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Emmy Predictions 2020: Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

"The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and "SNL" are well-represented, but the Supporting Actress category is primed for a surprise. [Updated September 8]

Insecure Season 3 Yvonne Orji

Yvonne Orji in “Insecure” Season 3

Merie W. Wallace/Courtesy of HBO

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 Actress 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: Alex Borstein, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel
Still Eligible: Yes.
Hot Streak: Alex Borstein is the third consecutive actress to win back-to-back Emmys for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series. Before the “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” star took home trophies in 2018 and 2019, Kate McKinnon won in 2016 and 2017 for “SNL,” and Allison Janney won in 2014 and 2015 for “Mom.” Julie Bowen also won twice for “Modern Family” in 2011 and 2012, making Merritt Wever (“Nurse Jackie”) and Jane Lynch (“Glee”) the only winners not to repeat this decade.
Fun Fact: Including the women above, 11 performers have won the Emmy for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series twice — but only four have won more than two. Valerie Harper (“The Mary Tyler Moore Show”) and Laurie Metcalf (“Roseanne”) have three awards apiece, while Rhea Perlman (“Cheers”) and Doris Roberts (“Everybody Loves Raymond”) are tied for the most wins with four. Also: Each of the four actors won three years in a row, with Roberts and Perlman adding a fourth soon after.
Notable Ineligible Series: “Veep” (ended), “Fleabag” (ended), “Barry” (Season 3 will not premiere in time)

The State of the Race

2020 could be the year “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” takes control of the comedy race, and it could start in the Best Supporting Actress race — again. Not only does the Amazon Prime Video hit have two-time champion Alex Borstein returning to the race, but last year’s new nominee Marin Hinkle is nominated once again. Last year saw the Amazon Prime juggernaut  sweep the comedy category’s Supporting and Guest races… before “Fleabag” dominated the rest of the race. This year, Phoebe Waller-Bridge is nowhere to be seen, while Tony Shaloub, Sterling K. Brown, Luke Kirby, Wanda Sykes, and plenty more “Maisel” acting nominees are waiting in the wings, hoping to add to the series’ swelling win tally.

Still, no matter how marvelous “Mrs.” turns out to be in 2020, it’s far from a lock, especially here. The Best Supporting Actress category has a decade-long tradition of handing out back-to-back trophies to the same performer before moving on to new blood. Borstein already has her two, and only four actors have ever won the category three times in a row (Valerie Harper, Laurie Metcalf, Rhea Perlman, and, most recently, Doris Roberts from 2001-2003). The actor behind tough-talking Susie Myerson could join them, but not only is history working against her: The expanded field means increased competition.

D’Arcy Carden and Annie Murphy have the final seasons of “The Good Place” and “Schitt’s Creek” working in their favor, respectively. Carden saw her role expanded and her abilities challenged over four strong seasons, as she continued to morph Janet into an endearing and impressive not-a-human creation. Murphy is part of a suddenly beloved ensemble, riding the wave of the show’s late surge with Emmy voters; that could be enough to get her the win for her first nomination, though Carden seems to have the trickier farewell role.

Emmy voters continue to shine their light on surprising “SNL” stars each season. No, Kate McKinnon’s eighth nominations wasn’t a shock, but many were pleasantly surprised to see Cecily Strong among the nominees, in her first trip to the Emmys. Both have their sketch-stretched range and the show’s continued popularity in their corner, though neither had the culturally buzzy kind of season that typically elevates “SNL” stars to the winner’s circle. Similarly, Betty Gilpin turned in another layered, creative, and altogether fantastic turn in Netflix’s “GLOW,” but the lack of recognition elsewhere could indicate that not enough Emmy voters are still watching.

That leaves Yvonne Orji. Though this is her first nomination in four seasons of “Insecure” and the HBO comedy isn’t signing off any time soon, a lack of momentum shouldn’t be a problem for the growing star. Her stand-up special helped bring in new fans, and her work in Season 4 is the kind of performance that made long-time fans take note, as well as newcomers. Also in her favor are “Insecure’s” eight total nominations. While that’s more than “The Good Place” and “GLOW,” if not “Maisel” and “SNL,” what matters is that there’s clearly a lot of love out there for the series — Supporting Actress isn’t the kind of category that always goes to the most-nominated series; plenty of smaller, beloved programs steal the spotlight here. I like Orji’s odds, even though with so many in the field, it’s hard to feel strongly about any one candidate.

Power Ranking the Nominees:

1. Yvonne Orji, “Insecure”
2. D’Arcy Carden, “The Good Place”
3. Annie Murphy, “Schitt’s Creek”
4. Alex Borstein, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
5. Kate McKinnon, “Saturday Night Live”
6. Marin Hinkle, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
7. Betty Gilpin, “GLOW”
8. Cecily Strong, “SNL”

Will Win: Yvonne Orji, “Insecure”
Could Win:
D’Arcy Carden, ” The Good Place”; Annie Murphy, “Schitt’s Creek”; Alex Borstein, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel”
Should Win:
Betty Gilpin, “GLOW”

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