Emmy Circuit: Twenty Contenders Duke It Out in Supporting Actor in a Limited Series

"Escape From Dannemora" Stars Paul Dano

Welcome to the 2019 Emmy Circuit series, where we analyze and predict all your favorite TV series and their chances with the Television Academy (at least at this time of publishing).  The series examines the shows and performances about their awards potential, most notably the Emmy Awards.  Emmy nomination voting opens June 10 and closes on June 24.  The official Emmy nominations will be announced on Tuesday, July 16 while the ceremony airs on FOX Sunday, Sept. 22.  All Emmy pieces run with the following schedule: Mondays (Dramas), Tuesdays (Network Spotlight), Wednesdays (Comedies), Thursdays (Network Spotlight), Fridays (Limited Series, Variety Series, Below-the Lines).


A Very English Scandal Ben Whishaw
“A Very English Scandal” Stars Ben Whishaw

The clear leader of the pack is Ben Whishaw. Whishaw has several qualities and precursors going for him that give him the advantage. To start, he’s one of two actors being pushed for this series. It’s category fraud at its finest, especially because the show revolves around his actions and interactions with Hugh Grant. After winning the Golden Globe and Critics Choice prizes earlier this season, he already has the momentum.

Speaking of more category fraud, Paul Dano has been submitted in Supporting Actor for “Escape at Dannemora.” Other than star power, there is little reason to believe that Dano supports Del Toro in the show. While Dano might have more screen time than Del Toro, the actor will surely find his way to a nomination in the supporting race. He carries the show for several scenes, especially when it comes to the physical feat of the escape. Creating a haunted character and that has disassociated himself from the actions that led to his imprisonment, it’s a subtle but emotional performance. Dano has also found success as a director with “Wildlife,” and with weaker competition in the Supporting race, he could take home the Emmy.

Previously at the Emmys

An actor to really watch will be Michael K. Williams. Williams lights up the screen in “When They See Us” as soon as he appears. Given his legendary career on the small screen and his emotional turn here, this feels like an excellent way to reward him for his years of iconic roles. The nomination for “The Night Of” showed the respect the Television Academy has for the HBO vet. Williams deserves an Emmy, and perhaps this helps him take home his first gold statue. However, the ensemble nature of the series means he does not get the same big moments as other actors, which has potential to work against his campaign.

John Leguizamo proved that he has fans in the TV academy after a surprise Emmy nomination for “Waco” last year. Despite limited screen time on that series, as well as bigger stars present, he was the one who found his way to Emmy night. The former winner for “John Leguizamo: Freak” in 1999, this year he’ll be on voters minds thanks to his one-man show: “John Leguizamo’s Latin History for Morons” from Netflix. He has a standout episode and his material is heartbreaking, to say the least.

The return of “Deadwood: The Movie” should also complicate matters. While few of the other TV Movie contenders will find their way into the race, “Deadwood” features Emmy favorites. In particular, Gerald McRaney has proven to have fans in the Television Academy. After winning an Emmy for the first season of “This Is Us” in the Guest Actor category, he picked up another nomination last year. He has one of the standout roles in “Deadwood: The Movie” and with the finale/movie earning rave reviews, he could get the boost needed for a nomination.

Deadwood: The Movie
“Deadwood: The Movie” Stars Gerald McRaney

Both Brandon Victor Dixon and David Oyelowo have Emmy nominations under their belts as well. While neither won previously, they’ve found their way to nominations. Dixon’s “Rent: Live” was seen as a letdown, but the goodwill from last year’s “Jesus Christ Superstar” could give him a strong base to build from. Oyelowo’s “Les Miserables” has its fans, and playing Javert gives him an iconic role to revel in the hopes of Emmy recognition.

Finally, the “Catch-22” gang of Hugh Laurie, Kyle Chandler, and George Clooney are TV legends. Laurie is the most overdue of the bunch, but with zero wins and ten nominations, it seems unlikely this role will win him his long overdue Emmy. Chandler has one of the showy roles in “Catch-22” but he already has an Emmy. Is there enough love to get him into this race? Clooney helped write, direct, and produce the adaptation, but goes missing for several episodes in the middle of the series. Ultimately none of the three have standout performances you’d expect. If the Emmys go for “Catch-22” it may come down to star power.


There are plenty of breakout performers in this race and many of them get standout moments in “When They See Us” from Ava DuVernay. With Jharrel Jerome in the lead race, the other adult performers are eligible. Jovan Adepo, Justin Cunningham, Freddy Miyares, and Chris Chalk pick up where the kids left off, bringing heartfelt and emotional performances to life. Adepo has a leg up on the other performers thanks to his roles in “Fences” and “The Leftovers” in recent years. However, with “Part 3” split four ways, it’s tough to say any get enough focus to find their way to a nomination. Each viewer will have their own favorites, and this could create a roadblock behind the bigger TV veterans already on the show.

Eric Lange could become one of the character actors to breakthrough into larger projects moving forward. Lange transforms into his role and easily gives one of the best performances of the year. He might be the only character audiences carry any form of affinity for in “Escape at Dannemora,” despite having clear red flags in his personality as well. Lange may not be a newcomer to the industry, with more than eighty credits to his name. Yet nothing has given Lange a stage like this since “Lost” in 2009, and his brilliant turn in “Escape at Dannemora” should pave the way for bigger and better roles.

Calum Worthy continues to break out of his Disney Channel persona with an excellent turn in  “The Act” as Nick Godejohn. The teen who helps Gypsy Rose Blanchard kill her mother is a massive transformation for the young actor. Worthy makes the convicted killer a tragic figure, one that is simultaneously capable of violence and blinded by his feelings for Gypsy. In a weaker year, Worthy would make for an obvious nominee, but instead, he’s fighting an uphill battle.

A Very Deep Pool of Contenders

With so many potential breakout stars and Emmy vets, there are not many spaces in the category to go around. Yet the list of established stars giving career-best performances is long. Others have veteran status that would normally make them surefire nominees.

One such performer is Norbert Leo Butz, who had some great moments in “Fosse/Verdon” on the supporting side. Love for the series could carry him into the race, especially after he went unrewarded for great work on “Bloodline” a few years ago. He can also cash in some of his Broadway credit for playing Paddy Chayefsky. Butz helps bring out the humanity in Fosse and helps the series click into place.

True Detective Stephen Dorff
“True Detective” Stars Stephen Dorff

Stephen Dorff stands out in “True Detective” and could be the only performer on par with Mahershala Ali over the course of the season. He channels intensity and anger into his role and gives his best performance in years. He might have some tough internal competition from the crew of “Chernobyl,” which was not only the superior show but showcases some incredible turns from its supporting cast. Stellan Skarsgård delivers a haunting turn as a man slowly coming to terms with the magnitude of the tragedy. Barry Keoghan gets pushed into some of the darkest scenes of the series and delivers an emotional performance in the process.

Netflix will also have to deal with overcrowding in the category. Not only will they be pushing the “When They See Us” group, but they have established veterans across their other shows. “Maniac” features extremely fun supporting turns from Justin Theroux, Gabriel Byrne, and Billy Magnussen. All three deliver moments of brilliance, but they also get the weird end of the show. Unless voters love “Maniac,” they seem to be on the weaker side.

The Haunting of Hill House Oliver Jackson-Cohen
“The Haunting of Hill House” Stars Oliver Jackson-Cohen

Timothy Hutton should have the strongest case for the “Haunting of Hill House” group, specifically due to his veteran status. However, the standout performance from the “Hill House” men comes from Oliver Jackson-Cohen, whose demons manifest themselves literally and figuratively over the course of the show. The PTSD and addiction storylines he carries gives him some truly marvelous moments. Finally, Netflix will have to really work some magic to get Will Poulter the attention he deserves for “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch.” It is unclear how the Academy will respond to the film but his work is definitely worthy of recognition.

Current Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie Predictions

  1. Ben Whishaw – “A Very English Scandal”
  2. Paul Dano – “Escape at Dannemora”
  3. Michael K. Williams – “When They See Us”
  4. Gerald McRaney- “Deadwood: The Movie”
  5. Eric Lange – “Escape at Dannemora”
  6. John Leguizamo – “When They See Us”

Who can emerge from the logjam for Best Supporting Actor? Willl anyone from the TV/Movie side get into the race? Comment below and share your thoughts!