Ray Richmond is an AwardsLine contributor
SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTOR
JIM CARTER (Downton Abbey, PBS)
Emmy Pedigree: It’s Carter’s first time at the Emmy dance, but the Brit has a little bit of experience with the American awards establishment. He won a 1999 SAG Award as part of the Shakespeare in Love cast. His work on Downton stands for its charismatic zeal, elevating a smallish role of butler Mr. Carson to something far weightier, much as his costar Brendan Coyle has done.
What We Say: It’s heartening to see a vet like Carter who has long labored in the shadows finally receive some overdue recognition. That recognition does not, however, extend to actually winning.
Emmy Pedigree: It’s the first Emmy nomination for this U.K. actor and, in fact, the first television project he’s been in that would qualify for Emmy eligibility. He took the minor role of Mr. Bates and turned it into something greater than it looked on the page.
What We Say: Credit the magic of Downton Abbey with elevating a little-known British performer like Coyle to the big leagues. However, if you’re a British performer and your name isn’t Ricky Gervais, victory eludes your grasp.
Related: EMMYS: The Drama Race
Emmy Pedigree: It’s the second nomination in as many years for Dinklage, who beat out quite an esteemed field to win the Emmy in 2011. His completion is no less formidable this time, but significantly more British. Dinklage also won the Golden Globe this year for his work as Tyrion Lannister on HBO’s wildly popular fantasy drama.
What We Say: Dinklage’s performance only got better in Season 2. Taking his second Emmy in a row is possible, but it isn’t the way to bet.
Emmy Pedigree: It’s Esposito’s first nomination despite having been a steady character actor in television and film since the early 1980s. It took the TV Academy until Esposito’s final season to honor him, but better late than never.
What We Say: Esposito was able to communicate more with his eyes than most actors can with pages of dialogue. May Gus Fring rest in, well, whatever the opposite of peace is. And in the meantime, he’s the favorite here to win.
Emmy Pedigree: After joining the cast of Mad Men in its third season as Lane Pryce—who ultimately became the junior partner at the new agency of Sterling Cooper Draper Pryce—Harris was finally honored with his first-ever Emmy nom. And it will be his last for the series, as he departed the show last season after committing suicide by hanging. Harris also earned a SAG Award in 2010 as part of the Mad Men ensemble.
What We Say: Harris’ nomination proves the adage that if you “hang around” long enough, you will eventually land in the spotlight. And while Hollywood remains a sucker for a good suicide, he’s no better than the third choice in a tough category.
Emmy Pedigree: Paul is the Emmy heavyweight of this group. This is his third nomination (the previous pair coming in 2009 and ’10, which he won) for his role as smalltime meth dealer-turned-mini kingpin Jesse Pinkman on Breaking Bad. His character has grown more sensitive and compassionate, and it stands out even among a cast of standouts. It’s why the producers decided to keep him around rather than kill Jesse off, as had been the original plan.
What We Say: He injects a vibrantly youthful element into a series that centers on a man suffering the world’s worst midlife crisis. Paul has a shot at winning his second, but this one’s likely to go to his costar, Giancarlo Esposito.
CHRISTINE BARANSKI (The Good Wife, CBS)
Emmy Pedigree: With this year’s nomination, Baranski hits double-digits: it’s her 10th overall and third in succession for her role as Diane Lockhart on Good Wife. Her first four came in comedy supporting for her work in Cybill opposite Cybill Shepherd 1995-98. She’s won only once, on her first try in ’95. There have also been guest actress nominations for performances on Frasier (1999) and The Big Bang Theory (2009-10). Baranski has had better luck at the SAG Awards, winning three of those: in ’96 for Cybill, in ’97 for the comedy feature The Birdcage, and in ’03 for the Oscar-winning
What We Say: You can never completely rule out Baranski for any award she’s competing to win, particularly with the way her character on the series has grown and come into her own this past season. That said, she’s pitted against too many all-stars.
Emmy Pedigree: It’s the British-born Froggatt’s first Emmy nom for her role as the reserved head housemaid Anna, married to the valet Bates.
What We Say: The nomination for Froggatt surely was deserved. However, it’s tough to imagine a scenario where she could beat out the far better-known and charismatic Maggie Smith for the big prize here. Froggatt won’t.
Emmy Pedigree: As hard as it is to believe, this is Gunn’s first Emmy nomination after all of her years starring first on Deadwood and now on Breaking Bad. She previously chalked up a SAG cast nom for Deadwood in 2007 and Bad this year.
What We Say: No woman on television is delivering more riveting or consistent work than Gunn, but it’s true that she is a mite overshadowed by the greatness of the Breaking Bad men. Barring an unlikely Bad sweep, the nomination will have to be enough this time.
Emmy Pedigree: Hendricks is up for the third consecutive years as the complex Joan Holloway Harris, having also earned SAG ensemble wins in 2009 and ’10.
What We Say: It’s often said that what matters most when determining performing Emmys isn’t the season’s body of work but the single episode being considered. With that in mind, Hendricks suddenly looks like at least a cofavorite with Maggie Smith. If a Mad Men performer is ever going to win, this looks to be it.
Emmy Pedigree: This is her third straight nomination for her work as the mysterious, bisexual investigator Kalinda Sharma on Good Wife. Her win in the category two years ago in her first year of eligibility seemed to shock pretty much everyone. It gives hope to all of the other longshots on this year’s Emmy list. Panjabi has also earned SAG Award nominations as part of the Good Wife cast the past three years.
What We Say: While Panjabi already has won here before, the competition this year from both Maggie Smith and Christina Hendricks makes repeating extremely remote. Of course, with the TV Academy you just never know. They’ve surprised us before.
Emmy Pedigree: Heck, this lady has an Oscar pedigree, and a mighty impressive one: six nominations and a pair of wins (in 1970 as lead actress for The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie and in 1979 in supporting for California Suite). It happens that she has something of an identical record with the Emmys: six nominations, two wins. The first triumph came in 2003 as lead actress in a movie/miniseries for the HBO telefilm My House in Umbria. The second came last year as supporting actress in a movie/mini for playing the Dowager Countess in Downton Abbey. It’s rare, if not unprecedented, for a performer to win for the same role but in different categories. And no one would be at all surprised if she pulls it off.
What We Say: A compelling case can be made for giving another Emmy to Smith, and her chances remain roughly 50/50. But this feels like a year, and a category, for a Mad Men performer finally to break through.