“She really proves why you can win an Emmy with one scene,” Amanda Spears says about Best Drama Guest Actress front-runner Diana Rigg in an Emmy slugfest with me and fellow Gold Derby contributors Charles Bright, Zach Laws and Tom O’Brien (watch above). “Talk about going out in style; she does it amazingly well,” O’Brien adds about Rigg’s final “Game of Thrones” appearance. And Bright recalls, “When that episode aired, a lot of ‘Game of Thrones’ people were chatting about everything that’s going on in the episode, but then that scene happened at the end of the episode and that’s all anyone was talking about.”
Her episode, “The Queen’s Justice,” closes with the defeat of Olenna Tyrell (Rigg) at the hands of the Lannister army. But Olenna gets the last laugh when she confesses to Jaime (Nikolaj Coster-Waldau) that she’s the one who poisoned Jaime and Cersei’s son, King Joffrey, back in season four.
But might we be overestimating Rigg? She has had three other chances to win this category for this role (2013-2015), but hasn’t yet. “This is something that Gold Derby wants to see happen,” Laws counters, suggesting that bias is influencing predictions. He and I are betting on an upset by Samira Wiley of “The Handmaid’s Tale,” which won this category last year for Alexis Bledel. She is nominated this year for Best Drama Supporting Actress, where Wiley was nominated last year. Laws thinks Emmy voters “are not as sentimental, and they are not as wrapped up in wanting to see these people win awards for your favorite characters as we are.”
I add that Rigg has “been playing this character forever, whereas Wiley is more of a fresh discovery within the academy, and the academy likes its discoveries, whether they’re young [or] old.” Consider recent breakout acting winners like Reg E. Cathey (Best Drama Guest Actor for “House of Cards,” 2015), Rami Malek (Best Drama Actor for “Mr. Robot,” 2016) and Riz Ahmed (Best Movie/Mini Actor for “The Night Of” in 2017) over more established stars in recent years.
Wiley is that kind of discovery, while Rigg is on her fourth nomination for this role and ninth of her career, going back to 1967 when she was first nominated for Best Drama Actress for “The Avengers.” She won her only Emmy in 1997 as Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actress for “Rebecca.”
But all five of us agree that the race is between Rigg and Wiley, with no consensus for third place. I say that Cicely Tyson of “How to Get Away with Murder” is next in line. Bright says Viola Davis of “Scandal.” Laws says Kelly Jenrette of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Both O’Brien and Spears say Cherry Jones of “The Handmaid’s Tale.” Laws points out, “We’re all saying that the [Best Drama Series] race is between ‘Game of Thrones’ and ‘The Handmaid’s Tale,’ so I wonder if Samira Wiley beats Diana Rigg or vice versa … if that is an indication of how the rest of the [Emmys are] going to go.”
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