Emmy Experts say ‘Game of Thrones’ will win Supporting Actress, but here’s why Julia Garner (‘Ozark’) is the front-runner anyway

We’ve polled 24 Expert journalists for their Emmy predictions, and as of this writing a majority of them (13 out of 24) say “Game of Thrones” will win Best Drama Supporting Actress. So how is Julia Garner (“Ozark”) still their front-runner? Because those Experts can’t agree on which “Game of Thrones” actress will win, which illustrates how vote-splitting can throw a race into flux.

Out of the 13 Experts currently betting on “Game of Thrones” in this category, six say Lena Headey will win, six say Maisie Williams, and one says Sophie Turner. Add them all up and you’ve got an Emmy favorite, but none of them individually are predicted by as many Experts as Garner, who is backed by these nine journalists: Lynn Elber (Associated Press), Joyce Eng (Gold Derby), Ed Martin (Media Village), Mary Murphy (Gold Derby), Nikki Novak (Fandango), Matt Roush (TV Guide Magazine), Kaitlin Thomas (TVGuide.com), Anne Thompson (IndieWire) and Glenn Whipp (LA Times).

We could see a similar outcome when the actual Emmy votes are counted: “Game of Thrones” could get the most support in the category but still lose. That wasn’t always the case, though. Winners used to be decided through ranked-choice voting on a preferential ballot, so if academy members were fans of “Game of Thrones,” they could rank its actresses in their highest positions. If most ballots are crowded with “Thrones” up top, a “Thrones” star is likely to win even if individual voters don’t agree on which one it should be.

That’s not just theoretical. We saw that in the past when multiple nominees from one show would help rather than hurt their co-stars: Edie Falco winning Best Drama Actress against Lorraine Bracco (“The Sopranos”), Felicity Huffman taking Best Comedy Actress with a little help from Marcia Cross and Teri Hatcher (“Desperate Housewives”), and those four Best Comedy Supporting Actor wins for “Modern Family” (two for Eric Stonestreet, two for Ty Burrell) when there were as many as four nominees from the show in the category.

In past years there was also a greater emphasis on episode submissions, and having multiple nominees from a show meant that voters got to see you in multiple submissions, which was yet another advantage. But in 2015 the TV academy eliminated blue ribbon panels and allowed all members to vote in every category in their branch, decreasing the likelihood that voters would (or even could) watch all the submissions before casting their votes.

Then in 2016 the Emmys switched from preferential voting to plurality voting, which means you don’t rank the nominees anymore, you just pick one winner. So if one show has multiple actors nominated, voters have to pick one. If most voters love the show but love different actors on it, that opens the door for someone else, and that exact scenario played out for “Thrones” the very first year of plurality voting. In 2016 the show earned Best Drama Supporting Actress noms for Headey, Williams and Emilia Clarke, but the Emmy went to Maggie Smith, who was the only nominee from “Downton Abbey.”

Vote-splitting isn’t always so costly — Peter Dinklage beat his “Thrones” co-star Nikolaj Coster-Waldau for Best Drama Supporting Actor last year — but our Experts’ predictions nevertheless illustrate exactly how it happens. Do you agree that that’s good news for Garner, or could another actress capitalize on “Thrones” overcrowding?

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 nominations are announced on July 16. And join in the fun debate over the 2019 Emmy taking place right now with Hollywood insiders in our television forums. Read more Gold Derby entertainment news.

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