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Emmy Predictions: Best Supporting Actress in a Drama Series — Eight Slots for How Many Shows?

"The Crown" and "The Handmaid's Tale" are primed to dominate nominations, but will they leave any room for other shows to break through?

Perry Mason HBO Juliet Rylance

Juliet Rylance in “Perry Mason”

Merrick Morton / HBO

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 expected to be eligible); Anyone in “Big Little Lies” (Season 3 is not expected to be eligible); Thandie Newton in “Westworld” (Season 4 is not expected to be eligible); Fiona Shaw in “Killing Eve” (Season 4 will not be eligible); Sarah Snook in “Succession” (Season 3 is not expected to be 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 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

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.

Expect the 2021 class to jump back.

Not only should “The Crown” lockdown two slots by itself for Gillian Anderson (the recent Golden Globe winner) and Helena Bonham Carter (nominated last year), but it could conceivably add Emerald Fennell (who’s seen a big profile boost thanks to her outstanding film, “Promising Young Woman”) and Erin Doherty (whose Princess Anne had weightier scenes and a stronger presence in Season 4). Should Netflix expect to own half the category with one show? Probably not, but it did control the entire SAG Best Actress category with two shows, so it’s not far-fetched. (The streamer also has Cynthia Nixon and Judy Davis in “Ratched,” as well as Nicola Coughlan and Adjoa Andoh in “Bridgerton.”)

The other half of the ballot, however, could very well be 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”), a resurgence of support for Ann Dowd, Samira Wiley, Yvonne Strahovski, and Alexis Bledel is a distinct possibility. We’ll know more once the full season rolls out, but Hulu should be feeling good about its chances right now.

So, who could disrupt the even split between streamers? Look for HBO’s “Lovecraft Country” to make a dent, as both Wunmi Mosaku and Aunjanue Ellis earned strong reviews and spotlight episodes. If voters take a liking to the sci-fi drama, both could get in, but it’s unclear — based on the SAGs, where the Ensemble was nominated but none of the individual performers — how strongly actors are responding to the genre show. The same can be said for HBO’s “Perry Mason”: Rhys snagged a Globe nod, but the cast was completely shut out by the guild. Tatiana Maslany, a three-time nominee and one-time winner for “Orphan Black,” is well-liked by the Academy, but the summer 2020 series needs a bit of a resurgence if it’s going to crack into this race. (Another longshot for the network: Chloe Sevigny for “We Are Who We Are,” who delivered a tough, multi-faceted performance in Luca Guadagnino’s beautiful teen drama.)

Other notable contenders include Indya Moore for the final season of “Pose,” as she’s been one of the show’s top talents all along; Olivia Williams could make some noise if “The Nevers” does the same; and there’s always a chance the TV Academy corrects one of its most egregious repeated snubs and nominates Susan Kelechi Watson for “This Is Us.” Sterling K. Brown deserves all the love he’s been getting, but so does the woman by his side, establishing an identity and arc all her own.

Predicted Nominees: 

  1. Gillian Anderson, “The Crown”
  2. Helena Bonham Carter, “The Crown”
  3. Wunmi Mosaku, “Lovecraft Country”
  4. Ann Dowd, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  5. Samira Wiley, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  6. Yvonne Strahovski, “The Handmaid’s Tale”
  7. Aunjanue Ellis, “Lovecraft Country”
  8. Cynthia Nixon, “Ratched”

Contenders: Tatiana Maslany, “Perry Mason”; Emerald Fennell, “The Crown”; Erin Doherty, “The Crown”; Alexis Bledel, “The Handmaid’s Tale”; Indya Moore, “Pose”; Nicola Coughlan, “Bridgerton”; Logan Polish, “The Mosquito Coast”; Judy Davis, “Ratched”

In a Perfect World: Susan Kelechi Watson, “This Is Us”; Chloe Sevigny, “We Are Who We Are”; Juliet Rylance, “Perry Mason”

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