For Your Consideration: Supporting Actresses – Elizabeth Mitchell and Melora Hardin

[In Week Two of Cultural Learnings’ 59th Annual Emmy Awards Nominations Preview, we’re looking at possible contenders for the Supporting Actress awards in both drama and comedy. Today, we present our first set of candidates. For last week’s Supporting Actor candidates, and an index of all candidates, Click Here]

Supporting Actress in a Drama

Elizabeth Mitchell (Juliet)

Lost

We first met Elizabeth Mitchell’s Juliet at the beginning of season three, as she became Jack’s all-purpose wrangler if you will. She brought him sandwiches, she played him Bob Dylan-style video tapes in an attempt to seize control, and she assisted in surgeries despite only being a fertility specialist. Throughout that six-episode mini-arc, this was all we knew about Juliet. Mitchell’s portrayal was certainly strong, but the character was just another Other as far as we could tell. However, with “Not in Portland” (The first episode back from hiatus), Juliet was thrust into the centre of the Others’ history, and Mitchell was up to the task. Throughout the remainder of the season, she became an intricate and powerful part of this ensemble, and at season’s end she was still as complicated and engaging as ever. Much like Michael Emerson, Mitchell had an incredibly tough task ahead of her. And, like Emerson, she stepped up to the plate with a performance worthy of Emmy consideration.

Juliet could have been a fairly mediocre character in the wrong hands. She has been used as a disruptive influence in the relationship between Jack and Kate, and became “the other woman” to the castaways as well when Jack brought her back to camp following their adventures. And yet, Mitchell always managed to create a character that we outwardly liked, even when they were doing somewhat evil things. When we learned that she was still working for Ben as she took Sun to the medical hatch, we as viewers wanted it to be false, wanted there to be some kind of explanation. Mitchell’s portrayal made us want to like her, something that could have been difficult considering who the Others are.

This season of Lost was all about humanizing the Others, providing them a perspective on this island. Without performance like Mitchell’s, I think the Others might have remained faceless villains, incapable of becoming part of the show’s mythology. Juliet became someone we outwardly liked through a complex back story, a relatable situation trapped between two sides, and by never completely showing her cards. The show asked a lot of Mitchell, and she stepped up every single time. I was never bored with Juliet, and I’m not sure I will ever be. Elizabeth Mitchell is now an integral part of Lost’s ensemble, and her ability to weave Juliet into the show’s complicated storyline is Emmy worthy.

Episode Selection: “One of Us” (Aired April 11th, 2007)

Juliet’s second episode worth of back story, One of Us is a tumultuous journey through her time on the island, coinciding with her present struggle to become part of the culture at the beach. It is a fantastic portrayal from Mitchell that gives her a wide range of scenes that would pull any Emmy voter into her direction. She has so many that I had an incredibly tough time picking just one. Her nervousness before she heads to the island? Her breakdown after yet another woman dies during childbirth? Her smackdown of Sayid and Sawyer as she gather the medical equipment? All of them are noteworthy, but the one I must showcase is where she confronts Ben about his tumour. He had promised to cure her sister of cancer, and yet he has it himself: Juliet is unpleased, and Mitchell’s portrayal is honest and just fantastic. This is an acting tour de force, and it cannot be ignored.

YouTube“One of Us”

Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Melora Hardin (Jan Levinson)

The Office

I believe that one of the greatest disservices of this television season was the character homicide of Jan Levinson on NBC’s The Office. After three seasons worth of strong, subtle performance from Melora Hardin, she was turned into a boob joke and a serious case of the crazies. While it provided some comedy, sure, what was always entertaining about Jan was how she walked the line between neurotic mess and corporate role model. Her relationship with Michael was her trying something new, trying to find stability where there was none. If she was the comedic form of humpty dumpty, she had a great fall at the end of the season. But, I hope that Emmy voters will be able to remember how to put Melora Hardin’s subtle and entertaining comic performance back together when it is time to submit their ballots.

This season has been one that has seen Jan handle a lot of tough situations, a majority of them involving her relationship with Michael. It was a brief affair in previous seasons, but it turned into something real in the show’s third season. And, the result of this was some of Hardin’s best performances, where she was able to finally embrace her neurotic qualities to a greater degree. She didn’t go over the top, however: her reactions were a natural extension of the Jan we saw in the past, except that we finally saw more of her life.And, to be fair, even as she descended further into her insanity, Hardin always entertained. Although I felt the material to be beneath the character, I cannot deny that Hardin acted the hell out of it. She rarely came front and centre, but when she did I believe that she became part of this ensemble. At the start of the season she was added as a full time cast member, and I believe that she lived up to this task. Melora Hardin may not be a household name, but her work on The Office this season is worthy of Emmy consideration.

Episode Selection: “Cocktails” (Aired February 22nd, 2007)

It is perhaps unsurprising that it is J.J. Abrams (Creator of Alias, Lost) that was able to get the best performance out of Hardin all season. Invited to a cocktail party held by the CFO of Dunder Mifflin, she and Michael arrive and she is in bad shape. This is Jan at the right level of neuroticism. She is certainly off the wall, attempting to sex up Michael in the bathroom and all, but it seems like an adverse reaction to stress as opposed to her insanity. When she drags on a cigarette after officially confirming her relationship with Michael with HR, you see a woman damaged. And yet, still, it seems like something boiling from beneath as opposed to exploding to the surface, a subtlety that makes this Hardin’s most Emmy worthy performance. (Note: while this episode encompasses much of the three seasons, the beginning and end are from Cocktails).

YouTube“Cocktails”

1 Comment

Filed under ABC, Award Shows, Emmy Awards, Lost, NBC, Television, The Office

One response to “For Your Consideration: Supporting Actresses – Elizabeth Mitchell and Melora Hardin

  1. Pingback: The 8+ Best Episode Submissions for the 2007 Emmy Awards « Cultural Learnings

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