Mini/movie actresses shine in biopics

Smith is only nom to have won previous Emmy

Lead Actress – Comedy | Lead Actress – Drama | Supporting Actress – Comedy | Supporting Actress – Drama | Lead Actress – Mini/Movie
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As is often the case in the minis-movies category, the subject matter is mostly biopics, and the actresses here certainly lived up to the legacy of their on-screen personas.

All of the nominees played women overcoming extraordinary personal crises, ranging from infidelity and alcoholism to rejection and prejudice.

Perennial Emmy juggernaut HBO delivered yet again with three nominations. Hope Davis played the most well-known of the lead characters, current Secretary of State Hillary Clinton. Davis’ Clinton, however, captures a time when the former first lady was trying to navigate her husband (Dennis Quaid) through his 1998 sex scandal.

For her riveting biopic of autism-rights pioneer and animal-rights activist “Temple Grandin,” Claire Danes received her first Emmy nod since her nominated TV debut in 1995’s “My So-Called Life.” Maggie Smith, who won for the 2003 HBO film “My House in Umbria,” snagged her fourth nod for the touching drama “Capturing Mary,” about an older woman recalling the celebrity-filled parties she once attended in a posh London house.

The three HBO actresses face competition from Judi Dench, who earned her third Emmy nod for reprising the role of Victorian spinster Miss Matty in PBS’ popular “Masterpiece Theater” production “Return to Cranford.” Dench lost in 2008 to Laura Linney’s Abigail Adams, but Dench’s role in this costume drama could return the award to PBS.

Second-time nominee Joan Allen was already bestowed a Golden Globe nod for playing the controversial artist in Lifetime’s “Georgia O’Keeffe,” which the actress also produced. Allen, who does far more theatrical work than television, has now been nominated for her last two TV perfs. Thesp was nommed for “The Mists of Avalon.”

Maggie Smith
“Capturing Mary”
Emmy pedigree: One win, plus two previous noms
Best scene: Mary’s moving account of her shocking and life-changing encounter in the London mansion to its young caretaker decades later.
Why she might win: Always a kudos favorite, Smith’s perf as the sad and bitter Mary who pines for the promise of her youth could resonate with voters.
Maybe not: She’s the only previous winner of the lot, so voters may want to award one of the other repeat nominees. This HBO-BBC production also flew under the radar here in the States.

Joan Allen
“Georgia O’Keeffe”
Emmy pedigree: One previous nom
Best scene: Allen wordlessly sublimates O’Keeffe’s anger and pain into motivation for her painting before collapsing to the floor with heaving sobs.
Why she might win: Emmy voters gravitate toward bigscreen actresses who star in smallscreen biopics, and Allen gives an impressively understated performance that could earn Lifetime its first win in the category.
Maybe not: Mixed reviews overall, despite Allen’s accolades (and Golden Globe nod) for her performance.

Judi Dench
“Return to Cranford”
Emmy pedigree: Two previous noms
Best scene: In a heartbreaking scene, Miss Matty, a paragon of British stoicism, quietly mourns the death of her dear maid by lovingly laying out her body and fastening a ribbon to her hair.
Why she might win: She’s one of the most decorated actresses in the world, but she’s yet to win an Emmy. Dench’s widely heralded reprise as the kind and generous Miss Matty could be the perfect role to finally earn her a statuette.
Maybe not: Those tired of bonnet-and-lace period dramas may prefer one of the more contemporary telepics.

Hope Davis
“The Special Relationship”
Emmy pedigree: One previous nom
Best scene: When Dennis Quaid’s Clinton confesses his indiscretions, Davis, as the former first lady, alternates between crushed betrayal and steely, bitter determination.
Why she might win: In her sensible pant suits and Hillary-esque haircut, Davis looked the part and stole the show every time she fired up her Machiavellian instincts to further the Clintons’ goals.
Maybe not: She faces formidable competition, and with Dennis Quaid and Michael Sheen in the production, her role could be construed as more supporting than lead.

Claire Danes
“Temple Grandin”
Emmy pedigree: One previous nom
Best scene: Danes plays the autistic Grandin with exceptional ease and believability, particularly when interacting with her mentor, played by David Strathairn.
Why she might win: This is Danes’ first nod since her breakthrough role on “My So-Called Life,” and she received the best reviews of her career for her spectacular perf as the eponymous, autistic genius.
Maybe not: The Academy has often favored actresses 40 and up in this category, so at 31, Danes’ youth could work against her.

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