During the 2010s, sexagenarian character actress Margo Martindale accomplished an impressive feat by becoming a triple Primetime Emmy winner over a span of five years. Her first victory for her supporting turn on “Justified” in 2011 was followed by back-to-back wins for guest starring on “The Americans” in 2015 and 2016. By the time the latter show ended its six-season run in 2018, she had appeared as KGB handler Claudia on 32 of its 75 episodes.
Being 64 at the time of her second win, Martindale automatically earned a spot on the list of 10 oldest recipients of the Best Drama Guest Actress award, and then further cemented her placement one year later. Nine older women had already triumphed in the category, including one whose win came less than two years before her 90th birthday.
Since 1963, a total of 35 actresses have won for their roles as guest performers on continuing drama programs, beginning with Glenda Farrell and Kim Stanley, who both won for their appearances on “Ben Casey.” Including Martindale, six of these winners have prevailed on more than one occasion. The honor has been bestowed on an annual basis since 1993 and was awarded occasionally before then.
Check out our photo gallery to find out who ranks ahead of Martindale on the list of 10 oldest Best Drama Guest Actress Emmy winners.
10. Margo Martindale (‘The Americans,’ 2016)
For this role, Martindale amassed four nominations over as many years, which resulted in double wins.
Ellen Burstyn (“House of Cards”)
Allison Janney (“Masters of Sex”)
Laurie Metcalf (“Horace and Pete”)
Molly Parker (“House of Cards”)
Carrie Preston (“The Good Wife”)
9. Agnes Moorehead (‘The Wild Wild West,’ 1967)
Role: Emma Valentine
Moorehead’s sole nomination for a guest appearance led to her only Emmy win. Her work on the comedy series “Bewitched” allowed her to compete five times as a supporting player and once as a lead between 1966 and 1971.
Tina Chen (“The Final War of Olly Winter”)
Ruth Warrick (“Peyton Place”)
8. Elaine Stritch (‘Law & Order,’ 1993)
Role: Lanie Stieglitz
This was Stritch’s second Emmy nomination and first win. She later conquered the corresponding comedy guest acting category with her performance on “30 Rock” (2007).
Bibi Besch (“Northern Exposure”)
Rosanna Carter (“I’ll Fly Away”)
Diane Ladd (“Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman”)
Gwen Verdon (“Homicide: Life on the Street”)
7. Ann-Margret (‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,’ 2010)
Role: Rita Wills
Ann-Margret’s first Emmy victory came after five unsuccessful outings for various TV movies between 1983 and 1999.
Shirley Jones (“The Cleaner”)
Elizabeth Mitchell (“Lost”)
Mary Kay Place (“Big Love”)
Sissy Spacek (“Big Love”)
Lily Tomlin (“Damages”)
6. Viveca Lindfors (‘Life Goes On,’ 1990)
Role: Mrs. Doubcha
This win came 12 years after Lindfors’s first Emmy nomination for her supporting role in the TV movie “A Question of Guilt.”
Ruby Dee (“China Beach”)
Colleen Dewhurst (“Road to Avonlea”)
Shirley Knight (“Thirtysomething”)
Kay Lenz (“Midnight Caller”)
5. Cloris Leachman (‘Promised Land,’ 1998)
Role: Aunt Mooster
This was Leachman’s sixth of eight Emmy wins and the only one to come from this category. She earned one more nomination for this award in 2005 for “Joan of Arcadia.”
Veronica Cartwright (“The X-Files”)
Swoosie Kurtz (“ER”)
Lili Taylor (“The X-Files”)
Alfre Woodard (“Homicide: Life on the Street”)
4. Leslie Caron (‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,’ 2007)
Role: Lorraine Delmas
This remains the only time Caron has been recognized by Emmy voters. Her win kicked off a record four-year streak during which this series dominated this category.
Kate Burton (“Grey’s Anatomy”)
Marcia Gay Harden (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”)
Elizabeth Reaser (“Grey’s Anatomy”)
Jean Smart (“24”)
3. Ellen Burstyn (‘Law & Order: Special Victims Unit,’ 2009)
Role: Bernie Stabler
Burstyn has competed for this award a total of three times. Her first bid came in 2008 for “Big Love,” while her most recent came in 2016 for “House of Cards.”
Brenda Blethyn (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”)
Carl Burnett (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”)
Sharon Lawrence (“Grey’s Anatomy”)
CCH Pounder (“The No. 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency”)
2. Beah Richards (‘The Practice,’ 2000)
Role: Gertrude Turner
This was Richards’s second Emmy win following her victory as a guest performer on the comedy series “Frank’s Place” in 1988. She won her bookend trophy just four days before her death.
Jane Alexander (“Law & Order” / “Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”)
Kathy Baker (“Touched by an Angel”)
Marlee Matlin (“The Practice”)
Tracy Pollan (“Law & Order: Special Victims Unit”)
1. Beulah Bondi (‘The Waltons,’ 1977)
Role: Martha Corinne Walton
Bondi earned her first Emmy nomination and win for what turned out to be her final acting role. She had made her TV debut a quarter century earlier on the medical drama series “The Doctor.”
Susan Blakely (“Rich Man, Poor Man Book II”)
Madge Sinclair (“Roots”)
Leslie Uggams (“Roots”)
Jessica Walter (“The Streets of San Francisco”)