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Emmy Predictions 2020: Best Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or TV Movie

"Mrs. America" threatens to take over the category, while Emmy favorites elsewhere force voters to consider more than one option.

Watchmen Jean Smart Episode 7 HBO

Jean Smart in “Watchmen”

Mark Hill/HBO

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 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: 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, even if which limited series will garner the TV Academy’s favor is still up in the air — kind of.

FX on Hulu’s “Mrs. America” has made a big impact on critics 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, Sarah Paulson, and Tracey Ullman, while Dahvi Waller’s limited series has given Rose Byrne her best chance at an Emmy since “Damages.”

Reviews have not been as kind to Ryan Murphy’s latest — and his first Netflix original series under the groundbreaking producer’s overall deal — but “Hollywood” has been holding well in Netflix’s Top 10 viewership rankings and sports its own well-liked cast of supporting players. First and foremost is Holland Taylor, a seven-time nominee and former winner, but don’t count out Patti LuPone; she hasn’t been nominated at the Emmys since 1998, but her role is a bit more prominent than Taylor’s, as well as their other, less experienced “Hollywood” co-star, Laura Harrier.

Netflix will also be pushing “Unbelievable,” which debuted last fall but performed well with critics and at the winter awards shows, including Toni Collette, who already earned Golden Globe and SAG nominations for her work; Amandla Stenberg’s excellent turn in the May limited series, “The Eddy,” and Jane Krakowski in the “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt” interactive special, “Kimmy vs. The Reverend.”

HBO’s “Watchmen,” meanwhile, offers both Jean Smart and Hong Chau in the category, as Smart goes for her ninth nominations while Chau could land her first. Allison Janney is up for HBO’s “Bad Education,” and despite her 14 nominations and seven wins, she’s yet to snag recognition in the Limited Series/TV Movie categories. Rounding out the top contenders from the Emmys’ top network are Kathryn Hahn (“I Know This Much Is True”), Winona Ryder (“The Plot Against America”), and Emma Thompson (“Years and Years”).

Even when one show could take up the entire category, there are still more dark horses voters should keep in mind. Eve Lindley is far and away the best element of AMC’s “Dispatches From Elsewhere”; Cherry Jones manages to rise above the rampant melodrama in the Apple TV+ series “Defending Jacob” — as does Tiffany Boone, who finds a way to bottle up Kerry Washington’s over-the-top intensity and channel it into a captivating performance all her own, playing the younger version of their character, Mia Warren.

Predicted Nominees:

1. Jean Smart, “Watchmen”
2. Toni Collette, “Unbelievable”
3. Rose Byrne, “Mrs. America”
4. Uzo Aduba, “Mrs. America”
5. Allison Janney, “Bad Education”
6. Sarah Paulson, “Mrs. America”

Spoilers: Margo Martindale, “Mrs. America”; Tracey Ullman, “Mrs. America”; Melissa Leo, “I Know This Much Is True”; Patti Lupone, “Hollywood”; Holland Taylor, “Hollywood”; Emma Thompson, “Years and Years”; Winona Ryder, “The Plot Against America”; Naomi Watts, “The Loudest Voice”; Cherry Jones, “Defending Jacob”

In a Perfect World: Amandla Stenberg, “The Eddy”; Eve Lindley, “Dispatches From Elsewhere”; Tiffany Boone, “Little Fires Everywhere”; Hong Chau, “Watchmen”; Kathryn Hahn, “I Know This Much Is True”

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