Emmy episode analysis: Can Margo Martindale bring ‘The Americans’ in from the cold?

margo martindale the americans claudia emmys i am abassin zadran drama guest actress

Though Emmy voters at large have been slow to embrace FX’s “The Americans,” they have a soft spot for Margo Martindale, who is nominated for Best Drama Guest Actress for the third year in a row as KGB handler Claudia in the 1980s-set spy drama. But she has yet to win. She lost this race in 2013 to Carrie Preston (“The Good Wife“) and last year to Allison Janney (“Masters of Sex“). She’s back in the running this time with her Emmy episode submission “I Am Abassin Zadran.”

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SYNOPSIS: Gabriel (Frank Langella), the current handler for KGB spies Philip and Elizabeth Jennings (Matthew Rhys and Keri Russell), meets with Claudia to reassure him about a course of action. Gabriel is having second thoughts about recruiting Philip and Elizabeth’s teenage daughter, but Claudia encourages him to proceed. She describes the fallout in Russia after a similar plan failed catastrophically with another family of spies, but she insists that their superiors have faith in Gabriel to succeed where others failed.

Can Martindale, who previously won an Emmy for “Justified” in 2011, bring overdue attention to Emmy underdog “The Americans” with the episode “I Am Abassin Zadran”? Let’s consider the pros and cons:


Martindale has been nominated three times for this role even though no other actors from the series have been recognized, which shows us how much the TV academy loves her.

Martindale and Langella have a natural, lived-in rapport that suggests a years-long relationship during their brief screentime together.

Claudia’s complex history with the Jennings family adds context and a layer of depth to her scene with Gabriel for any voters who are familiar with her previous storylines.


Her scene is brief at just over two minutes long. Is that enough time to leave a lasting impression on voters?

Claudia is calm, cool and collected. She doesn’t lose her composure, even when discussing the murder of her fellow KGB operatives. Those are great qualities for a spy, but not as helpful when trying to show off your acting chops to Emmy voters.

The TV academy continues to ignore “The Americans” in almost all other categories (though it broke through with a Drama Writing nod this year). That limited overall support could hurt Martindale, especially with voting expanded beyond the small judging panels of years past.

Emmys 2015: Complete List of Episode Submissions

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