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Emmy Predictions 2019: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

Will Peter Dinklage rule one more time, or is a surprise in store for the Supporting Actor race? [Updated July 19]

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, "Game of Thrones"

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones”

HBO

Last Year’s Winner: Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: In bad news for Peter Dinklage, the TV Academy really doesn’t like to hand out back-to-back honors for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — not that Dinklage hasn’t already noticed. His three wins have come in 2011, 2015, and 2018, breaking up the only other repeat winner of the decade’s would-be hot streaks; Aaron Paul, who won for “Breaking Bad” in 2010, 2012, and 2014. Oddly enough, they’re two of just four supporting actors to win three trophies, and the other two — Art Carney (“The Jackie Gleason Show”) and Don Knotts (“The Andy Griffith Show”) — racked up all their wins in three consecutive years. Still, the last actor to win back-to-back in this category was Ray Walston for “Picket Fences” in 1995 and 1996.
Fun Fact: With the above in mind, perhaps the best evidence of Emmy voters spreading the love in this category came from 2000 to 2004. Only two shows were represented in the winners circle, but they were taken there by five different actors — Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, and John Spencer all won for “The West Wing” from 2000 – 2002, before Joe Pantoliano and Michael Imperioli won for “The Sopranos” the following two years. Then, in 2006, Alan Alda won for “The West Wing.” I’ll bet the “Game of Thrones” cast wishes voters still thought that way.
Notable Ineligible Series: Joseph Fiennes, “The Handmaid’s Tale”; David Harbour, “Stranger Things”; James Marsden, “Westworld”; Mandy Patinkin, “Homeland”; Matt Smith, “The Crown”

At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. This article will be updated throughout the season, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for all the latest buzz from the 2019 race, and read predictions in the rest of the categories, as well. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, Sept. 14 and Sunday, Sept. 15. The 71st Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles, Calif., on Sunday, Sept. 22. Fox is broadcasting the ceremony.

The State of the Race

Three “Game of Thrones” stars, two from “Better Call Saul,” a perennial nominee from an exiting show, and an unexpected newcomer from a series at its height — this is the supporting actor field, and it is a bit tricky to predict. The category tends to rotate between crowning sure-things (like Aaron Paul and Peter Dinklage’s multiple wins) and out-of-nowhere upsets (like Ben Mendelsohn for “Bloodline” and Bobby Cannavale in “Boardwalk Empire”). Which will it be this year? Let’s dig in.

When in doubt, go with Dinklage. That strategy has worked three times in the last seven years, including in 2018, and a fourth trophy would make him the most awarded actor ever in the category. (He’s currently tied with Paul, Don Knotts, and Art Carney.) Dinklage arguably had the most satisfying story in the final season and delivered a number of compelling scenes, so he’s got to be the early favorite.

Still, “Game of Thrones” found its strength in its ensemble, so does the TV Academy only want to reward one of its male series regulars (assuming they don’t give Kit Harington a trophy in the lead category)? Enter Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, an actor who would have a much clearer path to victory if his character’s ending wasn’t so controversial. Entering the final season, Jaime seemed to be on the path to eternal “fan favorite” status, but he ended with more of a whimper than a bang — Coster-Waldau did well by the character, but how much voters can separate a terrific performance from a twisted character could prove whether he stands a shot at winning.

Of course, Alfie Allen could also sneak away with the Emmy. After self-submitting, he snagged his first nomination, so maybe there have been a horde of Theon fans hiding within the TV Academy all these years. It seems more likely “Better Call Saul” allegiances have been growing, though, as now both Jonathan Banks and Giancarlo Esposito have busted into the race. Banks has now been nominated seven times, six of which are for the same role, and he has yet to win. If “Better Call Saul” can get a little momentum going, perhaps this is finally his year. This is only Esposito’s second nomination, his first for “Better Call Saul,” but his second nod for playing Gus Fring. That doesn’t bode well for a winning ticket, but perhaps the overdue acknowledgement for the “Breaking Bad” favorite can set up repeat runs in the future.

Who’s left? Well, Michael Kelly nabbed his fourth nomination for “House of Cards,” and while the Netflix original doesn’t seem to be at the top of anyone’s list — it missed the Best Drama Series cut — the actors still have respect for Kelly and co-star Robin Wright. Meanwhile, Chris Sullivan was the most surprising “This Is Us” nod on Emmy nominations morning, joining his castmates Sterling K. Brown, Milo Ventimiglia, and Mandy Moore and beating out perceived favorites like Justin Hartley and Christy Metz. Can Toby make a push for the win? Stranger things have happened in the category… but this would still be near the top of that list.

Power Ranking the Nominees:

  1. Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones”
  2. Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”
  3. Jonathan Banks, “Better Call Saul”
  4. Giancarlo Esposito, “Better Call Saul”
  5. Alfie Allen, “Game of Thrones”
  6. Michael Kelly, “House of Cards”
  7. Chris Sullivan, “This Is Us”

Will Win: Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones”
Could Win: Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”
Should Win: Giancarlo Esposito, “Better Call Saul”

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