‘1923’ leading lady Helen Mirren is coming for Emmy #6

Dame Helen Mirren is no stranger to the Emmy podium. The Oscar and Tony-winning actress has earned five Emmy statues from 12 nominations over the course of her nearly fifty-year career in television. Despite that impressive track record the actress has never earned an Emmy nomination for a performance on a series. That should change this year thanks to her commanding performance as the Dutton family matriarch in the Paramount+ hit “1923.”

In this second prequel series to Taylor Sheridan’s “Yellowstone,” Mirren stars as Cara Dutton, wife of family patriarch Jacob Dutton (Harrison Ford). Over the course of the show’s first season, Cara is forced to take charge of the family after Jacob is nearly killed by a rival rancher, leaving the ranch vulnerable to all manner of encroachers.

Cara is the backbone of the family and is willing and able to stand up to anyone who crosses her, even using violence when it is warranted. In fact, our first exposure to Cara shows her screaming in shock and rage after gunning down an assailant at point blank range. She will even stand up to her own husband when necessary; this is a woman who supports her husband but will not be subservient. 

Mirren gets a true showcase in the show’s fourth episode, “War and the Turquoise Tide,” which takes place following an ambush by a rival rancher that has killed many and left Jacob clinging to life. Sitting in her kitchen and surrounded by pools of the blood of her loved ones, Cara reaches a breaking point. She retreats to a field outside the house and emits a scream of terror and heartbreak, essentially releasing every emotion that she’s kept bottled up during the trauma. Collecting herself, she returns to the house and begins cleaning up the mess. Later, she stands in for her husband on an official matter in town. Coming face to face with the rancher who orchestrated the attack, Cara warns him to beware of her vengeance. 

The episode plays to all of Mirren’s strengths. She imbues Cara with confidence and a quiet strength. But Mirren is not afraid to let Cara’s emotions tumble out of her. Then just as quickly, she is all business again. In Mirren’s expert hands, Cara is no shrinking violet. She is a strong woman who will stop at nothing to defend her family, going toe to toe with any man who poses a threat to her family. Every second that Mirren is on the screen, you can’t take your eyes off of her.

Mirren is the most honored performer in the Best Movie/Mini/Anthology category at the Emmys, with four wins out of 11 nominations. Those wins came for “Prime Suspect 4: The Scent of Darkness” (1996), “The Passion of Ayn Rand” (1999), “Elizabeth I” (2006) and “Prime Suspect: The Final Act” (2007). She also won a Children and Family Emmy in 2022 as Outstanding Host for “Harry Potter: Hogwarts Tournament of Houses.” Given that “1923” is returning for a second season, Mirren is looking at multiple opportunities to add another Emmy to her collection.

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