How do foreigners fare at Emmys?

Last year, British thespians Damian Lewis (“Homeland“) and Maggie Smith (“Downton Abbey“) made Emmy history. Their wins for lead actor and supporting actress respectively marked the first time that two foreigners had prevailed for continuing performances in drama series in the same year.  

Both are back this year to defend their titles. However, “Breaking Bad” players Bryan Cranston and Anna Gunn are predicted to beat them for Drama Actor and Drama Supporting Actress respectively. 

Six Brits, including Lewis and Smith, as well as a Brazilian are contending in the drama races. Besides Smith, “Downton” is also represented by repeat bids from leads Hugh Bonneville and Michelle Dockery and supporting player Jim Carter. English rose Emilia Clarke contends in supporting for “Game of Thrones” as does Brazilian born beauty Morena Baccarin for “Homeland.” 

Over the years, only one non-American has won more than one Emmy for their ongoing work in a regularly scheduled drama series: Canadian Raymond Burr was named Drama Actor for “Perry Mason” in 1959 and 1961. Later, as the star of “Ironside,” he lost this race for five years running beginning in 1968. 

Another Canadian, Kiefer Sutherland (“24,” 2006), also won Drama Actor while Briton Jean Marsh (“Upstairs Downstairs,” 1974) is the only foreign-born woman to win Drama Actress for a regularly scheduled series.  

Canadian William Shatner (“Boston Legal,” 2005) and Slovenian born Zeljko Ivanek (“Damages,” 2008) each won Supporting Actor while Jamaican Madge Sinclair (“Gabriel’s Fire,” 1991) and Brit Archie Panjabi (“The Good Wife,” 2010) claimed Supporting Actress.

While the Emmy database lists other non-American winners, those victories came for roles in specials or mini series. Though included in the Drama Actress roster, Susan Hampshire prevailed for two miniseries — “The Forsyte Saga” (1970) and “The First Churchills” (1971) — as did Glenda Jackson for “Elizabeth R” in 1972. Others wins by foreigners were for single performances in anthology series: Ecuadorian Albert Paulsen prevailed for his featured role in “One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich” a 1964 episode of “Bob Hope Presents the Chrysler Theatre” while “Hallmark Hall of Fame” episodes brought British actresses Pamela Brown (“Victoria Regina,” 1962), Margaret Leighton (“Hamlet,” 1971) and Jenny Agutter (“The Snow Goose,” 1972) supporting trophies.

Sinclair’s win in 1991 was sweeter given her three losing bids in this race for “Trapper John, MD” starting in 1983. Brits Angela Lansbury (“Murder She Wrote”) and Edward Woodward (“The Equalizer”) also racked up multiple consecutive Emmy losses beginning in the 1980s: her 12-year losing streak kicked off in 1984 while his began in 1988.

More recently, Australians Rachel Griffiths (“Six Feet Under,” 2002, 2003; “Brothers and Sisters,” 2008) and Anthony LaPaglia, (“Without a Trace,” 2004), Sweden’s Lena Olin (“Alias, 2003), Canadian Sandra Oh (“Grey’s Anatomy,” 2005 – 2009), Englishmen Ian McShane (“Deadwood,” 2005) and Hugh Laurie (“House,” 2007 – 2011) and Ireland’s Gabriel Byrne (“In Treatment,” 2009)  have all lost their Emmy bids. 

Will Damian Lewis become only the second foreign fellow to win two Drama Actor Emmys? Vote below using our easy drag-and-drop menu. 

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