Emmy voters have some tough choices to make in the coming days, as some of the most talented multi-hyphenates in the business face off in key categories. In this edition of IndieWire’s Anonymous Emmy Ballots, we asked an accomplished director to share his picks — and they came with some agonizing decisions.
In lead actress in a comedy series, for example, our voter raved for new star Rachel Brosnahan (“The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”) and writer/stars like Issa Rae and Pamela Adlon, before choosing Tracee Ellis Ross.
And speaking of “Mrs. Maisel,” our director couldn’t stop raving about creator Amy Sherman-Palladino, whom they called “the illegitimate child of Elaine May and Vincente Minelli.” But ultimately they couldn’t resist the tour de force “Atlanta.”
For drama actor, the voter similarly loved the evolution of “Ozark’s” Jason Bateman, but ultimately picked Matthew Rhys in his final season of “The Americans.” In fact, “The Americans” caught his/her fancy overall as top drama.
But on the flip side, today’s anonymous ballotee just wasn’t feeling this season of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” “This season was just one note, one set of circumstances with no relief,” they told us.
Read on for this director’s take on this year’s Emmy race, and his reason behind each pick:
Outstanding Drama Series
☑ The Americans
Game Of Thrones
The Handmaid’s Tale
This Is Us
All but one are great here and that one was great last year. More about that later. What I prefer to watch was “The Crown” and “The Americans.” The others are a sometime thing.
“The Americans” got my vote because the hardest thing in episodic is consistency. The first season is the most exciting because you are discovering the show. From then on if you are good, you fight to not just codify what your show is. In their last season they reinvented themselves. The last two episodes are as good as television gets. Should have been nominated for best directing.
The big disappointment was a show that I previously LOVED. “The Handmaid’s Tale.” This season was just one note, one set of circumstances with no relief. Unlikely plot turns and way too much crying from Ms. Moss. Yvonne Strahovski was the MVP and had the most difficult scenes to play.
That said, the production, style, sexual politics, photography, directing are tops, I love that stuff. The writing fell down when they ran out of book. My favorite scene was when June comes out ahead finally and they played the song “Venus” by Shocking Blue!! Finally, signs of life in all that dreariness. Yes I know that’s the story arc, but the writers and producers lost perspective. More Shocking Blue please.
Outstanding Comedy Series
Curb Your Enthusiasm
The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Five that I loved!!! OH NO, what to choose among “Atlanta,” “Barry” (it took three episodes), “Black-ish” (which because it’s on ABC has the hardest path to originality — on which they succeeded), “GLOW” (How I love this show, this ensemble of actors, the humor Alison Brie and Marc Maron — who knew?),and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (which won me over in the first 15 minutes).
A word about the directing on “GLOW” and “Maisel,” both of which have directors that crash the comedy format and reinvent it in their own image. I’m talking about Amy Sherman-Palladino, who is the created by, writer and director, is like the illegitimate child of Elaine May and Vincente Minelli. Think about it. This is the show on television that I would most like to work on. She is fearless.
On “Atlanta,” Hiro Murai’s work is genius. Bold compositions, amazing performances and a sense of the WHOLE episode that puts him among the very best. Shit, tough call. “Atlanta.”
Outstanding Limited Series
The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
“Godless” — Hey, I like westerns and this one feels like Anthony Mann to me. And I loved the conceit of a town of women that win the day, oh yes, have I said how much I like Merritt Wever?
“Patrick Melrose” was like watching a car crash that I couldn’t turn away from. It made me squirm and wish that Patrick wouldn’t make so many bad choices. Total identification. “The Alienist” had me too. Beautifully mounted and where are the nominations for Dakota Fanning?
Jonathan Prime / Netflix
Outstanding Television Movie
☑ USS Callister (Black Mirror)
“USS Callister.” ORIGINALITY. Parallel universes. Best “Twilight Zone” episode since… “The Twilight Zone.” “Paterno” was classic, involving and quality work.
Lead Actress in a Drama Series
Claire Foy/The Crown
Tatiana Maslany/Orphan Black
Elisabeth Moss/The Handmaid’s Tale
☑ Sandra Oh/Killing Eve
Keri Russell/The Americans
Evan Rachel Wood/Westworld
In a category full of very talented actresses, I went with Sandra Oh because she kept surprising me with her choices. She and Claire Foy both filled their silences with riveting reactions. At times it felt that the camera was an X-ray machine into their innermost thoughts.
Of course, everyone else in this strong category could be a winner with the exception of Elisabeth Moss. She is an actress whose work I have admired starting with “The West Wing.” That said, this year she was too indulgent and lost all perspective, it was tears and tears and tears. She made each episode into Renee Falconetti being burned at the stake in Carl Dreyer’s “Joan of Arc.”
Lead Actor in a Drama Series
Sterling K. Brown/This Is Us
☑ Matthew Rhys/The Americans
Milo Ventimiglia/This Is Us
The big surprise here is Jason Bateman. As an actor, director and producer, he made his mark on this season. I binged the show because I couldn’t turn it off.
But my vote went to Matthew Rhys. The final season of “The Americans” brought him many challenges, which he met by revealing new layers to his character. in a show that has run as long as “The Americans” it is a tribute to Mr. Rhys that he enlightened us to his moral crisis.
Sterling K. Brown and Milo did “This Is Us” proud, and “Westworld” again showed us what a strong ensemble they put forth each episode.
Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Pamela Adlon/Better Things
Rachel Brosnahan/The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
☑ Tracee Ellis Ross/black-ish
Lily Tomlin/Grace And Frankie
Oh man, what a choice!! Rachel Brosnahan has shown in ALL her previous series work how talented she is, and she carries “Mrs. Maisel” as she should. But Pamela Adlon (actress, director, and producer) Issa Rae (another multi-tasker), and Tracee Ellis Ross are the top three for me. There is a message coming from this last season: actors and actresses are changing TV by creating their own series based around characters that they lived. Yet… My vote is Tracee Ellis Ross. She kills it week after week, with broad laughs and piercing intelligence.
Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Ted Danson/The Good Place
Larry David/Curb Your Enthusiasm
☑ Donald Glover/Atlanta
William H. Macy/Shameless
Donald Glover is my choice. Yet another actor, writer, director. “Atlanta” is one of the most original shows on TV and Donald Glover’s performance is the glue that holds it all together. That said, I also love Anthony Anderson, Bill Hader and Ted Danson. But it’s Mr. Glover’s time.
Lead Actress in a Limited Series/Movie
Jessica Biel/The Sinner
Laura Dern/The Tale
☑ Michelle Dockery/Godless
Edie Falco/Law & Order True Crime: The Menendez Murders
Regina King/Seven Seconds
Sarah Paulson/American Horror Story: Cult
Lady Mary in the Wild West and even though she is petite and thin, her acting made her grow in stature. Lady Mary no more, she has shown great range here and in her other series. Regina King and Laura Dern are two of the people whose work I will watch no matter what. I never liked “AHS” so I couldn’t see her performance through the screws but “Marcia, Marcia, Marcia” from the “People V. OJ” is an all time TV top five.
Lead Actor in a Limited Series/Movie
Antonio Banderas/Genius: Picasso
Darren Criss/The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Benedict Cumberbatch/Patrick Melrose
☑ Jeff Daniels/The Looming Tower
John Legend/Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert
Jesse Plemons/USS Callister (Black Mirror)
Shout out to Jesse Plemons for originality and Benedict Cumberbatch for his ultra angst. Jeff Daniels gave two great performances this year, this and “Godless.” Is there anything he can’t do? He plays this guy like he is five guys in one. He did justice to the book. And he was “Dumb & Dumber” too. How could I not vote for Jeff?
Supporting Actress in a Drama Series
Alexis Bledel/The Handmaid’s Tale
Millie Bobby Brown/Stranger Things
Ann Dowd/The Handmaid’s Tale
Lena Headey/Game Of Thrones
☑ Vanessa Kirby/The Crown
Yvonne Strahovski/The Handmaid’s Tale
I tuned into “The Crown” as much for Vanessa Kirby as for the Queen. She made Margaret the kind of sexy bad girl that I love to watch. She is a star as “Mission Impossible” proved.
Yvonne Strahovski was the best thing about “Handmaid’s” disappointing 2nd season. Ann Dowd is now a part of the culture with the force of her characterization and its political significance. Lena Headley is fierce and Thandie Newton is always memorable. But it’s all about the way Princess Margaret smoked her cigarettes and unrepentant lifestyle — Vanessa Kirby.
Supporting Actor in a Drama Series
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau/Game Of Thrones
Peter Dinklage/Game Of Thrones
Joseph Fiennes/The Handmaid’s Tale
David Harbour/Stranger Things
☑ Mandy Patinkin/Homeland
Matt Smith/The Crown
I love “Homeland” so I love Mandy, who is always interesting, even when the show jumps the shark. I’m a loyal viewer when I like a show. I never let go.
“Game of Thrones” is incredible but huge, and there is a grand note that all the performances hit over and over. I’m a little disappointed in the lack of originality in the choices here in this category. All good actors, it’s just…
Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Alex Borstein/The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Aidy Bryant/Saturday Night Live
Leslie Jones/Saturday Night Live
☑ Kate McKinnon/Saturday Night Live
Megan Mullally/Will & Grace
Let’s start with Zazie Beetz, whose deceptively simple acting style hides all manner of subtext. Her charisma and talent will lead to her own series and movies. The “SNL” crew are all great, Kate’s characterizations are more than just funny, they are cultural markers. Leslie Jones is a joy, she can make anything funny, I’d like to be her friend just so I can hear what she says about everything. Alex Borstein is one of my favorite parts of “Maisel.” Betty Gilpin is the wrestler I love to hate. She shows us both sides of her slightly desperate character who is also growing into her power. What a STRONG category. I voted for Kate McKinnon.
Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Alec Baldwin/Saturday Night Live
Tituss Burgess/Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
☑ Brian Tyree Henry/Atlanta
Tony Shalhoub/The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Kenan Thompson/Saturday Night Live
Brian Tyree Henry is part of the flawless “Atlanta” crew, and got my vote. I have worked with Tony Shalhoub and he is the greatest. When we had a good take on a master I would give him one more with the caveat that he should set himself free. That’s the one that ends up in the show. But I voted for Brian Tyree!
Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie
Sara Bareilles/Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert
Penélope Cruz/The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Judith Light/The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Adina Porter/American Horror Story: Cult
☑ Merritt Wever/Godless
Letitia Wright/Black Museum (Black Mirror)
This one is easy Merritt Wever, I’ll watch anything she is in. So dry so good, so smart. Shout out to Penelope Cruz, just because… I want more of Cruz on TV and movies. Pedro A, are you listening?
Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie
☑ Jeff Daniels/Godless
Brandon Victor Dixon/Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert
Ricky Martin/The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Edgar Ramírez/The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
Michael Stuhlbarg/The Looming Tower
Finn Wittrock/The Assassination Of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story
My vote — Jeff Daniels. First you see him explode so you know what he is capable of. Then he’s quiet and it becomes like a Hitchcock trope of knowing that the bomb is under the table. He had tremendous stillness, then more violent the action around him, the more still he became, which gave him great power. Michael Stuhlbarg is ALWAYS good.
Outstanding Reality/Competition Program
The Amazing Race
American Ninja Warrior
RuPaul’s Drag Race
☑ Top Chef
I NEVER miss “Top Chef.” As much as I love to cook, these people are scary good.
Outstanding Structured Reality Program
Lip Sync Battle
Who Do You Think You Are?
Outstanding Unstructured Reality Program
Born This Way
Naked And Afraid
RuPaul’s Drag Race: Untucked
☑ United Shades Of America With W. Kamau Bell
Always smart. It is right on the pulse of who we are.
Host for a Reality or Reality/Competition Program
☑ W. Kamau Bell/United Shades Of America With W. Kamau Bell
Ellen Degeneres/Ellen’s Game Of Games
RuPaul/RuPaul’s Drag Race
Heidi Klum and Tim Gunn/Project Runway
Jane Lynch/Hollywood Game Night
It’s his show. Another deserving multi-tasker.
Outstanding Variety Talk Series
The Daily Show With Trevor Noah
Full Frontal With Samantha Bee
Jimmy Kimmel Live!
☑ Last Week Tonight With John Oliver
The Late Late Show With James Corden
The Late Show With Stephen Colbert
John Oliver. I go to bed MAD every Sunday. Actually, Wednesdays too. Thank you, Samantha.
Outstanding Variety Sketch Series
At Home With Amy Sedaris
I Love You, America With Sarah Silverman
☑ Saturday Night Live
Tracey Ullman’s Show
“SNL” still on the zeitgeist. Still crazy after all these years.
Outstanding Variety Special (Live)
The 75th Annual Golden Globe Awards
60th Annual Grammy Awards
Jesus Christ Superstar Live In Concert
Night Of Too Many Stars: America Unites For Autism Programs
Outstanding Variety Special (Pre-Recorded)
Carol Burnett Show 50th Anniversary Special
Carpool Karaoke Primetime Special 2018
Dave Chappelle: Equanimity
Full Frontal With Samantha Bee Presents: The Great American* Puerto Rico (*It’s Complicated)
☑ Steve Martin & Martin Short: An Evening You Will Forget For The Rest Of Your Life
Steve and Marty — Showbiz excellence.
Outstanding Informational Series or Special
☑ Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown
Leah Remini: Scientology And The Aftermath
My Next Guest Needs No Introduction With David Letterman
StarTalk With Neil deGrasse Tyson
I will greatly miss Mr. Bourdain. We have travelled around the world on his TV advice. Been to Hong Kong, Rome, Paris, Singapore, Chiang Mei, Singapore, Bangkok,and Koreatown because his show moves us to do so. I have read Zola, Graham Greene, “The Friends of Eddie Coyle” and re-watch Jean Pierre Melville, Wong Kar-wai, and “La Dolce Vita” because I believed in what he preached. Inclusion, curiosity, respect. To paraphrase Warren Zevon, So sorry “your ride’s here.”
[Production assistance by Liz Shannon Miller.]