As we edge ever closer to Emmy season, the acting contenders start to emerge. While it is hard to push out some of the stalwarts in some of the categories, some are starting to lose their place, and there are some open slots for new nominees to emerge. And while there are a few names that look likely to take advantage, Master of None’s Aziz Ansari, and Transparent’s Judith Light, to name a couple, there are a few under the radar performances that deserve the attention of voters, no matter their likelihood of getting in. Here are my picks, one in each category, of the acting performances that deserve some Emmy love this year:
Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series
Will Arnett- Flaked
Created and written by leading man Will Arnett, Flaked, which premiered on Netflix earlier this month, has been given an unfairly hard time by critics, even though it has been well received by viewers. At the heart of the show is Arnett’s Chip, a stool maker and recovering alcoholic living in Venice, California. As Chip, Arnett shows a new side to himself as an actor, bringing range to his performance, and vanquishing memories of the man-child like characters he’s known for, most famously showcased in his Emmy-nominated roles in Arrested Development, and 30 Rock. Arnett has received 5 Emmy nominations so far, and he is barely in the conversation for Flaked, mainly because of the show’s critical bashing. But to see him in the line-up, ahead of the tick box names like Don Cheadle for the barely-watched House of Lies, would be a refreshing pick, and he has a couple of great submission episodes, with the episode “7th” being a particular highlight.
Outstanding Lead Actress in a Comedy Series
Ellie Kemper- Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
One of the shock exclusions of last year’s Emmy nominations was Ellie Kemper in the Lead Comedy Actress category for her role in Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, which was nominated for Outstanding Comedy Series, and 4 acting awards, for co-stars Tituss Burgess, Jane Krakowski, Jon Hamm, and Tina Fey. It was so surprising because Kemper was so good in the show’s debut season. As the second season debuts next month, it looks like Kemper is in with a decent shot, with Amy Poehler, Lisa Kudrow, and Edie Falco all out of the race. It also helps that she received a SAG nomination earlier this year. The role of Kimmy was written specifically for Kemper, and she takes full advantage, as she brings right amount of energy and enthusiasm needed for the role, and it raises the other cast’s performances. It’s a great performance, and deserves Emmy love should the second season be up to scratch.
Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series
Jay Duplass- Transparent
Undoubtedly the standout of the cast in the second season of Transparent, no actor has improved and grown more than Jay Duplass has over the course of the show’s first two seasons. And it really is an outstanding performance from Duplass, acting for the first time in a project that he hasn’t produced. As Josh Pfefferman, a son recovering from his father’s transition, and learning that he has a grown son, Duplass delivers some beautiful tragicomedy, and adds an extra dimension to his characterisation with every episode. If he gets nominated, which I sincerely hopes he does, he has a great episode submission in “The Book of Life”, in which he delivers a true emotional tour-de-force performance.
Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series
Noël Wells- Master of None
While the majority of the praise for Netflix’s excellent comedy series has been heaped upon creator, writer, director, and star Aziz Ansari, Noël Wells is one of the unsung elements that makes the show as special as it is. The praise for Ansari is certainly deserved, but it has lead to Wells receiving very little, even though her impact is memorable and heart-wrenching, despite only appearing in 6 of the 10 episodes of the first season. But, in those 6 episodes,Wells more than stole the show as Rachel, the girlfriend of Ansari’s Dev, delivering a funny, but emotionally resonant, performance. Her problem getting in is that all 8 of last year’s nominees are returning, and while the show will likely get into Oustanding Comedy Series, and Ansari will deservedly get into Lead Actor, Wells has a much tougher job. However, if she does get in and submits “Mornings”, she will be tough to beat.
Any Acting Category
The Cast of Silicon Valley
Despite its domination of the Comedy Series, Directing, and Writing categories in terms of nominations, HBO’s Silicon Valley has been a lot less successful in the acting categories, with no actor from the shown ever been nominated for an Emmy for the show. While Thomas Middleditch has come close to receiving a Lead Actor nomination, the category’s reliance on familiar faces (Matt LeBlanc, Don Cheadle, etc.), and surprise inclusions (Anthony Anderson, Will Forte, etc.) in recent years has meant that Middleditch has missed out. Hopefully, for the third season, he can break through. In the Supporting category, it has most likely been the case of a split between cast members, with T.J. Miller, Zach Woods, Kumail Nanjiani, Martin Starr, and Christopher Evan Welch (season 1), and Chris Diamantopoulos (season 2) all competing in the category. The category is prone to picking a left field choice (Fred Armisen, Keegan-Michael Key, etc.), so one of them could get in, most likely T.J. Miller. It has also missed out in Supporting Actress, and the Guest categories. If it has another good season, it could have a shot at winning Outstanding Comedy Series, but without any acting nominations, it doesn’t have much of a chance, as shown the last two years.