Like the show itself, “The Americans” has had a slow burn at the Emmys (if your name isn’t Margo Martindale). The ‘80s-set espionage drama, which ended its six-season run on Wednesday, was a critical darling, but struggled to crack the major categories until 2016, when it got nominations for drama series and for its leads Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys. Their series-long co-star Noah Emmerich has yet to crack the supporting race, but his last chance is his best chance. Here’s why (spoilers if you haven’t watched “The Americans”’ series finale):
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1. A finale showcase: Tapes mean less in his popular vote era, but Emmerich has winning material with the finale, in which his FBI agent Stan, the Jenningses’ long unsuspecting neighbor and friend, confronts Philip (Rhys), Elizabeth (Russell) and Paige (Holly Taylor) in a parking garage about their KGB identities. What follows is a tense 12-minute scene in which the Jenningses try to lie, evade and explain themselves, while Stan tries to reconcile his sense of duty to turn them all in with his sense of betrayal by his best friend Phil. There is no yelling, no gunshots, no high-speed car chases — just words. Emmerich’s face cycles through a hamster wheel of emotions — shock, denial, confusion, warmth, barely contained rage, anguish, heartache — as Philip explains how his job morphed into forming a genuine, meaningful friendship with Stan, before Stan ultimately lets them all go. It’s a subtle yet powerful, devastating performance from Emmerich, and if voters are watching, he should be the first name they check off.
2. Finale love: The series finale was a perfect capstone to the drama in general, closing with another gut punch: Paige got off the train and didn’t escape to Russia with her parents. Again, no one died, there were no explosive action sequences or crushed bodies in suitcases — it was a quietly bruising 90 minutes that stayed true to the show’s premise: an intimate exploration of marriage and family against the backdrop of the Cold War. There were no deaths, but casualties all the same: friendships, relationships and a family were destroyed. The response from fans and critics alike has been overwhelmingly positive — not easy to accomplish in this outrage- and hot take-heavy social media age — and if the show can sustain that love and buzz, that’s only good news for Emmerich.
3. An open category: John Lithgow (“The Crown”) had Best Drama Supporting Actor on lock last year in a seven-nominee field, but it’s anyone’s game this year. Four of last year’s contenders are ineligible or shifted to other categories, leaving lots of open slots for the taking. Our odds, where Emmerich is in 15th place, have three first-timers making the cut: Justin Hartley (“This Is Us”), Nikolaj Coster-Waldau (“Game of Thrones”) and Noah Schnapp (“Stranger Things”). Why can’t Emmerich be one of those Emmy virgins? Why can’t there be two Noahs? Similarly, Emmerich’s co-star Alison Wright was never nominated in supporting, but she nabbed a nomination last year in the far less competitive guest category, proving that voters are paying attention to the show.
4. Career goodwill: Emmerich is one of those hardworking, longtime character actors who’s been in the biz for a while and has practically worked with everyone. As we all know from the Best Supporting Actor Oscar category, that only helps when it comes time to vote. People like to see their friends or folks they like and/or respect do well. Hell, Emmerich only has to look to Martindale for reassurance. The beloved actress (or Character Actress Margo Martindale, per “BoJack Horseman”) has received four guest actress nominations for “The Americans,” winning twice in 2015 and ’16 — the latter of which was basically for sipping coffee for two minutes. When they like you, they really like you.
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 nominees are announced on July 12. 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.