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Emmy Analysis: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

If there’s any argument to be made that the Emmys look at the series they recognize and just mark the names down the board, one need look no further than the pitiful lack of diversity across the series nominated for Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series this year. Despite having a whopping eight nominees in the category these days, the field is made up of women from only three series, with seven of the nominations coming from just two series. That’s outrageous. 

Even contenders from series that were nominated in other categories, including Pose (Dominique Jackson and Indya Moore), Perry Mason (Tatiana Maslany), and The Boys (Aya Cash) were shut out in favor of having an eight nominee category run by essentially just two series. Nevertheless, we soldier on. With a field like this, there’s not much in the way of an argument that votes could be split through multiple nominees for the same series, which only adds further fuel to the inevitable result that this category has an easy, practically surefire pick for who will win on Emmy night.

Gillian Anderson as Margaret Thatcher / The Crown / Netflix

Episode Submission: “Favorites”

Gillian Anderson is going to win her second Emmy on September 19th, 2021. We can all go home. The other ladies in this category can come hang out and have a good time, but they know that they aren’t putting up a fight against this one. In one of the biggest locks of the night, Anderson will be taking home an Emmy for the first time since her lone win for Lead Actress in a Drama Series for The X-Files back in 1997. After dominating the awards race the entire season, even beating out her leading competitor Emma Corin at the SAGs, where they combine lead and supporting performances into one collective category, this is a foregone conclusion. 

Helena Bonham Carter as Princess Margaret / The Crown / Netflix

Episode Submission: “The Hereditary Principle”

Riding the Crown wave, Helena Bonham Carter has been consistently nominated for two seasons in a row for her work as Princess Margaret on the Netflix series, with a seeming understanding that the nominations will never lead to a win. Bonham Carter has now received five Emmy nominations in total, dating back to her first nomination for Merlin in 1998. She won’t win one this year, but hopefully one day she can pull off the victory. 

Madeline Brewer as Janine Lindo / The Handmaid’s Tale / Hulu

Episode Submission: “Testimony”

In both Supporting Acting in a Drama Series categories this year, The Handmaid’s Tale has benefited from the combination of a weaker playing field (at least as far as the Emmy voters are willing to look) and the Hulu series having its best run from its first season. This has led to a staggering amount of acting nominations for the season, with many series regulars pulling in their first nominations. Brewer has no chance in this category, not against the Crown ladies, nor her own Handmaid co-stars, but it’s nice to see her picking up some love for her constantly impressive performance as Janine. 

Ann Dowd as Aunt Lydia / The Handmaid’s Tale / Hulu

Episode Submission: “Progress”

A former winner for her role as the formidable Aunt Lydia in The Handmaid’s Tale, the beloved character actress picks up her third nomination for the series here, which is her fourth total when you include her Guest Actress in a Drama nomination for The Leftovers, somehow the only nomination that series ever received (that’s another story). Dowd won’t be able to replicate her win again here against Anderson, but she might be able to heal those wounds with an Oscar win if Mass plays its cards right. Watch our interview with Dowd for this season of The Handmaid’s Tale here

Aunjanue Ellis as Hippolyte Freeman / Lovecraft Country / HBO 

Episode Submission: “I Am”

While every prognosticator in the business was tipping Wunmi Mosaku to be nominated in this category for Lovecraft Country, the Emmys threw a curveball by going with Aunjanue Ellis. It’s a surprise, and a disappointment, not to see Mosaku here as well, but certainly no slight on Ellis, a fantastic performer who has been doing wonderful, largely overlooked work for decades now, including receiving a previous Emmy nominee for her work in When They See Us. Representing the sole nomination in this category that doesn’t come from The Crown or The Handmaid’s Tale, it’s just nice to see her here. 

Emerald Fennell as Camilla Parker Bowles / The Crown / Netflix

Episode Submission: “Fairytale”

Well, what a two years Emerald Fennell has had, huh? After receiving three Oscar nominations for her debut feature, Promising Young Woman, including a nod for Best Director a win for Best Original Screenplay, Fennell’s hot streak continues with an acting nomination for her role as Camilla Parker Bowles on The Crown. This isn’t even her first time at the Emmys, either. Two years ago, she was here as a nominee for both Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series and Outstanding Drama Series for her work on Killing Eve. Is there anything she can’t do? 

Yvonne Strahovski as Serena Joy Waterford / The Crown / Netflix

Episode Submission: “Home”

While there is plenty of frustration over the lack of spread across different series in the categories all over the Emmys this year, particularly in the supporting acting categories, the one benefit is that it did afford the welcome return of Yvonne Strahovski. Nominated for her role as Serena Joy Waterford in The Handmaid’s Tale, this is her second nomination, having taken a few years off from the nomination field since her first nod in 2018. Sometimes the contenders just slip off the Emmy radar, particularly when the shine comes off a show like Handmaid’s Tale, so making a return like this is a rarity. Strahovski has deserved her spot here many times over, so it’s nice to see her back, regardless of the circumstances. It was a strong year for her, and we’d place her in the runner-up slot to Anderson, but no one is touching Anderson’s crown. Watch our Handmaid’s Tale interview with Strahovski here

Samira Wiley as Moira Strand / The Handmaid’s Tale / Hulu 

Episode Submission: “Vows”

Capping off the four nominees for The Handmaid’s Tale in this category is Samira Wiley, a previous winner for her role as Moira on the series. She won for Outstanding Guest Actress for the second season, and has been nominated in Supporting Actress for the three other seasons of the show, demonstrating that the Emmys love her in this role. It’s easy to see why, as she has remained a bright spot on the series even when it has had some off seasons. Wiley has been a consistently strong performer in everything she does, whether it’s been Orange Is the New Black, You’re the Worst, or her award-nominated voice acting in The Walking Dead: Michonne video game. She will surely get to a win one day, even if it’s not for Handmaid’s Tale

Prediction: Gillian Anderson

Preference: Gillian Anderson

Sleeper: Yvonne Strahovski

Predicted ranking:
Gillian Anderson
Yvonne Strahovski
Ann Dowd
Aunjanue Ellis
Samira Wiley
Helena Bonham Carter
Emerald Fennell
Madeline Brewer

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Written by Mitchell Beaupre

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