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Emmy Predictions: Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series — Upsets Brewing

If "The Crown" hopes to sweep the top categories, Tobias Menzies will have to come up big here.

Michael Kenneth Williams in "Lovecraft Country"

Michael Kenneth Williams in “Lovecraft Country”

Eli Joshua Ade / HBO

Last Year’s Winner: Billy Crudup, “The Morning Show”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: Peter Dinklage was the last actor to earn back-to-back wins in the Best Supporting Actor, Drama category, and that was just a few years ago: 2018-2019. Before that, you have to go back to 1995-1996 to find a repeat winner, when Ray Walston took home two Emmys for “Picket Fences.” Billy Crudup will have a chance to defend his title when “The Morning Show” returns, but he won’t repeat this year, since Season 2 will not be released in time.
Fun Fact: Though it’s rare for the same actor to win in consecutive years (only eight have done it, and only one has done it in the last 25 years), programs fare slightly better and repeat winners still surface regularly. Joe Pantoliano and Michael Imperioli won the Supporting category for “The Sopranos” in 2003 and 2004, while Richard Schiff, Bradley Whitford, and John Spencer won for “The West Wing” between 2000 – 2002. (Plus, each of Aaron Paul’s three Emmy wins were separated by one year, and “Lost” won twice in three years from 2007 – 2009.)
Notable Ineligible Series: Billy Crudup and Mark Duplass in “The Morning Show” (Season 2 will not be eligible); Nicolas Braun, Kieran Culkin, and Matthew Macfadyen in “Succession” (Season 3 is not expected to be eligible); Giancarlo Esposito and Jonathan Banks in “Better Call Saul” (Season 6 will not be eligible); Jeffrey Wright in “Westworld” (Season 4 will not be eligible); David Harbour in “Stranger Things” (Season 4 is not expected to be eligible)

At the bottom of this page are IndieWire Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. This article will be updated throughout the season, along with all our predictions, so make sure to keep checking IndieWire for the latest news from the 2021 race. Voting for the 2021 Emmys was held from June 17 through June 28 (with polls closing at 10 p.m. PT). Emmy nominations were announced Tuesday, July 13. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out Saturday, September 11 and Sunday, September 12. The 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place Sunday, September 19. CBS is broadcasting the ceremony.

The State of the Race

The supporting races in every genre are always tricky to predict, given the sheer number of nominees, but this year’s crop of Drama actors leaves many paths to victory. For starters, the category fields eight nominees for only the second time ever. Last year marked the first expansion, but only one of those eight 2020 nominees remains eligible in 2021.

So let’s start with who managed to stick around: Bradley Whitford earned his first nomination for “The Handmaid’s Tale” in the Guest Actor category, and after winning that trophy in 2019, he snagged a nomination in the Supporting field last year before repeating this year. The seven-time nominee and three-time winner isn’t the only “Handmaid’s” actor in the running, though. O-T Fagbenle and Max Minghella earned their first nominations ever this year, and its cast has done extremely well with voters through three seasons.

Netflix, meanwhile, succeeded in seeing Tobias Menzies earn his first nomination, following in the footsteps of past “Crown” nominees Matt Smith in 2019 and John Lithgow, who won, in 2018. But what happens next? That Menzies didn’t secure a nod for his initial turn could indicate a lack of enthusiasm, while the voters’ strong showing for Season 4 overall could very well mean the opposite. One thing’s for sure: With “The Crown” expected to win Drama Series and at least two other acting categories, if the Netflix heavyweight hopes to dominate this year’s race, it would have to win here, as well.

Serious contenders include Giancarlo Esposito, who moved from a Guest Actor nod in Season 1 to a Supporting Actor nomination in Season 2 for “The Mandalorian.” The Disney+ hit did very well overall, and if it has any aspirations for the top prize, it would need some actors to hop on board — if Esposito wins, it opens the door for a Drama Series upset. The same likely isn’t the case for “Lovecraft Country” should Michael Kenneth Williams win, but don’t count him out. He’s been nominated five times in the last seven years and has yet to take home the trophy. His complex and passionate turn in the canceled HBO series is certainly worthy — will Emmy voters give him his due?

NBC is hoping whoever turned out for Chris Sullivan in 2019 puts the “This Is Us” actor’s name on their ballots again this year. Then there’s “Perry Mason,” which features 12-time nominee and six-time winner John Lithgow. Both are long-shots in a year where the buzz lies with other programs, but nothing is certain. Not in the Supporting Actor field, anyway.

Power Rankings:

  1. Michael Kenneth Williams, “Lovecraft Country”
  2. Tobias Menzies, “The Crown”
  3. Giancarlo Esposito, “The Mandalorian”
  4. Bradley Whitford, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  5. O-T Fagbenle, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  6. John Lithgow, “Perry Mason”
  7. Max Minghella, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  8. Chris Sullivan, “This Is Us”

Will Win: Michael Kenneth Williams, “Lovecraft Country”
Could Win: Tobias Menzies, “The Crown”
Should Win: Michael Kenneth Williams, “Lovecraft Country”

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