The Emmy category of Best Drama Supporting Actress in recent years has been famous for upsets and surprises: Archie Panjabi (“The Good Wife,” 2010), Cherry Jones (“24,” 2009), Dianne Wiest (“In Treatment,” 2008), Katherine Heigl (“Grey’s Anatomy,” 2007), and Blythe Danner (“Huff,” 2005 and 2006). None of these nominees was the favorite.
With that in mind, our Emmy experts Rob Licuria and Chris Beachum both step out on a shaky limb and predict that Margo Martindale (“Justified“) will prevail this year. In her one season on the FX series, the character actress exploded onto the screen with a mix of outward charm and inward vengeance and was rewarded with her first Emmy bid. Her episode “Brother’s Keeper” shows her character Mags Bennett, a matronly yet conniving storekeeper, wheeling and dealing with land developers, hosting a family party, and finding out her son has been killed. It is a powerful performance that stands out among a very competitive field.
Michelle Forbes is another Emmy rookie with a two-decade career in television. On the AMC drama “The Killing,” she plays Mitch Larsen, the mother of a murdered young girl. Over the course of the pilot episode, she goes from worrying abou her missing daughter to finding out her fate. Forbes is particularly touching in the scene where she is told over the phone that her daughter has been killed.
Christina Hendricks received her second consecutive nod for portraying Joan Harris, the office manager/head secretary of an advertising agency, on AMC’s “Mad Men.” In her episode “The Summer Man,” Joan is getting flack from several of the younger male workers in the office. She stands up for herself which invites even more abuse. Her best moment is when being comforted at home by her husband (Sam Page), who is about to ship out to Vietnam.
Panjabi surprised even herself with an Emmy win last year as law firm investigator Kalinda Sharma on “The Good Wife.” In this year’s submission “Getting Off,” she is at odds with her best friend Alicia (Julianna Margulies) who has discovered hat Kalinda and Alicia’s husband Peter (Chris Noth) had an affair years earlier. Throughout the episode, she is seething with pent-up guilt and anger except for one brief scene in an elevator where she starts crying.
Her “The Good Wife” co-star Christine Baranski, a previous Emmy comedy champ in 1995 for “Cybill,” plays Diane Lockhart, one of the law firm’s partners. She has submitted the episode “Silver Bullet,” in which Diane agrees to represent a former boyfriend (Gary Cole) who is also the firm’s ballistics expert. While she has several nice courtroom scenes, she has no grandstanding moments or over-the-top speeches that Emmy voters usually love.
Kelly Macdonald is already an Emmy winner (“The Girl in the Cafe,” 2006). She plays Margaret Schroeder on HBO’s “Boardwalk Empire.” Her episode “Family Limitation” shows her character beginning the move up the ladder from extreme poverty to a life of luxury as the latest concubine for Nucky Thompson (Steve Buscemi). Her performance is very contained and subuded except for one short scene in which Margaret scolds a woman in the dressing room.
Five of our six experts polled so far favor Martindale while one expects Panjabi to repeat. Five of our 11 editors predict Martindale to win, three are going with first-time contender Forbes, two with Macdonald, and one with Panjabi to repeat. And, among our users, Martindale has a huge lead over Panjabi.
Gold Derby founder Tom O’Neil dishes this competitive race with Beachum and Licuria below.