Outstanding Actress in a Miniseries/TV Movie
Kirsten Dunst as Peggy Blumquist in “Fargo”
Kirsten Dunst has always been a unique, wonderful gift to acting. Her offbeat talents translate to a wide variety of roles. However, they have never been as perfectly suited to a character as they were in “Fargo.” As Peggy Blumquist, Dunst strattled the line between satiric mocking and cunning brilliance, all with a pitch perfect midwestern accent. Peggy is an ambitious 1970s hairdresser who finds herself embroidered in a mob war after running a member of the mob family over with her car. Her best moments come in “Loplop” where Dunst shows Peggy as a real threat to be taken seriously. In any other year, Dunst would be a real threat to win. However, the stiff competition and ensemble nature of the show put her at a disadvantage. Still, if “Fargo” is as popular as it was last year, Dunst might be in need of a speech.
Felicity Huffman as Leslie Graham in “American Crime”
Every time Felicity Huffman is on screen, it is hard not to perk up. As the social climbing school headmistress, Leslie Graham, Huffman does an excellent job navigating the moral psyche of this high strung woman. As Leslie navigates a sexual assault charge that only grows more murky with every detail, Huffman gives a carefully measured performance that never lets up. That is until Episode 8, where we see a normally composed Leslie shook to her core after an attempted assassination. No makeup and without any defenses, Leslie is weak, vulnerable. Huffman breaks this woman down only to slowly build her up. It is a remarkable feat to see an actress understand every layer of her character. Still, with “American Crime” faltering in nomination tally this year, it will be hard for Huffman to wrestle away number one votes, especially with co-star Lili Taylor stealing votes.
Audra McDonald as Billie Holiday in “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill”
Having won a Tony for this very role, will awards magnet Audra McDonald add an Emmy to her shelf? The Broadway wonder definitely delivers. Shot entirely during one performance of Billy Holiday’s, McDonald is a marvel as she slowly unravels throughout her performance set. It’s not just her voice that crafts this specific and indelible image of Holiday, it’s her mannerisms and way of speaking. As her stories become grander and speech becomes more slurred, the more tricky the role becomes. McDonald walks that tightrope aplomb, ending in an expected manner that is nonetheless heartbreaking. Visibility of the HBO project will keep this out of the running. Not enough voters will have seen it to wrestle away votes. Still, with so many talented actresses, vote splitting amongst the TV stars could pave the way for an Audra McDonald victory.
Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clarke in “The People vs. O.J. Simpson”
It has been impossible to stop talking about Sarah Paulson’s performance as Marcia Clarke. From the first stills, people knew this was going to be something special. The very second she appeared on screen, Paulson seemed to have this woman down. The best part was she only got better than that. In the episode “Marcia Marcia Marcia,” Paulson humanized Marcia as a working mother and woman who realized she couldn’t effectively perform either of her duties under such public scrutiny. Paulson’s performance strategically shed light on the casual and complex sexism present in work environments and in the public consciousness. Between the transformation, the Emmy ready speeches and the sympathetic, soul crushing moments, Paulson seems to be a slam dunk. Add in the fact that “The People vs. OJ Simpson” was one of the most nominated programs and Paulson has a big Emmy IOU, and all signs point to win.
Lili Taylor as Anne Blaine in “American Crime”
Lili Taylor is one of those actresses who has never quite gotten her due. She’s consistently strong in everything she does. Now in “American Crime,” she got a meaty enough role to latch onto as the mother of a teenager who claims he was raped. Her performance evolves as more details about her son’s incident come out. The performance stands out as she has many Emmy ready moments. On top of that, most of the time it seems like everyone is out to get Anne. Her performance gets even better when the show chooses to spotlight her own mental health issues that end up discrediting her. It’s a complex performance, but it is hard to pick between her and Huffman. Personally, I prefer Huffman’s more measured work. With so many other bigger names and talented actresses, Taylor will most likely be left in the cold for this round.
Kerry Washington as Anita Hill in “Confirmation”
Kerry Washington’s Emmy star has been steadily rising over the years. With “Scandal” getting her near a win in the past, it seems as if she might be carrying an Emmy IOU. But does the performance stack up? In many ways it does. Washington has a few things working in her favor on this. Playing a real life figure in a story about sexual harassment that is relevant today certainly helps. Even better is the fact that Washington nails her testimony scenes, which allow her to give great speeches that Emmy voters love. Despite the grand speeches, it is still a nuanced and even keeled performance that never veers into caricature. She’s definitely going to have many fans voting for her. However, Paulson might be an even bigger populist choice than Washington herself.