Throughout Emmy season, IndieWire will evaluate 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 Limited Series or TV Movie. 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 the week of September 14. The 72nd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place virtually 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: Patricia Arquette, “The Act”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: The typical one-and-done nature of the Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie category makes repeat wins a bit of a rarity, but five performers have pulled it off to date: Regina King in “American Crime” is the most recent (2015, 2016) — and the only actress to win in consecutive years — while Jane Alexander (“Playing for Time” in 1981 and “Warm Springs” in 2005), Judy Davis (“Serving in Silence: The Margarethe Cammermeyer Story” in 1995 and “The Starter Wife” in 2007), Colleen Dewhurst (“Between Two Women” in 1986 and “Those She Left Behind” in 1989), and Mare Winningham (“Amber Waves” in 1980 and “George Wallace” in 1988) round out the elite group.
Fun Fact: Four of the eligible “Mrs. America” supporting actresses — Rose Byrne, Margo Martindale, Sarah Paulson, and Uzo Aduba — have 17 Emmy nominations and six wins between them. But even these beloved Emmy favorites can’t match up their landmark co-star Tracey Ullman, who has 26 Emmy nominations and seven wins all to herself.
Notable Ineligible Series: “Fargo” (Season 4 did not finish shooting before production was suspended.); “The Undoing” (HBO has pushed the release date to Fall 2020); “American Crime Story” (“Impeachment” has not premiered), “True Detective” (Season 4 has not premiered), “The Alienist” (Season 2 has not premiered), “The Good Lord Bird” (delayed), “Big Little Lies” (Season 2 is eligible as a drama series), “Genius: Aretha” (delayed)
The State of the Race
Like “When They See Us” last year and many Ryan Murphy series before that, the acting nominations for Limited Series’ categories can often be dominated by a single ensemble-driven program. This year appears to be no different, as FX on Hulu’s “Mrs. America” made a big impact on voters and seems to be connecting with audiences as well — throw in the cast’s above-mentioned history at the Emmys and these supporting stars are early frontrunners. Episodes have given gleaming spotlights to stars like Uzo Aduba, Margo Martindale, and Tracey Ullman, so there are but two concerns for the network going into Emmys night: vote-splitting and Jean Smart.
“Watchmen” appears to be an unstoppable force at the 2020 Emmys, securing the most nominations of any program and landing early wins at the Creative Arts Awards. Smart is one of the most-heralded cast members, and her sharp-witted turn could easily convince voters to reward her with her first Emmy since 2008 (for “Samantha Who?”). Still, she has won three times before, and if voters prefer a weightier performance (and one backed by history), they will likely pivot to Aduba’s portrayal Shirley Chisholm.
Now, even though the presumed battle will be between “Watchmen” and “Mrs. America,” Toni Collette could play spoiler here. Since “Hereditary” hit theaters in 2018, many have been clamoring for the veteran actor to get her due at the Oscars — but the Emmys are already onboard. A three-time nominee prior to this year who took home the trophy in 2009 for “United States of Tara,” Collette is a proven favorite who has a bit more urgency around her than some of her competitors. With the aforementioned horror classic, Netflix’s under-appreciated “Wanderlust,” and recent magnetic supporting turns in “Knives Out” and “I’m Thinking of Ending Things,” Collette feels… overlooked? Many thought she’d be a lock for a second Emmy when “Unbelievable” hit last fall, but it sat on the shelf too long and lost heat before the vote. If the TV Academy is going to give the well-reviewed Netflix original anything, odds are Collette will be the pick.
That leaves Holland Taylor, the Emmys’ pick among “Hollywood’s” supporting women and a long shot to walk away with her second trophy. Reviews were not kind to Ryan Murphy’s latest — and his first Netflix original series under the groundbreaking producer’s overall deal — but “Hollywood” did have a decent hold in Netflix’s Top 10 viewership rankings. Perhaps the acting branch responded better, and are thus prepared to honor an eight-time nominee with another award.
1. Uzo Aduba, “Mrs. America”
2. Jean Smart, “Watchmen”
3. Toni Collette, “Unbelievable”
3. Uzo Aduba, “Mrs. America”
4. Margo Martindale, “Mrs. America”
5. Tracey Ullman, “Mrs. America”
6. Holland Taylor, “Hollywood”
Will Win: Uzo Aduba, “Mrs. America”
Could Win: Jean Smart, “Watchmen”
Should Win: Everyone