That three of the five women nominated for lead actress in a miniseries or movie either hail from England or adopt a British accent isn’t particularly surprising.
The BBC has long held a dominating presence in the miniseries-movie categories and, this year, with “Upstairs, Downstairs” returning on the heels of the remarkable success of competitor ITV’s “Downton Abbey,” that kind of commanding stamp was almost a foregone conclusion.
Jean Marsh reappears in the category 37 years after receiving the first of three noms (and one win) for playing the maid in “Upstairs, Downstairs,” a series she co-created. Joining her is fellow Brit Kate Winslet, earning a second Emmy nom, this time as the title character in Todd Haynes’ HBO update of the 1945 noir soap opera “Mildred Pierce.”
And then there’s Elizabeth McGovern, breaking into the Emmys by playing an English countess in “Downton Abbey,” a series that emulates the “Upstairs” model of following a family of British aristocrats and their hired help.
The other two slots went to Americans working in movies based on true stories. Former Oscar nominee Taraji P. Henson received her first Emmy nod playing a grieving mother looking to locate her kidnapped son in Lifetime’s “Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story.” On a different emotional plane, but no less dramatic in its own way, was Diane Lane’s work in “Cinema Verite,” the story of the Loud family, America’s first reality TV stars.
Not making the cut: Golden Globe nominees Hayley Atwell (“The Pillars of the Earth”) and Jennifer Love Hewitt (“The Client List”). And Katie Holmes failed to make the ticket with “The Kennedys.”
Taraji P. Henson
“Taken From Me: The Tiffany Rubin Story” (Lifetime)
Best scene: After a great deal of searching (and heart-rending tears), Tiffany locates the son whom her ex-husband has kidnapped and taken to South Korea. Then the decision: Criminal consequences be damned! She’s going to reverse-kidnap her child.
Why she might win: Given the inherently melodramatic material (and Lifetime’s long and somewhat checkered history with fact-based nightmares), it would have been easy for Henson to give into theatrics. But she keeps the character, and herself, in control at all times.
Maybe not: Henson’s acting received plenty of plaudits, but reaction to the movie itself was mixed.
“Cinema Verite” (HBO)
Best scene: Pat Loud phones PBS documentarian Craig Gilbert to tell him that she’s leaving her husband, and she wants to do it on camera. “Because that’s what you want, too, isn’t it?”
Why she might win: Lane deftly captures both Pat’s innocence and her deep-down knowledge that her marriage is over. She’s also wonderful in the way she shows how Pat changes whenever the cameras are rolling.
Maybe not: The movie too often felt like a mere reenactment of “An American Family.” Lane convinced, but the truth in this case was more rewarding than fiction.
“Upstairs, Downstairs” (PBS)
Best scene: That look on Rose Buck’s face when she realizes that she has been charged with returning to 165 Eaton Place to help its new owners put together a servant staff. Marsh’s smile lights up the screen.
Why she might win: Marsh’s Rose acts as the bridge between the 1970s series and this sequel. For many voters, her first appearance is akin to reuniting with a long-lost friend.
Maybe not: Updated “Upstairs” didn’t capture viewers’ fancy in the way that the original did (how could it?) with seeping sentiment sagging what had been a rather revolutionary presentation of the working class.
“Downton Abbey” (PBS)
Best scene: Lady Cora puts on a brave face at a garden party, shortly after suffering a miscarriage.
Why she might win: In this exceptionally well-reviewed mini, McGovern nicely captured essence of a woman trying to pretend she’s part of the club while harboring the insecurities of an outsider.
Maybe not: As good as she was, McGovern might be overshadowed by co-star Maggie Smith’s withering stare and memorable one-liners.
“Mildred Pierce” (HBO)
Best scene: Mildred listens to daughter Veda’s radio broadcast. She sings great! Which is good … right? Winslet registers pride in the accomplishment as well as disappointment that her daughter has apparently made it, but without her help.
Why she might win: Impeccable reputation, period costumes, plenty of smoldering close-ups. And, of course, the usual commanding work, done as usual, without any sense of showboating or self-regard.
Maybe not: Some viewers felt the show was too slow-paced and could have been told in half the length. Were the intricacies of Winslet’s performance lost in the inertia?
Bigscreen actresses adjust to TV fame
Drama | Comedy | Movie & Miniseries