Top properties gain strength

Road to the Emmys 2012: The Supporting Actor & Actress Nominees

While there are 24 nominees in the supporting actor-actress races for drama and comedy series, the number of shows being represented by these performers is a mere 11.

For the second consecutive year, Emmy juggernaut “Modern Family” dominates with six supporting nods, which is 50% in the laffer category. “Downton Abbey” has nabbed four for its mostly downstairs crew and the indomitable Maggie Smith. “Breaking Bad” has earned three nods for its supporters, and Emmy standards “The Good Wife,” “Saturday Night Live” and “Mad Men” each have walked away with two.

Those noms are well-earned, indeed, but having voters concentrating on those specific shows means other series are being left behind.

How, when choosing from a list that includes actors from the Emmy nominated comedy series “Girls,” “Veep,” as well as dramas “Boardwalk Empire” and “Homeland” is a more diverse selection of ensemble actors not being recognized for their performances?

On the comedy side, there’s nothing from the likes of “Veep,” “Parks and Recreation” or “Suburgatory.” For dramas, absent are “Boardwalk Empire,” “Homeland” and “Parenthood.” And those are just a few, of course.

One answer lies in the distinction between lead and supporting actor, or lack thereof, as there are no hard or fast rules on which category an actor belongs. Unlike the difference between guest and series regular, which is determined by an on-screen credit or the actor’s contract, series regulars can choose which category they want to be submitted in.

“Everyone is so strategic with where they submit themselves these days,” says Michael Schneider, TV Guide magazine’s West Coast bureau chief and former Variety scribe. “You’ve got certain shows where several actors should be considered lead, but there’s maybe one in particular who’s an Emmy favorite, so the other actor decides ‘I don’t want us to cancel each other out so that neither of us gets an award,’ or ‘I’ve got a better shot in the supporting category.’ ”

A similar dilemma faces the comedy side where “Modern Family” rules the category despite the fact that none of the nominees would be out of place as leads.

“They’re very supportive of each other, and I think that’s great. I just think that it does create a problem when you’re looking at award shows,” says one studio publicist. “Is it fair to narrow down that category to six, especially when you have a show like “Modern Family” taking up three or four of those slots?”

But a possible increase in nominees, in order to allow for more variety, is not something that has come up among the Board of Governors, says the TV Academy’s awards guru, John Leverence. Nor is he keen on implementing rules that would cement which category an actor belongs.

“You have to ask which of these people would you move out to allow somebody else in? And when you look at that roster of very worthy nominees, that becomes a very difficult question to answer,” he points out.

As Leverence explains and Schneider confirms, the overflow of worthy supporting players is a testament to the quality of television these days.

“Think about what was nominated, as well as what wasn’t,” Schneider says. “There’s so much great television that didn’t get a nomination because there’s just not enough room. That tells you that this is truly a golden era because there’s just too much good stuff.”

Road to the Emmys 2012: The Supporting Actor & Actress Nominees

Top properties gain strength
And the nominees are:
Supporting Actress in a Drama | Supporting Actor in a Drama | Supporting Actress in a Comedy | Supporting Actor in a Comedy

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • George RR Martin

    George R.R. Martin Says HBO's 'Game of Thrones' Ending Won't Influence Future Novels

    Geroge R.R. Martin is sticking to his original plan when it comes to the future of “Game of Thrones.” In an interview with The Observer, Martin claimed that HBO’s controversial ending for the series would have no affect on the endings of the last two novels. “No, it doesn’t. It doesn’t change anything at all,” [...]

  • Listen: 'Pennyworth' Producer Talks Delving into

    Listen: 'Pennyworth' Executive Producer Talks Delving into Alfred's Backstory

    Bruno Heller may have served as an executive producer on the Batman-inspired series “Gotham” for the past five years, but it’s actually real-life people (not superheroes) that intrigue the producer the most. It’s for that exact reason that Heller’s newest series finds him exploring the origin stories of Batman’s butler Alfred in the Epix drama [...]

  • "Trust Issues" - Dylan and Lizzie

    'Instinct' Canceled After Two Seasons

    CBS has canceled “Instinct” after two seasons. Series creator Michael Rauch announced the cancellation Friday on Twitter, writing, “I’m very sad to relay the news that @instinctcbs won’t be renewed for a 3rd season. We will double up this Sunday and our season/series finale will be Aug 25.” Rauch also thanked series stars Alan Cumming [...]

  • Maisel Day

    My Mostly OK Maisel Day (Column)

    When Amazon announced its first-ever Maisel Day, I was intrigued. For one day, Aug. 15, “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” fans and Angelenos (fangelenos?) could hit up various restaurants, theaters and retailers throughout Los Angeles for special deals, all at 1959 prices. Among the gems: $2.50 makeovers, $0.99 pastrami sandwiches and $0.30 for a gallon of [...]

  • Nordisk Film & TV Fond Announces

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond Backs Joachim Trier, Ole Bornedal, Yellow Bird

    Nordisk Film & TV Fond has announced three features, two series and a documentary set to receive $1.4m in financing, as well as distribution, dubbing and cultural initiative support recipients. Doing so, it highlights some of the key titles moving forward in the Nordic region. Already backed by the Danish Film Institute’s largest ever grant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley' Final

    TV News Roundup: 'Silicon Valley's' Final Season Sets October Premiere Date

    In today’s roundup, “Silicon Valley” returns to HBO on Oct. 27 and Quibi greenlights a new cooking competition show “Dismantled.” DATES The fifth season of Netflix‘s “Peaky Blinders” will premiere on the streamer Oct. 4. The newest season will continue to follow one gangster family in the lawless streets of Birmingham, UK during the midst [...]

  • Peter Fonda Dead: 'Easy Rider' Star

    Peter Fonda, Star of 'Easy Rider,' Dies at 79

    Two-time Oscar nominee Peter Fonda, who became a counterculture icon when he co-wrote, produced and starred in seminal 1969 road movie “Easy Rider,” then showed Hollywood he could act about three decades later in “Ulee’s Gold,” died on Friday from lung cancer at his home in Los Angeles. He was 79. His sister Jane Fonda [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content