For Performers, ManyAre Called, Few Are Chosen

Thanks to expanding palette of shows, Emmy acting races tighter than ever
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Television has never been more competitive, with acclaimed shows airing everywhere from NBC to HBO to Netflix. That extends to the Emmy nominations, which is perhaps why it’s not uncommon to see movie stars such as The Following’s Kevin Bacon, House of Cards’ Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright, House of Lies’ Don Cheadle, The Newsroom’s Jeff Daniels, The Borgias’ Jeremy Irons and others in the mix.

“I was a snob about television in general,” says Bacon. “When I started out I was making movies, and that was the end, game over. And then I was like, 'I’m interested in television, but only premium cable.’ And then Breaking Bad came out and I said, 'OK, maybe I’ll be on FX or AMC.’ Finally, I read some broadcast scripts and was like, ‘Don’t be an a--hole. This is good stuff.’ The whole experience has been really satisfying.”

Bacon is an Emmy contender in the competitive lead actor drama category that includes Breaking Bad’s threetime winner, Bryan Cranston, widely considered to be the lead dog in the race again; Homeland’s Damian Lewis, last year’s winner; Mad Men’s Jon Hamm, nominated for the past "ve years; Justified’s Timothy Olyphant; Downton Abbey’s Hugh Bonneville; and Spacey, Irons and Daniels.

Things don’t get easier for the women. Support is growing for newcomer Tatiana Maslany, star of BBC America’s Orphan Black, as lead actress in a drama. Last year’s winner, Homeland’s Claire Danes, remains a leading candidate. Other likely nominations from cable include The Americans’ Keri Russell and Mad Men’s Elisabeth Moss. House of Cards’ Wright also could be among the nominees announced July 18.

On broadcast, potential nominees include The Good Wife’s Julianna Margulies, who won in 2011; Kerry Washington, star of social media darling Scandal; Downton Abbey’s Michelle Dockery; and Nashville’s leading lady, Connie Britton.

The strong dramas include a passel of great supporting performances, but male standouts include Breaking Bad’s two-time winner, Aaron Paul; Game of Thrones’ Peter Dinklage, 2011’s winner; Homeland’s Mandy Patinkin; House of Cards’ Corey Stoll; and The Newsroom’s Sam Waterston.

Among the women, last year’s winner, Downton Abbey’s Maggie Smith, will remain hard to beat. Smith is likely to be joined by Breaking Bad’s Anna Gunn, The Good Wife’s Archie Panjabi and Mad Men’s Christina Hendricks.

One critical and fan favorite is Parenthood’s Monica Potter, who this year won the Critics’ Choice Award for best supporting actress in a drama. Potter portrays Kristina Braverman, who last season fought breast cancer. The story line emerged because Parenthood executive producer Jason Katim’s wife faced the disease and Potter had her own scare— which thankfully turned out to be only that.

“I emailed Jason immediately after I got that news and he emailed me right back and said, ‘Monica, I have the chills, we just broke that story in the writer’s room,’” Potter recalls.

Enter Laughing

Switching to comedy, the top male contenders appear to be two-time winners Alec Baldwin (30 Rock) and The Big Bang Theory’s Jim Parsons; Two and a Half Men’s Jon Cryer; Louie’s Louis C.K.; House of Lies’ Don Cheadle; and Arrested Development’s Jason Bateman, which would be particularly sweet with Netflix reviving that show after it had been off the air for seven years.

Among the women, HBO’s two comedy doyennes—last year’s winner, Veep’s Julia Louis-Dreyfus, and Girls’ Lena Dunham—are expected to face off. They will likely be joined by Parks & Recreation’s Amy Poehler, 30 Rock’s Tina Fey, New Girl’s Zooey Deschanel, The Mindy Project’s Mindy Kaling and Nurse Jackie’s Edie Falco, who won in 2010.

The supporting comedy acting categories are again expected to be dominated by the cast of Modern Family. One of the Modern Family men has won for the past three years in a row. Among the women, Julie Bowen won the past two years, while Glee’s Jane Lynch was 2010’s winner.

“A nomination for any part of a show that I work on is a huge thing for me,” says Giancarlo Esposito, nominated last year for Breaking Bad. “If one of us gets recognized, all of us are recognized.”

E-mail comments to palbiniak@gmail.com and follow her on Twitter: @PaigeA

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