For Your Consideration: Supporting Actresses – Adrianne Palicki and Becki Newton

[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 sixth set of candidates. For last week’s Supporting Actor candidates, and an index of all candidates, Click Here]

Supporting Actress in a Drama

Adrianne Palicki (Tyra)

Friday Night Lights

In a sea of supporting actress candidates, selecting Adrianne Palicki for Friday Night Lights was difficult. Much of my praise for Zach Gilford last week actually doesn’t apply to Palicki at all: his performance is about subtlety and teenage anxiety, whereas Tyra Collette is brash and acts far closer to Palicki’s real age of 24. However, what I realized as the season went on is that Tyra is a character with a great deal of depth beyond her apparent surroundings. While early season storylines had her sleeping with young oil executives (Which was sketchy for a 17-year old and never quite fit), she developed into a much stronger character as the season wore on. She may have been that bad girl who was on the wrong side of the tracks, but by midseason she was the girl who acted tough because her life was falling apart around her. While she might not excel at playing a teenager, Adrianne Palicki excelled at playing a girl who faced trouble with her head held high until she just couldn’t handle it anymore. And that performance is worthy of Emmy attention.

Tyra is the requisite bad girl, in direct contrast to Minka Kelly’s sugar sweet Lyla Garrity. She’s the bad influence on the coach’s daughter Julie, the love interest for resident bad boy Tim Riggins, the object of the nerdy Landry’s desires, and the special project for Guidance Counselor Tami Taylor. However, somehow Palicki managed to make each of these relationships incredibly compelling. Her scenes with Julie were playful, being just subversive enough without being deplorable. Her relationship with Riggins is complicated, with her feelings being varied and wavering at a realistic pace. Her scenes with Landry provided some great comedy late in the season, and working with Tami showed the bad girl side of Tyra breaking down.

And yet, I think the scene that I most enjoyed was Tyra heading into Jason Street’s hospital room with a bottle of liquor and shooting the shit while getting plastered. She was there to make a statement, screw with Lyla’s head, and yet she never quite took it to the level of outright “I’m going to screw your boyfriend”. She was this bad girl, so capable of being so, and yet she had some sense of a moral guideline. That moral guideline became even more clear as her academic future and her strained relationship with her mother became clear, including her battles with her boyfriends. Suddenly, her early season actions gained context they did not have before, and the result was that Palicki’s performance seemed that much better in hindsight. She is no household name, but Palicki crafted a character in a way that is worthy of Emmy consideration.

Episode Selection: “Mud Bowl” (Aired March 28th, 2007)

I don’t want to call this episode Emmy bait, because that takes away from Adrianne’s strong performance…but it was Emmy bait. Waiting for Landry at a fast food joint in the pouring rain, Tyra encounters a rather creepy male. As Landry is late, Tyra gets up to leave and is followed by the man who attempts to rape her. She fights him off with a cigarette lighter, and falls into Landry’s arms as he arrives. Palicki’s performance in the episode is incredibly powerful in what could have been a tough storyline to pull off, and she’s also great in the rest of the episode as she warms up to Landry and all of his charm. To see this “bad girl” devolve into a mess following this traumatic situation was one of those moments where you realized how real Friday Night Lights was, and Palicki’s portrayal of Tyra is what makes that possible in this episode. But since that scene can’t be watched, here’s a scene of Tyra interacting with Matt and Landry.

YouTube “Mix Tape”

Supporting Actress in a Comedy

Becki Newton (Amanda)

Ugly Betty

A lot of what I discussed about Michael Urie’s performance in Ugly Betty goes as well for Becki Newton. She was also introduced as a catty coworker who would attack Betty mercilessly, and was as one-dimensionally funny as a character could get early in the season. However, like Marc, Amanda grew throughout the season into someone more caring, compassionate, fragile. Perhaps realizing that Betty wasn’t herself interesting enough to carry every storyline, B Plots began going the way of Marc and Amanda, and the result was three-dimensional characters that stood on their own accord. While she might not be a big name like Vanessa Williams, Becki Newton was always up to the task of being a vicious critic when necessary while always being able to show Amanda’s more sensitive side. That ability to balance conniving and concerned, caring and villainous, puts Newton into consideration for an Emmy Award.

It actually makes sense for Amanda to be angry with Betty; she is taking what she believes to be rightfully hers, the assistant job with Daniel Meade. An office fling between the two placed her within his inner circle in her own eyes, and when Betty was transplanted in Amanda was understandably bitter…and jealous. As her motives became clear, Amanda became a character who was more sympathetic than she was deplorable. Suddenly, it all made sense: she was jealous of Betty, she was acting out, and it was that jealousy that led to a majority of her reactions. The end of season revelation that Amanda might in fact be linked to the season’s core soap opera mystery was almost unnecessary, I was already convinced she was important to this cast.However, Newton needs to be recognized as a true work horse: in a midseason episode, she pulled double duty by playing both Amanda and Betty’s new co-worker up a floor. [Youtube = http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JaM%5D I think that this showed Newton’s true abilities more than any other episode, because it so clearly displayed her ability to delve into her character. Unfortunately, it would be very tough for voters to understand that in a single episode. They will be drawn in by Amanda’s cattiness, her charm, and her vulnerable moments. If they see those, I believe that Becki Newton will most certainly be considered for an Emmy Award.

Episode Selection: “Fake Plastic Snow” (Aired November 30th, 2006)

This episode was the one where I think Amanda’s true inspirations became clear. With the news that Betty’s job will be opening, Amanda kicks it into high gear to prove herself worthy of replacing her. Amanda goes out of her way to run interference at the Christmas Party to protect Daniel, even while getting one of his potential engagement rings stuck on her finger. The episode is the closest thing she got to a showcase for her more sensitive side, but I worry that it’s not quite funny enough. Still, in terms of discovering Amanda’s arc in the overall series, I believe that this is the most representative episode. And, well, it could be the episode that garners the young actress an Emmy nomination. But since I think you should see the whole arc, here’s a nice YouTube Montage of her comedy bit before moving onto the brief clip from the episode.

YouTube“Ugly Betty – Amanda”

YouTube – “Fake Plastic Snow”

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Filed under ABC, Award Shows, Emmy Awards, Friday Night Lights, NBC, Television, Ugly Betty

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