Minnie Driver: ‘Speechless’ could win her overdue awards recognition

While Minnie Driver first came to prominence in the indie film “Circle of Friends” (1995), it was two years later with “Good Will Hunting” that she first entered the awards arena. She earned an Oscar nomination for Best Supporting Actress (Kim Basinger won for “L.A. Confidential”) . When she made the move to television a decade later, Driver earned both Emmy and Golden Globes nominations for “The Riches” but lost to Sally Field (“Brothers & Sisters”) and Glenn Close (“Damages”) respectively. She scored a second Emmy nomination for her the 2014 telefilm “Return to Zero” (Jessica Lange won for “AHS: Coven”) and is looking for her second Globe nomination this year with her leading role in the acclaimed new comedy series “Speechless.”

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Driver plays Maya, a helicopter mom with a purpose. She moves her family to a new home so that her son, J.J. (Micah Fowler), who has Cerebral Palsy, will no longer need to attend special needs classes. The reviews have been overwhelmingly positive (98% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes and 79 on Metacritic). Much of the praise has rightfully been heaped on Driver.

Joshua Alston (A.V. Club) enthused, “All of the performances are winning, with Driver deserving most of the praise. Her take on Maya is so charismatic that it would be tempting to root for her even if she were fighting for the extermination of a litter of puppies.” Ben Travers (Indiewire) said, “Minnie Driver’s verbal assault on our nation’s mistakes cannot afford to be silenced.”  And TV Line lauded her as performer of the week: “She proved to be such a force of nature, the World Meteorological Organization really ought to honor the actress by naming the next big tropical depression after her.”

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The Globes love to award performers on new shows and Driver would certainly fit the bill. However, her category has gone to ingénues Rachel Bloom (“My Crazy Ex-Girlfriend”) and Gina Rodriguez (“Jane the Virgin”) in the last two years and another newcomer, Issa Rae (“Insecure”), is a strong contender this year. While “Speechless” does not number among those comedy series likely to reap a bid, that didn’t keep Bloom from winning last year.

Driver would be the first nominee from an ABC comedy since Courtney Cox contended for “Cougar Town” in 2009; she lost to Emmy champ Toni Collette (“United States of Tara”). The last winner from the alphabet network was America Ferrera for the first season of “Ugly Betty” in 2006; she went on to win the Emmy later that year.

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