‘Mrs. America’ and Cate Blanchett are formidable Emmy frontrunners

Pay attention, Emmy voters and prognosticators: “Mrs. America” emerges as a major contender in top races as it debuts on Hulu as a special FX production. It’s guaranteed of a nomination in the fiercely competitive category of Best Limited Series where it’s within striking distance of winning. “Mrs. America” is currently ranked third in Gold Derby’s racetrack odds (which combine predictions by our 16 Experts, 11 Editors and 1,560 Users) and it’s ranked first in the predictions of some of those savvy experts like Jazz Tangcay (Variety) and Robert Rorke (New York Post).

Jazz and Robert also pick Cate Blanchett to win Best Actress, as do I and my Gold Derby colleague Joyce Eng. Why? Well, the answer’s complicated and it’s utterly fascinating to obsessive kudos crystal-ballers like you and me.

For starters, Blanchett’s a double Oscar winner (“Blue Jasmine,” “The Aviator”) competing in an Emmy category that’s gone to Academy Award recipients 12 times over the past 20 years. Television Academy voters are notorious for bowing automatically to the ridiculous old bias in favor of the Silver Screen over their own “Boob Tube” industry.

Blanchett also has another plus: she portrays a real-life person just like 11 of the past 20 winners in this race. But now here’s a curious twist: that person isn’t a sympathetic hero like iconic actress Gwen Verdon (Michelle Williams won last year for “Fosse/Verdon”) or bedeviled defense attorney Marcia Clark (Sarah Paulson‘s Emmy for “The People vs. O.J. Simpson”). Blanchett plays Phyllis Schlafly, who’s widely derided as a villain for successfully leading a zealous crusade against the Equal Rights Amendment.

Cate Blanchett deserves the Emmy for ignoring the temptation to portray Phyllis Schlafly as a pop-eyed monster hellbent on betraying her gender in order to gain conservative political clout.  Blanchett provides deep emotional complexity, sighing with heart-felt resignation when accepting her own subordination to men, then flashing a ferocious gaze at fed-up women who dare to rise up.

Sarah Paulson’s among the supporting actresses who are strong Emmy contenders. She gets the most screen time – and theatrical range – as a fictitious Schlafly disciple who becomes haunted by doubts. She faces lots of competition by costars in real-life roles: Rose Byrne (as Gloria Steinem), Margo Martindale (Bella Abzug), Tracey Ullman (Betty Friedan) and Uzo Aduba (Shirley Chisholm). Since only three of the nine total episodes of “Mrs. America” are now available at Hulu for public viewing (a new one will unspool weekly every Wednesday), it’s best to save up a sensible discussion of who’s got the best Emmy hopes till later. For now, our Experts (most of whom have seen all episodes) are sharply divided.

Do you disagree? Make your early Emmy predictions at Gold Derby now and change them later as often as you may change your mind over awards season.

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