×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

Emmy Race: Give These Key Supporting Turns a Second Look

There’s no doubt that we’re living through a comedy golden age. Whether your tastes lean toward the experimental, the traditional, the reboot or the revolutionary, there’s a comedy or three that cater to your preferences.

There’s a downside, however: The deluge of shows competing in the comedy categories during Emmy season means that some performances are bound to be overlooked. Consider this column a friendly reminder — one that only names a few of the terrific actors who may unjustly fly under the radar come awards season.

HBO’s “Insecure” put creator and star Issa Rae on the map, and rightfully so: The first season of the show was assured, smart and reliably insightful. Backing up Rae every step of the way was Yvonne Orji, whose character, Molly, navigated multiple worlds at work and at play, and whose personal life supplied an array of dating dramas. Orji lets you see the contemplation and calculation behind the various personas that Molly inhabited, and brought her fully alive as not just a best friend but a lively, complicated character in her own right.

Speaking of a woman trying to achieve her full potential, Judith Light was even more transfixing this season on “Transparent.” As Shelly Pfefferman explored her difficult past and tried to build a new future for herself as a single woman, Light gave her story transfixing depth, even as the show had some sly fun with Shelly’s new obsession: Documenting her life in a one-woman show, “To Shell and Back.” The joke was on us: Not only was Shelly’s arc affecting and incisive, Light’s season-closing rendition of Alanis Morissette’s “Hand in My Pocket” was nothing short of electrifying.

Speaking of moms who steal the show, not enough laurels can be laid at the feet of Becky Ann Baker. In all six seasons of “Girls,” she was a rock, giving Hannah’s mother, Loreen, a specificity and a warm, tough intelligence that grounded the show, which was otherwise inhabited by often-flighty core characters. The arrival of Baker on the screen elevated every episode she appeared in, especially in the show’s series finale, which was uneven but uplifted by typically terrific work from Baker.

John Rothman also played a parent teetering on the verge of crises — his own and other people’s — in the wonderful Amazon comedy “One Mississippi.” Few characters were as instantly recognizable as Rothman’s character, Bill — a controlling dad who had to have everything done his way, which made his relationships with his wayward adult kids rocky, to say the least. But Rothman’s tremendous performance allowed the viewer to see the core of sweetness and the fierce love that drove Bill’s worrying and nagging. Bill found it hard to tell his family members how he felt about them, but Rothman made those strong emotions beautifully clear and present.

That said, TV’s greatest matriarch is Rita Moreno, of course. Unlike some other performances discussed here, her work is hard to overlook: Moreno’s Lydia on Netflix’s “One Day at a Time” is a big presence, a woman who relishes making a grand entrance and doesn’t believe in living a small, timid life. But Moreno, a national treasure for a million reasons, does not merely wring the maximum laughs from any given situation. She demonstrated on the rebooted comedy that she can still turn on a dime and deliver a heartbreaking monologue that is as charismatic as any aspect of her comic work.

Deep in the heart of Texas, Roberta Colindrez just about stole “I Love Dick” out from under the fine actors who starred in this ensemble comedy about neurotic artists and the people who love them. As Devon, Colindrez delivered an arresting portrait of someone in love with the possibilities of art, communication, community and the beauty of wide open spaces. If “I Love Dick” comes back, let’s hope Devon gets a whole lot more to do the next time around.

Popular on Variety

More TV

  • Tin Star

    Sky Studios Launches U.K. Innovation Hub in Northern England

    Sky Studios is set to follow Channel 4’s move to the northern English city of Leeds with the launch of a new Innovation Hub. Sky Studios, the production arm of pay-TV giant Sky, said Wednesday that the new regional hub would focus on talent development, scripted partnerships and new content experiences, creating new original drama, [...]

  • THE BACHELORETTE - "The Bachelorette: Season

    'The Bachelor': ABC Announces Leading Man For Season 24

    ABC has cast its next leading man for Season 24 of “The Bachelor.” Peter Weber has officially been named the upcoming “Bachelor.” The announcement was made Tuesday night on ABC’s “Bachelor In Paradise” reunion special. Weber appeared on Season 15 of “The Bachelorette” with Hannah Brown, ultimately becoming the second runner-up. He was a fan-favorite [...]

  • SEAL TEAM stars David Boreanaz (left),

    Showrunner John Glenn Exits 'SEAL Team' at CBS

    CBS is cutting ties with “SEAL Team” showrunner John Glenn, Variety has confirmed. Glenn joined the show for its second season, which premiered in October of last year. Christopher Chulack, Sarah Timberman and Carl Beverly also executive produced. “Regarding ‘SEAL Team,’ I am proud of the work we did – and greatly enjoyed having the chance to [...]

  • NBC Campaign Aims to Reclaim Brand

    NBC Launches Campaign to Reclaim Brand Ownership of Hit Comedies (EXCLUSIVE)

    NBC is preparing a new salvo in the streaming-era TV branding wars. As audiences increasingly watch shows like “The Good Place” and “Superstore” on other platforms, the Peacock network has launched a new campaign to remind them that these are, first and foremost, NBC shows. And they’re even enlisting a real-life peacock to convey the [...]

  • Shane Gillis

    'SNL' Sought Conservative Appeal With Shane Gillis Hire

    “Saturday Night Live” was looking to shake things up with the casting of Shane Gillis — and it did, albeit unintentionally. According to sources, the long-running NBC comedy show and series mastermind Lorne Michaels were actively looking to cast a comedian for its new season who would appeal to more conservative viewers. This was meant [...]

  • TV News Roundup: Netflix Announces Arsenio

    TV News Roundup: Netflix Announces Arsenio Hall's Comedy Special Premiere Date

    In today’s TV news roundup, Netflix announced the premiere date for Arsenio Hall’s comedy special and a “Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” duo (among others) will guest star on “Elena of Avalor.” CASTING “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” stars Rachel Brosnahan and Tony Shalhoub, as well as Auli’i Cravalho (“Moana”), John Leguizamo (“When They See Us”), Taye Diggs (“All American”), Eugenio Derbez [...]

  • How 'Save Our Show' Campaigns Affect

    From 'The OA' to 'One Day at a Time': How 'Save Our Show' Campaigns Affect Network Interest

    Organized flash mobs and mounting billboards still may not save your favorite shows, as some fan campaigns are finding out. Following Netflix’s most recent decision to stand firm on its cancellation of “The OA,” the question remains, “what will save these shows?” When networks and streamers find that smaller favorites aren’t big cash cows, fans [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content