Switching between lead and supporting categories from year to year at the Emmys is relatively uncommon, but it has been known to happen, and now Emilia Clarke is trying her luck as a lead actress for “Game of Thrones.” After three supporting nominations (2013, 2015, 2016), she entered the race as a lead in 2018, but was snubbed. She tried again this year, though, and made the cut. Will her promotion pay off like it did for Allison Janney (“The West Wing”) almost two decades ago?
Janney played White House press secretary C.J. Cregg on “The West Wing” and won Best Drama Supporting Actress on her first two tries (2000-2001). Then she jumped up into the lead category and she won that too — twice (2002, 2004). So it can be advantageous to move up and stretch your legs in a different category.
But not always. Other dramatic actresses who have switched categories haven’t enjoyed the same success in recent years. Julianna Margulies won Best Drama Supporting Actress for “ER” in its first season (1995), but then she lost five times in a row when she competed in the lead category (1996-2000). She finally won Best Drama Actress a decade later for a different show, “The Good Wife,” in 2011 and 2014.
Elsewhere, Rachel Griffiths (“Six Feet Under”) went from lead (2002) to supporting (2003), but lost both times. Lorraine Bracco (“The Sopranos”) also went from lead (1999-2001) to supporting (2007), but she never won either. Elisabeth Moss (“Mad Men”) went lead (2009), supporting (2010), and back to lead again (2011-2013, 2015), but she didn’t take home the gold either, not until her next show, “The Handmaid’s Tale,” won Best Drama Actress for her in 2017.
This year Clarke has the benefit of starring on a record-breaking show: “Game of Thrones” earned more nominations this year (32) than any other continuing series in Emmy history. That includes 10 nominations for acting, which indicates overwhelming support from that branch of the TV academy. However, only one actor has ever actually won for the show: Peter Dinklage, who claimed Best Drama Supporting Actor three times (2011, 2015, 2018). So are actors in the academy really that into “Thrones”? I guess we’ll find out.
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