Christine Baranski hasn’t won an Emmy Award in over two decades, but this year she has the potential to nab a bookend trophy to her first and only win for “Cybill” (1995) with her leading role on the CBS All Access freshman drama “The Good Fight.” Entering this year’s crowded Best Drama Actress contest, Baranski has a leg up on much of her competition, not only because she’s severely overdue for a second Emmy, but also because she has the material, the critical acclaim, and the narrative to finally prevail again.
For the first six of seven seasons of the CBS prestige drama series “The Good Wife,” Baranski earned Emmy nominations for her performance as sophisticated attorney Diane Lockhart, the role she now reprises on “The Good Fight.” Despite her near-historic number of nominations in the Supporting Actress category (she trails only Tyne Daly, Nancy Marchand, and Betty Thomas), Baranski never pulled off a victory. Even though she ended up as the most nominated performer on “The Good Wife,” her colleagues Julianna Margulies, Archie Panjabi, Martha Plimpton, and Carrie Preston all won trophies while she sat on the sidelines. With Baranski now reprising her role on the critically acclaimed spinoff, voters may finally decide to make good on their massive IOU to her.
Baranski doesn’t rest on her previous laurels on her new series, either. As the lead on “The Good Fight,” Baranski finally steps into the spotlight after seven years in a supporting role and delivers some of the best work of her esteemed career. The series premiere, “Inauguration,” would make a perfect, Emmy-friendly episode to submit to voters, not only as it reintroduces them to Baranski’s character, but also because it spans the emotional highs and lows of Diane’s professional and personal life. After accomplishing all of her career aspirations, Diane decides to retire from the law firm she created, but when she loses all of her retirement savings in a Madoff-esque Ponzi scheme, she has to return to practice law as an ostracized underdog. Baranski has a number of standout scenes in the episode, including her explicative-laden reaction to the news of her financial downfall and her emotional breakdown opposite estranged husband Kurt (Gary Cole). While the first episode seems like a standout choice, Baranski has a number of other strong episodes to choose from, too.
Those who wonder if Baranski’s decision to move from the Supporting to Lead Actress race may lessen her chances of winning should rest assured that historically, many beloved actors and actresses like Baranski have switched categories successfully. Most notably, Edward Asner earned seven Emmy noms in the Comedy Supporting Actor category for portraying Lou Grant on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” winning three, before he reprised the role on a dramatic spinoff “Lou Grant” and earned two wins out of five nominations in the Best Drama Actor category. Allison Janney similarly won two Drama Supporting Actress trophies for “The West Wing” before she decided to compete in lead, where she won two more awards out of four additional nominations. Most recently, Jon Cryer reaped six Emmy bids, including one win, in the Comedy Supporting Actor category for “Two and a Half Men” before jumping up to lead, where he picked up another trophy.
Gold Derby’s Emmy experts from major media outlets predict that Baranski will earn a nomination for Best Drama Actress, along with frontrunner Claire Foy (“The Crown”), Elisabeth Moss (“The Handmaiden’s Tale”), Keri Russell (“The Americans”), Evan Rachel Wood (“Westworld) and Viola Davis (“How to Get Away with Murder”). Of these 15 Emmy experts, nine predict that Baranski will break into the six actress lineup.
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