[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 third set of candidates. For last week’s Supporting Actor candidates, and an index of all candidates, Click Here]
Supporting Actress in a Drama
Julie Benz (Rita)
Showtime’s Dexter is a fascinating character study, a drama that blurs the line between procedural and serial while investigating more its characters than its crimes. At the centre of that conflict, no doubt, is Dexter Morgan himself, but I have to hope that Emmy voters will be able to realize how important the supporting cast is to this series. Each of them portray a similarly damaged individual, just in different ways: there are no characters without some level of emotional distress, and they deserve to be considered. However, the nature of this series is that there is limited room, and decisions must be made. As a result, we shall consider Julie Benz, who portrays the emotionally damaged Rita. Attacked by her husband, raising her kids on her own, her relationship with Dexter is one of the show’s most important elements. As Rita’s own insecurities begin to evaporate, Dexter’s resurface. Benz matches the fabulous Michael C. Hall scene for scene, and the result is a powerful supporting performance worthy of Emmy consideration.
From the show’s very first episode, Rita’s character was clear: Dexter dated her because she was afraid of intimacy, having been assaulted by her husband. Benz brought to Rita a sense of insecurity that felt just as it needed to. She loves Dexter because he’s great with the kids, dependable, and an all-around good guy. She knows nothing of his vigilante justice, and that is what makes her character so powerful: she reacts to Dexter purely as a human being. But Dexter isn’t human, he’s damaged, and Rita is just an extension of that in his mind. This creates a gap: she believes them to be in one place, when inevitably he believes them to be in another.
As they came together throughout the season, eventually reaching much better terms, Benz remained the consummate supporting actress. Rita needed to be someone we can see Dexter loving, who we could see loving Dexter, and who we could see as someone damaged and yet trying to fight back. Benz managed to create someone who could be loved by a murderer, who could love a man who for some time could not show love, and who could be damaged at her core but hide it from her children. When she breaks down, it seems like she is shedding layers that she will pile right back on as soon as the discussion is over. Not enough people have seen Benz’s performance, perhaps, but more people need to be made aware: Dexter was one of the best new shows of the season, and Julie Benz was an integral part of the series’ dynamic.
Episode Selection: “Truth Be Told” (Aired December 10th, 2006)
While Dexter’s finale ended the season-long Ice Truck Killer mystery, it didn’t have room for a resolution for Rita. As a result, Truth Be Told was really the final hurrah for Rita within the season. And, for the most part, the episode provided her with a lot of dramatic movement: faced with a druggie ex-husband being framed by Dexter (Quite excessively, too), she has to balance her new relationship, her old one, and being a parent amidst it all. Unfortunately, I can’t use YouTube to show you that performance, but just imagine that it was powerful and vulnerable. It’s a good choice because there’s a torrent of frustration: her anger with Dexter never turns into a full-fledged fight, but their relationship is different from their happier moments. For the sake of something, here is one of those happier moments.
YouTube – “Rita and Dexter”
Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Perrey Reeves (Mrs. Ari)
Most television characters without a first name are unlikely to make a dent in our collective memories. Being known as “Mrs. Ari” in Entourage‘s credits certainly hasn’t given Perrey Reeves any sort of fame boost, and for the most part I would say that she’s a marginal player at best. However, and this is a big however, when she is on screen it is fabulous to watch. While Jeremy Piven rants away, giving Ari a sense of insanity and fortitude so very powerful, Reeves always matches him. Her responses are just as sharp-witted, just as biting, just as strong. She goes toe-to-toe with Ari in a way that often seems almost unnatural. We see so little of her life: we rarely see the kids, and we never see “Mrs. Ari” on her own. However, as a supporting player in the life of an overpowering character, she always manages to get a word in edgewise where so many others would not. And, for managing to do so without even a first name, Perrey Reeves deserves Emmy consideration.
It’s so strange to really only ever see a character in the context of a certain part of someone’s life. It makes it so episodes will go by without Mrs. Ari appearing, and often times that can make us forget her character even exists. However, some of the show’s most compelling moments are where we forget all of that Vince/Eric bullshit and let Ari’s character become the forefront. When this occurs, Reeves is always there to populate Ari’s universe with someone who won’t take his shit sitting down. Their exchanges are long-winded, angry, hateful, and yet within them lies some form of connection, even if it’s just their enjoyment in complaining about the other.I don’t think I was aware of the impact she had until she popped up for the first time in quite awhile late in Season 3. Suddenly, I realized that I had missed her, and that the show had been lacking in Ari family time. As much as Entourage is often billed as a show about Hollywood boys doing Hollywood things, Ari’s life has always given us a different glimpse. Mrs. Ari is a large part of that, and Perrey Reeves always ensures that she is the right amount nag, the proper amount confrontational, and just the perfect amount caring. She might not have a first name, or appear in every episode, but Perrey Reeves deserves Emmy consideration regardless.
Episode Selection: “Gotcha” (Aired April 29th, 2007)
In what has been her most substantial episodes thus far in the third season, Reeves gets some good material to play with when one of Ari’s frat brothers stops by. As he realizes his old friend, once a loser, is now richer than he is with a younger wife, Ari becomes terribly insecure and Mrs. Ari is there to pick up the pieces. She initially takes an “I told you so” point of view (Always a good one), but eventually Ari realizes he likes his own life (And his own wife) best. It’s the closest she had to a showcase episode all season, and it is a clear choice for her submission. Plus, as you will see below, she manages to do an entire season in her underwear without skipping a beat. That takes skill, I imagine.
YouTube – “Gotcha”