In anticipation for the Primetime Emmy nominations, which will be announced July 10th, we’ve decided to put together a list of some super young actors who deserve, but probably won’t receive any Emmy attention. For as long as they’ve been around, Emmy Awards have typically been given to older, more esteemed faces. There’s always exceptions (most recently, Merritt Wever for “Nurse Jackie”), but in general newcomers and younglings are the ones left out.
Considering it was such a great year for TV, here are nine deserving young actors who you should continue to keep in mind, with or without nominations:
Kiernan Shipka – “Mad Men”
Why She Deserves Emmy Attention: Throughout “Mad Men’s” run, even in the earliest of episodes, Kiernan Shipka has been a wonder. What started off as a small supporting role as Don Draper’s daughter Sally, Shipka’s presence has become increasingly more important (and requested) as the series moves forward. She went from precocious child to angsty adolescent right before ours eyes, and with that transformation came a layer of depth the 14-year-old continued to surprise us with this past season. Tensions between Don and Sally ran high after an incident towards the end of Season 6, and their complicated relationship was further expounded upon in Season 7, Episode 2, “A Day’s Work.” The episode consists of a sentimental, but never overplayed diner scene with Don and Sally. They weasel around topics, never fully admitting that their relationship is based on mistrust and lies. The season, in general, shows a new, very self-aware side to Sally that’s a pleasure to behold. Moreover, it’s even more impressive to see the young actress hold her own against these talented grownups.
Holly Taylor – “The Americans”
Why She Deserves Emmy Attention: When “The Americans” first premiered many could tell that it had the potential to become one of the better dramas on air. The Cold War period piece proved to be just that during its wonderful second season. While much of its acclaim is due to wonderful performances by Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys, Noah Emmerich and Annet Mahendru, this season, Holly Taylor, who plays Russell and Rhys’ daughter, added some new emotional stakes for the family. Last season we were introduced to Elizabeth (Russell) and Philip (Jennings) a seemingly average American couple living in D.C. with their two children during the 1980s. The twosome happen to actually be Soviet sleeper agents. Taylor plays Paige, their teenage daughter who becomes increasingly aware of her parents’ lies this season. Her performance as whole is a much-needed reminder for the two of what is at stake if they get caught. In addition to this, we see Paige, like any teenager, struggling to create an identify for herself. It’s a grounded, significant performance at the emotional core of the tense period drama.
Mason Vale Cotton – “Mad Men”
Why He Deserves Emmy Attention: While Sally is usually the Draper child who gets the most attention (though still not enough), we’ve been given a lot more of younger brother Bobby these past few seasons. This creative decision is no doubt due to the continuously wonderful (and often hilarious) performance given by Mason Vale Cotton, or Bobby 4.0. The fourth actor to play Bobby, Cotton took over the role in Season 5 and brought a new dimension to the otherwise ignored child. There’s a scene in the sixth season, in the episode where Martin Luther King Jr. is assassinated, where Don takes Bobby to see “Planet of the Apes” in theaters. The bonding moment between father and son is unbelievably touching, particularly when Don sees how sweet and compassionate his son is. Cotton continued to impress in Season 7, this time with his unusual and often times comedic relationship with mother Betty. He’s an oddball child, often times giving us some of the season’s golden moments.
Maisie Williams – “Game of Thrones”
Why She Deserves Emmy Attention: Whatever your feelings are about “Game of Thrones,” it’s undeniable that the cast, especially the young actors, are a talented bunch. This past season we got a lot more of Arya Stark, the youngest Stark daughter, who had escaped King’s Landing and the Lannister’s clutches. On the road with the brutal Hound, Arya faced a series of new foes this season, while also asserting herself as swordswoman to watch. There’s a moment toward the end of the season where Arya silently ignores the Hound’s pleas to end his life after he is mortally wounded. The scene, so powerful, yet quiet, is a reminder of how great “Game of Thrones” can be when it finds those rare moments of humanity. It also gives us further insight into Williams’ character, who she plays with a perfect blend of fierceness and compassion.
Mark Burkholder – “Parenthood”
Why He Deserves Emmy Recognition: “Parenthood” continues to be one of the best, under-appreciated shows to air on television. With its final season in tow, it’s important to look at a young member of the fantastic ensemble cast who deserves recognition from voters. Burkholder plays Max, Adam (Peter Krause) and Kristina’s (Monica Potter) son diagnosed with Asperger syndrome early in the show. This past season we see the brilliant, but troubled Max admit to his parents he’s being bullied in school. Often the emotional (and really funny) voice of “Parenthood,” Max’s conversation with his parents is earth-shattering. It’s a look into the life of a child facing disabilities, but also a glance at what it means, as parents, to see your child being tortured. Burkholder’s performance, particularly in Season 5, is bold, refreshing and amongst the best in an already stellar cast.
Emma Kenney – “Shameless”
Why She Deserves Emmy Recognition: With their quirks and often scandalous behavior, every member of the Gallagher gang is special in their own way. Still, over everyone else, Emma Kenney’s Debbie always manages to be a scene stealer — something difficult to achieve in the “Shameless” world. And with the Showtime series finally competing in the comedy category year, we’re looking at Kenney as one of the more deserving cast members. This past season we continue to see Debbie delve into her teenage years. In the beginning of the season, the young Gallagher, who lacks any real role model, starts dating a 20-year-old. Much of the season follows a 14-year-old Debbie desperately trying to lose her virginity and managing her relationship with her family, particularly her sister. Kenney, who got started with “Shameless,” is always entertaining, always hilarious and often manages to be the voice of reason in otherwise unreasonable show.
Albert Tsai – “Trophy Wife”
Why He Deserves Emmy Recognition: With so much potential, we were sad to see ABC’s “Trophy Wife” go. The sitcom showcased wonderful performances by Malin Åkerman, Marcia Gay Harden and especially newcomer Albert Tsai. Tsai plays the adopted son of Pete (Bradley Whitford) and Jackie (Michaela Watkins) and takes a role, which could so easily be another “Modern Family”-esque “really-smart-child” stereotype, and makes it fun, funny and real. Considering he’s the youngest character, it would be easy to just put him there and give him some really over-the-top one liners, but Tsai’s performance always comes off as natural, never too contrived or cutesy. He’s the perfect TV-kid because he doesn’t act like a TV-kid.
Sophie Turner – “Game of Thrones”
Why She Deserves Emmy Attention: Taking on the role of Sansa Stark is a pretty unrewarding endeavor. Throughout the past few seasons, Sansa has mostly been a damsel in distress, a naive young woman trapped in King’s Landing. Even so, Turner’s performance never faltered. This season, however, we got a chance to see a bit more of Sansa’s dark side, as she finally leaves the kingdom and gets a little bit more life experience. She gives a manipulative monologue defending Lord Petyr “Littlefinger” Baelish, who is accused (rightfully so) of murdering Sansa’s deranged aunt. It’s a wonderful moment, finally giving us the chance to see Sansa at her most mischievous. The scene also exemplifies another brilliant moment on Turner’s part. After all, the small smile she flashes in Baelish’s direction at the end of her speech is golden.
Jeremy Shada – “Adventure Time”
Why He Deserves Emmy Attention: Of all the young actors to make this list, Jeremy Shada is still probably the least likely to receive any awards attention. He has his age working against him like the rest of these fine contenders, but Shada also has to deal with the fact he voices an animated character. Still, the 17-year-old actor turns in a wonderful performance as Finn the Human, a boy who goes on a series of adventures with his best friend, Jake the Dog in the animated series “Adventure Time.” It’s not easy being a voice actor, and it’s pretty unusual to see someone so young voice such a role, but Shada is always magnificent. He gives Finn humor, warmth and makes the character one of the more memorable animated TV people. It’s a rare feat and a treat.