Emmys 2022: Will vote-splitting hurt ‘Succession’ in key acting races?

Ever since the Emmys popular vote system was implemented in 2016, where all members of the Television Academy could only select one winner in their respective category fields (as opposed to ranking the nominees), there has been the discussion of the issue of vote-splitting. If more than one nominee in a category is from the same show, voters may have an issue deciding which one to vote for. This year in particular, many series front-runners have garnered multiple nominees in categories, with shows like “Succession,” “The White Lotus,” “Dopesick” and “Ted Lasso” all having at least three actors in a single category at the main telecast. These categories may prove to be more open, in particular with “Succession,” which could face some strong competition from the other drama series.

When it comes to predicting winners from categories with multiple nominees from the same series, it can be hard to tell which ones may give way to vote-splitting and who will benefit from that. No one predicted Ben Mendelsohn back in 2016 to win Best Drama Supporting Actor for “Bloodline” over both Peter Dinklage and Kit Harington for “Game of Thrones,” where Mendelsohn’s character had died the season prior and showed up in only flashbacks and ghost appearances. Nor did many pick Thandiwe Newton in 2018 for “Westworld” in Best Drama Supporting Actress, where she was up against three women from “The Handmaid’s Tale,” after losing the year before to Ann Dowd – one of two nominees from that show in 2017 – when Newton was deemed more of a front-runner.

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But there have been occasions where voters have had a solid decision when picking between actors from the same show, such as Jeremy Strong over Brian Cox for “Succession” (2020) and Jodie Comer over Sandra Oh for “Killing Eve” (2019), because they were the clear standouts of their seasons. And then there was last year, when pundits thought Emma Corrin would overcome a vote-split for “The Crown” with Olivia Colman because she seemed like the obvious choice, but Colman won instead. Who knew?

So how can one predict when vote-splitting happens in a category and when it doesn’t? Usually it requires looking more closely at the nominees and the landscape of the season. Splitting occurs not only when voters are indecisive on which nominee from the same program to vote for, but also when an actor from another series has enough support to take advantage of it. This year, “Succession” leads the pack of all shows with 25 nominations, but has multiple bids in three key acting categories at the Primetime ceremony.

Take Best Drama Actor, where Cox and Strong are nominated together yet again. Last season, Strong was able to overtake Cox in this category, which many attributed to him having a stronger season. This year however, both have had stellar character arcs, exemplified in their episode submissions, Cox with the season finale “All The Bells Say” (where he shines in the final scene confronting his children) and Strong with “Too Much Birthday” (where he has a breakdown and argues with his siblings). Cox is currently Gold Derby’s top contender with 19/5 odds, but that may be also due to the fact that Strong already won and people may think voters want to spread the wealth. But that ignores the fact that Strong had an equally stunning season and his character is more sympathetic.

If someone were to triumph over the duo, many think it would be Lee Jung-Jae from “Squid Game” at 39/10 odds, given he won the SAG Award over both of them and the show has massive popularity and did well with 14 nominations. Sometimes it is the respect and popularity of the actor that can benefit from a vote-split. For example, Bob Odenkirk is on a high with “Better Call Saul” airing its final season right before voting for the winners commences and is giving layered performances in those episodes, which if voters are watching, could be the winning factor. Many also still remember Odenkirk’s heart attack he suffered while filming the season. He is currently at 11/2 odds behind Strong, who is at 5/1.

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Best Drama Supporting Actor also may not be as clear cut as many would think. This is most likely the case where the winner will not be a result of a vote-split, with Billy Crudup from “The Morning Show” being the only sole nominee in this category. Here we also have Kieran Culkin, Matthew Macfadyen and Nicholas Braun all nominated again for “Succession,” and while Crudup won over all three of them last time, his show has taken a massive plunge, having only three acting nominations. Despite Culkin in the lead with 9/2 odds, Macfadyen is right behind with 5/1 and could give him a run for his money.

It is safe to assume that a majority of voters watched the latest season of “Succession,” given Strong’s win last season and Andrij Parekh’s win for directing the “Hunting” episode over Mark Mylod for the season finale (who many thought would win instead). If that is the case, Macfadyen has the best character arc of the three – fearing of going to prison, and his loveless marriage, ending with him informing Logan about the children’s revolt against him – each giving stellar performances. If voters remember that, it could be his to lose. Though it looks like it will be harder to decide with Critics Choice Awards champ Culkin in the mix, with his character having memorable moments, including a scene where he accidentally sends a graphic text to his father, but at the same time just like Cox, his character is not very likable.

Something to note is that even though there are two actors each from “Severance” and “Squid Game” in this category, there may be a bigger consensus over who to vote for from those shows than it would be to decide between Culkin and Macfadyen. With “Severance,” John Turturro seems to be the pick with 8/1 odds over Christopher Walken with 19/2, and has a more consistent presence on the show, while for “Squid Game,” it might be the only opportunity to award Golden Globe winner Oh Young-soo for an unforgettable, tragic performance that was one of talking points of the show. Young-soo sits at third place with 6/1 odds over Park Hae-soo, who shares the same odds as Walken and Braun. It is certainly something to ponder about whether a potentially more decisive vote for one of the shows is enough to overtake what may be an uncertainty between two “Succession” actors, or if either Culkin or Macfadyen has enough popularity to win regardless.

With Best Drama Supporting Actress, it may be safe to say this would be the category that “Succession” is least prone to a vote-split, with Sarah Snook sitting in second place with 5/1 odds, while her co-star J. Smith-Cameron is in last with 10/1. It seems likely that if voters want to award the show in this category, they would go for Snook, but Julia Garner from “Ozark” has shown that they love her character and performance, winning for the last two seasons against vastly different competition, including last time when Snook was the sole nominee and “Ozark” won nothing else.

Snook did win the Golden Globe and Critics Choice Award earlier this year, lest we forget. But her loss to Jung Ho-yeon for “Squid Game” at the SAG Awards – who is right behind Snook at 13/2 odds – is cause for concern, but that may also be attributed to the awards body’s love for the show and the fact that it is more rewarding to diverse performers and ensembles. So if Snook were to lose, it would be more of being in a largely competitive category than a vote-split situation.

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