Like Jessica Lange last year, Sarah Paulson (“American Horror Story: Asylum“) seems to be almost a slam dunk to take home this year’s Emmy for Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actress. She is currently favored by nine of our 12 experts, all seven of our editors, and 78% of users. That puts her far out front with overall odds of 1/4.
The remaining nominees have limited support. Her closest competitor is Ellen Burstyn for “Political Animals.” She has the backing of two experts, getting 15/2 odds overall. Emmy darling Alfre Woodard follows for “Steel Magnolias“; she is predicted by one expert and gets 16/1 odds. Rounding out the category are Charlotte Rampling for “Restless” (50/1) and Imelda Staunton for “The Girl” (100/1).
Here’s a closer look at each of the nominees.
Ellen Burstyn, “Political Animals”
Burstyn is nominated for playing Margaret Barrish Worthington, mother of Secretary of State and former First Lady Elaine Barrish. This is the Oscar and Tony winner’s sixth Emmy nod. She was nominated for Movie/Mini Actress in 1981 (“The People vs. Jean Harris”) and 1987 (“Pack of Lies”), in this category in 2006 (“Mrs. Harris”), and twice for Drama Guest Actress, in 2008 (“Big Love”) and 2009 (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”), winning for the latter performance.
Pro: Burstyn does stand out as Sigourney Weaver‘s mother, who always has a drink in her hand. Her character’s tendency to bluntly point out the obvious could appeal to Emmy voters. She is also a veteran actress, which has helped past winners including Anne Bancroft (“Deep in My Heart,” 1999), Vanessa Redgrave (“If These Walls Could Talk 2,” 2000), Gena Rowlands (“Hysterical Blindness,” 2003), Jane Alexander (“Warm Springs,” 2005), and Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey,” 2011).
Con: Burstyn’s infamous 2006 nomination for her 14-second performance in “Mrs. Harris” may still leave a bad taste in the mouths of some voters. Also, even though drunk roles are often popular at the Emmys, none have won this category for the past several years.
Sarah Paulson, “American Horror Story: Asylum”
Paulson earns her second Emmy nomination as Lana Winters, a lesbian journalist who finds herself committed to Briarcliff Mental Institution after trying to expose patient mistreatment at the facility. She was nominated in this category last year for playing political strategist Nicolle Wallace in “Game Change.”
Pro: Like Jessica Lange in this category last year, Paulson dominates so much of this miniseries that she could be considered a co-lead. No other nominee in this race comes close to her amount of screen time.
Con: She’s not quite the household name that Lange was; last year the two-time Oscar-winner may have been able to rely on name recognition and reputation to overcome any qualms some voters might have had about awarding horror.
Charlotte Rampling, “Restless”
Rampling is nominated for playing the older version of Sally Gilmartin/Eva Delectorskaya, who confesses to her daughter that she had been a spy during World War II and now believes that people are hunting her down. After a long career in English, French, and Italian cinema, Rampling earns her first Emmy nomination.
Pro: Rampling appears prominently throughout the miniseries and does leave a lasting impression on viewers. She also fits the veteran-actress mold, which combined with the Sundance Channel’s big push for her, which resulted in a surprise SAG Award nomination earlier this year, could give her the edge necessary to win.
Con: Much of her acting is subdued, often a disadvantage at the Emmys.
Imelda Staunton, “The Girl”
The Oscar nominee (2004 Best Actress, “Vera Drake”) earns her first Emmy nomination for playing Alma Reville, the wife of legendary director Alfred Hitchcock. Staunton’s husband, Jim Carter, is also nominated for an Emmy this year: Drama Supporting Actor for “Downton Abbey.”
Pro: Staunton gets to show some strong emotion when Hitchcock (Toby Jones) admits over the phone that he didn’t love Alma when he married her. She’s also playing a real person, which has helped several actresses in this category. Previous winners who played real-life characters include Mare Winningham (“George Wallace,” 1998), Tammy Blanchard (“Life with Judy Garland: Me and My Shadows,” 2001), Stockard Channing (“The Matthew Shepard Story,” 2002), Shohreh Aghdashloo (“House of Saddam,” 2009) and Julia Ormond (“Temple Grandin,” 2010).
Con: Her screen time is minimal, and it can be easy to forget about Alma until she comes back on-screen. Criticism of the film’s accuracy may not help her either.
Alfre Woodard, “Steel Magnolias”
Woodard returns to the Emmy race with her performance as Ouiser in the Lifetime remake the 1989 film. This is Woodard’s 17th nomination with four wins already to her credit. She won Drama Supporting Actress in 1984 for “Hill Street Blues,” Movie/Mini Actress in 1997 for “Miss Evers’ Boys” and two Guest Drama Actress trophies, for “L.A. Law” in 1987 and “The Practice” in 2003.
Pro: A longtime Emmy darling, she could win votes on name-recognition alone from judges who find none of the other nominees appealing. Her performance was also well reviewed.
Con: While the reviews were for the film were solid, the fact that this is its only nomination suggests support for it within the Academy is not strong at all.