‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ might extend its blessed Emmy reign in Best Drama Guest Actress with Cherry Jones

Wait, isn’t the third season of “The Handmaid’s Tale” missing this year’s Primetime Emmy Awards cycle with its June 5 premiere date? Yes, it is, since the eligibility period ends on May 31. However, as Gold Derby exclusively revealed earlier this month, Hulu will submit the final three episodes of the show’s sophomore season that didn’t make last year’s eligibility. These “orphaned episodes” are only eligible in categories that recognize individual episodes, which excludes the series, as well as lead and supporting actors from entering in their respective races.

Thus, only guest actors are eligible, of which Hulu has submitted Cherry Jones for “Holly” and Bradley Whitford for “Postpartum.” “Handmaid’s” has dominated Best Drama Guest Actress in the last two years, producing wins for Alexis Bledel (2017) and Samira Wiley (2018), and nominations for Kelly Jenrette and Jones — both last year. With Jones eligible yet again, the show could extend its reign in this category.

In her submitted episode, Jones only appears in flashback scenes, as the titular Holly, June’s (Elisabeth Moss) mother. Due to her delayed flight, Holly isn’t able to be there as her daughter goes into labor and gives birth, but she arrives just in time to beamingly welcome her newborn grandchild into the world.

Despite very little screen time, Jones’ presence in the episode is deeply felt. While she only appears in flashback scenes, present-day June is also giving birth, but this time in an abandoned house all alone. The episode reaches its emotional climax when June names her new baby after her mother.

SEE Surprise! ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ will compete in 18 categories at 2019 Emmys [EXCLUSIVE]

Jones is a respected, known quantity in the industry, who bagged her maiden Emmy bid and win for her supporting turn in “24” (2009). She’s also gone 2-for-4 at the Tony Awards, prevailing for her performances in “The Heiress” (1995) and “Doubt” (2005). Even if voters have forgotten about her performance in “Holly,” or haven’t seen it, Jones could garner enough name-check votes to win.

Her main advantage, however, may be overall support for “Handmaid’s” from the acting branch. To date, the show has netted acting nominations for eight different actors and produced wins for four of them. It may have been more difficult for Jones to prevail in drama guest actress last year, since Wiley not only had a showier episode but may have also had leftover goodwill from her prior Best Drama Supporting Actress nom for the show’s first season. This year, Jones does not have to worry about splitting the vote with her co-stars, so is the nomination her hurdle?

As of now, we don’t know how the TV academy will respond to “Handmaid’s”‘ Emmy strategy this year. With the third season airing right during voting, some voters may be confused as to why Jones is even on the ballot when the show isn’t eligible in other acting categories — especially if she doesn’t make another guest appearance in the third season. Plus, the show may have shown its first signs of weakness after leaving last y#Tear’s main Emmy ceremony empty-handed, possibly due to its arguably polarizing season finale.

Conversely, if the show manages to nab several nominations across the board (including writing and directing), and has a more well-received third season, it could enhance Jones’ chances of winning.

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In the near future, you can check out how our experts rank this year’s Emmy contenders. Then take a look at the most up-to-date combined odds before you make your own 2019 Emmy predictions. Don’t be afraid to jump in now since you can keep changing your predictions until just before nominations are announced on July 16.

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