I knew Hank Azaria (“Ray Donovan”) would win. Yeah, so I bombed out in the other three guest acting categories at this weekend’s Creative Arts Emmy Awards — I picked Laurie Metcalf (“Horace and Pete”) for Best Drama Guest Actress over winner Margo Martindale (“The Americans”), Larry David (“Saturday Night Live”) for Best Comedy Guest Actor over winner Peter Scolari (“Girls”) and Melora Hardin (“Transparent”) over Best Comedy Guest Actress winners Tina Fey and Amy Poehler (“Saturday Night Live”) — but let’s focus on the positives!
I knew from the moment the nominations were announced that Azaria would win Best Drama Guest Actor, and here are my top five reasons why:
1. “Ray Donovan” on the upswing
This is an example of a show building support each year and peaking at just the right time. The show garnered a single nom for each of its first two seasons. In 2014, veteran actor Jon Voight was nominated for Best Drama Supporting Actor (he lost to Aaron Paul for “Breaking Bad”), and last year leading man Liev Schreiber landed in the Best Drama Actor race (which he lost to Jon Hamm for “Mad Men”). This year the show’s third season scored an impressive five nominations: for Schrieber, Voight and Azaria, as well as director David Hollander (for the episode “Excuscito”) and for Sound Mixing (which it lost this weekend to “Game of Thrones”). Now that “Ray Donovan” has shown it’s a real Emmy player for its third and most acclaimed season to date, does this bode well for Schrieber, Voight or Hollander next weekend?
2. Azaria is an Emmy magnet
Although this is the first ever win for “Ray Donovan,” Azaria is an Emmy magnet. This was his 12th nomination and sixth Emmy win to date. He won Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actor for “Tuesdays With Morrie” in 2000 and he has won four Emmys for his voice-over work on “The Simpsons” (2015, 2003, 2001, 1998). In the Drama Guest Actor contest, he was up against some really strong competition, like presumed frontrunner Max Von Sydow (“Game of Thrones”) and Emmy legend Michael J. Fox (“The Good Wife”). But it seemed like a no-brainer to me that if Azaria made it to the final ballot, he would be really hard to ignore because Emmy voters really love the guy.
3. The dreaded vote split
Alongside the three contenders named above, this category also featured three actors from “House of Cards,” and this year in particular, with a plurality vote replacing ranked ballots, it’s very likely this trio split the vote: Mahershala Ali, Paul Sparks and last year’s champ Reg E. Cathey each probably got some votes from “House of Cards” fans in the TV academy, likely opening the door for Azaria. The same could be said on the actress side, with presumed frontrunner (Oscar and Emmy winner Ellen Burstyn) losing out to Martindale. Again, Burstyn might have split the “House of Cards” vote with her co-star Molly Parker.
4. Payback for missing out last year
Azaria first appeared on “Ray Donovan” during the show’s sophomore season playing Ed Cochran, the former director of the FBI’s LA Office. However, because of a new Emmy rule last year, Azaria was deemed ineligible for a guest nomination because he appeared in too many episodes. While lead actor Schreiber scored a Best Drama Actor nomination that year, Azaria was not able to break into the supporting category. After only appearing in three episodes this year, Azaria was smartly submitted as a guest actor, nabbed a nom, and the rest is history.
5. Worthy episode submission
Azaria shines in “One Night in Yerevan,” the episode he submitted to Emmy voters. He’s featured in a lot of the episode, and his storyline has a really engaging rooting factor, as Ed goes after Ray Donovan (Schreiber) for destroying his life in the second season. Azaria gives a menacing performance as the disgraced former FBI director out for revenge. He exhibits just enough impact, rage and empathy in this episode, and after watching it again, I felt that his performance was the most memorable and was convinced that he was the frontrunner.
Below, see our post-noms webchat with Azaria and then be sure to make your Emmy predictions right here. You’ll compete to win our contest prizes for best picks — $500 (first place), $300 (second place) and $200 (third place) in Amazon gift certificates — a place of honor on our leaderboard and a starring role in next year’s Top 24 Users (the two dozen folks who do the best predicting this year’s Emmys). Be sure to read our contest rules.