While the Outstanding Guest Actor in a Comedy Series category usually falls into a fairly conventional list of obvious choices – “Saturday Night Live”, for instance, is nearly always nominated, and sometimes even has multiple nominees – Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series is slightly more difficult to predict.
It could be that the arc-heavy nature of drama series means that many of the noteworthy performances are in multiple episodes and thereby disqualify themselves from the Guest Actor category. That said, it’s still undoubtedly a competitive race, during a time when network television, premium cable, and streaming services have arguably never been producing stronger content.
Although “Gotham” has only ever received Emmy love in the form of technical award nominations, it’s possible, though admittedly unlikely, that its final season could garner the show’s very first acting nomination. Dan Hedaya has been submitted by “Gotham” for his performance as Detective Dix, a former homicide detective who mentored Harvey Bullock.
Overall, however, this is a fairly unusual year in that there are few majorly beloved dramatic shows that ended this year to potentially garner Emmy attention for their swan songs. Yes, there’s “Game of Thrones”, but surprisingly, they didn’t submit any actors for consideration in the guest actor category. It seems likely that few if any Emmy nominations in this category will come from shows that have just concluded.
The current juggernaut for this category is without a doubt “This is Us”. Let’s look at the numbers. Since the show came on the air in 2016, it has won the Guest Actor in a Drama Series each year (Gerald McRaney as Dr. Nathan Katowski in 2017, and Ron Cephas Jones as William “Shakespeare” Hill in 2018), and has gobbled up an astonishing five out of twelve possible nomination slots.
Frankly, there’s a fair chance “This is Us” will be a strong contender this year as well. Look for Ron Cephas Jones to potentially win a second Emmy, or for Griffin Dunne to earn his first nomination since 1996, when he was recognized for his guest performance on “Frasier”. Insofar as any show can be considered a sure thing, “This is Us” is pretty much guaranteed at least a nomination.
Jordan Peele’s contemporary take on “The Twilight Zone” feels like a natural fit for this category. As an anthology series, it features dozens of meaty roles for actors that are only featured in one episode and have thus submitted nine actors for Guest Actor this year. Although some will obviously get left out, it wouldn’t be outside the realm of possibilities for “The Twilight Zone” to pick up one or two nominations in this category. Steven Yeun as A. Traveler, Kumail Nanjiani as Samir Wassan, and John Cho as Raff Hanks feel like the most realistic candidates.
Amazon’s “Homecoming” could earn a place here as well. Jeremy Allen White (“Shameless”) has been put forward for his work as Pineapple, a soldier who is a skeptical client of Homecoming alongside lead character Walter.
Look for AMC and Hulu to come up big in this category. Michael McKean is a strong contender for his work as Chuck McGill in “Better Call Saul”, the eponymous Saul’s reclusive older brother. The fact that the show went on hiatus and won’t be seen again until 2020 may work in his favor: we’re mid-way through 2019 and the show’s absence is being felt keenly by fans.
Another potential player is Bradley Whitford, who is being considered for his powerful, nuanced performance as Commander Joseph Lawrence in “The Handmaid’s Tale”.
Current Outstanding Guest Actor in a Drama Series Predictions
- Ron Cephas Jones, “This is Us” (NBC)
- Kumail Nanjiani, “The Twilight Zone” (CBS)
- Bradley Whitford, “The Handmaid’s Tale” (Hulu)
- Steven Yeun, “The Twilight Zone” (CBS)
- Griffin Dunne, “This is Us” (NBC)
- John Cho, “The Twilight Zone” (CBS)