Outstanding Actress in a Drama Series
Claire Danes as Carrie Matheson in “Homeland” for episode “Super Powers”
IMDB Synopsis: Jonas and Carrie revisit her past. Quinn stalks his prey.
How many times can Carrie Matheson go off her meds? It seems every year Claire Danes submits the same episode. Basically, Carrie goes off her meds in the midst of stress only to have her dramatic bipolar episodes wreak havoc on the people around her. In this episode, Carrie goes off her meds to assist her boyfriend Jonas in solving a mystery. However, the couple blows up in an epic argument. Danes commands the screen, but does little new that we haven’t seen in past submissions. Still, Danes has won two Emmys for similar episodes. Additionally, “Homeland” is still popular with the voting body, garnering nominations in all top categories. We can’t count Danes out, but once you start losing Emmys, it’s hard to come back and win again.
Viola Davis as Annalise Keating in “How to Get Away with Murder” for episode “There’s My Baby”
IMDB Synopsis: The Keating 5 are called into questioning by A.D.A Denver about the night Emily Sinclair was murdered. Meanwhile, Caleb goes missing as the manhunt for Philip intensifies.
It’s hard to not be enthralled by Viola Davis. She’s a commanding presence who slays every scene she is in. It’s a testament to her craft that she makes her episode watchable. Davis gets to pull double duty in her episode. In the present, we find her Annalise succumbing to alcohol as her team is questioned regarding the central murder. However, we also see Annalise in flashback dealing with a key client who commits suicide. Davis is appropriately showy throughout, even as the episode can never seem to modulate itself. Last year, Davis was in the hot, buzzy show, became the first African American actress to win Best Drama Actress and was a revered film actress making the move to TV. This year, the novelty may have worn off. With no other support for the show, it will be harder for Davis to pull together a second consecutive win.
Taraji P. Henson as Cookie Lyons in “Empire” for episode “Rise By Sin”
IMDB Synopsis: Hakeem struggles to find a place for his fiancé, Laura, in his career and family; Cookie reveals the truth about Freda’s father to Jamal; Jamal makes a sacrifice for Lucious.
Taraji P. Henson can’t help but be the populist favorite. Her brash character of Cookie never fails to provide a much needed spark to “Empire.” She doles out shade with such fervor and opulence, it’s as if she’s always playing to a larger than life audience. That said, her episode only features a handful of truly standout scenes. Watching her get dolled up for the big awards show is fun. Henson most likely picked the episode for the end where she reacts to her son being shot on the red carpet. Even still, it might be too little too late for her to wrestle votes away from the other talented women in the pack. “Empire” was much more of a hot commodity last year. This year, while it still gets the ratings, it failed once again to earn widespread Emmy support. Henson will likely be an also ran yet again.
Tatiana Maslany as Sarah Manning / Alison Hendrix / Cosima Niehaus / Rachel Duncan / Beth Childs / MK in “Orphan Black” for episode “The Antisocialism of Sex”
IMDB Synopsis: Sarah regresses to old habits while struggling to cope with the consequences of her decisions – reconnecting with Beth on a dark night of the soul. Back at the lab, Cosima, haunted by vicious memories and news of Delphine, attempts a dangerous Hail Mary to find a cure. At the Hendrixes, Alison is more determined than ever to create normalcy for her kids. As she forges ahead with a birthday party, Donnie is caught in the Neolution crosshairs.
The Emmys have long been fans of actors playing multiple characters. Truly Maslany’s performance is a technical marvel, as each clone has a specific look and personality. This episode does a great job of showing her in every persona, dealing with a variety of stressors. My favorite was seeing Alison try and maintain herself during her daughter’s birthday party when the cops bust in. The sheer amount of difficulty alone could propel Maslany to her first win in this category. The main problem with her episode selections is that it is hard for people who don’t watch the show to get involved. I didn’t see an arc for any of her clones and the story never compelled me. Was the skill apparent? Yes. However, did her characters take me on a compelling journey? I’d argue no. Acting is more than just creating different styles, it’s about telling a character’s story.
Keri Russell as Elizabeth Jennings in “The Americans” for episode “The Magic of David Copperfield V: The Statue of Liberty Disappears”
IMDB Synopsis: The Jennings hit their breaking points as they try to handle their local agents such as Martha.
The biggest question this Emmy season is how well “The Americans” will do in terms of wins. The show has won raves since it began, but only this season managed to break into the major categories. As the spy matriarch, Elizabeth Jennings, Russell submitted a marvel of an episode. We start out seeing her spend an afternoon with her mark/friend sneaking into the movies during the afternoon. This only further underscores how effective Russell is at her bigger moments, where Elizabeth confronts her husband on what he does at his EST meetings. My favorite moment has to be Elizabeth giving her daughter, Paige, a cold dose of what it is like to work as a spy. Russell’s performance has enough range and big moments to contend. If voters watch the episodes and are as enamored with the show as they seem to be, Russell could be a surprise winner.
Robin Wright as Claire Underwood in “House of Cards” in “Chapter 49”
IMDB Synopsis: As Frank deals with a new threat to his candidacy, Claire has doubts about their plan. Claire faces a difficult decision concerning her mother’s health.
Robin Wright’s steely gaze as Claire Underwood has made her a fan favorite of the show. Despite slowly becoming the show’s true star and secret weapon, Wright has yet to win an Emmy for her role on the show, despite having won the Golden Globe. Her episode selection this year definitely puts her in contention. We see Claire have to confront her strained relationship with her mother as she makes the final decision on her health. Additionally, there are some great tender scenes between her and Paul Sparks, her husband’s biographer whom she is having an affair with. However, her steely resolve and power come to a climactic head as she delivers a powerhouse speech at the DNC. Claire manages to be her conniving, shifty self while also gaining quite a bit of sympathetic moments. It has all the makings of a win in the category.