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‘Game of Thrones’ Has Breakout Year With 16 Emmy Nominations

HBO drama leads series contenders after acclaimed season fueled by social media frenzy

Game of Thrones” came out of the box strong for HBO in 2011, but this was the year the alchemy worked just right with the TV Academy.

Genre shows like “Walking Dead” and “True Blood” have been big hits with viewers, but Emmy attention hasn’t been as easy to attract, even for shows admired by critics. “Thrones” has nabbed drama series noms for the past three seasons. But for a show with a largely international cast that is shot far outside the confines of the U.S. (Ireland, Iceland etc.), it took a little time for the creative community to wrap its arms around the epic fantasy.

This year, with “Thrones” drawing 16 nominations — the most of any regular series — it’s clear that the dragons and witches of Seven Kingdoms have made their mark. The show’s social media following took off this year thanks to the intensity of the storytelling (two words: Red Wedding). That has helped raise the profile of “Thrones” players who aren’t in the media spotlight as much as thesps on other shows.

This year was the third straight nom for Peter Dinklage (pictured) after winning in his first year on the ballot. This is also the first year another regular cast member has been nominated along with Dinklage — Emilia Clarke (pictured) was nommed in the supporting actress category, which came as a shock to the girl known as “Mother of Dragons.” Diana Rigg landed a drama series guest actress nom for her role as the frank matriarch Olenna Tyrell.

““My alarm went off randomly at six a.m., which was weird, so I found out then but it took a couple of phone calls for me to realize that I got nominated and not just the show,” Clarke told Variety.

In three seasons, “Game of Thrones” has not only become HBO’s second-most viewed show ever, trailing only “The Sopranos,” but has also racked up 40 Emmy nominations.

Genre-flavored shows have typically taken longer to be recognized by voters: “Lost” and “The X-Files” garnered nominations, but their cast members weren’t nommed either in early seasons.

As those shows progressed, voters began recognizing the cast, with Emmys going to “Lost’s” Terry O’Quinn and Michael Emerson and “The X-Files'” Gillian Anderson.

With several “Thrones” books still left to adapt, the journey is far from over. As season four looms on the horizon, Clarke, Dinklage and the rest of the cast and crew are still amazed how far they’ve come.

“When I first got the job I was A) over the moon I was part of the HBO family, and B) happy I had a job and never would have thought three years later I would be looking at all of these nominations,” said Clarke.

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