The Emmy race for Best Supporting Drama Actress is a fierce battle between two stars, according to Gold Derby’s predictions. Most Experts pick veteran Emmy champ Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey“) while our Editors and Top 24 Users opt overwhelmingly for Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad“).
The reason for the split: Many of our Experts pooh-pooh the notion that winners are determined largely by the strength of the sample episode submitted to Emmy judges. They believe that other factors are more key –buzz, mojo, the Cool Factor and having strong backing of TV critics – and therefore Smith will prevail again. She won here last year and in the movie-mini supporting category in 2011 when “Downton Abbey” was classified as a miniseries.
However, Gold Derby’s Editors and Top 24 Users believe strongly that the episodes matter – that voters really watch them and base their judgments upon them. Clearly, this year Anna Gunn has the one, big, knock-your-block off episode.
Gunn showcases the most impact, emotion and range in her segment titled “Fifty-One,” particularly during the scenes when she yells at her co-star Bryan Cranston and wishes that his cancer will return. Also in Gunn’s favor is the fact that new episodes of “Breaking Bad” aired during the final voting period, which helped keep the show on Emmy’s radar despite the fact that the episodes in contention aired a year ago.
However, Smith has never lost an Emmy for “Downton Abbey.” This year Smith’s episode submission may tax the patience of voters. She entered the season premiere. It’s a two-hour episode that focuses mostly on all of the other actors. As usual, Smith just darts in and out of the action now and then, uttering zingers, but, oh, the zingers!
Coming in third place is Emilia Clarke (“Game of Thrones“), who has a unique situation in terms of her episode submission. Her character doesn’t appear until the final six minutes of the hour, meaning Emmy judges have to sit through 50 minutes of material to get to her scenes. Based on her co-star Peter Dinklage winning Drama Supporting Actor two years ago with limited screen time, we know that this isn’t necessarily an issue in the supporting categories. But it certainly isn’t helping Clarke that she only appears in one scene at the very end.
Morena Baccarin (“Homeland”) comes in fourth place thanks in part to her series being so beloved by Emmy voters. If a “Homeland” sweep occurs this year, we could see Claire Danes, Damian Lewis, Mandy Patinkin and Baccarin all winning Emmys for the buzzed about second season. Also in her corner, Baccarin has an impactful scene where she gives a speech to a crowded room of delegates. We know from the James Spader days of “The Practice” and “Boston Legal” that Emmy judges love a good speech. But is hers good enough to overcome the frontrunners in this category?
Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men”) is in the unique position of being a part of the winningest Drama Series currently on television in terms of series victories, despite the show never winning a single acting trophy. Last year, Hendricks had a great shot at winning but was surpassed by Smith. This year, with a weaker episode submission and increased competition, she’s near the bottom of the pack in fifth place.
Christine Baranski (“The Good Wife”) is up for her fourth consecutive trophy for playing Diane Lockhart on the CBS legal series, but her role is so understated and subtle that she has the worst odds to claim a win. Her episode submission also doesn’t have any impactful scenes that could push her over the edge, other than a quick moment at the end where she basically tells Julianna Margulies’ character to stop whining and accept her promotion despite the shady reasons behind it.
BELOW: WATCH OUR EDITORS’ EMMY SLUGFEST OVER WHO’LL WIN BEST SUPPORTING DRAMA ACTRESS — THEN MAKE YOUR PREDICTION