate for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series?


Want more? Check out these:

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series


Not following me on Twitter yet? Get on the sofa: @josephrileyland

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