Can Laura Linney achieve another Emmy upset for ‘Big C: Hereafter’?

Showtime’s decision to air the fourth and final season of “The Big C” as four hour-long episodes may have been a savvy move, as it returns star Laura Linney to familiar territory: she now competes for Best Movie/Miniseries Actress, the category that won her two of her three Emmys.

Both of those victories were upsets. In 2002, she contended for “Wild Iris,” a Showtime movie about three generations of a complex family. The telefilm’s only nominations were for Linney and her co-star Gena Rowlands, who played her mother, but not only did Linney beat Rowlands for the award, she also beat Vanessa Redgrave for the Winston Churchill biopic “The Gathering Storm,” which went on to win Best TV Movie. Also nominated that year was Angela Bassett, who played the title civil rights pioneer in “The Rosa Parks Story.”

Linney won Comedy Guest Actress in 2004 for “Frasier,” and then returned to the Movie/Miniseries Actress race in 2008 for her role as First Lady Abigail Adams in HBO’s epic miniseries “John Adams.” Though it was heavily favored to win Best Miniseries, Linney was widely expected to lose her category to Phylicia Rashad for the high-rated “A Raisin in the Sun,” reprising a role that had won Rashad a Best Actress in a Play Tony four years earlier.

Though Rashad had spent eight years on the classic sitcom “The Cosby Show,” she earned only two nominations for the series and never won. Nevertheless, Linney rode the wave of support for “John Adams,” which became the most awarded movie or miniseries in Emmy history with 13 wins.

So when “The Big C” premiered in 2010, Linney, undefeated in three Emmy races, seemed like a near lock to win Best Comedy Actress for her role as a wife and mother shocked by a terminal cancer diagnosis. However, she lost that race to Melissa McCarthy (“Mike and Molly“) and was dropped from the category the very next year.

Will the switch to the movie/miniseries race yield another nomination, and perhaps a win, for Linney? If so, it would be another major upset. Strongly favored to win Movie/Miniseries Actress is Jessica Lange for “American Horror Story: Asylum“; Lange won the supporting race last year for the first installment of “Horror Story,” and before that won for her lead role in the HBO telefilm “Grey Gardens.”

Also a major contender is Helen Mirren (“Phil Spector“), who has won Movie/Miniseries Actress four times, more than any other actress in Emmy history.

Linney ranks fifth in our predictions, though two editors currently pick her to win. Working in her favor is that she plays a character who battles disease, a common theme of Emmy-winning performances. Gillian Anderson won her Emmy for an episode of “The X-Files” in which she coped with cancer. Bryan Cranston has won three Emmys as a cancer-afflicted teacher who becomes a drug lord on “Breaking Bad.” Al Pacino won Movie/Miniseries Actor for playing a hateful man who dies of AIDS in “Angels in America,” while Jack Lemmon won the same category for playing the title character in “Tuesdays with Morrie,” who dies of ALS.

“The Big C” concluded on May 20, so it will be fresh in the minds of voters when they start filling out their ballots on June 10. Will Linney’s tragic role return her to the Emmy race, or have voters moved on from the series? Make or update your predictions in our prediction center.

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