WARNING: This article contains several spoilers regarding TV series plot lines. Stop now if you don’t want to know who might have died in one of your favorite shows.
Could the sudden and shocking murder of Josh Charles’ character Will Gardner last night on The Good Wife actually turn out to be a smart move come Emmy time? The evidence is mounting that getting killed off a series might not be good for your bank account but could be a blessing in disguise for any successful Emmy campaign. Lately it seems that way. Charles is bound to get more attention awards-wise this season than ever, and the launch of the campaign might well be tonight when he makes a shrewdly timed appearance on Late Night With David Letterman. As Deadline’s Nellie Andreeva first reported last night, Charles wanted off the show and was convinced to stay through much of this season in order to tie up his storyline and kill off Will.
Although Charles has been with the show since the start in 2009, he has only one Emmy nomination for it — for Supporting Actor in a Drama Series in 2011. But things suddenly have been heating up for him this season, and he earned a Supporting Actor Golden Globe nomination as well as a People’s Choice Award for Actor in a Drama Series. His demise should only help things Emmy-wise.
Just consider last year in the Supporting Actor in a Drama Series Emmy contest. Boardwalk Empire’s Bobby Cannavale took the prize after his character Gyp Rosetti was offed. And he beat another nominee, Jonathan Banks, who played Mike in Breaking Bad. It was the first nomination for Banks for the series, and it took Mike’s death to get him there. The same scenario occurred the year before for another Breaking Bad co-star, Giancarlo Esposito, who met a memorable ending as Gus Fring and landed an Emmy nom (although he lost to fellow Breaking Bad co-star, Aaron Paul). Jared Harris, who played Lane on Mad Men, also landed his first Emmy nomination that same year in the category — but only after he hanged himself in his office.
Also last year, Scandal’s Dan Bucatinsky won a Guest Actor in a Drama Series Emmy as James Novak. Now it looks like he could do it again since he also was shockingly killed off last week on the show — earning lots of press coverage. No one expected the show’s only Emmy winner to take his last breath. He didn’t need to die for that first Emmy, but dying could help bring him a second one in a very competitive season.
The interesting thing is Charles and Bucatinsky are characters on long-running and popular network TV shows. Killing characters off usually is reserved for cable, which seems to enjoy bringing down the hatchet on actors. Think about the wonderful Margo Martindale, who met her maker after only one season as Mags Bennett on Justified. That great performance and that great death scene resulted in the veteran’s first Emmy. Joe Pantoliano won an Emmy after Ralph got knocked off by Tony Soprano in an epic 2003 fight. Michael Imperioli was another dead duck on that show after several Supporting Emmy nominations. In his case, though, the whack job didn’t pay off with a win. Will there be Emmy nominations in store this year for any number of other stars who died on cable in the likes of The Walking Dead, Game Of Thrones and Sons Of Anarchy? And what about poor Damian Lewis, whose popular character Nicholas Brody was hanged in the third-season finale of Homeland? Lewis won the Emmy for Best Actor in a Drama Series on his first try in 2012 but lost last year for what was generally regarded as a weak second season for the Showtime hit. Can spicing things up with his gruesome death bring him back onstage at the Nokia Theatre in August? Very possible.
There are so many examples. Can you think of others who deserve something for dying for their TV show? Of course it doesn’t always result in awards attention. Jessica Brown Findlay and Dan Stevens were both killed off on Downton Abbey, for instance, but neither drew Emmy attention for it. But still, television stars are quickly finding out what movie stars have known all along: Oscar history is littered with death scenes that resulted in a multitude of Academy Award winners. It is one of the key ways to nail that golden statuette. But dying in a continuing series has never really been the ticket to an Emmy. It could be now — especially since the broadcast networks have decided to join the killing season.