‘House of Cards’ has strong guest acting Emmy contenders in Ellen Burstyn, Cicely Tyson …

For its first three seasons “House of Cards” has been a strong Emmy contender racking up bids each year for Best Drama Series as well as for leads Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright. And supporting actor Michael Kelly contended last year. All three are strong favorites again this year. And they could be joined by a whopping four guest stars, including Reg E. Cathey who won Best Drama Guest Actor last year for his scene-stealing performance as Freddy Hayes, a one-time restaurant owner down on his luck. 

Also in contention are two Emmy favorites: Ellen Burstyn, who won Best Drama Guest Actress in 2009 for “Law & Order: SVU” and Cicely Tyson, who contended in this category last year for “How to Get Away with Murder.”  And watch out for Sebastian Accelus, who played investigative journalist Lucas Goodwin in the first two seasons of this Netflix series, and returns to the role on a recurring basis. 

SPOILERS BELOW as I recap the likeliest episode submissions for this talented quartet.

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Cathey, who lost in 2014 to Joe Morton (“Scandal”), won last year over Emmy darling Beau Bridges (“Master of Sex”). This season, he appears in only “Episode 50” but leaves a lasting impression. Asked to cook ribs by Francis Underwood (Spacey), Hayes refuses and unleashes on the president after three years of biting his tongue. It was a shocking moment, reminiscent of the “Veep” episode for which Tony Hale collected his second Emmy last year. 

Tyson, a three-time Emmy winner (“The Autobiography of Miss Jane Pittman,” 1974; “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All,” 1994), plays retiring congresswoman Doris Jones in the first three episodes.  In “Episode 40,” Claire Underwood (Wright) asks Jones to back her, rather than her own daughter (Lisa Gay Hamilton), in the upcoming election for her seat. Tyson is a powerhouse as she cuts Wright’s character down to size. 

Burstyn won an Emmy in 2013 for her supporting turn as the mother of a politico (Sigourney Weaver) in the minseries “Political Animals.” In “House of Cards,” she plays Elizabeth Hale, the mother of Claire Underwood, who has backed her son-in-law’s political ambitions. When Francis turns on her, she plots her revenge by jump-starting Claire’s political career. However, mother and daughter clash, never more so than in “Episode 41.” Elizabeth is undergoing treatment for cancer and ends yet another fight with her daughter by ripping off her own wig, revealing the effects of the chemotherapy. 

Accelus is a standout in “Episode 42” as his character, the just-released jailbird, meets with Heather Dunbar (Elizabeth Marvel), the Democratic presidential nominee. He begs and pleads with her to believe his story about all that Underwood has done to get to the White House. When she turns her back on him, he breaks down. 

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