2017 Emmys: Co-Star Face-Offs Create a ‘Feud’ Across Multiple Categories

Nicole Kidman & Reese Witherspoon Earn

On this past season of FX’s “Feud,” Joan Crawford and Bette Davis were going head-to-head leading up to the 1963 Academy Awards, though in the end, only one was nominated. At the 2017 Emmys, “Feud” stars Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange are both up for the same award in the same category.

But it’s not just “Feud” that earned multiple acting nominations in the same categories. Other A-list shows, like HBO’s “Big Little Lies” and NBC’s “This Is Us” and “Saturday Night Live” also have their stars nominated beside each other — an exemplary “first-class problem,” as they say.

Lange and Sarandon are up against one another in the limited series or movie lead actress race alongside co-stars of “Big Little Lies,” Nicole Kidman and Reese Witherspoon. Similarly, in the limited series or movie lead actor race, “The Night Of” stars John Turturro and Riz Ahmed are nominated against each other.

Ahmed, a double nominee also being honored for his guest stint on “Girls,” is similarly nominated alongside fellow “Girls” guest star Matthew Rhys in the guest actor in a comedy category.

The supporting races for the limited series or movie categories are also full of repeated titles with “The Night Of” castmates (Bill Camp and Michael Kenneth Williams) facing off each other and “Feud” co-stars (Alfred Molina and Stanley Tucci) for best supporting actor, while over in the supporting actress category, “Feud” (Judy Davis and Jackie Hoffman) is again doubling up against “Big Little Lies” (Shailene Woodley and Laura Dern).

“This Is Us” brought broadcast back into the game this year, and also brought two of its leading men head-to-head. Both Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia are up for lead actor in a drama series. The series also has three guest actors (Denis O’Hare, Bryan Tyree Henry, Gerald McRaney) nominated in the same category.

Jane Fonda and Lily Tomlin are also going to celebrate the night together, as both industry vets are up for lead actress in a comedy series for their work on Netflix’s “Grace and Frankie.”

And then there’s the major supporting races. For drama actress, “The Handmaid’s Tale” stars Ann Dowd and Samira Wiley are both up against each other, while the category for comedy actress is being taken over by “Transparent” (Judith Light and Kathryn Hahn) and “SNL” (Vanessa Bayer, Kate McKinnon, and Leslie Jones). For supporting actor, “Veep” stars Tony Hale and Matt Walsh are also both in the same category.

“Saturday Night Live” — which topped the nominations, tied with HBO’s “Westworld,” with 22 noms each — has a slew of stars pitted against each other. Besides Bayer, McKinnon, and Jones in the supporting comedy category, hosts Kristen Wiig and Melissa McCarthy are both nominated for guest comedy actress, while Dave Chappelle, Lin-Manuel Miranda, and Tom Hanks are up for guest comedy actor.

Co-stars being pitted against co-stars is hardly unprecedented — and could even be seen as an asset. For decades, Emmy voting was done by ranking the nominees, which allowed voters to see multiple pieces of work per nominee as they inevitably ended up in their co-stars’ submissions. Additionally, co-stars from one show were often ranked together in higher groupings from voters who preferred that show over the others on the ballot. In those ways, co-stars being nominated against each other could actually help their chances of taking the trophy.

ABC’s ensemble comedy “Modern Family” showcased this phenomenon perhaps most famously from 2010-2014, as it boasted multiple contenders in the supporting actor categories. With “Modern Family,” the male winners flip-flopped year to year — in 2010 Eric Stonestreet topped Ty Burrell and Jesse Tyler Ferguson; in 2011, Burrell took the trophy over all of the other adult males in the cast; in 2012, Stonestreet was back on top; and in 2014, it was Burrell once again, this time opposite only Ferguson. Julie Bowen also took the prize when Sofia Vergara was also nominated in both 2011 and 2012.

The 2017 Emmys will be only the second year that voting is completed using the plurality method — a method that leads to the potential of a vote being split among co-stars from the same program, leaving room for those lone nominees to inch up to the top of the list. Whether this proves to be true among the limited series or movie races still remains to be seen, though overall name recognition could still reign most supreme when choosing the top pick.