Throughout Emmy season, IndieWire will be evaluating the top contenders for TV’s most prestigious prize, and it all starts here. At the bottom of this page are IndieWire TV Critic Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. This article will be updated throughout the coming months, along with all our predictions, to reflect an up-to-the-minute state of the race. Make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest coverage on the 2020 Emmys, including breaking news, analysis, interviews, podcasts, FYC event coverage, reviews of all the awards contenders, and more. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 12 and Sunday, September 13. The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place at the Microsoft Theater in downtown Los Angeles on Sunday, September 20. (See our awards calendar for a more detailed breakdown of important dates.) ABC is broadcasting the ceremony.
Last Year’s Winner: Peter Dinklage, “Game of Thrones”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: After last year’s win, Peter Dinklage finished an Emmy run worthy of his epic series, ending with the most wins in the history of this category (four), the most nominations (eight), and pushing “Game of Thrones” to the most series wins, as well (also four, of course). The most nominated show remains “Hill Street Blues,” which snagged 16 nominations and three wins.
Fun Fact: The reason “Hill Street Blues,” “L.A. Law,” and “The West Wing” hold such a dominant lead in the most-nominated programs count (16, 15, and 14, respectively) is because these are the shows with the most nominated performers. While Dinklage’s eight individual nominations for “Game of Thrones” helped push the show to 12 total nominations, seven different actors from “Hill Street Blues” were nominated 16 times in just six years: Taurean Blacque, Michael Conrad, Charles Haid, James Sikking, Joe Spano, Michael Warren, and Bruce Weitz. Conrad won twice and Weitz once, but the sheer power of “Hill Street Blues” was best shown in 1982, when every slot in this category was filled by an actor from the NBC drama.
Notable Ineligible Series: “Game of Thrones” (Peter Dinklage, Alfie Allen, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau), “House of Cards” (Michael Kelly)
The State of the Race
Eight nominees enter. One leaves. A crowded (figurative) cage match awaits each of the this year’s Supporting Actor/Actress categories, and the Drama division looks to be particularly fierce. So let’s start where most of the 2020 conversations have to: with “Succession.”
After being shut out of the acting races for Season 1, Jesse Armstrong’s HBO series stormed the Emmys in Season 2, landing nine nominees for its cast, including three in the Supporting Actor race. Culkin is the presumptive favorite, given he landed the ensemble’s sole 2019 Golden Globe nomination (before earning a second in 2020). Still, if voters could choose a duo instead of just one performer, Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Braun would be unstoppable: Separate, they’re very strong, but together, they’re electric. No matter what, HBO hopes the TV Academy will pick a favorite among its multiple “Succession” options, even if it’s understandable to be split among the three.
“The Morning Show” faces a similar vote-splitting conundrum, as Billy Crudup and Mark Duplass both ended up on Emmy’s not-so-short list. Crudup has long been a fan favorite, landing a Screen Actors Guild Award nomination this winter alongside Steve Carell, before benefitting from his co-stars (rather odd) placement in the Lead Actor category here. Duplass, meanwhile, was a fun surprise, which shows just how much the acting branch responded to Apple’s flagship drama.
With five of the eight nominees coming from just two shows, that leaves the remaining three nominees as dark horses, yes, but dark horses who can definitely make a run at this. Giancarlo Esposito is “Better Call Saul’s” only acting nominee, and he could benefit from the lack of in-house competition: For one, if voters realize their mistake in snubbing “BCS” elsewhere, Esposito could ride the resurgent passion of an energized fanbase all the way to the podium. Also, as a double nominee (“The Mandalorian”), Esposito is very well-liked on his own and has never won. Perhaps this is his year.
Jeffrey Wright (“Westworld”) and Bradley Whitford (“The Handmaid’s Tale”) have won, but it’s been 16 years since Wright took home an Emmy for “Angels in America.” He’s overdue for a second, remains one of the HBO robot drama’s best assets, and often uses his platform for philanthropic endeavors, making voters all the more eager to throw some love his way. People are already eager to vote for Whitford. The “West Wing” alum won his first Emmy for Aaron Sorkin’s landmark drama in 2001, but he’s taken home two more in the last five years (“Transparent” in 2015 and “The Handmaid’s Tale” in 2019). Technically, he’s a defending champion, taking his role as Commander Lawrence from the Guest Actor category to Supporting. And with so many options on the table, there’s no one who’s totally out of this race.
1. Kieran Culkin, “Succession”
2. Billy Crudup, “The Morning Show”
3. Giancarlo Esposito, “Better Call Saul”
4. Matthew Macfadyen, “Succession”
5. Jeffrey Wright, “Westworld”
6. Nicholas Braun, “Succession”
7. Bradley Whitford, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
8. Mark Duplass, “The Morning Show”
Will Win: Kieran Culkin, “Succession”
Could Win: Billy Crudup, “The Morning Show”
Should Win: Matthew Mcfadyen, “Succession”