According to hundreds of Gold Derby users currently predicting the Creative Arts Emmys, Cameron Britton (“Mindhunter”) is the front-runner to win Best Drama Guest Actor for his role as real-life serial killer Ed Kemper. But on paper that might seem unlikely. “Mindhunter” got no other nominations, so can he really take down actors from Best Drama Series contenders like “This is Us” (Gerald McRaney and Ron Cephas Jones), “The Crown” (Matthew Goode) and “Westworld” (Jimmi Simpson)? To win under those circumstances is somewhat rare, but not unprecedented.
The Emmys introduced guest-acting categories in 1986, and since then eight people have won on their shows’ only nomination. It happened three times in Best Comedy Guest Actor: Cleavon Little (“Dear John,” 1989), Tim Conway (“Coach,” 1996) and Peter Scolari (“Girls,” 2016).
It happened three times in Best Drama Guest Actress: Viveca Landfors (“Life Goes On,” 1990), Amanda Plummer (“The Outer Limits,” 1996) and Cloris Leachman (“Promised Land,” 1998).
It never happened at all in Best Comedy Guest Actress. But in Britton’s category, Best Drama Guest Actor, it has happened twice: Laurence Fishburne (“Tribeca,” 1993) and Pruitt Taylor Vince (“Murder One,” 1997).
That means no one has pulled it off in Britton’s category in 21 years. No dramatic guest performer of any gender has done it in 20 years. And so far Scolari is the only example in the 21st century — and he famously wasn’t even nominated until another actor was disqualified from the category. So while history shows it is possible to win a guest-acting award on your show’s only bid, it can be an uphill battle.
That said, while Scolari is the only guest performer to win on his show’s lone nomination since 2000, there are actually eight other examples in other acting races since the turn of the century. Sela Ward (Best Drama Actress for “Once and Again,” 2000), Stockard Channing (Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actress for “The Matthew Shepard Story,” 2002), Tyne Daly (Best Drama Supporting Actress for “Judging Amy,” 2003), Patricia Arquette (Best Drama Actress for “Medium,” 2005), Allison Janney (Best Comedy Supporting Actress for “Mom,” 2014 and 2015), Tatiana Maslany (Best Drama Actress for “Orphan Black,” 2016) and Louie Anderson (Best Comedy Supporting Actor for “Baskets,” 2016) all prevailed despite no other support for their shows.
And there’s additional good news for Britton. Emmy voters are often prone to name-checking familiar names even in shows they don’t otherwise like, but since Britton was relatively unknown before “Mindhunter” that suggests voters really were paying attention to the show and his performance.
Also, this category is often hospitable to character actors like Christian Clemenson (“Boston Legal,” 2006), Glynn Turman (“In Treatment,” 2008), Paul McCrane (“Harry’s Law,” 2011) and Reg E. Cathey (“House of Cards,” 2015), to name a few.
On top of that, voters also have a strange affinity for serial killers: Michael Emerson (“The Practice,” 2001), John Lithgow (“Dexter,” 2010) and Joe Morton (“Scandal,” 2014) didn’t just make a killing with their roles — they made several.
So while Britton faces a tough challenge in this race, there’s plenty of precedent to suggest that he really could scare up enough votes to take down his formidable opponents.
Be sure to make your Emmy predictions today so that Hollywood insiders can see how their TV shows and performers are faring in our odds. You can keep changing your predictions as often as you like until just before winners are announced on September 17. Be sure to also predict winners for the Creative Arts ceremonies slated for September 8 and 9. And join in the fun debate over the 2018 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.