60th Primetime Emmy Awards Preview: Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

The biggest news to emerge from the depths of the Emmy obsessed into mainstream media this year is certainly the news that last year’s winner in this category, Katherine Heigl from Grey’s Anatomy, is not in the running. That itself is a surprise, but it was her reasoning that has sent shockwaves through Hollywood. As she first told TheEnvelope.com’s Tom O’Neill, after GoldDerby reader KellyClarksonFan discovered the omission:

“I am truly grateful for the honor that the Academy bestowed upon me last year. I did not feel that I was given the material this season to warrant an Emmy nomination and in an effort to maintain the integrity of the Academy organization, I withdrew my name from contention. In addition, I did not want to potentially take away an opportunity from an actress who was given such materials.”

Now, the AP amongst others have taken this to its logical location: it’s a clear slap in the face to the show’s writers, and yet another moment where Heigl’s mouth has made more headlines than her acting ability. For the record, I think she’s right on the money in terms of the material she was given, but this is still a bit much. However, I choose to look at the positive side of this: with last year’s (arguably undeserving) winner gone, there’s more room for some of the fantastic candidates in this category.

And there are fantastic candidates: you have multiple candidates who are due for an Emmy win after numerous nominations, a few dark horses who won’t make the Top 10 but deserve recognition, one or two who might slip in based on series hype, and plenty of room for surprises at the top. And with Heigl gone, more of these deserving contenders have a shot.

Heigl’s absence doesn’t mean Grey’s will be shut out – on the contrary, there’s every chance that another of her co-stars will just take her place. Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson, respectively, are shoo-ins for the Top 10 based only on their pedigree and that depressing fact that neither of them have won the statue. Oh, in particular, has been nominated three years in a row and continues to come up empty handed. As long as she submits “The Becoming,” she’s got a shot at riding that losing streak to victory. Playing both comic and dramatic scenes, the episode returns her to the trauma of Preston Burke’s departure (Isaiah Washington, the other outspoken Grey’s cast member), and it bodes well for her award chances.

YouTube: Christina channels Madonna

Wilson, meanwhile, has a tape that’s a bit more traditional in its showiness. Placing her infant son in danger is perhaps the very definition of Emmy bait, and I’d feel worse about it if she wasn’t so fantastic. Wilson is often relegated to lesser roles in the series due to her character’s lack of romantic entanglements (A point she raised in “The Becoming”), but these showcase episodes more than make up for it in the end. “Lay Your Hands on Me” centers on her son’s injuries but mainly how Bailey blames herself, and her failing marriage, for the problem. She had a few other choices, but this is definitely her finest one.

YouTube: Bailey struggles to Find Blame

The show won’t even stop there – while she might have struggled before Heigl’s departure, Sara Ramirez could sneak into the Top 10. Her Tony-award might help her profile, and overcome that Callie has never quite felt like a real character until the end of this season where she had a bit more of a storyline to work with.

The other show with multiple candidates, though, could be in a similar position and might snap up that spot as well. ABC’s Brothers & Sisters is an acting powerhouse, and its second season could bring the show even more attention now that voters know it’s not going away any time soon. Rachel Griffiths has an Oscar nomination and multiple Emmy nods for Six Feet Under in her past, along with a nomination for her role as Sarah Walker last year. Based on what I’m watching, she really deserved one of those statues for Six Feet Under, so she could be working on the same path as Oh in that regard. Plus, she has “Domestic Issues,” an episode where she struggles to keep her children after her divorce turns ugly. However, since there’s no clips of that on YouTube, here’s her singing Cher.

YouTube: Sarah Believes in Love (And Divorce)

The show’s other main contender, Patricia Wettig, made the Top 10 last year, and has a great submission with “Moral Hazards” as she has to confront her daughter finding out the truth about her paternity. However, while I enjoy Wettig, it’s the daughter that deserves the spotlight. Emily VanCamp has done some amazing work in the season, fully emerging beyond the construct of her arrival (Long Lost Sibling) into becoming a fantastic player. Her relationship with Justin should have been cringe-worthy, but it was disgustingly watchable, and her confrontation with Wettig in the episode in question is honestly a better showcase for her. If they were to both make the Top 10, VanCamp’s submission of “Double Negative” combined with Wettig’s could very well net her a nomination, although her lack of name recognition could keep her off the list to begin with. Hopefully, like with Dave Annable, that doesn’t happen.

Youtube: Rebecca and Justin in Both Episodes


A similar situation could emerge on Dirty Sexy Money, where veteran Jill Clayburgh’s scenery chewing performance is likely to overshadow the fantastic Natalie Zea, who turned in a whole host of great performances all season long. Especially in the wedding episode, her submission, she nicely walked that line between hilarious and tragic, a combination that needs to be recognized more often.

YouTube: Karen Darling Falls Into Love and Out of Marriage

It’s also impossible to discount the factor of being the show with the most buzz heading into the awards season. Mad Men won two Golden Globes, but there wasn’t room for supporting players. Here, however, there will be: January Jones may not have been seen as an acting powerhouse, but as the season continued Betty Draper emerged as the show’s intriguing domestic heroine. While there are some who felt “Shoot,” one of my favourite episodes of the series, was her best choice, choosing “The Wheel” is still going to get her into the Top 10, and here’s hoping for more great things in the character’s future.

YouTube: Betty finds solace in a time of Need

There are a few other candidates who are likely to sneak in, including Rose Byrne from Damages (Who always underwhelmed me with an admittedly understated performance), Candice Bergen from Boston Legal (Riding the show’s success and her Emmy-winning past on Murphy Brown), and Yunjin Kim from Lost, but there’s two that I really hope are there. Connie Britton switched into the category this year after breaking the Top 10 but not the final six in Lead Actress last year. This time, with a category that cuts her screentime to appear more substantial and with less competition, she stands a much better shot at grabbing a nod. Her submission, “Bad Ideas,” has her dealing with a delinquent teenager, and my favourite TV slap of the year.

But yet my dark horse in the category is someone who won’t get in, but who certainly deserves it. The ladies of Battlestar Galactica have been doing amazing work for a while now, and while I commend Katee Sackhoff and Grace Park I think it’s Tricia Helfer who deserves the most attention. Her multiple different Sixes are intriguing enough, but “Guess What’s Coming to Dinner?” brought it to a whole new level with a stunning scene featuring two sixes. Sure, she won’t get a nomination, but she frakkin’ deserves a spot in the Top 10 even when that’s unlikely.

YouTube: One of the Season’s Best Scenes

Cultural Learnings’ Top 10 Prediction

*Rose Byrne (Damages)

*Connie Britton (Friday Night Lights)

*Chandra Wilson (Grey’s Anatomy)

*Sandra Oh (Grey’s Anatomy)

*Rachel Griffiths (Brothers & Sisters)

Patricia Wettig (Brothers & Sisters)

*January Jones (Mad Men)

Jill Clayburgh (Dirty Sexy Money)

Candice Bergen (Boston Legal)

Sara Ramirez (Grey’s Anatomy)



Filed under Emmy Awards

2 responses to “60th Primetime Emmy Awards Preview: Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

  1. Barry Kirkham

    Katherine Heigl deserved that Emmy last year. Her episode, “Time after Time”, was amazing and showed everyone why she truly is the best actor on that show every single week. Another episode that could have been submitted for her is “Drowning on Dry Land”. That speech she makes to Alex, George, and Cristina was extremely powerful and heartfelt. The emotions she portrayed in that scene were fantastic.

  2. tonester

    great list… buuut, amy brenneman…

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