From ‘Killing Eve’ to ‘When They See Us,’ Emmy Nominations Celebrate Co-Stars in Same Category

Killing Eve
Courtesy of Nick Wall/BBCAmerica

The idea that co-stars being submitted on the same acting Emmy ballot will split the vote may have been proven to be a myth.

This year, lead drama performers Sterling K. Brown and Milo Ventimiglia scored their third nominations alongside each other for “This Is Us,” while Sandra Oh of “Killing Eve” saw her second nom on the ballot beside her co-star Jodie Comer.

“That we’re both in is fantastic because this show is two characters,” says Oh. “It’s a celebration of it.”

“This Is Us” is a traditional ensemble, while “Killing Eve” is more of a two-hander. But both series saw success for their talent this year.

“Sterling and I don’t talk about it,” Ventimiglia says. “I don’t feel either of us are in that competitive space. I think we’re both confident that we’re satisfied with our jobs and we’re really putting our hearts in our jobs.”

Over in limited series/TV movie, the ensemble “When They See Us” had leading ladies Aunjanue Ellis and Niecy Nash both make it on the ballot, while in comedy, Christina Applegate scored a nom for “Dead to Me,” after she and Linda Cardellini were submitted in the lead comedy actress category.

“The show is a shared effort,” Applegate says. She admits she was somewhat sad to receive the nomination alone because she considers herself and Cardellini “a duo, a team.”

Seeing multiple performers from the same show sharing space on the Emmy ballot is certainly not a phenomenon unique to this year, but in the recent past it was much more common for actors to be nominated alongside co-stars in the supporting categories than in the lead ones. On the supporting side last year, a trio of “Handmaid’s Tale” stars (Alexis Bledel, Ann Dowd, Yvonne Strahovski) were on the drama actress ballot and both Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage of “Game of Thrones” were on the drama actor ballot (Dinklage went on to win). In comedy, “SNL’s” Alec Baldwin and Kenan Thompson were both on the supporting actor ballot and Aidy Bryant, Leslie Jones and Kate McKinnon were on the supporting actress ballot. Even the limited series/TV movie supporting race just last year saw one project dominate noms: “The Assassination of Gianni Versace: American Crime Story” supporting actors Ricky Martin, Edgar Ramirez and Finn Wittrock took three of the seven spots on their ballot, while Penelope Cruz and Judith Light took two of the six supporting actress spots.

This year, the supporting categories are also stacked with talent from the same program, as “Game of Thrones” takes its final turn at Emmy bat. Among the HBO epic’s record-making 32 nominations are accolades for supporting actors Alfie Allen, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage, as well as supporting actresses Gwendoline Christie, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams.

Similarly in comedy, a trio of actors from “Barry” (Anthony Carrigan, Stephen Root and Henry Winkler) share the supporting ballot, while duos from “Fleabag” (Sian Clifford and Olivia Colman) and “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel” (Alex Borstein and Marin Hinkle) are up against each other. For the first time in years, “Saturday Night Live” only eked one player into the supporting races overall (Kate McKinnon).

“When They See Us” also dominated in the limited series/TV movie supporting categories, picking up three noms for the men (Asante Blackk, John Leguizamo and Michael K. Williams) and two for the women (Marsha Stephanie Blake and Vera Farmiga). “I must say I’m rooting for Asante [Blackk]. What he did to me emotionally with his performance for this to be his first performance, first time as a thespian, I’ve got a special place in my heart for him to reach this level by now. John [Leguizamo] is a vet. I look up to John. He’s the reason I had the courage to do this. I hold him in high regard. But it’s good to see the next generation being honored by the Academy,” says Williams.

So many acting nominations being taken up by so few series furthers the notion that one strong performance in a show inspires others to rise to the same level, resulting in recognition for many. Rather than treating the Emmys as a competition, it’s starting to feel more like an overall celebration.

Dano Nissen contributed to this story.