EMMYS: Drama Guest Contenders

Paula Bernstein is an AwardsLine contributor.

A look at the leading Emmys contenders for drama guest roles this season.

Nathan Lane
WHAT: The Good Wife
WHY: “Why would I joke?” asks Nathan Lane’s Clarke Hayden, the trustee brought in to oversee Lockhart/Gardner and get the firm back on track. It’s a fitting question for Lane, who is better known for his comic delivery than for his dramatic chops. But, as the levelheaded Hayden, Lane forgoes the over-the-top theatrics and delivers a quiet performance that could earn him his first Emmy nom in a drama category (he’s been nominated previously for comedy guest roles on Frasier, Mad About You and Modern Family).
ONE-LINER: “I don’t like people who quit.”

Ray Romano
WHAT: Parenthood
WHY: As Hank Rizzoli, the blunt, socially awkward wedding photographer who woos Sarah Braverman, Ray Romano creates a character that is both misanthropic and romantic—not an easy feat. His complex, restrained performance makes us root for Hank in spite of, or perhaps because of, his neuroses. Although Romano was nominated six times in the lead actor category for Everybody Loves Raymond and won once (in 2002), he has never been nominated in a drama category.
ONE-LINER: “You’re pretty. You’re nice, and I like talking to you.”

Richard Thomas
WHAT: The Americans
WHY: Up until now, Richard Thomas has been best known for his lead role as John-Boy on The Waltons (for which he won in 1973), but that could change with the actor’s role as sturdy Agent Frank Gaad on The Americans, a performance that escalates in intensity as the season progresses. On a show where nobody is who he or she seems to be, Gaad is a straight shooter who, thanks to Thomas’ performance, we can believe.
ONE-LINER: “They kill us, we kill them. It’s the world we live in. But even in this world, there are lines that can’t be crossed.”

Jane Fonda
WHAT: The Newsroom
WHY: Fonda has described her character on The Newsroom as “Rupert Murdoch marinated in a little Ted Turner.” Playing the steely CEO of Atlantis Media, Leona Lansing, the former Mrs. Ted Turner (who previously won an Emmy for The Dollmaker in 1984) gives a performance that is understated and scene-stealing.
ONE-LINER: “What happened to human interest stories? Obesity, breast cancer, hurricanes, older women having babies, iPhones?”

Shirley MacLaine
WHAT: Downton Abbey
WHY: When Shirley MacLaine’s Martha Levinson sweeps into Downton Abbey’s third season as Cora’s forward-thinking American mother, she provides the ideal foil for Dame Maggie Smith’s Dowager Countess. Her showstopping performance could earn the veteran actress her first guest drama Emmy (she was nominated for a lead actress Emmy in 2009, for her portrayal of the title character in Lifetime’s TV movie Coco Chanel).
ONE-LINER: “It seems so strange to think of the English embracing change.”

Linda Cardellini
WHAT: Mad Men
WHY: When Cardellini appeared on Mad Men as Don Draper’s latest conquest, Twitter was abuzz. Could that really be fresh-faced Lindsay Weir from Freaks And Geeks? After we got over the initial surprise of seeing Lindsay/Linda all grown up, we marveled at her detailed portrayal of Sylvia Rosen, Don’s mystery neighbor-lover and Megan’s confidante. Cardellini’s coy performance added depth and intrigue to the role of the “other woman.”
ONE-LINER: “What do you want for this year?”

  1. Carrie Preston’s Elsbeth Tascioni on the Good Wife isn’t even mentioned. To be able to steal the show on a series with Julianna Margulies, Christine Baranski, Archie Panjabi, Alan Cumming, and Josh Charles, all of whom have seen some sort of Emmy love, is truly remarkable. She better at least be nominated, and really should win Guest Actress in a Drama.

    1. Love her character. She owns the screen when she is on. I love it everytime I see she is going to be in it. She is just amazing.
      Also Nathan Lane was so good. He never broke out silly or played it over the top. I have never seen him do serious, and I was impressed.

  2. I know he will likely be overlooked, but I think Lennie James deserves consideration for his one-episode appearance as Morgan Jones. He was really good as the crazed, grief-stricken Morgan and he did what guest stars should do: give the show a jolt of excitement and leave you wanting more.

  3. I love Shirley MacClaine as much as the next person, but she was wildly underserved by the lame Downton Abbey. The role was awful. Lennie James, Linda Cardellini should take this, with a nod to James Wohl as Bob Benson in Mad Men.

    1. Maybe I’m biased as an English person but I think Downton Abbey was far from lame up to and including the episodes you’re referring to.
      After that, especially the Christmas episode, I’d agree that there may be a degree of lameness (is that a word!!!) in the show.

  4. I would have thought Eddie Izzard would have a chance after his creepy but brilliant turn on Hannibal.

  5. Shirley MacLaine? Seriously? They propped her in the corner of the sofa most of the time. She had so little animation I thought she was a stunt double from a zombie flick. Maggie Smith was acting circles around her.

    1. They didn’t give her much at all to do on Downton, making me wonder why they even bothered having her there. It’s a role that in no way deserves a nomination, but that wasn’t MacLaine’s fault.

  6. Disappointed you didn’t include Wallace Shawn & Stockard Channing from THE GOOD WIFE, Gerald McRaney for SOUTHLAND and Diana Rigg for GAME OF THRONES.

  7. I have to agree with Ray Stevenson on Dexter. I haven’t seen many of the others. Shirley MacClaine was witty but a bit over the top for me on Downton Abbey.
    Of course, I haven’t felt good about worthiness of guest Emmy nods since David Dean Bottrell as Lincoln Meyers on Boston Legal a few years back got overlooked.

  8. How could you forget Laura Fraser as Lydia on Breaking Bad? Her scenes had me on edge.

    Also, Susan Misner as Mrs. Beeman on The Americans…the drunken scene in the kitchen was some of the best acting I’ve seen all year.

  9. I’d like to give a shout-out to just about ANYONE from Justified this year. Jim Beaver would probably be the MVP of the lot, but I also greatly enjoyed the work of Mike O’Malley and Patton Oswalt.

    The Good Wife gets so many great actors to show up. Nathan Lane is certainly the most deserving of recognition, but I won’t be surprised if Dylan Baker and Michael J. Fox get included again, seeing as how they’ve both been nominated twice before. Heck, I don’t think he’d make my list, but tt would be great if Matthew Perry scored a make-up nod for missing out last year.

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