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 Actress 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: Julia Garner, “Ozark”
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: There hasn’t been a repeat winner in the past five years, and four different networks were represented in the Best Supporting Actress (Drama) category during that time. (Netflix won twice.) The last back-to-back champ was Anna Gunn for “Breaking Bad” in 2013 and 2014. Before her, Blythe Danner was the last consecutive winner, back in 2005 and 2006 for Showtime’s “Huff.”
Fun Fact: Boosting the “vote splitting” theories out there, “Hill Street Blues” has the most nominations in this category with 13 total nods. Barbara Boson was nominated five times, Betty Thomas was nominated seven times, and Alfre Woodard was nominated once. Woodard took home “Hill Street’s” first trophy in the category for her first nomination, topping both her cast members in 1984, and Thomas won the year after. But Boson, who was always nominated against another co-star, never took home the Emmy.
Notable Ineligible Series: “Game of Thrones” and the four nominees it landed in 2019 (Gwendoline Christie, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner, and Maisie Williams)
The State of the Race
Last year saw “Game of Thrones” dominate the nominations (before losing the award to “Ozark’s” Julia Garner) and that means there are four open spots for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Garner is back and strong as ever in “Ozark” Season 3, and one of last year’s pleasant surprises — Fiona Shaw from “Killing Eve” — will be eligible again in 2020.
And yet two newcomers seem like the odds-on favorites. Who can discount Meryl Streep from an awards race? Not I, and likely not Emmy voters. Even if “Big Little Lies” Season 2 didn’t live up to its predecessor, Streep sunk her fake teeth into every scene and elevated everyone around her. She’s the definition of an outstanding supporting actress, even when her immaculate character work stole the spotlight from the leads. Then there’s Helena Bonham Carter, who inherited the role of Princess Margaret previously played perfectly by Vanessa Kirby — Carter might be the only person on the planet who could settle so comfortably into the rowdy royal sister’s shoes, after Kirby wore them in so well, and it could get the actress her first major American award. (She’s been nominated twice at the Oscars, eight times at the Golden Globes, and three times at the Emmys, without ever winning.)
But before I get ahead of myself, let’s keep an eye on the competition. Looking to join Streep from the “Big Little Lies” cast is none other than recent Oscar winner Laura Dern, who already has one Emmy for flashy turn as Renata Klein. Thandie Newton would love to get back in the race for “Westworld,” and HBO would love to keep its nomination tally at or near four. Perhaps Cynthia Erivo will join the party, riding a ratings wave for “The Outsider,” or maybe Shailene Woodley will put the “Big Little Lies” tally at three, while helping the network keep up with last year.
HBO aside, there are plenty of former nominees still in the running or back in the race. 2017 Emmy winner Ann Dowd delivered another memorable turn as Aunt Lydia in Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale,” while her co-star Yvonne Strahovski is hoping to snag her second nod. Millie Bobby Brown could make a return to the category with “Stranger Things,” after earning nominations for both of the Netflix juggernaut’s first two seasons, while Chrissy Metz hasn’t made the cut since 2017, but a strong arc in “This Is Us” Season 4 could help boost her chances.
That being said, Susan Kelechi Watson — and a bunch of other yet-to-be-nominated talents — could edge out those old favorites. Sarah Snook and Holly Hunter will have the hot drama “Succession” to help Hunter snag her first nod since 2009 (and Snook her first nod ever); Gugu Mbatha-Raw could find her way into the race if the TV Academy really warms to “The Morning Show”; Phylicia Rashad has the best shot of anyone on OWN’s breakout drama “David Makes Man”; Gillian Anderson deserves a second look for “Sex Education,” while long-standing dark horses Maggie Siff (“Billions”) and Cush Jumbo (“The Good Fight”) have seasons of great work on their side. With so many open slots, it feels like anything can happen, but only time will tell if the TV Academy embraces change or slides back to former favorites.
1. Meryl Streep, “Big Little Lies”
2. Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”
3. Julia Garner, “Ozark”
4. Laura Dern, “Big Little Lies”
5. Rhea Seehorn, “Better Call Saul”
6. Thandie Newton, “Westworld”
7. Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
8. Sarah Snook, “Succession”
Spoilers: Cynthia Erivo, “The Outsider”; Fiona Shaw, “Killing Eve”; Gugu Mbatha-Raw, “The Morning Show”; Yvonne Strahovski, “The Handmaid’s Tale”; Millie Bobby Brown, “Stranger Things”; Susan Kelechi Watson, “This Is Us”; Chrissy Metz, “This Is Us”; Shailene Woodley, “Big Little Lies”; Phylicia Rashad, “David Makes Man”; Holly Hunter, “Succession”
In a Perfect World: J. Smith Cameron, “Succession”; Indya Moore, “Pose”; Cush Jumbo, “The Good Fight”; Maggie Siff, “Billions”; Tessa Thompson, “Westworld”