When it comes to analyzing awards, the Emmys are the hardest to gauge. The Academy Awards have the luxury of looking to Guild Awards or BAFTAs, which share a voting body with the Academy, but the Emmys noms are determined by a panel of unknown—and unpredictable—judges, before going to the voting body. Still, Variety’s Debra Birnbaum and Jenelle Riley take their best guess at who will bring home the gold Monday night.
Supporting Actor in a Drama
Jenelle: In a category of stellar turns, it’s really a three-man race between previous winners Aaron Paul for the final season of “Breaking Bad,” and Peter Dinklage for “Game of Thrones” and three-time Emmy nominee Jon Voight of “Ray Donovan.” Dinklage submitted a showy episode where he gets a great speech, demanding a trial by combat. Voight is beloved and considered the best thing about the Showtime drama. Still, it would be difficult to deny Paul’s work in the final season of one of the greatest TV shows ever—not to mention his startling five-season transformation from swaggering punk to the meek captive. Voight might surprise here, but my guess is Paul takes his third trophy.
Debra: How could you forget about my beloved Will Gardner? He quite literally died to land a spot in this category. Josh Charles was on an acting tear last season on “The Good Wife,” and the show’s snub in the drama category may win some voters to his cause. That said, I agree that this is one of the toughest categories to call, with each actor a stand out. Ultimately, I predict Aaron Paul will ride the wave of goodwill for the show’s final season for the win.
Supporting Actress in a Drama
Debra: Give me another moment to mourn the snub of Bellamy Young. I’m still not over it. Now that that’s out of the way, I do love that Lena Headey earned a nod for “Game of Thrones” — Cersei Lannister is one of the show’s most complicated characters, and she certainly keeps us guessing. And yes, Maggie Smith did deliver yet again her usual blistering one–liners. But that’s simply not enough to overpower the sheer force that is Anna Gunn. Her choice of “Ozymandias” for her submission — one of the best episodes of TV this season — all but guarantees her a repeat win.
Jenelle: I agree with everything you said. And while I still hope Christina Hendricks’ wonderful, nuanced work on “Mad Men” will get recognized, it doesn’t seem to be in the cards for any actor to ever win on “Mad Men.” So Anna Gunn should score her second consecutive trophy.
Pick: Anna Gunn, “Breaking Bad”
Actor in a Drama
Jenelle: Everyone knows it’s between Matthew McConaughey’s philosophy-spouting “True Detective” and Bryan Cranston’s final season of “Breaking Bad.” (Of course, this is the category where Jeff Daniels surprised everyone by winning last year, so anything can happen.) Most people are leaning towards McConaughey as the man to beat, and it makes sense. His work was outstanding, he’s on a roll and he won’t be returning to the show, which makes this his only shot to be rewarded–as opposed to Cranston, who already has three Emmys. But I just can’t shake the gut feeling that voters won’t be able to ignore Cranston’s five seasons as one of the greatest TV characters ever. So against what logic may dictate, I’m going with Heisenberg on this one.
Debra: Indeed, everyone expects Oscar winner Matthew McConaughey to claim yet another trophy. And while he’s certainly deserving, I have heard some grumbling that we shouldn’t be rewarding movie stars who do one season’s worth of work, in favor of TV stars who sign on for the long haul. Though Cranston should win, as you said, McConaughey seems like a lock.
Debra’s Pick: Matthew McConaughey, “True Detective”
Jenelle’s Pick: Bryan Cranston, “Breaking Bad”
Actress in a Drama
Debra: Claire Danes has owned this category for the last two years for her portrayal of the manic Carrie Mathison on “Homeland.” But while her performance is still as compelling as ever, her competitors have stepped up their game. Julianna Margulies rose to the challenge this season on “The Good Wife,” showcasing Alicia’s internal struggles as brilliantly as ever. And as I’ve said, voters will want to make up for the show’s snub in the drama race — and this category is their chance. Her main competition is the fierce Robin Wright, as the Lady Macbeth in “House of Cards,” who finally let us see some cracks in her steely veneer. The dark horse is Lizzy Caplan in “Masters of Sex,” who brings the heart to that show. It’s a tough call, but I’ll give the edge to Margulies.
Jenelle: This is where I’m playing my one wild card and going with Lizzy Caplan for “Masters of Sex.” My head tells me it will be Robin Wright, but “Masters of Sex” seems to be in the zeitgeist right now, and Caplan is universally adored. No disrespect intended towards the other fantastic women in this category, but their roles tend towards the tragic. There’s something unique, fun and fresh about sex researcher Virginia Johnson that helps Caplan stand out from the pack.
Debra’s Pick: Julianna Margulies, “The Good Wife”
Jenelle’s Pick: Lizzy Caplan, “Masters of Sex”
Jenelle: All along, I’ve assumed no one could beat “Breaking Bad” in its final season. But the strong showing of “True Detective” at last week’s Creative Arts Emmys has me worried. Maybe “Breaking Bad” has been off the air too long, maybe voters will feel rewarding its actors is enough. I’m sticking with “Breaking Bad” out of sheer stubbornness, but a win for “True Detective” might just be destiny.
Debra: This race is a tough one to call, to be sure. It comes down to the star power and novelty of “True Detective” vs. the legacy of “Breaking Bad.” Yes, it won last year. Yes, it aired so long ago. But I’m going with my heart on this one, and giving the edge to “Breaking Bad.”
Pick: “Breaking Bad”
Supporting Actor in a Comedy
Jenelle: With such an eclectic line-up of talented men, this might be the hardest one to call. Many think Andre Braugher will take it for his deadpan “Brooklyn Nine-Nine” captain—the flip side of his character on “Homicide” that won him an Emmy in the drama field. But with “Modern Family” star Ed O’Neill shockingly overlooked, I’m holding out hope for his TV son Jesse Tyler Ferguson. Ferguson’s prissy Mitchell continued to be wonderfully hilarious in an uneven season, and also got in some truly touching moments as he prepared to marry longtime love Cam and confronted his father about his feelings on gay marriage.
Debra: I’d love to see Tony Hale win again, if only to see another great acceptance speech. But I’m going to go with the conventional wisdom and pick Andre Braugher. I agree that the Academy is going to want to reward him for switching from drama to comedy — and hitting it out of the park.
Debra’s Pick: Andre Braugher, “Brooklyn Nine-Nine”
Jenelle’s Pick: Jesse Tyler Ferguson, “Modern Family”
Supporting Actress in a Comedy
Debra: Last year’s winner, Merritt Wever, wasn’t even nominated. Don’t get me started on yet another snub. Julie Bowen’s won before for “Modern,” and Kate Mulgrew may well ride the “Orange” wave to Emmy gold. But Emmy loves Allison Janney, and I have a feeling she’ll get a trophy to match the one she already won for her guest arc on “Masters.”
Jenelle: I think it’s between the veteran character actresses Mulgrew and Janney, and I agree that Emmy loves the latter. But “Orange” feels like it’s on a roll and the typically elegant Mulgrew completely transformed for the part. So I’m giving her the edge in this race.
Debra’s Pick: Allison Janney, “Mom”
Jenelle’s Pick: Kate Mulgrew, “Orange is the New Black”
Actor in a Comedy
Jenelle: There is something very difficult about playing yourself—or a version of yourself—that Matt LeBlanc and Louis CK do to perfection on their respective shows, “Episodes” and “Louie.” While I would love to see either of them win, I suspect the always excellent Jim Parsons will continue his winning streak, taking home his fourth Emmy for “The Big Bang Theory.”
Debra: I agree: This one’s a lock for Jim.
Pick: Jim Parsons, “The Big Bang Theory”
Actress in a Comedy
Debra: The Academy loves Edie Falco, who took “Nurse Jackie” to new depths this season. And Amy Poehler was brilliant as always on “Parks and Recreation.” But just as her “Veep” alter ego Selina Meyer finally landed in the White House, Julia Louis-Dreyfus will win this contest. Again.
Jenelle: And again we agree. I don’t know what more Amy Poehler has to do to be recognized for her wonderful work. But it’s hard to argue with the consistently great Julia Louis-Dreyfus, who delivers consistently great speeches.
Pick: Julia Louis-Dreyfus, “Veep”
Debra: “Modern Family” has owned this race for years, and everyone is assuming this year we’re finally seeing chinks in its armor. I wouldn’t be so sure that Emmy voters agree. That said, “Big Bang” has soared to new heights creatively (the kiss!) and commercially (the ratings!) and seems poised to dethrone it. But the buzz is all with “Orange is the New Black,” and Netflix’s prison dramedy may just steal the crown.
Jenelle: I still think “Modern Family” is one of the best comedies on TV, but “Orange is the New Black” certainly seems the one to beat. I’m also hearing a lot of buzz around HBO’s consistently excellent “Veep.” Voters obviously like it, as they keep throwing laurels at the cast. And it’s clearly a comedy—unlike “Orange,” which has weathered accusations of category fraud. Still, I expect “Orange” to go gold Monday night.
Pick: “Orange is the New Black”
And the Rest:
Debra and Jenelle’s Pick: “Fargo”
Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Debra and Jenelle’s Pick: Cicely Tyson, “The Trip Bountiful”
Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Debra’s Pick: Mark Ruffalo, “The Normal Heart”
Jenelle’s Pick: Billy Bob Thornton, “Fargo”
Supporting Actor in a Miniseries or Movie
Debra and Jenelle’s Pick: Matt Bomer, “The Normal Heart”
Supporting Actress in a Miniseries or Movie
Debra and Jenelle’s Pick: Allison Tolman, “Fargo”
Debra’s Pick: “The Voice”
Jenelle’s Pick: “The Amazing Race”
Debra and Jenelle’s Pick: “The Tonight Show with Jimmy Fallon”
Debra and Jenelle’s Pick: “The Normal Heart”
Debra and Jenelle’s Pick: “Breaking Bad,” “Ozymandias”
Debra and Jenelle’s Pick: Cary Fukunaga, “True Detective,” “Who Goes There”
Debra’s Pick: “Veep,” “Special Relationship”
Jenelle’s Pick: “Louie,” “So Did the Fat Lady”
Debra and Jenelle’s Pick: Jodie Foster, “Orange is the New Black,” “Lesbian Request Denied”
Debra and Jenelle’s Pick: “The Normal Heart”
Debra and Jenelle’s Pick: “The Normal Heart”
Debra and Jenelle’s Pick: Ryan Murphy, “The Normal Heart”