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
 

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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.