Emmy Episode Analysis: Will Alec Baldwin Win Supporting Actor For Donald Trump Impersonation?

What would our shows be if not for the talented performances by actors in a supporting role?

Eighteen talented male performances populate the supporting actor categories at the Emmys. To win in either the comedy, drama or miniseries categories, each man submits one episode. This is the episode that voters will judge them on. This process applies to all other acting categories, sans Best Actor and Actress in a Miniseries or TV movie. Those categories are judged by the full-length miniseries or made-for-TV movie. We will continue to delve into these categories each Friday until the Emmys.

Warning: There may be spoilers ahead.

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Jonathan Banks as Mike Ehrmantraut in “Better Call Saul” for “Witness”

IMDB Synopsis: Jimmy and Kim hire an assistant; Mike seeks out a mysterious acquaintance; and Chuck uses the law to gain an advantage over Jimmy.

Banks’ Mike Ehrmantraut emerged as a fan favorite during “Breaking Bad.” Earlier seasons of “Better Call Saul” focused on Mike’s backstory and gave more depth to the character, making him a real contender. Mike takes more of a background role in this season, but this episode submission features a chilling plotline where Mike hunts down a suspicious person. Banks’ commitment to the role is always admirable. His ability to command the screen with little to no dialogue separates him from the rest. However, he has lost for much better submissions. With competition remaining similarly strong, Banks heads for another loss.

Ron Cephas Jones as William in “This Is Us” for “Memphis”

IMDB Synopsis: Randall and William take a road trip to Memphis, where Randall learns about William’s past.

The biggest tearjerker of the year belongs to “Memphis.” Jones’ powerful performance wrings tears out of just about every moment in this episode. At death’s door, William cajoles Randall in taking him on a road trip to his hometown of Memphis. As we journey to Memphis, we see flashbacks to William, his mother, and his cousin. William tries to make it in the music industry, but falls down a slippery slope of drugs. In his pilgrimage to Memphis, William rights some of the wrongs earlier in his life and visits his childhood home. It’s a beautiful and touching hour that could rally some passion votes. If voters love “This Is Us,” Jones may very well surprise here.

David Harbour as Jim Hopper in “Stranger Things” for “Chapter Eight: The Upside Down”

IMDB Synopsis: Joyce and Hopper are taken in for questioning. Nancy and Jonathan prepare to fight the monster and save Will. 

As the surly cop Jim Hopper, Harbour does a great job of grumbling through the proceedings. However, we get a different side to Hopper in the season one finale of the show. As he and Joyce (Winona Ryder) enter the Upside Down to save Will, we get many flashbacks that revolve around Hopper’s past as a father to a sick daughter. It’s a satisfying arc to watch Hopper save Will Byers as he remembers the loss his family suffered due to cancer. Since “Stranger Things” reaped so many nominations, Harbour can’t be counted out for a surprise win. However, if we are going for emotional resonance, Ron Cephas Jones takes the cake there in terms of surprises.

Michael Kelly as Doug Stamper in “House of Cards” for “Chapter 64”

IMDB Synopsis: Frank attempts to stop Cathy from testifying. With Hammerschmidt sniffing out the truth, the Underwoods throw someone close to them under the bus.

Doug Stamper, the Underwoods’ menacing, recovering alcoholic aide, goes through quite the series long arc. Revered and feared as a henchman earlier, Stamper’s loyalties are critically tested near the end of season five. As the Underwoods fear their wrongdoings will be uncovered, Frank commands Doug to take the blame for the murder of Zoe Barnes. After some heartbreaking moments of thought, Doug complies with what is asked of him. Kelly gets to show tremendous anguish and contemplative thought. However, it doesn’t include any grand speeches or bombastic moments. It’s a terrific performance, but one that doesn’t compete with the larger personalities in the category.

John Lithgow as Winston Churchill in “The Crown” for “Assassins”

IMDB Synopsis: As tensions with Phillip increase, Elizabeth spends time with her old friend Porchey. Churchill’s portrait is painted for his 80th birthday. 

It’s easy to see how John Lithgow is the favorite here. His performance checks off nearly every box for an acting win. He’s an American actor who dons a British accent to portray a famous, heroic persona, Winston Churchill. On top of that, his episode gives him a few great showcase scenes as he rebels against an artist’s depiction of him. Churchill seeks to define himself by his legacy rather than his age. It’s a show-stopping performance that livens an otherwise dull outing with “The Crown.” Lithgow owns every moment and it is easy to see how he leads this race. It will take a large rallying cry from “This Is Us” or “Stranger Things” fans for Lithgow to falter here.

Mandy Patinkin as Saul in “Homeland” for “America First”

IMDB Synopsis: While Dar tries to get his plan back on track, Carrie and Quinn make an effort to save the President-elect.

Even as “Homeland” fades from the drama series race, Patinkin manages to stick around. That’s not to say Patinkin is bad on the show. Over the many seasons of “Homeland,” he has been one of the most consistent pieces of it. However, his episode submission, which is also the show’s directing bid, does little to showcase him. The emotional fulcrum of the episode is the final revelation that Saul is imprisoned. While that is a gut punch, we never see Patinkin in peril. He gets a good stand-off scene early. However, there’s not enough meat for him to be competitive in this category. Coming in with a fading show, Patinkin needs a masterpiece to win. Unfortunately, he has a dud.

Jeffrey Wright as Bernard Lowe in “Westworld” for “The Well Tempered Clavier”

IMDB Synopsis: Dolores and Bernard reconnect with their pasts; Maeve makes a bold proposition to Hector; Teddy finds enlightenment, at a price.

Having figured out the truth behind his status as a machine, Bernard drives himself to search for more information. Wright makes Bernard’s realizations truly come across as a gut punch. Bernard manufactures a standoff based on his desire to find his creator. This standoff thrills based on Wright’s ability to make Bernard’s emotions palpable, without overdoing it. “Westworld” was able to reap the most nominations of any program this year, tied with “Saturday Night Live.” This illustrates wide support and can lead to a possible Wright surprise. However, with more buzzy, showy roles, Wright doesn’t seem to be in line for the win.

My Personal Ballot:

  1. Ron Cephas Jones – “This Is Us”
  2. David Harbour – “Stranger Things”
  3. Michael Kelly – “House of Cards”
  4. John Lithgow – “The Crown”
  5. Jeffrey Wright – “Westworld”
  6. Jonathan Banks – “Better Call Saul”
  7. Mandy Patinkin – “Homeland”

My Emmy Prediction:

  1. John Lithgow – “The Crown”
  2. Ron Cephas Jones – “This Is Us”
  3. David Harbour – “Stranger Things”
  4. Jeffrey Wright – “Westworld”
  5. Michael Kelly – “House of Cards”
  6. Jonathan Banks – “Better Call Saul”
  7. Mandy Patinkin – “Homeland”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series

Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets in “Baskets” for “Denver”

IMDB Synopsis: Christine tries a Denver omelet in Denver. 

Last year’s winner, Louie Anderson, returns with another hilarious and sensitive performance. Christine Baskets, a loud mother from Bakersfield who speaks and lives loudly, travels to Denver to reconnect with a possible flame. Anderson manages to dig further into what scares Christine about intimacy. She lies to her sons about where she is to conceal any ridicule if things go wrong. Her body language around her potential beau is more stiff and calculated compared to when she explores her hotel in Denver. Each line speaks volumes to the person Christine wants to appear to be. Anderson gives a masterful performance that could return him to the podium. The only thing standing in his way is the zeitgeist capturing depiction of Donald Trump by Alec Baldwin.

Alec Baldwin as Various Characters (Donald Trump) in “Saturday Night Live” for “Host: Melissa McCarthy”

IMDB Synopsis: N/A

Baldwin has perhaps the worst episode submission this year. Despite hosting an episode of “Saturday Night Live,” Baldwin opts to submit Melissa McCarthy’s episode. Here he appears in a cold open singing “Hallelujah” (exactly as McKinnon does in her submission) and in a final skit with McCarthy as Spicer. Baldwin’s performance obviously exhibits the greatest visibility and headlines of the year. His Trump not only angered the President, but took the nation by storm. It would take quite a lot for him to lose the popular vote, funny enough. However, voters who are voting on episodes will be left disappointed. Also, those burnt out by election material will deter from this. It’s going to be hard for him to lose, but there are avenues where this is possible.

Tituss Burgess as Titus Andromedon in “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” for “Kimmy’s Roommate Lemonades”

IMDB Synopsis: Titus unleashes his inner Beyoncé when he suspects Mikey of cheating. Kimmy checks out colleges, and Jacqueline and Lillian clash over city politics.

Few comic creations are as original or exuberant as Titus Andromedon. Burgess approaches each scene with full force comedic commitment. His submitted episode, “Kimmy’s Roommate Lemonades,” contains perhaps the greatest moment of the season. Titus re-enacts Beyonce’s “Lemonade” as he approaches his boyfriend, who he assumes is cheating on him. However, the episode isn’t just an over-the-top laugh fest. Titus goes on a journey as he lets his boyfriend Mikey go, knowing he is holding back Mikey’s development as a person. Burgess has the best episode submission of the bunch, but this isn’t new. Much like the season one “Pinot Noir” episode, Titus may come off too flamboyant for the Emmys to embrace. While Eric Stonestreet won for playing a similar character on “Modern Family,” Burgess hasn’t been able to break through for a win.

Ty Burrell as Phil Dunphy in “Modern Family” for “Grab It”

IMDB Synopsis: Phil considers becoming a member at Jay’s favorite refuge; Claire is mistaken about her influence on Alex’s choices; Cam holds back on telling Mitchell what his play is really about.

Two-time winner Ty Burrell returns once again as the only “Modern Family” co-star to be nominated every year of the show. With this sort of track record, could Burrell remain competitive? The episode puts Burrell’s Phil Dunphy among his father-in-law Jay’s country club group. However, rather than bumble around, as he normally does, Phil wins everyone over. The episode ends with a physical comedy beat where Phil locks himself in the sauna and faints. There are some laughs, but its definitely the weakest submission of the group. On top of that, “Modern Family” continues to wane in nominations, suggesting fatigue.

Tony Hale as Gary Walsh in “Veep” for “Judge”

IMDB Synopsis: Selina takes a trip; Dan woos Jonah to get a coveted interview; Amy convinces Selina to put her in charge of a very disorganized Mike.

Two-time winner Tony Hale remains one of the great joys of “Veep.” The sixth season of the Emmy winning show once again gives Hale’s Gary a showcase episode. After a hilarious heart-attack, former President Selina Meyer (Julia Louis Dreyfus) agrees to travel to Alabama for Gary’s 40th birthday in his hometown. While at Gary’s home, we see his loving relationship with his mother (Jean Smart) and the belittling treatment he receives from his flamboyant Dad, Judge (Stephen Root). The whole episode culminates with a hilarious and heartfelt blow-up from Hale’s Gary. These are the types of episodes that typically win Emmys. If voters rely on episodes and want a “Veep” sweep, Hale could win Emmy number three.

Matt Walsh as Mike McClintock in “Veep” for “Chicklet”

IMDB Synopsis: Having settled on a location for her presidential library, Selina and Mike get to work on her book. Meanwhile, Dan lands in a gossip column. 

There are few things more joyous to watch than Walsh’s Mike McClintock getting taken in by acidic Selina. Just as the two bond over her memoir writing, their happiness ends once Mike runs a car through her family barn. Walsh was one of the most delightful surprise nominees of last year, showing the love for “Veep.” While he was a standout last season, this season there were other members of the ensemble that eclipsed his bumbling press man. There’s an air of voter laziness with the choice here. With two-time winner Hale in this category, Walsh has little shot of winning.

My Personal Ballot:

  1. Tituss Burgess – “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
  2. Tony Hale – “Veep”
  3. Louie Anderson – “Baskets”
  4. Matt Walsh – “Veep”
  5. Alec Baldwin – “Saturday Night Live”
  6. Ty Burrell – “Modern Family”

My Emmy Prediction:

  1. Alec Baldwin – “Saturday Night Live”
  2. Louie Anderson – “Baskets”
  3. Tony Hale – “Veep”
  4. Tituss Burgess – “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt”
  5. Ty Burrell – “Modern Family”
  6. Matt Walsh – “Veep”

Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Miniseries/TV Movie

Bill Camp as Dennis Box in “The Night Of” for “Subtle Beast”

IMDB Synopsis: As attorney Jack Stone counsels Naz, lead detective Dennis Box investigates the crime.

It is always a treat to watch character actors finally get the acclaim they deserve. Much of the episode involves Camp taking us through the painstaking research of Dennis Box’s investigation. There’s a sort of fascinating heroism brought to his work. Camp’s performance style is much like Dennis Box’s persona. He’s hardworking and gets the job done, but isn’t focused on being noticed. This hurts Camp in a field where large speech and overt “ACTING” tends to be rewarded. Along with being recognized alongside co-star Michael Kenneth Williams, vote splitting may be the nail in the coffin of Camp winning here.

Alfred Molina as Robert Aldrich in “Feud: Bette and Joan” for “Pilot”

IMDB Synopsis: Cast aside by Hollywood, screen legends Joan Crawford and Bette Davis battle each other when they sign up for What Ever Happened To Baby Jane? 

As “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane” director Robert Aldrich, Molina creates a complicated character. We see him as a down on his luck director who doubts his abilities to stay relevant in the film business. This makes him a perfect fit for the odd duck of a project that is “What Ever Happened To Baby Jane.” We see this as he assembles the pieces for the movie and gets turned away from nearly every studio head at the time. Molina’s work is less showy than fellow nominee Tucci as Jack Warner. However, he commands more sympathy and gets more notes to show as an actor. While this may not translate to a win, it may allow him to siphon votes away from fellow nominee Tucci.

Alexander Skarsgard as Perry Wright in “Big Little Lies” for “Living the Dream”

IMDB Synopsis: Madeline organizes a trip to compete with Amabella’s birthday party, Celeste succumbs to Perry’s charms, and Jane opens up about her past. 

There are many things monstrous about Perry Wright. The handsome, younger husband of Celeste (Nicole Kidman), Perry frequently abuses his wife, all while putting on a happy face for his kids and the community. What Skarsgard expertly conveys in his submission is the drive behind the duality of his character. He’s so frightened of Celeste slipping away that he resorts to scare tactics and violence to keep her. There’s a self-acknowledged fragility in the first therapy scene with Perry that affects. Paired with a harrowing scene where a simple disagreement over Disney on Ice culminates with throat grabbing, and Skarsgard has an Emmy ready episode.

David Thewlis as V.M. Varga in “Fargo” for “The Narrow Escape Problem”

IMDB Synopsis: Emmit and Sy try to sort things out; Nikki and Ray track down some collateral; Gloria learns more about Maurice. 

Like with so much of “Fargo,” there’s something delightfully loopy about Thewlis’ V.M. Varga. A foreigner to this cold wasteland he is scamming, Varga acts as a crookedly cheerful agent of chaos. This involves weaving a situation where the fortune the Stussy brothers argue for ends up in his hands due to a deal. Thewlis toes the line between twee and menacing well. However, other than offer up some solid entertainment value, Thewlis doesn’t wow. In a weaker season of “Fargo,” Thewlis rises up as the cream of the crop. However, amid this competition, it stands out mainly for its offbeat nature.

Stanley Tucci as Jack Warner in “Feud: Bette and Joan” for “Pilot”

IMDB Synopsis: Cast aside by Hollywood, screen legends Joan Crawford and Bette Davis battle each other when they sign up for What Ever Happened To Baby Jane?

Tucci can always be counted on to ham up a role. This works perfectly for the character of Jack Warner, a swarmy, sexist studio head behind “What Ever Happened to Baby Jane.” The pilot quickly establishes his over the top persona as he talks with director Robert Aldrich. As charming and entertaining as Tucci is, there is not much further dimension to the character. Both him and Molina submitted the same episode, which does a disservice to their chances. If they submitted separately, they’d be able to benefit from double the exposure. However, this pits the two stars against each other. Molina gets more to do and is easier to root for. Tucci is more noticeable and splashy, but gets less depth.

Michael Kenneth Williams as Freddy Knight in “The Night Of” for “The Art of War”

IMDB Synopsis: A fellow prisoner advises Naz on prison life while he weighs the pros and cons of copping a plea, and Stone delves into Andrea’s past. 

Michael Kenneth Williams conveys both power and intimidation more by screen presence than menacing material. It’s easy to see how Naz is conflicted. Williams makes Freddy a compelling and persuasive figure. Prison may be hard, but he knows the best way to get through it. Neither of the “Night Of” performances are the type of big, bombastic performances that nab votes. In addition, its unclear whether Williams or fellow nominee Bill Camp will garner more votes. These situations are where vote splitting occurs, preventing either from winning.

My Personal Ballot:

  1. Alexander Skarsgard – “Big Little Lies”
  2. Alfred Molina – “Feud: Bette and Joan”
  3. Michael Kenneth Williams – “The Night Of”
  4. Bill Camp – “The Night Of”
  5. Stanley Tucci – “Feud: Bette and Joan”
  6. David Thewlis – “Fargo”

My Emmy Prediction:

  1. Alexander Skarsgard – “Big Little Lies”
  2. Stanley Tucci – “Feud: Bette and Joan”
  3. David Thewlis – “Fargo”
  4. Alfred Molina – “Feud: Bette and Joan”
  5. Michael Kenneth Williams – “The Night Of”
  6. Bill Camp – “The Night Of”

Who do you think will win the Supporting Actor categories at the Emmys? Share with us in the comments.

What do you think?

AC Fan

Written by Christopher James

Christopher James has been an Oscar obsessive ever since watching his first ceremony at age 5 when "Titanic" won Best Picture. He is a recent graduate from Loyola Marymount University with degrees in Screenwriting for Film and Television and Marketing. Christopher currently works in media strategy and planning at Liquid Advertising, based out of Los Angeles, CA. You can find Christopher running on the sunny beach, brunching at trendy restaurants or mostly just sitting in a dark room watching movies and TV in sweatpants. Follow me on Twitter @cwj92movieman


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