Four years ago, Jessica Lange and Sigourney Weaver faced off for the Best Movie/Miniseries Actress Emmy for their respective performances in “Grey Gardens” and “Prayers for Bobby.” Both were considered serious contenders, but Lange went on to prevail.
Now they’re up against each other again, but under much different circumstances. Lange is considered the frontrunner for her role in “American Horror Story: Asylum,” with the backing of seven experts and four editors, giving her 10/11 odds to win. Weaver, on the other hand, does not seem to be a significant threat for her role in “Political Animals.” She is in last place with no support from our experts or editors.
This time around, Lange’s main competition comes from Elisabeth Moss, a five-time nominee for “Mad Men,” for her performance in “Top of the Lake.” Moss is predicted by six experts and two of Gold Derby’s editors, giving her 8/5 odds. Laura Linney a distant third for “The Big C: Hereafter,” with only one editor betting on her and odds of 16/1. Helen Mirren‘s performance in “Phil Spector” rounds out the category, and is only slightly ahead of Weaver in fourth place.
Here’s a closer look at the nominees:
Jessica Lange, “American Horror Story: Asylum”
The two-time Oscar winner (1982 Best Supporting Actress, “Tootsie” and 1994 Best Actress, “Blue Sky”) and two-time Emmy winner returns to the race as an exacting but troubled nun who operates an insane asylum in Massachusetts during the 1960s.
Pro: She dominates the entire program; “Asylum” almost entirely revolves around her. Plus, voters already showed their love for her in this type of role when she won Movie/Mini Supporting Actress last year for the first installment of the Ryan Murphy anthology series.
Con: The horror genre is not something Emmy voters are fond of. It’s possible voters were comfortable rewarding this type of role in the supporting category but may be more wary of awarding it in a lead category.
Laura Linney, “The Big C: Hereafter”
The three-time Emmy champ (2004 Best Comedy Guest Actress, “Frasier”; 2002 and 2008 Best Movie/Mini Actress, “Wild Iris” and “John Adams”) looks to capture another for playing Cathy Jamison, who copes with the final stages of terminal cancer.
Pro: This role has already earned Linney a nomination (Comedy Actress, 2011) and gives Linney added time to show off her acting ability as her character does her best to live her final days on her own terms. Plus, playing dying characters also recently helped score a nomination for Emma Thompson (“Wit” in 2001) and a win for Al Pacino (“Angels in America” in 2004).
Con: She didn’t win her earlier nomination for “The Big C” and wasn’t even nominated the following year. This could mean whatever buzz the program had has already burned out.
Helen Mirren, “Phil Spector”
Mirren earns her eleventh Emmy nod for playing Linda Kenney Baden, a defense attorney who chose to defend the title music business legend against murder charges for the death of Lana Clarkson.
Pro: Mirren is no stranger to this category, having won four Movie/Mini Actress trophies over her career (“Prime Suspect: Scent of Darkness” in 1996; “The Passion of Ayn Rand” in 1999; “Elizabeth I” in 2006; and “Prime Suspect: The Final Act” in 2007). It also doesn’t hurt that Mirren plays a real person (she’s the only person in this category who does); 15 of the past 26 winners in this category have portrayed real people.
Con: The film faced a backlash after it premiered with allegations that writer/director David Mamet left out several key aspects of the case to make Spector look innocent. This could make voters hesitant to reward any aspect of the movie.
Elisabeth Moss, “Top of the Lake”
Moss earns her first nomination for a program other than “Mad Men.” She plays Robin Griffin, a New Zealand detective investigating the disappearance of a pregnant 12-year-old girl.
Pro: Moss earned rave reviews for her performance in this mystery. Her determined detective work in a male-dominated workforce is reminiscent of the “Prime Suspect” dynamic that delivered two Emmys to Helen Mirren. Her New Zealand accent is a bonus as well.
Con: At only 31-years-old, Moss is much younger than most winners of this category.
Sigourney Weaver, “Political Animals”
Weaver earns her third career nomination for playing Elaine Barrish, a former first lady who loses the nomination for president and then serves as the new president’s Secretary of State.
Pro: Weaver delivers a solid performance, developing a unique character rather than mimicking a certain well-known politician who had a similar career trajectory in real life.
Con: The reviews for the show were mixed and the TV Academy may feel no overwhelming need to bestow a trophy to Weaver.