In the fifth episode of the FX limited series “Feud,” aptly titled “And the Winner Is … (The Oscars of 1963),” bitter rivals Joan Crawford (Jessica Lange) and Bette Davis (Susan Sarandon) go head-to-head at the Oscars. Never mind that Crawford wasn’t even nominated: She manages to steal the night by offering to accept the golden statue on behalf of the other lead actress nominees.
And now Lange and Sarandon find themselves nominated against each other in probably the most competitive category of the year: lead actress in a limited series or TV movie. But don’t draw any parallels to the actresses they played on screen; Lange assures us there are no real-life similarities. “I was so happy the day I saw the nominations and realized the six main actors in the piece were all nominated,” Lange says, referring not only to her and Sarandon, but also their supporting cast of Judy Davis, Jackie Hoffman, Alfred Molina and Stanley Tucci. Lange spoke to Variety shortly after noms were announced. “It’s absolutely great and says a lot about the quality of writing and the actors that were attracted to it and the work that was done. I thought it was fabulous.”
In particular, she relished being with Sarandon, whom she had known over the years but never worked with. “It was a great experience,” she says. “We kind of approach things in a similar way. There was just an ease. We both kind of fell into these characters and these roles. It was just a joy to come to work every day.”
Previously, Lange disproved the idea that actors in the same show will split a vote when she won Emmys over co-stars in 2009 for “Grey Gardens” and 2012 and 2014 for “American Horror Story.” But that was when voters used a preferential ballot; as of last year, the ballot has changed so voters just pick one person to vote for, instead of ranking them.
But this particular category is a tough call; consider the actresses who weren’t nominated, including Bryce Dallas Howard and Oprah Winfrey. Instead, four Oscar winners are nominated — Lange, Sarandon, and “Big Little Lies” stars Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. They’re facing off against previous Emmy winner Felicity Huffman, who won lead actress in a comedy in 2005 competing against her “Desperate Housewives” co-stars Teri Hatcher and Marcia Cross. Rounding out the category is first-time nominee Carrie Coon for her work in FX’s “Fargo.”
Coon is thrilled to be included in the lineup and knows she’s up against some heavyweights. “I keep joking I’m just going to buy some silk pajamas and watch the Emmys in my bed because … come on!” she says with a laugh. “But I’m just happy to be considered and I’m just happy to have gotten the job.”
Coon has been building an impressive resume for a few years now, since her Tony nomination for “Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf?” She followed that with a breakthrough role in David Fincher’s “Gone Girl” and a powerful performance on the HBO series “The Leftovers.”
Then came “Fargo” and Coon admits she’s still in shock. “These roles are all such incredible honors,” she says. “As actors, we just want to make a living. I just happened to be totally spoiled.”
The quality of performances have a lot to do with the roles being offered. As Nicole Kidman said in a Variety interview, “It’s also awesome that now there are more opportunities. A decade ago, there wasn’t enough work, right? Because it was just very much film, and then you would go to television as another resort. But now, it’s all mixed in together, and you have exquisite performances and storytelling in many different mediums. I love that.”
Agrees Lange: “This is where the quality work is being done. It’s astonishing.”
And whatever happens come the big night, Coon says it’s truly exciting to find herself amongst this list of “heavy hitters.” She adds, “I’ve met Jessica Lange and the other ladies I hope to meet on Emmy night. It’s pretty unbelievably to be among them, frankly. It hasn’t really sunk in. They’re incredible. Not just as actors, but as people.”