Drama Supporting Actress showdown: Dame Maggie Smith vs ‘Mad Men’ dame Christina Hendricks

The Emmy race for Best Drama Supporting Actress is one of the most difficult to predict. Remember Katherine Heigl winning in 2007 when all the talk was between her “Grey’s Anatomy” co-stars Sandra Oh and Chandra Wilson? Dianne Wiest wasn’t even present in the ceremony when she won in 2008 for “In Treatment.” In 2010, no Emmy pundits predicted then-unknown Archie Panjabi would prevail for “The Good Wife.”


Currently, our Experts give Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey) the edge in terms of odds (5/4), while our Editors are betting on a Christina Hendricks (“Mad Men“) victory (6/5). Is it really just between these two actresses? Or are we in for another surprise this year with one of the other four contenders — “The Good Wife“‘s Christine Baranski and Panjabi, Joanne Froggatt (“Downton Abbey”) or Anna Gunn (“Breaking Bad“) — winning? 

Let’s take a closer look at each of the six nominees’ chances:

Christine Baranski, “The Good Wife” (“Alienation of Affection”)
Baranski is a past Emmy winner for “Cybill” and is a consistent nominee for “The Good Wife.” Will the third time finally be the charm for this veteran actress?

Pro: Diane remains calm while her coworkers freak out upon learning that their law firm owes $1.2 million to a reconciled couple. She gets to shine the most when she acts as a mediator between David and Eli in her office and while flirting with Bryan Brown‘s Jack Copeland. This is her strongest season on the show so far, and if voters are fans of “The Good Wife,” they know it.

Con: Does she really have any buzz left? And is there a sudden need to reward her for this role?

Joanne Froggatt, “Downton Abbey” (“Episode 7: Christmas Episode”)
Froggatt got a surprising nod for her turn as head housemaid Anna. She’s relatively unknown, but that’s usually not a problem in this category.

Pro: She submitted an episode that clearly clicked well with the voters since it got nominated for writing and directing. In the midst of the Christmas lovefest, she worries about the impending legal case against her husband, Mr. Bates, and ultimately bursts into tears when he’s in court being tried for murdering his conniving ex-wife.

Con: Can she really overcome the power of Dame Maggie Smith?

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Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad” (“Cornered”)
Gunn finally gets an overdue nomination for “Breaking Bad,” and she got many notices comparing her performance as Skyler White, wife of a drug dealer, to Edie Falco‘s Emmy-winning turn as Carmela Soprano.

Pro: Skyler fled with their daughter but changed her mind. Returning, she finds Walt (Bryan Cranston) has bought their son a car and insists he return it to avoid questions about their cover story. She tells him she sees her role as protecting the children from him, their father, who should be keeping them safe. This is “Breaking Bad’s” greatest year in terms of Emmy noms (13) and that momentum could help Gunn.

Con: In the current season now airing, Gunn has a slam-dunk submission for next year’s Emmy period that may remind voters of Falco’s victorious “Whitecaps” episode of “Sopranos.” They may choose to wait for next year to honor her.

Christina Hendricks, “Mad Men” (“The Other Woman”)
Hendricks reaped a third consecutive nod for her role as secretary Joan Holloway. Despite four wins as Best Drama Series, “Mad Men” still has no acting win at the Emmys. Will she break the trend?

Pro:  “The Other Woman” is the best showcase yet for Hendricks as she leverages her sex appeal to become a partner in the ad agency. Highlight: Her response to a visit to her home by Don, who urges her not to cave in to the lust of a client. 

Con: Jon Hamm and Elisabeth Moss are so great in this episode too that they chose it as their Emmy submissions. Do they upstage her?

Archie Panjabi, “The Good Wife” (“The Dream Team”)
Panjabi made it happen two years ago. Can she pull it off again?

Pro: In the season finale, Kalinda (Panjabi) continues her battle with the IRS while packing a loaded pistol in anticipation of a clash with her ex-hubby. We are reminded of the fierce Kalinda from the early days in the show.

Con: While her scenes stand out on their own, they might get overshadowed by the “Dream Team” storyline involving Margulies, Baranski, Josh Charles, and nominated guest stars Martha Plimpton and Michael J. Fox. Also, is there a need to give her a second Emmy considering she’s the only one who won this category among this year’s nominees?

Maggie Smith, “Downton Abbey” (“Episode 1”)
Last year, “Downton Abbey” competed as a miniseries and Smith won Supporting Actress. Now that the show in the drama genre, will history repeat itself?

Pro: Again, she rules as Lady Violet Crawley. From her conniving with Isobel to convincing Cora to let Sybil be a nurse and her meddling with the medical inconsistencies, her icy queen expressions and spicy conversations steal every scene. Plus, it’s Dame Maggie Smith.

Con: Is it a case of too much too soon? Voters might spread the wealth.


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