On Thursday, Emmy nominations come out. The Emmy’s are always a fun time for me; they’re a time to look back and think about what really worked on television the previous year, what made me laugh, what made me cry, what made me think and feel and rage. They’re a time for me to roll my eyes as that one show that I’ve never managed to get on board with gets nominated again. And they’re a time for me to scratch my head at some of the more questionable “comedy” entries.
I don’t think the Emmy Awards are necessarily the be all, end all of television accolades. For sure there’s a good amount of politics and campaigning and repeats. I, for one, have always felt that – since unlike any other award, shows and people are being nominated and awarded for the same project or character over and over again – there should b a gap year from winners. Like, if Modern Family wins one year, they should automatically be ineligible the next. Just to spread things around a bit. But I guess that would never happen.
For today’s list, I’ve given you ten actors that I think have given some stellar performances this season and deserve a little recognition for it come Thursday. This is by no means a comprehensive list. I’m well aware that there are some incredible shows and some fantastic performances that I just haven’t had the opportunity to see but who absolutely deserve to be recognized. I’m not looking at any one category, and I’m not making sure every category is represented. All in all, this is just a list of characters and character moments that made an impact on me this year.
1. Andre Braugher as Captain Ray Holt, Brooklyn Nine Nine – Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
I think if you were to ask him, Captain Holt would think himself the straight man (no pun intended) tasked with foiling his little band of weirdos. But truth be told, with his robotic monotone and flair for the dramatic, Holt is just as bananas as the rest of them. Whether he’s attempting to party at a beach house with his squad, giving himself the code name Velvet Thunder before a raid, assessing the tenderness of Rosa’s bosom to determine her pregnancy status, or cackling with glee at the punny take down of his arch nemesis (Wunch-time is over!), Captain Holt is a true leader of the freaks down at the Nine-Nine
2. Jim Rash as Dean Craig Pelton, Community – Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
I have long felt Dean Pelton to be the unsung hero of Community. His brand of completely off-kilter has some similarities with Chang’s, but it comes from a decidedly warmer and more heart-felt place. So many of his actions have completely bonkers consequences, and yet they come from good intentions. This season, two episodes especially stick out for me in the Dean’s favor: “Queer Studies and Advanced Waxing” (where the Dean officially comes out as gay while he joins the school board, even though gay only covers about 2/7 of what he is) and “Basic RV Repair and Palmistry” (a roadtrip episode to dispose of a giant papier-mache hand). Both episodes offer insight and depth into a man too often brushed off by the rest of the group as a punchline, and yet never let the Dean lose his inherent essence of childlike wonder and whimsy.
3. Vincent D’Onofrio as Wilson Fisk, Daredevil – Best Supporting Actor, Drama
When it comes to Daredevil, Matt Murdock may be the hero, but Wilson Fisk was the star. A seemingly gentle giant when it came to his love story with Vanessa and a genuine (though truly misguided) wish to fix Hell’s kitchen, Fisk instead turned out to be an incredibly multi-faceted explosion of rage, fear, love, insecurity, and want. Shaped by the abuses, failures, and corruptions of his father and his neighborhood, D’Onofrio was able to infuse Fisk with simultaneous ferocity and timidity and mold him into a man who has yet to let go of the child he once was. Fisk put himself forward as a man of cool calculations, but so often the white-hot rage and despair of that child was unleashed. And I was riveted.
4. Constance Wu as Jessica Huang, Fresh Off the Boat – Best Lead Actress, Comedy
I didn’t expect a whole lot going into Fresh Off the Boat (I find it best not to expect much from most new sitcoms until they prove themselves worthy), but Constance Wu’s Jessica Huang so very quickly won me over. Jessica is a revelation as a character, a mother and wife trying to do right by her children and her husband, and still be her own person. She’s opinionated, judgmental, bossy, and self-satisfied, yet she’s also hiding her anxieties, her fear of failure, and her loneliness. In the end, whether it’s singing her devotion to the neighborhood hussy or threatening to sue the junior high school, Jessica is someone you want in your corner.
5. Viola Davis as Annalise Keating, How to Get Away with Murder – Best Lead Actress, Drama
How to Get Away with Murder is one big, soapy melodrama to be sure, with murder and mayhem in spades. But the incredibly complex and layered performance that Viola Davis gave as Annalise Keating elevated the show to heights it might not have reached with someone else in the role. Annalise is not the hard as nails, take no prisoners defense lawyer she claims to be. There’s softness and fear and intense vulnerability there. And while it may have been groundbreaking and became the big moment that everybody remembers, that cold question of “why is your penis on a dead girl’s phone?” was just the tip of the iceberg when it came to Annalise Keating. For me, the real moments came between Annalise and her mother. They came from Annalise’s uncomfortably sexual maternal moments with Wes. They came from her just starting to unspool with Hannah. We were shown so much of Annalise’s inner workings, and yet I feel there’s still so much left to come.
6. Gina Rodriguez as Jane Villanueva, Jane the Virgin – Best Lead Actress, Comedy
I will admit to being one of those people who was a little off-put by this title. Gina Rodriguez got me to give it a try based on the strength of her performance in the previews alone. Jane’s character certainly had the potential to be someone truly insufferable: someone elitist and snooty and holier-than-thou. But instead, Jane became someone sweet and determined and insecure, trying to navigate her way through a life she never planned for, finding out who she is because of, as well as in spite of, the two women who raised her. Jane is plucky and passionate, sometimes too timid, sometimes too hard on herself (and others), and she’s someone you just have to root for.
7. Samira Wiley and Uzo Aduba as Poussey Washington and Suzanne Warren, Orange is the New Black – Best Supporting Actress, Drama
Okay, I’m cheating with this one by including both actresses. But I went back and forth between them so many times trying to decide which one to include. Finally, I just gave up. Both women not only gave stellar individual performances, but came together to offer up a complete picture when it came to the villainous Vee. Aduba’s Suzanne very quickly and very completely fell under Vee’s influence, becoming her devoted follower, guard dog, and eventual fall guy. Wiley’s Poussey, on the other hand, was the only one of her friends not swayed by Vee, and ended up alone and ostracized for it. These two sides of the coin continued – with Suzanne’s loyalty growing ever stronger and Poussey struggling to stay strong and defiant – and culminated in Suzanne beating Poussey in a rage, after she insulted Vee.
8. Amy Poehler as Leslie Knope, Parks and Recreation – Best Lead Actress, Comedy
While some shows really just peter out as they come to a close, I truly feel the final season of Parks and Rec has some really great, just plain funny moments. And Leslie Knope, the Parks Department’s fearless leader (even if, yes, none of them actually work for the Pawnee Parks Department anymore) was there at the front of all of it. Whether ending her feud with long time
friend workplace proximity associate Ron by singing Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire” (complete with maintained eye contact and without knowing the words), tearing it up on the dance floor at Donna’s wedding, or helping husband Ben run for congress, Leslie Knope was a force to be reckoned with.
9. Cameron Monaghan as Ian Gallagher, Shameless – Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
I’m going to be quite honest here, I kind of hate that Shameless still competes as a comedy. There are still humorous moments, to be sure, but I think the comedy ship sailed somewhere around the episode when Mickey Milkovich was pistol whipped and raped-by-proxy by his father in an attempt to correct his homosexuality. Maybe that’s just me. But Shameless’ Emmy classification aside, Season Five was the Season of Ian. Ian has always been the stable one of the Gallagher clan: the one with the steady job, the one with specific goals, the one Fiona could always count on to take care of himself and keep out of trouble. But as more and more bi-polar symptoms emerge from beneath Ian’s surface, stable and steady seem to be last ways to describe his struggle. Monaghan’s performance this season has been heartbreaking to watch – from the denial of his illness, to his manic break, to his hospitalization, to his numb, lithium-induced haze – and with every new episode, you just can’t help aching for this kid to find some kind of relief and equilibrium again.
10. Tituss Burgess as Titus Andromedon, Unbreakable Kimmy Schimdt – Best Supporting Actor, Comedy
There’s something to be said for a performer who can take a character who, on paper, could be decidedly one note, and turn it into something so much more. Unapologetically flamboyant, Titus is that character. He’s tragically funny, whether it’s because he finds he’s treated better as a werewolf than as a black man or because he’s touted as a “human disaster” after a catastrophic news interview. He’s world weary after escaping the horrors of his school days (a closeted teen, so popular due to his athletic abilities he found himself knee deep in ladies) and being beaten down as just another nobody in New York. And yet Titus never stops. And really, who can forget that musical masterpiece, Peeno Noir?
Feel free to let me know who you want to see nominated and come back Thursday to discuss who does!