Emmy episode analysis: Cicely Tyson (‘How to Get Away With Murder’) kills the competition

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Cicely Tyson is the overwhelming frontrunner to win Best Drama Guest Actress at Gold Derby for her role as Ophelia, Viola Davis‘ mother on ABC’s “How to Get Away with Murder.” But she’s been in the lead position before and lost — last year we predicted her to win Best Movie/Mini Actress for “The Trip to Bountiful” instead of “American Horror Story:Coven” lead Jessica Lange. Can Tyson’s role in the “Mama’s Here Now” episode bring her a fourth Emmy?

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SYNOPSIS: Ophelia walks into the house and starts shouting for Annalise, who it turns out is her daughter. She wakes up Annalise, who’s in a bad state because her husband cheated on her and was then murdered. Ophelia tries to throw out all of Sam’s things, but Annalise won’t let her. When Ophelia calls her by her given name “Anna-May,” she yells at her to call her Annalise instead because that’s her new name. Things get tense when Ophelia asks Annalise if she killed Sam, but Annalise simply shakes her head no.

In the kitchen, Annalise reveals that she was raped as a child and asks her mother if she knew, which she did. Ophelia counters by explaining that many girls are raped by men, that’s just the way it is. That night, Ophelia is combing Annalise’s hair when she reveals the truth of how Annalise’s rapist died: Ophelia burned down the house with him inside.

Can this TV legend win for this new role for “Mama’s Here Now”? Let’s consider the pros and cons:


Tyson has won three Emmys in her long career: Actress of the Year and Lead Actress for “The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman” (1974) and Limited Series Supporting Actress for “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All” (1994). As it’s been more than 20 years since she last prevailed, academy members may feel the urge to honor her again.

Emmy voters won’t be able to take their eyes off the screen during the many scenes between Tyson and Davis. There’s lots of emotion, some humor and a really impactful coda that’ll surely stick with them when it’s time to fill out their final ballots.

Tyson is the overwhelming frontrunner to win Best Drama Guest Actress according to Gold Derby’s exclusive rankings that combine the predictions of our Experts, Editors and Users. She has near-unanimous odds of 1/5 to claim the trophy.


Last year, many thought Tyson was a slam dunk to take hoe an Emmy for recreating her Tony-winning turn in “The Trip to Bountiful.” Might we be overestimating Tyson’s chances yet again?

Despite this being the “guest” category, Tyson could be hurt by the fact that she only appeared in one episode. The last time a guest actress won the drama Emmy for a one-and-done performance was Ann-Margret in 2010 for “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit.” In recent years, voters have favored recurring performances in these guest races.

Will the Emmys embrace a primetime soap opera like “How to Get Away with Murder”? That remains to be seen.

Emmys 2015: Complete List of Episode Submissions

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