At this year’s Emmys, some contenders in a few series categories could see their odds of winning affected by the fact that their leading men are not nominated as well. However, it should not be assumed that their odds will be affected negatively.
“It’s like a rally cry,” awards strategist Michele Robertson says of the chatter around performers who didn’t earn noms. “It makes people take notice, and it certainly brings the awareness. The trick has always been to ensure that people watch your show, so they can have a point of view on it when they’re voting.”
Among shows nominated sans their lead actors are Netflix’s “Bodyguard” and HBO’s “Succession,” both on the drama series ballot. “Bodyguard’s” titular leading man, Richard Madden, had been considered a frontrunner by many, in part because of the intensity of the role, which earned him a Golden Globe in January. His work in “Rocketman” and recent Marvel press were assumed to increase visibility too. Meanwhile, Peter Dinklage’s transformation into the role of Hervé Villechaize was the centerpiece of “My Dinner With Hervé,” but he did not score an acting nom for the HBO original TV movie. Of course, there are many more elements than just performances that make up why a voter would deem something best series, but the performances are often the highest-profile and most-talked-about aspects.
“There are so many great performances that I don’t think it’s an easy answer to have to figure out why they didn’t get nominated,” Robertson says.
Compare these series to shows seeing a bit more luck, such as Netflix’s “Ozark,” which scored a drama series nom and noms for both lead actor and actress (Jason Bateman and Laura Linney, respectively); FX’s “Pose,” which got a drama series nom and one for its lead actor Billy Porter; and NBC’s “This Is Us,” picking up its third consecutive nods for two leading men (Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia), as well as a first for lead actress Mandy Moore.
Certainly there’s precedent for actors being overlooked while their series have been recognized, though the results on ceremony night have been equally mixed. For example, “I Love Lucy” was nominated four times (it won twice — in 1953 and 1954), while Desi Arnaz never felt individual Emmy love; Andy Griffith was never nominated for the self-titled “The Andy Griffith Show,” despite the series itself seeing three noms (no wins); and just last year “Silicon Valley” was nominated for comedy series for the fifth consecutive time (it, too, has never won). Yet, for four of those five years, Thomas Middleditch was left out (the exception was in 2016).
As the years have passed, the competition has grown fiercer, both in the quality of performances and quantity of entries. This year, there were 108 actors submitted in the lead drama actor category, 86 in lead comedy actor, and 44 in lead limited series/TV movie.
The trend is not limited to live-action programs and performers: Among animated programs, Netflix’s “BoJack Horseman” was recognized for the first time after five seasons; specifically, the episode “Free Churro” is the one that made the ballot, one that basically asked its voice actor Will Arnett to deliver a half-hour monologue — his character gives a eulogy for his mother. Ironically, Arnett did not see a nom of his own.
“The fact that Will Arnett was not nominated, I think, says more about the Emmys nominating process than it says about Will’s performance,” says “BoJack Horseman” creator Raphael Bob-Waksberg. “You cannot nominate that episode and pretend like you’re ignoring the fact that Will gave this incredible performance in it.”
Choosing an episode that features Arnett as a solo voice actor wasn’t just a chance to celebrate a unique performance. However, Bob-Waksberg admits he has to wonder “what is the point of the Emmys, if not to highlight exactly that kind of thing?”