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How Golden Globe Supporting TV Actor Contenders Handle Overcrowded Category

Sometimes the more inclusive an awards category tries to be, the less fair it seems.

The Golden Globes categories for supporting actors are catch-alls, separating performers by gender but including comedy and drama series, limited series and television movies. The Hollywood Foreign Press Assn. tweaked a number of rules for the 2019 awards, including that actors in ensemble series need to be classified all as lead or all as supporting, but it chose not to separate supporting nominees by genre. The HFPA declined to comment for this report as to why they are not reevaluating the categories. This means the competition among supporting players, who provide necessary shadings to production but in very different ways, is much more diverse — and complicated.

“I think there is a differential in all those different areas,” says Eric Lange, who gained 40 pounds to play a cuckolded husband in Showtime’s “Escape at Dannemora.” “At the same time, a performance is a performance.”

Michael Kelly, who could see a nomination for his work on Netflix’s “House of Cards,” notes that as a dramatic actor, “I know you have never seen me do a pratfall … because I would not be very good at it. [Genres] are all equally challenging. As an actor, it is just different.”

A lot of faith must be put into the voters that they will understand the nuance and complication of each.

“I always think it is valuable to have something be focused because that calls the proper attention to it. When you lump everything together … there is so much choice,” says Judith Light, a potential nominee for FX’s “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story.” “Limited [choice] makes it very specific and makes it easier for people to vote. … To me what is of great value, and what I would point to as great distinction, is we are now in a place where we can celebrate great distinction.”

The HFPA “for the most part, are tastemakers,” says Lindajo Loftus, an independent awards consultant who handles submissions and consults on strategies. “They brought ‘[The Marvelous] Mrs. Maisel’ to the forefront last year. Their choices — winners — are right on the money.”

The association was also first to recognize “The Handmaid’s Tale,” “Mad Men” and “Breaking Bad.”

As the season’s first awards show, held Jan. 6, audiences aren’t yet bored with the red-carpet spectacles and critical darlings can get their due notice. But nothing is guaranteed with such a wide playing field. As Margo Martindale, who could be nominated for performances in “The Americans,” “The Good Fight” and “Sneaky Pete,” notes, the Globes can be a gateway to the Emmys — although she has won three Emmys and no Globes.

Another veteran actor with an Emmy but no Globe is Richard Schiff. Now on ABC’s “The Good Doctor,” which could land him a nom in the supporting actor category, Schiff says the HFPA may want “to have big stars come up on the stage, so it feels like they want to combine into as many categories as they can.”

While awards recognition is nice, it is not the motivation for most. For Kelly, six seasons on “House of Cards” was the real gift. “To be challenged by the writers like I have been every season when I get the scripts — to be equally terrified and thrilled — I have nothing but gratitude to the writers for that,” he says.

And awards can also be a double-edged sword, according to “The Blacklist” star Harry Lennix. “I don’t see where it hurts the aesthetic fabric,” he says, “but it is sometimes vulnerable to manipulation. That is when it doesn’t work right. Most of the time it is innocuous and could do things for a person’s career which otherwise would not be thought about.”

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