I cannot remember an Emmy night that was so full of surprises, upsets and left-field winners. It was such an enjoyable experience for those of us that live for this stuff. Below, the top five shockers of the 2016 Emmy Awards.
Best Drama Supporting Actor: Ben Mendelsohn (“Bloodline”).
You could hear a pin drop in the auditorium when Aussie actor Mendelsohn was announced as the winner over heavyweight favorites Peter Dinklage and Kit Harrington (both from “Game of Thrones). We had Mendelsohn in distant last place according to our odds, and even the actor himself didn’t make it to the show as he was busy on location, and probably thought that if he didn’t win last year (when he had a much more prominent role in “Bloodline”), he was unlikely to be victorious this year. The shocker of the night.
Best Drama Actress: Tatiana Maslany (“Orphan Black”).
Although it makes sense in retrospect to see Maslany win this award (she plays multiple characters in a true acting tour de force), this win was astounding for three reasons. Firstly, she was up against some serious competition – previous winners Claire Danes (“Homeland”) and Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”), favorite Robin Wright (“House of Cards”) and buzzworthy contenders Keri Russell (“The Americans”) and Taraji P. Henson (“Empire”). Secondly, Maslany leads a relatively little-seen show on a small network (BBC America). Thirdly, she’s in a genre (science fiction) that is often not taken very seriously. I was up on my feet clapping when she was announced as the winner. It is typical of Emmy voters to be a little late to the party, but such a welcome surprise.
Best Movie/Mini Directing: Susanne Bier (“The Night Manager”).
Most pundits thought this would be one of many awards picked up by the team from “The People v. O.J. Simpson.” According to our odds, either series creator Ryan Murphy or Oscar nominee John Singleton had this in the bag, with Bier an outsider in fifth place with 14/1 odds. With the help of vote-splitting, the Danish helmer pulled off a memorable win for AMC’s well-received “The Night Manager.” This Oscar champ (“A Better World”) was so gracious when accepting her award, representing the many female directors nominated this year at the Emmys.
Best Comedy Supporting Actress: Kate McKinnon (“Saturday Night Live”).
Although McKinnon was in third place according to our combined odds, she made history as the first regular “SNL” player to win in a comedy supporting category since the Emmys changed the eligibility rules a few years ago and made featured players compete alongside other actors from other comedy series. While Amy Poehler, Kristin Wiig and Bill Hader were never able to pull this off despite numerous nominations between them, McKinnon finally proved that a sketch performer can win in the comedy categories.
Best Comedy Writing: Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang (“Master of None”).
With three episodes nominated from “Veep” and two from “Silicon Valley,” perhaps it wasn’t such a huge surprise to see Ansari and Yang take to the stage to accept this award, as dreaded vote splitting might have helped them prevail over those two shows. But it was still a great surprise to see them prevail over the heavily favored “Mother” episode from “Veep” as well as the recent BAFTA-winning “Catastrophe” pilot, which was the dark-horse to win in this difficult-to-call category.