The TV Czar’s Emmy Ballot: Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

This category never fails to disappoint.

Without a doubt, the most difficult category to pick is the supporting actor in a drama series. There are just too many good performances. Any of the lists made by different people across the interwebs could be made into a top 10 or 15 without a significant drop off in performance. Most likely, the top 6 will be decided based on who had the best submission material. Some actors need to show you an entire season for you to appreciate their work. Some need only a single scene. Regardless of who the nominees turn out to be, about 10 other actors will have a legitimate gripe about not being included. Here are my top six.

Jonathan Banks, Breaking Bad

After Gus Fring died in spectacular fashion to end season four of Breaking Bad, many people wondered about where the show would find another dramatic antagonist to Walter White. While nobody is going to forget the performance of Giancarlo Esposito, Jonathan Banks made sure the show didn’t miss a beat. Long a fan favorite during his brief appearances in earlier seasons, Banks was allowed to stretch out Mike Ehrmantraut, and the results were incredible. Banks successfully delivered the gravity of the man’s increasingly difficult situation. Banks wore every difficult moment like they were lines on his well manicured bald head. Of the 15-20 people worthy of a nomination in this category, Banks’ omission would upset me the most.

Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, Game of Thrones

With so much going in any given episode of Game of Thrones, it becomes difficult for one actor to stand out. In a bit of a surprise, nobody stood out more this season than Nikolaj Coster-Waldau. As Jaime Lannister and Brienne continued their buddy cop adventure series through the forest, we got to watch Coster-Waldau show the transition of a man from the persona that was thrust upon him when he killed the Mad King, to the guy maybe he was supposed to be. It was fascinating to watch, and Coster-Waldau earned every moment. The bath scene was definitely the apex of the arc, and a scene that hopefully didn’t get overshadowed by that nice party Walder Frey threw.

Mandy Patinkin, Homeland

Homeland Season 2 Episode 8 I'll Fly Away (1)

Despite my status as TV Equals’ official Homeland apologist, I have to acknowledge the second season of the Showtime drama went slightly askew. Howard Gordon and Alex Gansa bet on the wrong element of their drama and things spiraled quickly from there. That’s a problem with writing that shouldn’t affect how Emmy voters look at the performances of the actors. I’d imagine that both Claire Danes and Damian Lewis will return to the Emmy field, but the show should garner an Emmy nomination for Mandy Patinkin as well. After being overlooked for a nomination last year, Patinkin became the solid backbone of the increasingly wacky show. There’s a reason Claire Danes gave him a shoutout at last year’s Emmys. This year, the Academy should do the same.

Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad

Paul was his typical masterful self during the first half of the final season of Breaking Bad. The first half of the season was much more geared towards the growing tension between Walt and Skyler and Walt and Mike, but Jessie wasn’t without his moments. He’ll have a few choices for submission episodes, but his work following the train robbery is some of the better work on television this season. He’s the obvious choice after winning the award twice, but that doesn’t mean he’s not deserving of a nomination.

Mads Mikkelsen, Hannibal

Hannibal Episode 12 Relevés (2)

We’ve officially reached the “no chance” portion of my Emmy ballot. Given just how few people watched Hannibal, it’s difficult to imagine Mikkelsen garnering a nomination for his performance as the murderous cannibal Dr. Hannibal Lecter. That’s unfortunate, because Mikkelsen’s take on an iconic character is incredibly refreshing. There was a lot of skepticism surrounding the new show largely because of the caricature that Hannibal Lecter has become throughout the years. Mikkelsen assuaged all of those fears by playing the character with a European cool that allowed the character’s outsized moments to play like fringe behaviors of a mad man instead of merely another quirk of a cartoonish character. While the writing deserves a great deal of credit for creating this wonderfully dark look at mental illness, Mikkelsen deserves a lot of credit as well for his superior performance in a potentially thankless role.

Vincent Kartheiser, Mad Men

I know we all hate Pete Campbell on Mad Men. It’s easy to see why. He’s one of the most unlikable characters in all of television. Still, those feelings shouldn’t prevent Emmy voters from watching a superlative performance in undoubtedly Vincent Kartheiser’s finest season of Mad Men to date. Mad Men is not without quality supporting performances, but very few can match the work of Kartheiser this year. Admittedly, he was off my ballot before some late episodes showed the complexity of an assumed one dimensional loser. Kartheiser’s delivery remained impeccable, but this year there was some real weight to what he was asked to do. Plus, the man who gave us “NOT GREAT, BOB!” has to be given a nomination if only so we can see it on the Emmy reel on awards night.

Others considered: Bobby Cannavale, Josh Charles, Peter Dinklage, Noah Emmerich, Walton Goggins, John Noble, Dean Norris, Bob Odenkirkk, John Slattery

Those are my top six. Who were yours? Let me know in the comments below.

  • MartyBellerMask

    I’ve never thought of Pete Campbell as one-dimensional. He’s always been MAD MEN’s most intriguing character, in my mind. I hope he finally gets the Emmy he deserves.

    • TVCzar

      A lot of people get hung up on Pete’s… mannerisms. I certainly love Kartheiser’s performance, but a lot of people just dislike him for being smarmy and relatively pathetic.

      It’s the likability factor that probably keeps him off the ballot on a regular basis. I can’t imagine an Emmy voter going “I don’t like that guy’s character at all, but I appreciate the work he’s doing.”

      • MartyBellerMask

        Oh you are right about that, and it’s a shame. Like Michael Richards winning 3 Emmys for SEINFELD, when in my (and many critics’) opinion, Jason Alexander gave a more layered performance as unlikeable George Costanza. I honestly don’t know what the voters are looking for. It’s very disappointing that VK keeps getting overlooked.

        • TVCzar

          Richards over Alexander remains as perplexing today as it was back then. However, at least Alexander could get on the ballot. Poor Kartheiser can’t even make it to the top six.

  • Muldfeld

    Vincent Kartheiser is the main reason I even checked out “Mad Men” back in Season 2. He’s always been great and continues to be. He deserves to win. As much as I love “Breaking Bad”, the characters are not as subtly complex. Jon Hamm and Kartheiser give more difficult performances that showcase greater talent than the less subtle ones (however great) that Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul portray.

    • TVCzar

      I think we’re looking at two different shows. Cranston and Paul (Cranston especially) are playing bigger, showier roles. Mad Men trades in subtlety (when it hits it mark). It’s why it can be tougher to appreciate the work of a guy like Kartheiser. It’s also probably why Jon Hamm has never won for his portrayal of Don Draper.

      • Muldfeld

        Very true, but I’d say the award should reward the better and harder work. Cranston’s amazing, but Jon Hamm’s work in Season 4 of “Mad Men” was incredible and harder. Also, since Cranston and Paul have won so often, Hamm and especially Kartheiser really deserve it — hopefully, if not next time, then for the finale, 7th season.

  • Brady

    Swap out Vincent Kartheiser for Corey Stoll from House of Cards, and I’m with you 100%.

    • TVCzar

      I wouldn’t have been the least bit upset for a Stoll nomination. This field is so tough, there is at least another full ballot we could put on here and everyone of them would still be great.

  • Kim Coates, Sons of Anarchy

    • TVCzar

      I’m sure I’ll lose points for this, but I’ve never watched Sons of Anarchy. However, I do hear a lot about the great performances on that show.

    • MartyBellerMask

      I’ve never seen that show, but I am a fan of the actor.

  • Nancy

    Gerald McRaney – SOUTHLAND