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

"Watchmen" and "Hollywood square off, while Tituss Burgess hopes all that vote splitting could lead to his first Emmy win. [Updated September 20]

Watchmen Episode 6 Louis Gossett Jr. HBO

Louis Gossett Jr. in “Watchmen”

Mark Hill / HBO

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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 Actor 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: Ben Whishaw, “A Very English Scandal”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: Hot shows don’t win. In three of the last four years, one program has earned three nominations for Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or TV Movie — taking up half the category all by itself. Last year saw “When They See Us” earn nominations for Asante Blackk, John Leguizamo, and Michael K. Williams; “The Assassination of Gianni Versace” snagged nods for Ricky Martin, Édgar Ramirez, and Finn Wittrock in 2018; and in 2016, “The People v. O.J. Simpson” pulled nominations for Sterling K. Brown, David Schwimmer, and John Travolta. The outlying year, 2017, didn’t have a thrice-nominated program, but it did have two shows with two nominations each (“Feud” and “The Night Of”). Still, the big takeaway remains: In six years, only one person has won when a co-star was nominated in this category. (Sterling K. Brown for “O.J.”)
Fun Fact: Only one actor has won this category twice: Beau Bridges, who took home his first trophy for “The Positively True Adventures of the Alleged Texas Cheerleader-Murdering Mom” (what a title!) and his second, fittingly, for “The Second Civil War.” (Both from HBO.) The late theatrical titan Brian Dennehy has the most nominations in the category with four — plus two more as a lead actor — though he never won.
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

A wealth of candidates make for an always unpredictable Best Supporting Actor race, but this year’s competition could be steered by two shows: “Watchmen” and “Hollywood.” HBO’s critically acclaimed and well-rated limited series is gaining momentum every day, and its nominated actors all carry their own sterling attributes: For Yahya Abdul-Mateen, his role grows in prominence and complexity in the series’ latter half. It’s best not to mention how, exactly (for anyone who’s yet to watch), but Abdul-Mateen is asked to play two separate but singular characters, as well as handle a load of exposition, in a near-monotone, and still make each moment arresting. That’s a tall task, and he clears it.

Meanwhile, Louis Gossett Jr. enters “Watchmen” as a wild card and exits on a profound moment of poignancy. His ending note could be what voters remember most, and recognizing Gossett — an eight-time nominee who hasn’t won since 1977, for his role in “Roots” — is a tantalizing prospect: a career achievement honor as well as a deserving win for just this role. And yet “Watchmen” has one more candidate to consider: Jovan Adepo leaves quite a mark in the season’s best episode, and if all the attention is steered toward “This Extraordinary Being,” then perhaps the young star has a shot.

That being said, all of these “Watchmen” contenders could lead to vote splitting — which is a concern for “Hollywood” as well. Anyone who only watched an episode or two of Ryan Murphy’s Netflix fantasy may have been struck by Jim Parsons’ against-type turn as a foul-mouthed, lecherous agent. The former “Big Bang Theory” star has a good history with the TV Academy, so he could spin this showy turn into more gold, or, for those who made it through the entirety of “Hollywood,” he could lose out to his insanely charming co-star, Dylan McDermott. The “Practice” veteran really hit a difficult mark here, playing an old Hollywood stereotype — the pimp with a heart of gold — and still managing to make him more than a caricature, even in 2020. McDermott will win you over after eight episodes, but can he land enough votes to win?

That only leaves Tituss Burgess, who ended up getting nominated for every season of “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” as well as its interactive special. If the TV Academy feels like he’s been overlooked, seeing as he’s never won for the role, this is his last shot at the trophy. And with every other nominee splitting votes with their co-stars, perhaps Burgess has an unexpected upper hand.

Predicted Nominees:

  1. Yahya Abdul-Mateen, “Watchmen”
  2. Louis Gossett Jr., “Watchmen”
  3. Jim Parsons, “Hollywood”
  4. Dylan McDermott, “Hollywood”
  5. Jovan Adepo, “Watchmen”
  6. Tituss Burgess, “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmit: The Movie”

Will Win: Yahya Abdul-Mateen, “Watchmen”
Could Win:
Louis Gossett Jr., “Watchmen” or Jim Parsons, “Hollywood”
Should Win: Yahya Abdul-Mateen, “Watchmen,” Louis Gossett Jr., “Watchmen,” or Dylan McDermott, “Hollywood”

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