Collectively, the Daytime Emmy nominees for Best Actress have earned 26 nominations and six wins, and when you look at the episode submissions in this category you can understand their acclaim, as this looks to be one of the most competitive races at these awards. Which one of these talented veterans has the material to win over Emmy voters this year?
As it has done since 2013, the television academy has released the reels submitted to judges in the acting categories for viewers to watch and evaluate online. These performance reels were evaluated during the pre-nominations round, and the nominees and winners were decided by that vote.
Below: A recap of the submissions in the Best Actress race, including an analysis of each performance in relation to range, sympathy and impact – the key components of a winning entry.
Submission Length: 4:57
Synopsis: Lauren Fenmore (Bregman) confronts her husband Michael (Best Actor nominee Christian LeBlanc), who believes she should divorce him due to his cancer diagnosis, as well as the fact that she kissed another man. In an angry outburst, she accuses Michael of driving her into another man’s arms rather than allow her to take care of him.
Analysis: At less than five minutes, this reel is less than half the length of any of the other submissions in this category, and essentially consists of just one short scene. Voters may therefore feel that this submission lacks the complexity and heft that can be easily found in the other reels.
But Bregman, a previous winner for Younger Actress (1985) and a two-time nominee in the supporting category, has some truly dynamic material here. She demonstrates a lot of range and sympathy in this submission, veering from frustration to sadness, and in her final monologue, a tearful stream of anger for being cruelly ignored by her husband. That final monologue has tons of impact, as Lauren furiously accuses her husband of intentionally sabotaging their marriage and driving her into the arms of another man. Will Bregman’s intense and sympathetic performance be enough to overcome the brevity of the reel?
Submission Length: 12:25
Synopsis: As she struggles to pack up the belongings of her murdered daughter, Eve Donovan (DePaiva) comes face to face with her daughter’s father (played by Emmy-winner A Martinez), who abandoned them. Later, Eve has a conversation with her daughter’s ghost and asks for forgiveness for her failings as a mother. After the funeral, Eve lashes out at all the people who failed her daughter.
Analysis: DePaiva is a respected soap veteran, having played Blair Cramer on "One Live to Live" for 20 years and earning a Best Actress nomination for that role in 2005. And although DePaiva was let go from "Days of Our Lives" earlier this year, she has pulled out all the stops by submitting an extremely competitive reel.
As a mother mourning the death of her daughter, DePaiva conveys multiple stages of grief without ever going over the top. You really feel for DePaiva’s character throughout the reel, as Eve runs the gamut of emotions, from despair, to shock, then to really powerful self-loathing at her own failings. Additionally, her scenes of anger opposite Martinez and after the funeral provide a really strong contrast to the prevailing sadness of the submission.
Some voters might find the scene where Eve talks to her daughter’s ghost a bit melodramatic, but the reel ends with a powerful moment of impact as Eve unleashes all of her anger and rage. Will that moment of impact be enough to carry her to her first Emmy win?
Mary Beth Evans, "Days of Our Lives"
Submission Length: 11:36
Synopsis: Dr. Kayla Brady (Evans) tells her brother that he has an aggressive brain tumor. He pushes her for treatment options, but she reluctantly informs him that the tumor is untreatable and that he should prepare for the worst. After he leaves, she is consoled by her former husband, Patch (Stephen Nichols). In the second half of the reel, she is trapped in a storage closet with Patch, and has a giddy interaction with him due to her exposure to some drugs.
Analysis: This is a banner year for Evans, who has been playing Kayla Brady on and off for 30 years. In addition to her first Best Actress nomination, she is also up for Best Actress in a Digital Series for her work on "The Bay," for which she won last year in the New Approaches category as a producer of the web series. The show is nominated again this year in the newly created Best Digital Daytime Series category, which gives Evans three nominations this year alone.
As for this category and submission, Evans certainly gets to demonstrate a lot of range. She conveys true sorrow and anguish over her brother’s condition in the first half of the reel, and has some moments of lighthearted comedy while she is exposed to drugs in the second half.
The problem is that the lighthearted moments feel disconnected from the rest of the story and lack context. There also isn’t a whole lot of sympathy or impact. Most of the sympathy we feel is directed at Kayla’s brother rather than her, and the episode doesn’t really provide Evans with the moments of impact that are found on her rivals’ submissions.
Submission Length: 14:02
Synopsis: Anna Devane (Hughes), rages at the man she believes has killed her longtime love Duke Lavery (past Emmy-winner Ian Buchanan) and threatens revenge. Later, after Duke’s death, Anna confesses to a psychiatrist that she shot Duke’s killer in cold blood.
Analysis: Hughes last won in this category 25 years ago, and with six career nominations, she is a beloved industry veteran. The reel comprises scenes from two episodes that aired over six months apart, but the scenes work together wonderfully without ever confusing the viewer. We see Hughes show a lot of range, first in her rage at the man she blames for Duke’s death, and later her shame and regret over taking the law into her own hands. We feel for Anna as she reflects on the life she could have had if Duke hadn’t been killed. The reel ends with Anna hoping that she can stop seeing the ghost of Duke’s killer, and Hughes delivers her last line with great intensity – and intensity equals impact.
But one factor could hurt Hughes. All of her showiest acting moments occur in the first three minutes of the reel, while the remaining 11 minutes are much more understated and internal. And without those big moments throughout the reel, Hughes could lose votes to some of the more dynamic performances in the category.
Submission Length: 17:09
Synopsis: Facing a terminal cancer diagnosis and debilitating treatment, Ava Jerome (West) begs her doctor, and boyfriend, to help her end her life. When he refuses, she threatens to do the deed herself. In the second scene, Ava, posing as her fraternal twin sister Denise, strenuously denies being an impostor.
Analysis: West has two Best Actress Emmys for her work on "As the World Turns" (2007, 2010) and then won for this role last year. So West knows how to pick winning episodes, and she has certainly chosen wisely this year. This reel has range, sympathy, and impact – and has them in spades.
Range: In the first half of the reel, West shows her character’s fear of suffering and her desperation to die on her own terms. In the second half of the reel, we see Ava’s surprise and relief at being cured. And as “Denise,” she affects a Brooklyn accent and tosses off a series of sarcastic one-liners.
Impact and Sympathy: As she begs to die, Ava reflects on the importance of dying with dignity. We certainly feel for Ava as she expresses her fear not only of the pain of her death, but of the mystery of what comes after. West also has some tender moments as she reflects on her last moments with her children.
Voters may be confused by the dual role, which isn’t explained very clearly, but West’s performance is so dynamic that she may be looking at a fourth Emmy anyway.
Conclusion: Based on these reels, there are strong arguments to be made for any of these actresses to win, but I see this as primarily a three-way race between DePaiva, Hughes, and West, all of whom have submitted stellar reels that contain all of the required elements to win. But unlike the Best Actor race, there is no clear frontrunner here, so this is a category to watch closely when the Daytime Emmys are handed out on May 1.
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Photo credits: CBS, ABC and NBC