Men of ‘Mildred Pierce’ lead Supporting Movie/Miniseries Actor race

Three Emmy champs —  Paul Giamatti, James Woods, Tom Wilkinson — face off against two Emmy newcomers (Brian F. O’Byrne and Guy Pearce) for Best Supporting Movie/Miniseries Actor. The two first-time nominees have the edge as they appear in “Mildred Pierce” which is the leading contender to win Best Movie/Miniseries.


The two most recent winners of this race —  David Strathairn (“Temple Grandin”) and Ken Howard (“Grey Gardens”) — had little screen time but both featured in HBO films that won the top Emmy that year.

O’Byrne and Pearce play the men in the life of Mildred Pierce (Kate Winslet) in the HBO miniseries.  O’Byrne is Bert Pierce, Mildred’s first husband. While the couple divorce early in the miniseries, he’s around for key dramatic moments like the death of their youngest daughter. Pearce is Monty Beragon, Mildred’s seemingly wealthy suitor, who becomes her second husband. Pearce and O’Byrne are at opposite ends of the spectrum in likability.  Pearce is conniving and cruel; O’Byrne is adorable and sweet. Pearce has the more recognizable name, which usually means something with Emmy voters, so he’s a serious contender. However, O’Byrne, a Tony winner for 2004’s “Frozen,” might just play the spoiler.

Wilkinson won this category in 2008 for his portrayal of Benjamin Franklin in “John Adams.” The English actor returns to contention for playing another well-known American — politico Joe Kennedy in the miniseries “The Kennedys” which aired on Reelz. As the patriarch of the Kennedy clan, he gets to deliver plenty of political speeches and anti-religious tirades that could be shown on the Emmy broadcast.  He also tones it down for some softer moments.  About halfway through the miniseries, his character suffers a stroke and Wilkinson is rendered speechless.  If voters make it even halfway through “The Kennedys,” they’ll be impressed enough by his showy performance to likely honor him for the second time in four years.

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Giamatti and Woods are just two of the many famous faces in HBO’s “Too Big to Fail.” Giamatti plays Chairman of the Federal Reserve Ben Bernanke in a handful of scenes. He made the ballot purely on name recognition, probably benefiting from winning Best Movie/Mini Actor for playing the title role in “John Adams.” The Emmys will be hard-pressed to find his clip for the broadcast.  

Woods, on the other hand, plays the foul-mouthed, cantankerous Richard Fuld. There’s plenty to swear and scream about when you’re the CEO of Lehman Brothers while it’s on the verge of collapse. That might make it difficult to find a clip that won’t need to be bleeped for the Fox kudocast. Woods won Best Movie/Mini Actor twice — “Promise” (1987) and “My Name is Bill W.” (1989) — and has an outside chance here. 

Senior editors Rob Licuria and Chris Beachum discuss the race in this video slugfest.

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