[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 second set of candidates. For last week’s Supporting Actor candidates, and an index of all candidates, Click Here]
Supporting Actress in a Drama
Autumn Reeser (Taylor)
I’m basically going really far out on a limb here, but there is a definite theme with today’s selections and Autumn Reeser fits right in. Introduced as a stuck up villain for Mischa Barton’s Marissa who hooked up with the evil Dean Hess (It was embrassing for all involved), Taylor was a character left as almost purely one-dimensional…but then something happened. As the third season progressed, she began to change; her mother was seen as a tyrant, and she began to pursue a friendship with Seth, Summer and the gang. As the show progressed into its 4th season, now Marissa free, Autumn Reeser was made a regular cast member. And, as a result, she became the scene stealer the show was clearly looking for. She was smart, funny, insanely charming, and she managed to make a relationship between Taylor and Ben McKenzie’s Ryan work far better than it should have. Basically, Autumn Reeser was one of the main reasons for The O.C.’s creative resurgence, and even though it’s a long shot and I once found her insufferable, I am going to put her under consideration for an Emmy Award.
The challenge for any new regular cast member, even one who was recurring before, is integrating into the existing cast. This, it seems, was Reeser’s calling. She managed to have memorable scenes with pretty much every single character. She had fantastic banter with Kirsten and Sandy, unconventional girl talk with Summer, the usual humour from Seth, and, of course, an actual relationship with Ryan. There was even some fantastic Julie/Taylor moments in there as well. And every single time, she stole the scene: when Taylor was in a scene, chances are she was the focal point.
And yet, Reeser always gave her a certain vulnerable side, never quite becoming entirely the neurotic mess Taylor usually is. On a show that often fell apart, Taylor was always consistent in her actions, and I think that any Emmy voters who see an episode of The O.C. for Emmy consideration will see her as a shining beacon of hope amongst teen soapiness. Even as an admitted fan of the show this season, I know that she has little chance of standing out. But, she basically knocked every scene out of the park, and in terms of supporting performances I can’t help but consider her seriously. A lot of things saved The O.C. this year, but Autumn Reeser deserves a large portion of the credit.
Episode Selection: “The Sleeping Beauty” (Aired November 30th, 2007)
This episode isn’t actually her Emmy submission, as she decided to submit one of the more dramatic performances from the utterly awful story arc with her French husband showing up. However, this early season episode proved to me that this reboot of the show could work, and basically make the Taylor/Ryan relationship believable in one fell swoop. She has funny scenes with the Cohens, with Kaitlin Cooper, and of course with Ryan. She is funny, engaging, heartbroken, nervous…it’s a tour de force performance, and isn’t all caught up in annoying French husbands like she is in The French Connection. She manages, here, to be an emotional connection for the audience. The fact that she makes a contrived relationship work in this manner is deserving of Emmy attention, simple as that.
YouTube – “The Sleeping Beauty”
Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Jane Krakowski (Jenna)
I have said some unkind things in the past about Jane Krakowski’s Jenna. I believe, at multiple points, I wondered whether she was really necessary for the show’s dynamics after she was absent for a few weeks. And, to be honest, the show was better without her. However, in retrospect, I think that my favourite 30 Rock episodes feature Jenna in some capacity. It’s weird, because while I dislike her character in comparison to Liz, Jack, Tracy…she’s still a part of this cast. She’s almost always the butt of the joke, but I think that you need someone like that to be around. Often the victim of poor writing, when the writing was good Krakowski always lived up to the material. While part of me feels she was extraneous to the show’s best elements, the episodes that featured her brought some of the show’s best comedy. It wasn’t the most individualistic comedy performance of the year, but I think it should at least be considered.
What made Jenna so annoying is that she doesn’t really have a place within the cast. Tina Fey is the real female centre of the show, with her neurotic behaviour and yet still professional in her outlook. Alec Baldwin is the authority figure, a little off the wall but still an executive. And Tracy’s just batshit crazy. Jenna, as a result, has no role. She’s too stupid to be taken seriously like Liz, not absurd enough to be like Tracy, and has no real authority. Just as she was pushed out of the show within a show by Tracy Jordan’s arrival, so too was Krakowski pushed out of the limelight on the show itself. I think my dislike for her character came from this sense of her being lost in the role, meandering along.
And yet, when Krakowski was asked to play the character in a major way, she always stepped up. Her smaller roles were often one-note, but when she had the ability to create an arc Jenna felt real, natural. Sure, she was unsufferable, but that was kind of the point. She was stupid, but that was also part of her character. While I think that the writers could have done a better job finding her a consistent role, when they asked her to shine she did. For every annoying appearance or two, there was an episode-ending performance of Muffin Top (Feat. Ghostface Killah). And for that, and other moments of brilliance, Jane Krakowski should be considered for an Emmy award.
Episode Selection: “Hard Ball” (Aired February 22nd, 2007)
I ranked it as the 3rd best episode of February Sweeps, and Jane Krakowski’s performance is a big part of that. Sure, she was playing her usual character, but in the end I think that without her performance the episode might not have worked. This was naïve Jenna at her finest, and the political turmoil boiled over into something actually entertaining for a change. This was the episode that, in retrospect, should have shown that 30 Rock has room for an out of touch female actress struggling to find her place in a show that she once owned. It wasn’t subtle, it wasn’t deep, but it was funny. And I can’t fault her for that.
YouTube – “Hard Ball”