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« Box Office: Johnny Depp gets Scorched| Main| TIFF Quickies: 45 Years,Invisible,The Witch,and more...»
Sunday
Sep 20 2015

Emmy Watch: Actress in a Drama Series

Andrew herewith a final Emmy tribute before the Emmy Awards are announced tonight.

When we tallied ourlists of favourite nomineesit was Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series which was the most mentioned category and since all Film Experience writers and readers love actresses we devoted a special post to the category.In a few hours the category will see a new winner that will be historic in some way - a win to put Claire Danes among the most feted in this category?A rare win for a sci-fi show?A win for the first Black actress in this category?The first acting win forMad Menor the first win in a non-guest category for a Netflix show?Although popular vote will eventual coalesce among a single performer,each of these women in their submission reveals something special in their performances worth remembering.And,so,as a tribute to this talented sextet,our writers take a look at each of the nominees.

THE NOMINEES

CLAIRE DANES inHomelandas Carrie Mathison ("From A to B and Back Again")

(16 minutes or 36% of the episode)

Claire is,perhaps,the woman least likely to win this award just for the fact that the category is so filled with phenomenal woman andHomelandis not the sort of beloved show that will see her winning a third statue but even as she has about 16 minutes of screen time the performance is a forceful representation of why Carrie Mathison,and Danes portrayal of her,remains one of TV's most essential turns.The episode opens on her in bed with a young Pakistani,the nephew of a highly sought terrorist.She's playing him,pretending to be his lover to get closer to his terrorist.Except,Carrie is so difficult to read,we're never sure how much of her interaction with Aayan is sincere and how much is fictitious.The beauty of the performance is in its deliberate evasiveness and opaqueness.Alex Gansa's script never gives her a tongue-in-cheek monologue to express her feelings so Claire must telegraph her embarrassment,regret,guilt,aguish with just her face.The episode's climax comes when the recruit is gunned down by his uncle as he reveals he's kidnapped Carrie's former boss.In typicalHomelandfashion the moral lines are blurred as Carrie insists they get a drone to blow up the vehicle of the departing terrorist,Saul's not withstanding.The episode avoids convention by closing with no cathartic moment where we see things from Carrie's perspective or see her weakened,instead it ends on frustration – a woman  unravelling feeling myriad feelings all at once.It's always been Carrie Mathison's dilemma,overwhelmed with emotion that often threatens to fell her.It's one of the reason'sHomeland's fourth season has been so thrilling pushing in darker and thornier places and it's why Danes performance has been the centre of that.She won't win the Emmy but that's an incidental footnote in the genesis of this performance.It's deep,corrosive,intelligent work the type of performance layered with emotion that reveals greater gradations each time you watch.(ANDREW)

VIOLA DAVIS inHow to Get Away With Murderas Annalise Keating ("Whack-A-Mole")

(15 minutes or 36% of the episode)
We here at The Film Experience are big Viola fans (this is why亚博主页 news of her HBOFencesprojectis bittersweet: we need her back on the big screen!).And so,we dutifully watched all most of How to Get Away with Murderthis past year,and even correctly guessed which episode she would most likely submit to the Emmys.Thankfully,while HTGAWMis presented in the small screen,Viola will not be denied her close-up and she is clearly acting for the BIG SCREEN. For you see,while Annalise Keating may not be a greatcharacter (the writing asks her two function within two schematic modes: ruthless lawyer/tortured wife),Viola has surely been able to flesh her out in ways I couldn't fathom possible when I first started watching the show.In "Freakin' Whack-a-Mole"she gets to play those two aspects of Annalise to such a degree that I'll be surprised if she doesn't walk away with the award: Emmys after all,love themselves a good lawyer speechifying and achieving justice (which Annalise does in the episode,saving a death row convict after winning an appeal).Just ask any David E.Kelley actor.Oh,and did we mention the case is wrapped up in some higher up government cover-up involving a white Senator disenfranchising an African-American neighborhood?That is what we call timeliness and social commentary,something which has never hurt performances gunning for awards.This episode may not have the gravitas of Viola's amazing wig-tearing scene(or the instantly iconic "9 words"which followed it),but we do have some emotional and powerful scenes at home that allow Davis to show a fully fleshed out character,especially in her interactions with Wes and Sam.As we know,range is king when it comes to Emmy submissions.That her win would make her the first African-American winner in the Best Actress Drama category is surely a statistic that will pale in comparison with the powerhouse performance that will have won Davis her very first Emmy.( MANUEL)

TARAJI P.HENSON inEmpireas Cookie Lyon ("Pilot)

(14 minutes or 31% of the episode)

Despite receiving a Best Supporting Actress Oscar nomination for 2008'sThe Curious Case of Benjamin Buttonand previous acclaimed work in television and film,it's safe to say that with her breakout role as the delightfully gonzo matriarch of the record label ruling Lyons clan in the ratings juggernautEmpirethat Taraji P.Henson has had the kind of year that actresses wait their entire career for.And with this trash-talking,animal print-sporting badass,Henson throws herself into the role of Cookie so completely,surprising you with what she'll say or do next,that it's hard to imagine any other actress bringing her to life in quite the same way.She's clearly having the time of her life and allows the audience to share in the delirious fun.Henson might have had more shocking moments in later episodes of the season,but in submitting the Pilot episode for her Emmy nom,she's clearly letting the voters know that she had the character down from the very beginning,so in tune with Cookie that Henson apparently ad-libbed one of the show's most memorable lines ("Boo Boo Kitty"),making it an instant internet sensation.Bursting on to the scene as she's busted out of jail ("Cookie's coming home") and quickly establishing the complicated relationships she has with each of the main characters (combative with youngest son Hakeem,compassionate with middle son Jamal,and conniving with eldest Andre),she begins her power play to secure her place on top.But the limits of the Pilot episode never fully allows Henson to play anything as a dynamic as her fellow nominees in this category.In spending so much time introducing us to all the players,Henson is in a relatively small amount of the show's run time.It's entirely due to Henson's charisma and energy that it makes it feel like she dominates the episode,forcing the Emmy voters to take notice.They were probably too afraid of what Cookie would do to them had theynotnominated her…   (ABSTEW)

TATIANA MASLANY inOrphan Blackas Sarah,Alison,Helena,Cosima and Rachel ("Certain Agony of the Battlefield")

(20 minutes or 49% episode)

Maslany's work onOrphan Blackis more than just the sum of multiple clones she plays.Three seasons in audiences for the show are so accustomed to the specific depth she brings to each of these women it seems hardly momentous.But,even as Maslany is just fulfilling the task required of her,it bears repeating how specific each of these women are in their foibles.As a submission,this episode pales in some ways because it features scant moments of the clones interacting (it's always been a specific joy watching Maslany out-act herself),but the episode features key moments for Sarah,Rachel and Alison with appearances from Beth,Cosima and Helena.The greatness of her work here,is that,in typicalOrphan Blackfashion,no clone is on the same emotional level so while Cosima is playing in a romance,and Alison in some heightened farcical comedy Sarah is having intensely dramatic near death moments and Rachel is dealing with regret.As an Emmy submission that offers Tatiana a leg up not just playing multiple but playing multiple styles and techniques,showcasing so much of her range.Although she's in the greatest percentage of her episode,it's odd that Tatiana didn't submit an episode more focused on the clones instead of other characters but like her fellow nominees it's highly possible Tatiana submitted more for a specific moment than general screen-time.The Paul/Sarah romance has always been an arc that has been polarizing but as it comes to an end in this episode Sarah's real anguish at the denouement present some of Maslany's finest work opposite Dylan Bruce.Will it be enough for the statue?Who knows?But this is a more than worthy submission.(ANDREW)

ELISABETH MOSS inMad Menas Peggy Olson ("Person to Person")

(9 minutes or 15 % episode)

The first time we see Peggy in "Person to Person"she's dressed like a Coca-Cola.Donning a blood red skirt and jacket combo that remind us how little she has advanced sartorially from the frumpy secretary we first met eight years ago...except now,she's in control.Her voice is being heard by the men she once feared,and as much as the first part of the episode tries to convince us she's extremely concerned about Don's vanishing,we know that Peggy has more important things to deal with.By the next time we run into her towards the end of the episode,she has become Don,she is sitting Draper-style with a cigarette in hand and a bottle next to her."Get the door"she snaps at Stan.  When she hears from Don later,she realizes she doesn't want to be him,she simply can't allow herself to be him.When she wisely suggest "I don't think you should be alone right now",she's speaking to Don as much as she is speaking to herself.Many were surprised by Peggy's "sudden"realization that she loved Stan,but Moss' pithy delivery - the things she does with her eyes,goddammit!- made us see that this was the first time Peggy had allowed herself to actually feel her feelings.It's a terribly unshowy performance,but from a very delicate emotional place she is able to convey an entire dramatic arch using as little flourishes as possible.Not only did Moss allow Peggy to be more efficient at dealing with the "can women have it all"-dilemma she was trying to express in an inefficient production ofThe Heidi Chronicleson Broadway;in less than nine minutes of screen time she also showed us all of Peggy's arch in the show.   (JOSE)


ROBIN WRIGHT inHouse of Cardsas First Lady Claire Underwood ("Chapter 32")

(21 minutes or 42% of the episode)

Claire Underwood stares out the window of Air Force One and gazes at the Northern Lights.A loving close up telling viewers who this episode is about.From then on she spars with the Russians,engages in philosophical discussion about marriage,politics and belief systems with the incarcerated American journalist she's come to try and release,gets to be both tender and vile with her husband.All of this culminating in that big outburst at the press conference.It's a great showcase episode that gets most of its strength from the simmering slow burn of emotions throughout.Wright never raises her voice,stays calm and then boom erupts in the final minutes with a righteous indignant speech delivered with fury,albeit measured.That her delivery is measured is the one obstacle that is preventing this from being a dynamite can't lose submission.Viewers,and Emmy voters,probably have seen a lot of fiery speeches.This is different.It is however completely in character for Claire Underwood.The performance,in general and particularly in this episode,is a perfect mesh of character and actress.Wright doesn't go for histrionics or unnecessary theatrics.She doesn't lose the character thread just to showboat.Ultimately that's probably why she won't win.   (MURTADA)

Who do you think submitted best?Who are you rooting for tonight?

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Reader Comments (17)

I haven't seen Danes or Wright,but between Davis,Henson,Moss and Maslany,you really can't go wrong.If any of them win,it will be a deserving winner.But since this is Moss' last chance for this character,I'm kind of rooting for her.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

I know one of Davis and Henson will win it and either one would be wholly deserving.But how can I not root for Moss during her last Emmy chance until she becomes a big movie star?Hoping she pulls it off.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterRyan T.

I'm rooting for Moss,but I'll be happy if Taraji takes it.It's kind of tough for me to decide between the two of them,honestly.

Keri Russell should have been here,though!

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterSuzanne

I didn't know that TV actors got nominated for specific episodes.Shouldn't it be for the entire season?

(Moss deserves this,as does Hamm and Hendricks in their categories)

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterBVR

I love Moss but she wasn't given the meat in these final episodes that The other nominees were.She has no "Suitcase"this season;if she wins it'll be for past seasons.Maslany deserves the win most I think but Wright (who is so far away the most compelling performer on her show this season) and Teraji would both be worthy winners.I wont speak of Danes as I haven't seen this season.Davis is wonderful but the writing fails her.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterAnonny

Rooting for Robin Wright: she gives an excellent performance in one of the very best House of Cards episodes ever.(And I love Viola Davis,but HTGAWM,as long as enjoyable,is such a mess of a show...)

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterStefano

GO COOKIE!!!!

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterSteven

Strongest lineup in years,if not ever.All would be a deserving winner,though part of me wonders if the amount of screen time factors into voters' decisions?The difference between 9 minutes and 20 seems extreme for "lead"actresses.Thoughts on that?

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterJames

Viola Davis.After the death in the family defeat she received in 2011 for The Help --- I as a fan could use a pick me up.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered Commenter3rtful

Peggy Olson is one of the best female characters I have ever seen on TV.I'll be rooting for Elisabeth Moss.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Olson

Can't we just have a four way tie because while Danes and Wright are the best parts of shows I just can't with anymore compared to the other four I just don't care about them and they've been better before.Moss has had my heart as Peggy since season one and personally I think she should have two of these awards for the Suitcase and for the first half of season seven where Peggy had her don transformation episode.Moss is about to take over the film world and when she wants to do stage rule in that too so giving her the emmy in the year when she received her first tony nomination and is brilliant in Queen of Earth would be so great but sadly if the show has any chance at winning it's FIRST acting award it's Hamm.Tatiana Maslany finally earning a nomination after 2 years of not feels so good.While she is just as great as she's been from moment one there is a sci-fi bias that will keep her from actually winning although they seem to love actors playing multiple characters which Maslany does better then most.Viola Davis is Viola Davis and while I wasn't much of a fan of the show or her "leading"performance she's one of our greater actors and having to take on this role is sad because she deserves so much better.Davis will always be an actors favourite so maybe she wins but I feel that if history is going to made it's Taraji P.Henson who like Davis is also an oscar nominee which is never made of Henson when people discuss her chance of winning.Cookie Lyon and Henson are so connected that it feels so right to reward Henson for her work which is impressive but also she Cookie and Henson seemingly have saved network television.

In conclusion I want the four women I love to win but I guess that with this being Moss' last chance for Mad Men (she'll be up again I'm sure for Top of the Lake season 2) I would want her to win because Peggy Olson is a character like no other that can never be repeated and Moss' performance is so much Peggy that Moss,Hamm and Hendricks all winning would be the dream.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterEoin Daly

I can't speak to the other nominees and I wish them good luck,but I appreciate the recognition above of Claire Danes great work in Homeland.Carrie is a fantastic,complicated role and Claire does consistently stellar work.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

The winner has an "I"in her name.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterMinerva

Minerva -- you are psychic.your words will become truth tonight.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterNATHANIEL R

What a great category,all are deserving.I hope it's Maslany and if not then Davis.

I'm not sure about the submission episode though,it probably plays better to regular watchers than as a one off,I think maybe 3.01 would have been better as she has that incredible double cloneswap scene.But it is a good episode nonetheless!

September 20,2015 | Unregistered Commenterbrooooke

Moss should have submitted Time and Life.

That episode with the kids was just painful to watch.Moss is a master in hinting repressed emotions just to let them go,slowly.

(Remember that "I'm not perfect,Pete"revelation,of The Suitcase,or the way she quits in The Other Woman,or the goodbye hug with Julio,or,of course,the reconciliation in The Strategy).

Moss is the best by a landslide.But since this is extremely subtle work and she's not winning,I want Taraji.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

The folks at Goldderby forum are basically clawing each other's eyes while discussing about this topic,y'all know,just like us when tallking 'bout the oscar's best actress race.LOL
I only have seen Danes,Davis and Henson,and would nevertheless LOVE it if one of them or Robin Wright wins.

September 20,2015 | Unregistered CommenterFadhil

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