A guest win for Cherry Jones would make ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ achieve a rare Emmy three-peat

Cherry Jones is the early favorite to win Best Drama Guest Actress for “The Handmaid’s Tale,” and if she does walk away with the award, it would put the show in rarefied air: “Handmaid’s” would be just the second series to three-peat in the category.

The Hulu dystopian drama has won drama guest actress the past two years for Alexis Bledel (2017) and Samira Wiley (2018). “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit” is the only series to win three in a row — and it actually won four in a row from 2007-10 for Leslie Caron, Cynthia Nixon, Ellen Burstyn and Ann-Margret. It has a fifth win for Amanda Plummer, in 2005, making it the most awarded show in the category. “SVU” was on a hot streak with the TV academy in the 2000s — Mariska Hargitay won Best Drama Actress in 2006, so the show earned an acting award for six straight years, and it also has the most nominations in this category with 14, but it hasn’t been nominated here since Ann-Margret’s victory.

Jones was shortlisted last year in this race for her performance as Holly, June’s (Elisabeth Moss) mother, in an earlier Season 2 episode, “Baggage.” She’s in the running this year thanks to “Handmaid’s” submitting its final three episodes from the second season that did not make last year’s cutoff. These orphaned episodes are only eligible in categories that recognize individual episodes versus body-of-work categories like series and lead and supporting acting.

SEE Emmy reminder: Don’t overlook ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ in writing and directing for orphaned Season 2 episodes

Jones’ episode, “Holly,” is named after her character, so that’s already a plus. Appearing in flashbacks, Holly is the emotional centerpiece of the hour, which goes back and forth in time as June gives birth in an abandoned house by herself in the present to a daughter, whom she names after Holly. Jones, who won her first Emmy 10 years ago for her supporting turn on “24,” appears in the currently airing third season, which may or may not have had an effect as voters were marking their ballots this month.

Should Jones prevail, “Handmaid’s” would also tie “The Practice” with three wins in this category. The David E. Kelley legal drama bagged statuettes for Beah Richards (2000), Alfre Woodard (2003) and Sharon Stone (2004).

In second place behind Jones is Jessica Lange (“American Horror Story: Apocalypse”), followed by Phylicia Rashad (“This Is Us”), Cicely Tyson (“How to Get Away with Murder”), Carice van Houten (“Game of Thrones”) and Connie Britton (“American Horror Story: Apocalypse”).

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