Emmy Predictions: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Eight Nominees, Three Shows, One Winner

"The Crown" and "The Handmaid's Tale" dominated the nominations, but who among them has the best shot at Emmy gold?
The Crown S4. Picture shows: Margaret Thatcher (GILLIAN ANDERSON). Filming Location: Wrotham Park
Gillian Anderson in "The Crown"
Des Willie/Netflix

Last Year’s Winner: Julia Garner, “Ozark”
Still Eligible: No.
Hot Streak: Julia Garner won two years in a row for “Ozark,” marking the first back-to-back winner since Anna Gunn won for “Breaking Bad” in 2013-2014. Though Garner will be ineligible in 2021 due to pandemic production delays for “Ozark,” she will have a chance to defend her title — and keep the hot streak alive — after Season 4 premieres. Only Nancy Marchand has won three consecutive trophies in this category, when she co-starred in “Lou Grant” from 1980-1982.
Fun Fact: Barbara Hale was twice-nominated for playing Della Street in the original “Perry Mason” series, and the actor won the Emmy in 1959. Raymond Burr was nominated three times and won twice as the titular detective, while William Hopper was nominated once as Paul Drake. All three roles are again eligible in 2021, this time for the HBO reboot, with Matthew Rhys playing Mason, Chris Chalk as Drake, and the excellent Juliet Rylance taking over as Della Street. No other roles (or actors) were nominated from the original series.
Notable Ineligible Supporting Actresses: Julia Garner in “Ozark” (Season 4 is not eligible); Anyone in “Big Little Lies” (Season 3 is not eligible); Thandie Newton in “Westworld” (Season 4 is not eligible); Fiona Shaw in “Killing Eve” (Season 4 is not eligible); Sarah Snook in “Succession” (Season 3 is not eligible)

At the bottom of this page are IndieWire Deputy TV Editor Ben Travers’ predictions for Best Supporting Actress 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

Two years ago, when “Game of Thrones” submitted its final season for Emmy consideration, HBO’s juggernaut dominated the Best Supporting Actress race to the tune of four-out-of-six nominees. 2019 was also the last Emmy ceremony before the TV Academy expanded the nomination slots to eight, and 2020 saw seven different series represented among its eight nominees.

As expected, the 2021 class jumped back.

Not only did “The Crown” lockdown two slots by itself for Gillian Anderson (the recent SAG nominee) and Helena Bonham Carter (nominated last year), but it also added Emerald Fennell (who’s seen a big profile boost thanks to her outstanding film, “Promising Young Woman”). Netflix controls nearly half the category with just one show, and yet “The Crown” isn’t even the most nominated program here.

Hulu’s “The Handmaid’s Tale” has seen four different supporting actresses nominated in the last four years, including three in 2018. With so many other contenders ineligible this year (including last year’s winner, Julia Garner for “Ozark”), there was a clear resurgence of support for Ann Dowd, Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovski, as well as first-time nominee Madeline Brewer. That’s an impressive haul for the series’ fourth season, especially when many expected “The Crown,” a favorite in most Drama categories, to snag a fourth slot instead.

That only leaves one slot remaining, and leave it to a canceled HBO original to snag it: Aunjanue Ellis would not be denied after a breakout turn in the fantasy-adventure series, but does she stand a shot at winning? Anyone who invests heavily in vote-splitting theories would have to give her pretty good odds, but it’s just as likely the overwhelming support for “The Crown” and “The Handmaid’s Tale” would boost the TV Academy’s preferred picks above any internal competitions.

So who has the edge for each show? It’s difficult to imagine voting against Ann Dowd, at any time and for any reason, but subjectivity aside, she’s beloved and respected within the industry, she already won an Emmy for the role in 2017, and she had a memorable, active arc in this season of “Handmaid’s.” Wiley also won before, when she was in the Guest Actress category, and this marks her second nomination as a Supporting star; Strahovski landed her second nomination — her first since 2018 — and her lack of wins could make a convincing argument that she’s overdue for recognition; and Brewer is the breakout. In a traditionally unpredictable category like this one, there’s a path for each of them, though history tends to favor Dowd. (The TV Academy tends to stick by its favorites.)

Still, anyone from “Handmaid’s” is likely in second position, at best. Carter and Anderson are the powerhouses here, notching their fifth and sixth Emmy nominations, respectively for a show that actors adore. They’re also playing real-life figures the world knows well. Carter has never won, despite being recognized for four different shows spanning two decades. (This is her second nomination for “The Crown.”) Anderson won once, in 1997 for “The X-Files.” The “Sex Education” star has the more prominent part in Season 4, and it really feels like if Carter was going to win, she would’ve taken home the gold last year. Give the edge to Anderson, but never count anyone out in the Supporting categories.

Power Rankings: 

  1. Gillian Anderson, “The Crown”
  2. Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”
  3. Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  4. Samira Wiley, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  5. Aunjanue Ellis, “Lovecraft Country”
  6. Yvonne Strahovski, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  7. Emerald Fennel, “The Crown”
  8. Madeline Brewer, “The Handmaid’s Tale”

Will Win: Gillian Anderson, “The Crown”
Could Win: Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”
Should Win: Gillian Anderson, “The Crown”

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