Emmy episode analysis: Judith Light (‘Assassination of Gianni Versace’) plays a bereaved widow keeping a secret in ‘A Random Killing’

Judith Light has earned her fourth Emmy nomination this year, this time as Best Movie/Mini Supporting Actress for her role as Marilyn Miglin in FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.” Although she earned two Best Actress awards at the Daytime Emmys for her work on “One Life to Live,” she is still looking for her first win at the Primetime ceremony, having earned a nomination for Best Comedy Guest Actress for “Ugly Betty” and two for Best Comedy Supporting Actress for “Transparent.” She also won Tony Awards in 2012 and 2013 for her featured roles in “Other Desert Cities” and “The Assembled Parties.”

Light has submitted the third episode of the series, titled “A Random Killing,” to Emmy voters. In the episode we are introduced to Marilyn, a wealthy cosmetics mogul whose husband Lee (Mike Farrell) is brutally murdered by serial killer Andrew Cunanan (Emmy nominee Darren Criss). The episode opens with Marilyn returning home from a business trip to find that Lee has been murdered in their home. As investigators begin to suspect that Lee and Andrew may have had a sexual relationship, Marylin refuses to hear any possibility that her husband is gay.

She is more concerned with protecting their family’s good name in the community. Privately however, Marilyn breaks down as she remembers her happy life with her husband. The episode ends with Marilyn selling her cosmetics on the Home Shopping Network, where she delivers an emotional monologue about her husband’s death and how instrumental Lee was in helping her realize her dreams.

Will Light’s performance capture the attention of Emmy voters? Let’s examine the pros and cons of her submission.


The key components of a winning submission are range, sympathy, and impact. Light gets to show a range of emotion as we see Marilyn both as a successful, energetic entrepreneur and as a grieving widow. We feel for Marilyn as she is forced to question whether her relationship with her husband was tainted by lies. And the episode is bookended by scenes with a ton of impact: first when Marilyn discovers that Lee has been killed, and at the end by her monologue where she tearfully remembers the way her husband supported her dreams.

Critics were effusive in their praise of Light’s performance, and with “Versace” earning an impressive 18 nominations, it’s clear that voters admired the series. With Light earning some of the best reviews for the series, it may be hard for Emmy voters to overlook her work.

Light is a respected veteran who has yet to win at the Primetime Emmys, and that especially helps in this particular category, which often favors actresses in the latter half of their careers. Previous winners in this category include Vanessa Redgrave (2000), Gena Rowlands (2003), Eileen Atkins (2008), Maggie Smith (2011), Jessica Lange (2012) and Kathy Bates (2014). Emmy voters could see this nomination as a chance to reward Light both for this performance and for her long career in television.


Light is nominated alongside Penelope Cruz as the title character’s sister, Donatella Versace. Being nominated against an Oscar-winning co-star could result in the vote being split between Light and Cruz.

Light appeared in only two episodes out of the series’s nine-episode season. It is possible voters may choose to reward a nominee that has a larger overall presence in her series.

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