If you put your ear to the ground, you can hear it coming. Somewhere, beneath the thunderous hoofbeats of the end of the Oscar race, there is a thrum. “The Emmys are coming,” the thrum says. “Hold on to your butts.”
Setting aside the absolute pandemonium pending in both the drama series — Yes, “Succession,” yes, “Squid Game,” but also “Severance,” “Yellowstone,” “Yellowjackets,” and “Euphoria” just to name a few — and comedy series — “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” “Atlanta,” “Barry,” and “Russian Doll” all return, not to mention second seasons of “Ted Lasso” and “Hacks — races, we’re on track to see some wild shot-calling when it comes to which categories actors wind up competing in.
Specifically, what does a massive ensemble show like Showtime’s “Yellowjackets” do when it comes to deciding which of its bevy of talented performers gets slotted in lead actress and which fight it out in supporting actress?
Let’s look at some large ensemble predecessors. First and foremost, HBO’s “Game of Thrones.” An Emmy Award behemoth for all of its eight seasons, the series was actually pretty touch and go as far as scoring nominations for its actors. Only Peter Dinklage as Tyrion Lannister scored a nomination for each season and was ultimately the only actor to win an Emmy for his work on the series, four times over in supporting actor.
But maybe the most insightful point that “Game of Thrones” can illustrate for ensemble shows in its wake is how much more successful it was at garnering nominations in guest and supporting categories than it was in lead. Of the 32 Emmy nominations for actors on the series, only two came for lead performances, specifically for Emilia Clarke and Kit Harington.
Based on that, if I’m “Yellowjackets,” I’m putting everyone in supporting actress and letting the Television Academy sort it out.
Or you could look to a show like ABC’s “Lost.” Another huge cast, another wilderness crash landing, another show where you’re trying to finagle who fits where on an Emmy ballot. “Lost” had the advantage of Matthew Fox as Jack Shephard front and center. With Fox in lead actor and Evangeline Lilly in lead actress, the rest of the cast filtered into supporting and guest accordingly, with Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson each receiving multiple nominations, as well as an Emmy, in supporting actor through the seasons.
This feels viable for “Yellowjackets.” As Shauna, Melanie Lynskey has already earned acclaim with a Critics Choice Television Award nomination for [lead] actress in a drama series, so it makes sense to slot her into lead actress with her co-stars competing in supporting actress.
But let’s pull back further and look at a show that could not be more different than “Yellowjackets,” while also sharing some similar category challenges.
For the first four seasons of NBC’s “The Golden Girls,” all four of the main cast members, Bea Arthur, Estelle Getty, Rue McClanahan, and Betty White, were nominated at the Emmys for their performances and, notably, during that time each woman won. This was made possible, in part, due to Getty running in supporting actress, while her three co-stars competed in lead. One fewer performer from the series attempting to compete in the same category allowed all other “Golden” boats to rise.
Maybe this is how “Yellowjackets” should angle their actresses. With a sensible, but still strategic deployment of submissions.
At least, maybe that would work if “Yellowjackets” had to deal with only its four adult lead actresses. Add in their teen counterparts and things get that much messier. Could they submit all eight main actresses in lead? Should they submit all eight in supporting? Is there a perfect formula to optimize the show’s awards opportunities?
There’s still time to figure all that out, of course. But the clock is ticking.
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