When an actor gives a breakout performance that is too good to pass up, naturally Emmy voters respond by honoring the work with a nomination. However, it is a relative rarity that the strength of one performance helps an Emmy newcomer garner a second nomination. It’s a testament to the strength of their work that buzz from one performance could carry over into an additional nom for work that might not otherwise be recognized. Only a few actors in recent years have received two or more nominations on their first try.
In 2010 Jane Lynch received her first of three nominations for Best Comedy Supporting Actress for “Glee.” She won in that category, and that year she also received a Best Comedy Guest Actress nomination for “Two and a Half Men.” Then in 2011 Idris Elba received his first of four nominations for Best Movie/Mini Actor for “Luther,” and he was also cited for Best Comedy Guest Actor for “The Big C.”
Multi-hyphenate Lena Dunham had the kind of career breakthrough few experience when “Girls” received five nominations in 2012. The majority of those bids — for acting, directing, producing, and writing — were for Dunham; she’s actually up for those same awards this year for the sixth and final season of the series.
Former child star Gaby Hoffmann stars on the hit Amazon series “Transparent” and has received two consecutive nominations for Best Comedy Supporting Actress (2015-2016). In 2015 she also picked up a second nomination in Best Comedy Guest Actress for “Girls.”
The came Aziz Ansari in 2016. Though the comedian and actor was familiar to Emmy voters thanks to his role in “Parks and Recreation,” he didn’t contend for an Emmy until he created his own series, “Master of None” on Netflix. And when it rained it poured. Like Dunham before him, he was nominated four times for producing, writing, directing and acting in the series, and he won the writing award.
This year there are a number of actors in contention for their first nominations who could find themselves competing for multiple awards on their first try. This lineup includes newcomers, veteran character actors, and an Oscar winning actress that made the jump to television with a passion project.
Riz Ahmed: The actor is a virtual lock for a nomination for Best Movie/Mini Actor for his breakout role in the HBO limited series “The Night Of,” having already been nominated for his performance at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards. But he is also up for a Comedy Guest Actor bid for his appearance on “Girls.”
Carrie Coon: The stars may have finally aligned for the Tony nominated thesp. With the final season of her HBO series “The Leftovers” having aired in the coveted “Game of Thrones” time slot and being the female lead in the Emmy-winning “Fargo” franchise, she has perhaps the strongest chance of being double nominated for acting. She was recently nominated at the Television Critics Association Awards for Individual Achievement in Drama jointly for both series.
Ann Dowd: The veteran character actress is up for two of her series gigs: Drama Supporting Actress for the new dystopian Hulu drama “The Handmaid’s Tale” and Drama Guest Actress for her one-episode return to “The Leftovers,” on which she was a regular for two seasons.
Donald Glover: The multi-hyphenate talent made waves with his return to television last year in his critically acclaimed FX comedy series “Atlanta.” He’s a good bet for nominations for acting, directing, producing, and writing, following in the footsteps of Dunham and Ansari.
Kathryn Hahn: Hahn is up for Comedy Actress and Comedy Supporting Actress for her roles on a pair of Jill Soloway Amazon series: “I Love Dick” and “Transparent,” respectively.
Brian Tyree Henry: The Yale School of Drama grad is up for a Comedy Supporting Actor nom for his scene-stealing turn as rapper Paper Boi on “Atlanta” and for a Drama Guest Actor bid for playing William’s cousin in flashbacks on “This Is Us.”
Ron Cephas Jones: Speaking of William, this longtime character actor is a strong bet for a nomination in Drama Supporting Actor for his breakout role as the dying William on “This Is Us.” He is also entered twice for Drama Guest Actor, where one of his two submitted performances — “The Get Down” or “Mr. Robot”— could net him an additional nomination.
Issa Rae: Nominated for a Golden Globe and at the TCA Awards, Rae is up for Comedy Actress and Comedy Writing for the HBO comedy series “Insecure,” which she created.
Phoebe Waller-Bridge: Already a winner at BAFTA for her lead performance, Waller-Bridge is in contention for Comedy Actress and Comedy Writing, just like Rae.
Reese Witherspoon: The Oscar winner made the jump to television this year by producing and starring in “Big Little Lies” and is a shoo-in for nominations for Best Movie/Mini Actress and Best Limited Series.
Alison Wright: “The Americans” alum is in contention for two FX projects. Her surprise return to the aforementioned spy drama puts her in the running for Drama Guest Actress, and a memorable turn in “Feud: Bette and Joan” gives her a shot at a Movie/Mini Supporting Actress bid.
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