By Ben Travers | Indiewire June 11, 2014 at 1:50PM
If we left it up to the networks and their campaign departments, almost no one worthy of an Emmy nomination would make the cut (stop nominating Jim Parsons!). So we here at Indiewire are hoping to start some grassroots campaigns of our own, pushing the best of the unlikely nominees to the forefront and hoping to receive some support from you, our wonderful readers. Below you'll find our picks for the drama supporting actors we'd like to see honored by the television academy as well as video evidence of their talents. Next week, we'll pick comedy leads, then drama leads, series, and so on until we reach nominations day on July 10th. Online ballots are available June 9th, so let the Emmy push commence!
6) Hayden Panettiere - "Nashville"
Peter Knegt: Soap operas don't tend to be Emmy favorites -- often with good reason, but "Nashville" should be an exception to that rule as far as I'm concerned. And it actually was last year, with lead actress Connie Britton getting a nom. But as fantastic as Britton is, the best thing about the show's second season was Hayden Panettiere. Really Britton's co-lead, Panettiere took her country singing star Juliette Barnes to a whole new level this year, and a far more layered and likeable one at that. And it doesn't hurt that she is so remarkably convincing in her musical performances that if "Nashville" doesn't make it past season three, she should find herself a country music career.
6) Erika Christensen - "Parenthood"
Ben Travers: If "Scandal" and "Nashville" can break in the same year, I think the flood gates might be open for soap operas at the Emmys -- after all, they've always loved "Downton Abbey," and it's just dressed up soap opera. My pick skirts the line of soap opera from time to time, but usually lands on the straight drama side of things. Erika Christensen helped solidify that positioning this year with a difficult arc as the villain of season five (or at least the "Parenthood" version of a villain). Despite making some poor choices, Christensen gave Julia heart and framed her choices with an emotional reasoning understandable, if not wholly logical. She was human, basically, and a lot of the time that's the hardest part to play.
5) - Kiernan Shipka - "Mad Men"
PK: I'm adding another young actress to this fold (and a much younger one at that) -- 14 year old Kiernan Shipka. Shipka was cast as Sally Draper when she was six years old, and has grown up in front of us, proving herself more and more as an actress who can hold her own amongst a very talented cast. So with just a few more chances to go to the Emmys before the show is over, hopefully voters can go against their history of failing to recognize child actors by giving Shipka a well deserved nomination for season 7. Shipka turned Sally into a strange, sassy, cigarette-smoking young woman on the verge, and as far as I'm concerned, she was responsible for many of the seasons best moments.
5) Olivia Munn - "The Newsroom"
BT: Aaron Sorkin has caught and continues to catch plenty of flack for "The Newsroom," partly because he deserves it, but also because expectations were just that high heading into the Oscar winner's follow-up to the "The Social Network." I'm sure I was one of the few whooping with joy when Jeff Daniels took home the trophy last year, and as big as a surprise as that was, I'm hoping lightning strikes twice -- not for Daniels, but for his costar Olivia Munn. The ex "Attack of the Show" host has proven herself an acting talent by successfully pushing past many of Sloan's potential pitfalls (Sorkin continues to struggle writing for women) and has elevated her character past the brains vs. beauty trappings of a hot news host. She's funny, quick, and thoroughly engaging in "The Newsroom," and just as worthy of a trophy as her leading man.
4) Caitlin Fitzgerald - "Masters of Sex"
PK: Five in and we're still all about the women: I'm vouching for "Masters of Sex" all around (it's such a great show and one I fear won't get much recognition from Emmy voters), including Caitlin FitzGerald as Libby Masters, the infertile, suffering wife of Michael Sheen's titular William Masters. With few credits to her name going into the role, FitzGerald nails a very tough character that could have easily been uninteresting if the actress hadn't given Mrs. Masters such a sincere, developed fragility. She's heartbreaking throughout the show's first season, and I'd argue she's turned Libby Masters into one of television's most underrated characters.
4) John Slattery - "Mad Men"
BT: Okay, okay. I'll break up the feminist movement with a man who's quite the charmer, even if he's a bit sexist in the process. AND I feel like I'm writing for two here, since you at one point had John Slattery on your list as well. I shouldn't be surprised he was our first overlap. After all, as Roger Sterling, Slattery is an addictive personality. My father repeatedly tells me he and "Red" are the only two reasons he still watches (a statement both understandable and infuriating). His transformation in season 7 was a subtle one, marked and masked simultaneously by his moments with Don. That is, until Roger took charge in the season finale. Now he seems poised to be a top tier player for the final few episodes next year, and a fifth Emmy nod would be worthy precursor to his real prize: television immortality.
3) Peter Sarsgaard - "The Killing"
PK: There's pretty much no question that the best thing about the acclaimed resurrection of AMC's "The Killing" last summer was Peter Sarsgaard. As Ray Seward, an inmate on death row for the murder of his wife, Sarsgaard gave us a major reason to watch again, offering us some career-high work that you'd think would be a shoo-in to get him his first Emmy nomination. But the Emmys haven't been so responsive to the show so far, and Sarsgaard has some very tough competition (including a couple folks from his fellow AMC series "Breaking Bad").
3) Eva Green - "Penny Dreadful"
BT: I've heard nothing but great things about Sarsgaard, and I'm a little surprised as well his name hasn't been mentioned often on contenders lists. Neither has Eva Green's, but that's more understandable. Only half of "Penny Dreadful's" first season is eligible, and it's pretty hard to nominate a program without seeing it through to its conclusion. They're not even running a campaign, as far as I've seen. But Green still deserves gold. She's been arguably the best actress of 2014 thanks to "300: Rise of an Empire" and John Logan's dark, shocking venture into television. I'd give her a statue for the seance scene alone.
2) Annet Mahendru - "The Americans"
PK: Here's hoping the Emmys make good on their major mistake last year and actually give some love to "The Americans." And while I'd be happy if that love went the way of Matthew Rhys, Keri Russell and/or Noah Emmerich, I'm personally rooting for 24 year old Annet Mahendru, who was deservedly upped from recurring to regular in season two. As Nina, Mahendru gives depth and grace and wit to a very complicated character. Vague spoiler alert, but we don't quite know what will become of Nina in the show's next season, but if they find a way to keep her around it will be in large part due to how amazing Mahendru has been. Emmy voters could help, too (her acting reel is below).
2) Woody Harrelson - "True Detective"
BT: I know Woody is being pushed as a lead on "True Detective," and artistically it's the right move. He is a lead right there with Matthew McConaughey, arguably more so even considering his development, screen time, and status as holder of the emotional cards (aka his wife). From a political or business perspective, however, it's simply the wrong move by HBO. McConaughey has had the year of his life, and gave an unparalleled gonzo performance in "True Detective." He's hot right now, making him an undoubted contender for Best Actor this year. So he has to be sold as the lead. Harrelson, therefore, should be sold as the supporting player even when he's not. It's a smart move for HBO to get more trophies, but it's also the only way Harrelson is going to get the attention he so definitively deserves. I don't want to demean him at all by lessoning his impact on the show, but isn't it better to see both actors holding an Emmy statue instead of just one?
1) Maggie Siff - "Sons of Anarchy"
PK: I still think we should be arguing Harrelson in the TV movie/miniseries categories, but hey, there's definitely been worse examples of category fraud. Though I don't know if there's too many worse examples of never nominating a series as "Sons of Anarchy" over its six season run. Or wait, it did get a nomination for "original main title music" back in 2009. But I'd gladly have them take that back if it meant a nod for Maggie Siff this year (or any of the "Anarchy" actors for that matter). But without ruining anything, this season definitely marked a big one for Siff's Tara, and there's clearly one episode she should be submitting for Emmy consideration...
1) Rachel Brosnahan - "House of Cards"
BT: I've seen way more pub for "House of Cards" newcomer Molly Parker (eventual Underwood enemy Jackie Sharp) than Rachel Brosnahan, and it baffles me. Parker did a fine job portraying a woman constantly forced to restrain her emotions in front of people who are much, much better at it. But it's Brosnahan who has made Rachel Posner into who she is today, being so good, in fact, as to have her character's storyline extended further than was intended. She's the fly in the ointment. The scandal waiting to bring down our antihero. We're as scared for Francis as we are for her. It's a tricky part, and Brosnahan plays it with a collected calm that makes Rachel inherently likable -- a necessary evocation for someone constantly on the fence of being loved or hated.