Real-life characters dominate the field

Once again Emmy voters have favored biographical roles, with all five of the leading miniseries-telepic actress nominees portraying real women. Subjects range from the sublimely eccentric Big and Little Edie Beale and French fashion icon Coco Chanel to modern-day gay-rights activist Mary Griffith and homeless animal lover Yvonne Caldwell.

HBO — normally dominant in the minis and movies categories — offers up “Grey Gardens” co-stars Jessica Lange and Drew Barrymore, who dazzled audiences and critics alike with their spot-on depictions of the Beales, Jackie O’s impoverished relatives who lived in a decaying East Hampton mansion. The story of the Edies has riveted audiences since the eponymous 1975 documentary premiered.

Lifetime’s two nominees, Shirley MacLaine and Sigourney Weaver, are both esteemed actresses carrying different based-on-a-true-story films. In “Coco Chanel,” MacLaine plays the celebrated designer in a costume epic that focuses on her transformation from orphaned country girl to Paris’ revolutionary of couture. Weaver’s Mary Griffith is a devout Christian mother who tries to convince her son to forsake homosexuality, only to become a gay-rights activist after his suicide in “Prayers for Bobby.”

Chandra Wilson — who just earned her fourth Emmy nom for her work on ABC’s hit drama “Grey’s Anatomy” — also picked up a nod for her touching performance as a homeless woman who befriends an LAPD cop in Hallmark Channel’s “Accidental Friendship.”

DREW BARRYMORE
Telepic: “Grey Gardens”
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Best scene: Barrymore’s Little Edie finally telling Big Edie it’s her fault they’ve aged and decayed at Grey Gardens, the dilapidated home in the Hamptons.
Why she might win: Barrymore, who received marvelous reviews for playing Jackie O’s tragicomic cousin, will impress voters with her riches-to-fashionable-rags performance.
Maybe not: She needs to be overbearing in several scenes with Lange, but sometimes subtlety can work better with voters.

JESSICA LANGE
Telepic: “Grey Gardens”
Emmy pedigree: Two noms
Best scene: Lange, as nearly bedridden Big Edie, listens to a recording of her much-younger, carefree self singing.
Why she might win: In a category filled with big names — a fact the TV Academy loves — Lange is a six-time Oscar nominee and two-time winner. Yet she’s never won an Emmy. That’s a situation voters might want to correct.
Maybe not: Big Edie is a less-sympathetic character than Little Edie, and some critics thought her onscreen daughter Barrymore shone a bit brighter.

SHIRLEY MACLAINE
Telepic: “Coco Chanel”
Emmy pedigree: One win plus four other noms
Best scene: In what could have become a treacly monologue, Coco touchingly, but matter-of-factly, recounts the sad origins of the little black dress.
Why she might win: An Emmy veteran, it’s MacLaine’s first nomination since 1980, and she portrays the chic elder Coco with power, depth and the easy flick of a cigarette.
Maybe not: She’s in the film much less than younger Chanel actress Barbora Bobulova, so it feels almost like a supporting role.

SIGOURNEY WEAVER
Telepic: “Prayers for Bobby”
Emmy pedigree: One nom
Best scene: As grieving mother Mary Griffith, Weaver heartbreakingly confesses her role in making her gay son feel hopeless to a sympathetic minister.
Why she might win: Emmy voters love bigscreen actresses who bring touching, topical turns on television, and Weaver received high praise for her performance.
Maybe not: She faces stiff competition from the other four actresses, all of whom played real-life women better known than Griffith.

CHANDRA WILSON
B>Telepic: “Accidental Friendship”
Emmy pedigree: Three noms
Best scene: When Yvonne tells LAPD officer Tami Baumann about her life before she hit the streets, the emotion Wilson unleashes is powerful yet understated.
Why she might win: An Emmy favorite (she’s a double nominee this year), Wilson is raw and affecting as Caldwell, a homeless dog lover who roams the streets of Los Angeles.
Maybe not: Unlike her competish here, Wilson is a primetime regular and her work and accolades on “Grey’s Anatomy” might be difficult for some to get past.

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