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 Actor in a Comedy 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 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: Tony Shalhoub, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: There hasn’t been a repeat winner in the Best Supporting Actor (Comedy) category since Jeremy Piven took home three straight Emmys for “Entourage” from 2006-2008, but there have been multiple two-time winners since then. Eric Stonestreet (“Modern Family”), Ty Burrell (“Modern Family”), and Tony Hale (“Veep”) all won twice in the last decade.
Fun Fact: “M*A*S*H” has the most nominations in the category of any television series, snagging 21 nominations in 11 years split among Gary Burghoff, McLean Stevenson, Harry Morgan, Mike Farrell, and David Ogden Stiers. Only Burghoff and Morgan won, and they each only took home one trophy, which places the legendary series behind shows like “Entourage” (three wins), “Modern Family” (four wins), and “The Andy Griffith Show” (five wins) in terms of the most wins ever. Overall, nine shows won more Emmys in this category than “M*A*S*H” — which even when considering vote-splitting, tight competition, and cast turnover, seems high.
Notable Ineligible Series: Anthony Carrigan, Stephen Root, and Henry Winkler for “Barry” (Season 3 will not premiere before the deadline); Tony Hale in “Veep” (ended)
The State of the Race
Tony Shalhoub has only won one Emmy for “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel,” and, in 2020, that could work in his favor or prove to be his downfall. Shalhoub, a four-time Emmy winner overall, is famously popular within the TV Academy. After his surprising three-peat for “Monk,” his name took on new meaning: as a verb for when a beloved actor wins yet another award, typically via upset. (“Do you think Paul Mescal can win the Emmy this year, or is he gonna get Shalhoub’d by Jeremy Irons?”) A handful of his competitors could even be considered favorites this year — especially if the Academy feels they’ve already given Shalhoub his due — but all the nominees must not overlook the lingering prospect… of getting Shalhoub’d.
For instance, many think Dan Levy has a great chance at winning his first acting Emmy for the final season of “Schitt’s Creek.” The PopTV staple has emerged from cult classic status to become the second-most nominated comedy at the Emmys, and, as the writer and co-creator, voters could want to honor Levy for more than just his performance. Of course, the most nominated comedy this year is “Maisel,” so Levy could also end up getting Shalhoub’d.
“Maisel” fans, however, have more than one option this year. Sterling K. Brown landed his second Comedy acting nomination in 2020 (after a Guest Actor nod for “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”), and his own well-established status as a TV Academy crowd-pleaser could work hand-in-hand with the show’s sizable fanbase, which would end up handing Brown his third Emmy in five years. Of course, going head-to-head with his co-star in an Emmy popularity contest also means there’s a distinct chance he gets Shalhoub’d.
Speaking of “Brooklyn Nine-Nine,” Andre Braugher earned his fourth nomination for the Fox-turned-NBC comedy in 2020, and his first in four years. Braugher is an 11-time nominee and two-time winner, earning recognition for six different programs. But there’s no real heat behind him or the series right now. His best shot is via upset, but that can only happen if the category hasn’t already been Shalhoub’d.
Shaking off that somewhat flimsy tie-in, let’s look at three actors from three well-respected shows, all of whom are largely considered dark horse contenders. Kenan Thompson has his second acting Emmy nomination for “SNL,” just two years after he won his first trophy for co-writing the song, “Come Back, Barack.” Thompson remains an affable personality charged with a vast array of characters on NBC’s late-night staple, while his network co-hort, William Jackson Harper of “The Good Place,” is similarly adored by fans and carried significant dramatic weight in Mike Schur’s final season. Lastly, there’s Alan Arkin, a six-time nominee who’s never won an Emmy. Actually, none of these men have won for acting, which could play to their advantage, except for the unfortunate fact that any sort of losing streak only ups the odds of getting Shalhoub’d.
That leaves Mahershala Ali. The newcomer to “Ramy” Season 2 was zero-for-two at the Emmys until Saturday night, when the documentary he produced, “We Are the Dream: The Kids of Oakland MLK Oratorical Fest,” won for Outstanding Children’s Program. Still, having two acting nominations already — for “House of Cards,” before he broke out in “Moonlight,” and “True Detective,” after his second Oscar win for “Green Book” — shows TV Academy members have long been paying attention to the future “Blade” star. Perhaps they would like to commemorate that love with a win this year, for a role close to Ali’s heart, and for a series that’s been widely embraced by critics. There’s no question if he’s deserving. The only question is if he’ll get Shalhoub’d.
1. Dan Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
2. Mahershala Ali, “Ramy”
3. Tony Shalhoub, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
4. Sterling K. Brown, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
5. Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
6. Kenan Thompson, “Saturday Night Live”
7. William Jackson Harper, “The Good Place”
8. Alan Arkin, “The Kominsky Method”
Will Win: Dan Levy, “Schitt’s Creek”
Could Win: Mahershala Ali, “Ramy” or Tony Shalhoub, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Should Win: Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” or Sterling K. Brown, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”