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Emmy Predictions 2021: Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series — Deep Ballot Equals Hard Choices

Which Daveed Diggs performance would you vote for?

The Good Lord Bird Daveed Diggs

Daveed Diggs in “The Good Lord Bird”

William Gray / Showtime

Last Year’s Winner: Yahya Abdul-Mateen II, “Watchmen”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: There has never been a repeat winner in this category, and one network hasn’t won twice in a row since Tom Wilkinson (“John Adams”), Ken Howard (“Grey Gardens”), David Strathairn (“Temple Grandin”) and Guy Pearce (“Mildred Pierce”) took home consecutive trophies for HBO original programs from 2008 to 2011. (And if an HBO actor triumphs this year, they could start a new streak on the 10th anniversary of its last one.)
Fun Fact: Given this category consists of performers in limited series, anthology series, and TV movies, it shouldn’t be all that surprising to learn that very few programs have been represented more than a few times. “American Crime Story” leads them all with six nominations and “American Horror Story” is close behind with five.
Notable Ineligible Series: “American Crime Story: Impeachment” (the season did not air in time to be eligible); Anthony Mackie and Sebastian Stan, “The Falcon and the Winter Soldier” (submitted as a Drama Series).

At the bottom of this page are IndieWire Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series, Anthology Series, or TV Movie. 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 2020 race. Voting for the 2021 Emmys will be held from June 17 through June 28 (with polls closing at 10 p.m. PT). Emmy nominations will be announced Tuesday, July 13. The Creative Arts Emmy Awards will be given out in September, at a date (or dates) to be announced. The 73rd Annual Primetime Emmy Awards will take place Sunday, September 19. CBS is broadcasting the ceremony.

The State of the Race

For the last few years, we’ve seen exciting races for Best Supporting Actor in a Limited Series, Anthology Series, or TV Movie. Favorite shows have pushed actors to victory, and favorite actors have elevated their programs. With that in mind, this year’s enigmatic class of contenders will likely remain a mystery until nominations are announced, as high-profile performances in well-watched projects go up against great supporting turns in front-running awards fare.

Let’s start with a few names who pop up in the latter group. Bill Camp is an absolute king, but even after all the acclaim for “The Queen’s Gambit” and a surprise SAG nomination for his single episode role, it’s hard to believe the 2017 Emmy nominee for “The Night Of” is a top contender this year. Still, thus is the power of “The Queen’s Gambit,” and thus is the talent of the singular Camp; it’s a true supporting turn, and should be honored as such. Joining him could be William Jackson Harper, who appears in the latter half of Amazon Prime Video’s “The Underground Railroad” and provides an essential dose of heart. Nominated just last year for “The Good Place,” Harper’s moving latest work could be overshadowed by some big names on the ballot, but anyone who made it through Barry Jenkins’ masterpiece won’t soon forget his part in it.

Of course, Jackson isn’t the only worthy supporting turn from “The Underground Railroad.” The TV Academy should take a long look at Chase Dillon, Aaron Pierre, and Peter Mullan as well — all three leave distinct, powerful impressions during their supporting arcs. Meanwhile, if voters spark to “I May Destroy You” the same way fans have, Paapa Essiedu should be in for his first nomination, and Glynn Turman would be up for his second Emmy in three years, this time for his elegant work in “Fargo.” (He was nominated for “How to Get Away with Murder” in 2019.)

This group of hard-working character actors will have to contend with some notable, top-billed names. John Boyega received raves for his starring turn in one episode of “Small Axe,” and the “Star Wars” veteran looks to be nominated for his first major American TV role since breaking big. The legendary Donald Sutherland could pronounce his way to a third Emmy nomination, and Brendan Gleeson’s headline-worthy portrayal of the POTUS Who Shall Not Be Named may snag the Irish star his second nod. That still leaves Marvel favorite Evan Peters in “Mare of Easttown,” who could benefit from the HBO mystery’s chosen FYC screening: the pivotal Episode 5.

Perhaps personifying the split nature of the Supporting Actor category best is Daveed Diggs. On the one hand, Diggs is most likely to be nominated for his Tony-winning work in “Hamilton.” Setting category fraud complaints aside, Diggs’ work in the Disney+ recording is unimpeachable — and yet wouldn’t it be fun to see him recognized for his role in “The Good Lord Bird” instead? Both parts see him playing a preening, charismatic historical figure, yet only one is actually made for television, and only one needs a bit more attention. (Though I have no true sense of how many people watched “The Good Lord Bird,” the number is certainly not as high as “Hamilton.”) Seeing Diggs’ work in the context of his past breakout only makes it more enthralling, as the purposeful fun he has playing Frederick Douglass is clearly distinguished from his foolhardy spin on Thomas Jefferson.

“Hamilton” is the audience favorite. “The Good Lord Bird” is the awards fare. Where will the TV Academy decide to shine its light? Either way, it still lands on Diggs.

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Bill Camp, “The Queen’s Gambit”
  2. Brendan Gleeson, “The Comey Rule”
  3. John Boyega, “Small Axe”
  4. William Jackson Harper,” The Underground Railroad”
  5. Daveed Diggs, “Hamilton”
  6. Donald Sutherland, “The Undoing”

Contenders: Glynn Turman, “Fargo”; Evan Peters, “Mare of Easttown”; Courtney B. Vance, “Genius: Aretha”; Paapa Essiedu, “I May Destroy You”; Aaron Pierre, “The Underground Railroad”; Chase Dillon, “The Underground Railroad”; Ben Whishaw, “Fargo”; Shaun Parkes, “Small Axe”; Joshua Caleb Johnson, “The Good Lord Bird”; Anthony Mackie, Morgan Freeman, and/or Dan Stevens in “Solos”

In a Perfect World: Michael Stuhlbarg, “Your Honor”; Daveed Diggs, “The Good Lord Bird”; Peter Mullan, “The Underground Railroad”; Harry Lloyd, “Brave New World”

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