Emmy Circuit: Will ‘American Horror Story’ and “The Twilight Zone’ Flood Drama Guest Actress?

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).

OPENING STATEMENTS

The Drama Guest Actress category once was a rotating door for guest stars in procedurals, such as “Grey’s Anatomy” and “Law & Order: SVU.” Even though both of those shows are still on, the category has morphed into something else. Since then, the category has become a way to honor movie stars who pop into a TV show (Viola Davis – “Scandal”), tack on more nominations to a favorite show (see “The Handmaid’s Tale”) or reward moments in the zeitgeist (Shannon Purser – “Stranger Things”). This makes the category incredibly fun but also hard to predict.

This category gets even more complicated this year. While there is the normal crop of new shows, “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” also factors into the Drama race for the first time. In Limited Series, the show never had a Guest Actress category to honor its many stars. Since this season brought the show back to the events of the first season, many of the first season’s stars who earned Emmy attention (Jessica Lange, Connie Britton) are now eligible here. This unpredictable category just became much crazier.

PREVIOUS NOMINEES

One of the most consistent nominees the past few years has been Cicely Tyson. She has earned three nominations for “How to Get Away With Murder,” where she plays Annalise’s (Viola Davis) mother. It seems pretty safe to expect a fourth nomination for Tyson this year.

Another frequent nominee has been Laverne Cox, who made history in 2013 as the first trans acting nominee in any category. Her first nomination in 2013 was in the comedy field, while the second happened in 2017 in Drama. She could be up yet again for the episode “Well This Took a Dark Turn.”

Perhaps the biggest surprise on the Emmy ballot was the inclusion of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Though the show is an Emmy favorite, season two was already honored last Emmy season and the third season won’t be eligible until the next season. Due to a rule that allows “hanging episodes” to compete in the year they air, the final three episodes of last year’s “Handmaid’s Tale” are eligible in categories that are episode specific. This allows it into the directing, writing and guest acting categories. Last year’s nominee Cherry Jones hopes to return back to the Emmys for her work in the episode “Holly.”

Two of the most recent shockers on the Guest Actress in a Comedy Series category have been Dot Marie-Jones (“Glee”) and Melora Hardin (“Transparent”). Both are eligible for nominations in the Guest Actress in a Drama Series category, albeit for less Emmy-friendly shows. Dot Marie-Jones guest stars in “The Resident,” while “A Million Little Things” features Hardin. 

MINISERIES/ANTHOLOGY MOVERS & SHAKERS

Two of the biggest question marks in the Guest Acting category are “The Twilight Zone” and “American Horror Story: Apocalypse.” The former is a CBS All Access reboot from Jordan Peele, where each episode is self-contained. 

A new rule change in the definition of limited series means “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” must now compete in Drama Series. This latest season brings back characters from past seasons, which was the reason for the reclassification. Jessica Lange has won Lead and Supporting Actress trophies for her work on the series. She reprises her role as Constance from season one, which earned her a Supporting Actress win. It’s almost assured that Lange gets in this year. Fellow season one nominee Connie Britton could also join Lange in the Guest Acting category for returning to her role. Other submissions include Stevie Nicks, Joan Collins and Naomi Grossman. Nicks and Collins, in particular, could be real contenders based on name recognition.

Jordan Peele’s “The Twilight Zone” was one of the most anticipated new programs to come on CBS All Access. Once the show dropped, so did the interest. Reviews and public reaction were mixed. “Black Mirror” came a few months later and sucked up all the public discourse and conversation. However, based on the show’s set-up, all of the actors have been submitted in the guest category. Of the women up for Guest Actress, Zazie Beetz stands the best shot at a nomination. Her performance in “Blurryman,” the season finale, received the most praise of the season. Beetz recently got her Emmy breakthrough with a Supporting Actress nomination for “Atlanta” last year. The other women submitted for Guest Actress in a Drama include Ginnifer Goodwin, Diarra Kirkpatrick, Sanaa Latham, Rhea Seehorn, Jessica Williams and DeWanda Wise.

PROCEDURAL PATRONS

A staple of the Guest Actress category has always been procedural shows. The most recent frequent nominee in this category has been “The Good Wife,” which always featured a wide assortment of kooky clients that appear for an episode or two. CBS All Access’ “The Good Fight” has not had the same Emmy luck that “The Good Wife” had. Still, if it catches on this season, Andrea Martin could find herself nominated for an Emmy.

One of the staples of the early 2000s in guest acting has been “Law & Order: SVU.” Over the course of its run, it has earned fourteen nominations and five wins in Guest Actress alone. While this impressive track record speaks for itself, the last nomination and win came in 2010 for Ann-Margret.  Still, the Emmys have been known to fall back on their comfort food. This year’s submissions from the show include Sasha Alexander and Callie Thorne

Similarly, “Grey’s Anatomy” had an impressive acting streak with the Emmys. While most of their nominations came in the Supporting Actress category, it also would frequently make a splash in the Guest Actress category (8 nominations total). Most recently Loretta Devine won this category in 2011, followed by another nomination in 2012. If voters were going to return to “Grey’s Anatomy,” they could nominate Debbie Allen, Khalilah Joi or Abigail Spencer.

FRESHMAN FIRE

A trio of new shows have entered one actress a piece for Guest Acting. FX’s “Pose” submitted Sandra Bernhard for her work as a friendly nurse who oversees the AIDS ward. Bernhard’s chances at a nomination could improve as she’s become a more regular and substantial part in season two, currently airing.

Meanwhile, Hong Chau makes waves in “Homecoming” as a former corporate assistant who now possesses power and influence within the same corrupt government agency. Chau’s star has been rising since she had a major Oscar campaign for “Downsizing” by Alexander Payne. However, her work in “Forever” on the comedy front possesses more buzz. There’s the possibility that she receives nominations for both shows. Unfortunately, I would predict her in Guest Actress in a Comedy over Guest Actress in a Drama.

Finally, Harriet Walter contends for her work in “Succession” as Lady Caroline Collingwood, Logan’s second wife and the mother of Kendall, Shiv and Roman. Her role sticks out, but is far from the showiest in this cast full of oversized personalities. If the show runs the gamut with nominations, Walter may ride coattails to a nomination. Still, “Succession” faces fierce competition from other new shows on being the big breakout of the season.

EMMY FAVORITE SHOWS

When the Emmys love a show, they really love a show. Just ask Kelly Jenrette, who earned a shocking nomination last year for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which made up a total of three spots in this category. It’s hard to find a more loved show than “Game of Thrones,” in terms of Emmys. HBO’s fantasy epic has been the nomination leader for the past four seasons. This includes four nominations for Guest Actress for Diana Rigg. This year, Rigg is not eligible. Instead, Carice van Houten is the lone acting submission in the category for her work as Melisandre. While her episode, “The Long Night” was highly criticized (like most of the final season), her character’s arc was praised. If the Emmys continue their love affair with “Game of Thrones,” she should expect a nomination.

Another show that has done regularly well in the Guest Acting categories has been “This Is Us.” NBC’s weeper has won Guest Actor in a Drama twice in a row, but never been nominated for Guest Actress. This year features two doozies of potential nominees. TV legend Phylicia Rashad stars as Beth’s (Susan Kelechi Watson) ailing mother in the show’s third season. This storyline proved to be one of the most affecting of the season and should net Rashad a nomination. Additionally, Laura Niemi reprises her role as Jack’s (Milo Ventimiglia) mother. Her submission is the highly emotional “Vietnam” episode, which could earn the series many nominations.

While “Ozark” did not receive a Drama Series nomination last year, it did show up in Directing and Actor. If the show improves its nomination count this year, Guest Actress Claire Bronson could be the recipient of some of that goodwill. She plays Susan Blake, a Senator’s widow who gets blackmailed by Wendy (Laura Linney).

CURRENT OUTSTANDING GUEST ACTRESS (DRAMA) PREDICTIONS

  1. Jessica Lange – “American Horror Story: Apocalypse” – “Return To Murder House” (FX)
  2. Cicely Tyson – “How to Get Away With Murder” – “Where Are Your Parents” (ABC)
  3. Phylicia Rashad – “This Is Us” – “My Little Island Girl” (NBC)
  4. Cherry Jones – “The Handmaid’s Tale” – “Holly” (Hulu)
  5. Zazie Beetz – “The Twilight Zone” – “Blurryman” (CBS All Access)
  6. Laverne Cox – “Orange is the New Black” – “Well This Took A Dark Turn” (Netflix)

What do you think will contend for Best Guest Actress in a Drama Series this year? Let us know in the comments below.

CHECK OUT ALL THE OFFICIAL PREDICTIONS ON THE CIRCUIT HUB AND MAKE YOUR OWN!