Here’s another category in which a pair from Ava DuVernay’s When They See Us will be competing against each other, as well as a formidable field of three veterans with Oscar-worthy careers, and one 20-year-old who has been in the business almost as long as they have. Like Lead Actor in a Limited Series/Movie, all six nominees here come from Limited Series, which is another example of why the traditional TV movie performance that used to dominate these categories is all but dead when it comes to Emmy recognition.
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As a journalist who comes back to her hometown and gets caught up in a murder investigation, this very complex performance in the HBO series marks the first Emmy nomination for Adams; an actress who has spent most of her time in recent years getting nominated for Oscars; six of them, in fact. She hasn’t won there yet, and might find it just as tough to win at the Emmys. But this performance deserves a shot to be sure.
Escape at Dannemora
Arquette has been cleaning up by taking home a Golden Globe and SAG Award for her role as a prison employee lured into helping two inmates escape. Arquette is also a nominee in a supporting role for The Act opposite Joey King, with whom she competes in this category. It all makes for a twisted Emmy night for this past Oscar and Emmy-winning star, but she is probably the frontrunner here.
When They See Us
As Sharon Salaam, one of the mothers in this true account of the accused group of young men known as the Central Park Five, Ellis had to play a real woman whose life was virtually destroyed by the cruel fate thrown at her son. Like the rest of the cast, she is excellent in the role, but faces an uphill climb for the Emmy win, both due to the level of competition, and because she’s competing against a co-star—never an easy thing to do.
Joey King—just 20, but a showbiz vet since the age of four—may be competing against co-star Patricia Arquette who plays her mother in this tragic true story, but as Arquette is in this category for another project altogether, it’s especially interesting to see how it will play out. King, shaved head and all, is remarkable, taking on the traits of a young daughter driven to murdering her extremely over-protective mother. She nails every aspect of it in this harrowing story.
When They See Us
As the mother of Korey Wise in this true story of five young men accused of a violent crime, Nash is in the same boat as her nominated co-star Ellis, who joins her in this category, as they both play parents of the wrongly convicted boys. So how do you choose, even if Nash’s role is particularly poignant, since her son, unlike the others, got shipped off to Rikers Island prison with the rawest deal of all? It is probably a toss-up between them, and that means likely no Emmy win.
Although her storied career started in television with the series Dawson’s Creek, Williams has since been predominantly recognized for the big screen work that garnered her four Oscar nominations. However, in her return to TV, with this stunningly good look at the marriage and professional union of Bob Fosse and Gwen Verdon, Williams shows incredible versatility in channeling the multi-talented singer/dancer/actress/choreographer Verdon. It is a bravura turn, and worthy of an Emmy in any year.
Since Patricia Arquette is more likely to win for Lead Actress rather than her supporting turn in The Act, despite being deserving of both, let’s look at the competition. Marsha Stephanie Blake and Vera Farmiga both make impressions in When They See Us, but eight members of that cast got Emmy nods so it just might be too difficult to decide who gets an Emmy when they all have to compete in one way or another. Margaret Qualley is quite fine in Fosse/Verdon, but that’s a series belonging lock, stock and barrel to its title stars. British actress Emily Watson was superb in Chernobyl and has a real shot of winning here, but so does well-liked veteran Patricia Clarkson, who so perfectly played Amy Adams’ patrician mother in Sharp Objects.
WINNER: Patricia Clarkson, Sharp Objects