Emmy nominee profile: Harriet Walter (‘Succession’) brings pathos and depth to her prickly matriarch

“I don’t think I’ve ever won a single battle in my whole life,” bemoans Dame Harriet Walter’s character Lady Caroline Collingwood in a third-season episode of HBO’s “Succession.” The acclaimed actress just landed her second Emmy Award nomination for playing the wickedly funny but prickly matriarch on the series and looks to win “the battle” for Drama Guest Actress in September.

Walter competes in a field of that includes two fellow “Succession” guest stars, newcomers and industry vets, although notably not a single one has previously taken home an Emmy. From her own series, she faces off against three-time nominee Hope Davis and Sanaa Lathan as well as three-time nominee Marcia Gay Harden (“The Morning Show”) and first-timers Martha Kelly (“Euphoria”) and Lee Yoo-mi (“Squid Game”). Walter herself also received recognition in the Comedy Guest Actress category this year for her performance on “Ted Lasso.”

WATCH our exclusive video interview with Dame Harriet Walter, ‘Succession’ Season 3

Although it may look challenging for the actress to overcome two other “Succession” guests to take home the trophy, the series has shown strength in this very category in the past, even when it had more than one contender. For its second season, both Walter and Cherry Jones were nominated in this race and Jones took home the prize. Walter could avenge that loss this year, especially since she plays a recurring, already-established family member of the Roy clan while Davis and Lathan play brand new roles. On the other hand, both “The Morning Show” and “Euphoria” have won acting trophies in the past and “Squid Game” showed strength with industry actors at the Screen Actors Guild Awards recently, too.

Walter submitted the penultimate episode “Chiantishire” for Emmy consideration. In the installment, the Roys make a transatlantic trek from New York to Italy for Caroline’s wedding. Once there, Caroline gives her eldest son Kendall (Jeremy Strong) an icy reception by making him split the festivities with his father Logan (Brian Cox) because of their ongoing feud, while also trying to convince her youngest son Roman (Kieran Culkin) that her fiancé has good intentions.

It is her scene opposite Sarah Snook’s Shiv, though, that makes the episode a standout. As the two snipe at each other about their shortcomings, Caroline admits “I probably never should have had children” because “some people just aren’t meant to be mothers.” Walter is at her best and most complex in this scene, at once wickedly cruel while also showing just how wounded Caroline is herself. Including her stellar performance, “Succession” has a record-breaking 14 acting nominations this year, which could certainly work in her favor as it shows just how much the academy admires the show’s performances.

This article is a part of Gold Derby’s “Emmy nominee profile” series spotlighting the 2022 acting contenders.

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