The Emmy nominations will be announced tomorrow morning. This year, there are so many great stand-out television series that the Emmy voters — who are already consistently behind the curve — will have a difficult time narrowing down their nominations. Either that, or they’ll just nominate five Modern Family actors and three Big Bang Theory actors and call it a day. I do expect, however, that Mr. Robot will get plenty of recognition in its freshman season, and that The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story and Fargo will dominate the limited series category (and Game of Thrones the drama category).
It’s a tough field, so there’s bound to be a lot of great performances that will get left behind.
Here are 13 actors and actresses who will likely be ignored, despite being more than deserving.
Shiri Appleby (Best Actress, Comedy) — I think the Emmys will have sense enough this year to recognize Rachel Bloom for her role in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend (she did win the Golden Globe, after all), but I don’t think the Emmy voters are yet ready to recognize a series on Lifetime, especially one about a dating show. I’m not sure that the series is Emmy-worthy, but Shiri Appleby certainly is. Granted, Constance Zimmer put on a hell of a performance last season, but hers was the easier role: She got to play the evil bitch. Appleby’s Rachel, on the other hand, has to play both the evil bitch and the sympathetic one. She has to play on the contestants’ sympathies and then turn around and backstab them, and remain somewhat likable. It’s a difficult balance, but Appelby manages it terrifically. We hate her in one scene, and she breaks our hearts in the next every single week.
Aden Young (Best Actor, Drama) — For reasons beyond my understanding, one of the quietest, most understated characters on television, in one of the most understated series, has yet to be recognized by Emmy voters. This will almost certainly be the third year in a row that Young is ignored. Young is so soulful as a man putting his life back together after serving 19 years for a rape and murder he may or may not have committed that he can break open your heart with a single look. It’s not a showy performance, and that’s part of why it’s impressive that he commands so much focus when he’s onscreen.
Aya Cash (Best Actress, Comedy)— Courtney nailed why Aya Cash should receive an Emmy last year, in her explanation of why everyone should be watching You’re the Worst: “As Gretchen, Aya Cash is perfection. She’s snarky and she’s mean and she’s strong and weak and flawed and amazing. She’s selfish and self-aware and self-possessed and she cares. She hates how much she cares, she hides how much she cares, but she does. She nails it.” This year, as her character battled depression, Aya Cash put in an even stronger, more impressive performance. As someone who has never suffered from depression, Cash’s depiction of Gretchen in the last season of You’re the Worst made us completely understand what it must feel like. She managed to be funny and rend our hearts into smithereens.
Sharon Horgan (Best Actress, Comedy) — Add ten years and a British accent, and the exact same thing that was said about Aya Cash above could be said about Sharon Horgan on Amazon’s Catastrophe, and in this season of Catastrophe, Horgan was dealing with her own form of postpartum depression. Alas, the series is almost certainly going to be overlooked because so few people stateside watch Catastrophe. But you definitely should watch.
Sara Hay (Best Actress, Drama) — Hay put in the kind of performance this season that might normally attract the attention of Emmy voters, except that it was on a little-seen Starz show called Flesh and Bone. In the show, Hay plays a fragile ballet dancer with a steel-like resolve. She’s quiet, and has to convey a lot of her emotional pain through facial acting, but it’s a credit to her abilities that some of her scenes were so harrowing that I had to look away and she quietly put us through her trauma.
Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani (Best Supporting Actors, Comedy) — Martin Starr and Kumail Nanjiani are the MVPs of one of the best comedies on television. Period. Thomas Middleditch drives the plot, and T.J. Miller is the perfect fuck-up, but Starr and Nanjiani ground the series; give it a weird, beating heart; and draw us back every week to see the most antagonistic bromance on television.
Keri Russell (Best Actress, Drama) — Consistently recognized as one of the five best series on television by critics, the Emmys still haven’t caught up to the dark, brilliant complexity of FX’s The Americans (aside from their love of Margo Martindale). How does this series so consistently get ignored? This year, The Americans turned in its best season yet, and hardly a week went by during its run when a critic wasn’t proclaiming that it was the best show on television. The brilliant Russell deserves to be recognized for helping to make it that show.
Paul Rust (Best Actor, Comedy) — I honestly didn’t care for Netflix’s new series Love, and part of the reason why I didn’t care for it was because of Paul Rust’s character, Gus. That’s because Rust was so good at playing this character. It’s not easy to play “fake nice.” It takes some acting acrobatics to play a guy who effectively uses his non-threatening looks and his awkward nice-guy shtick to exploit lonely women searching for love. It’s difficult to transform stammering, awkwardness into caddish douchebaggery, but Rust did so magnificently. I loathed him. Well done.
Riley Keogh (Best Actress, Drama) — The granddaughter of Elvis Presley, Riley Keogh plays a high-end escort in The Girlfriend Experience (another Starz show likely to be overlooked). Keogh executes the character perfectly. She’s detached enough to sell the transactional nature of sex, but we can also sense that there’s something else ticking underneath, something that we want to understand. It’s that mystery that gives the character life and transforms the blithe sex scenes from Soderbergh’s movie into explorations of power and control in the television series. The sex in Soderbergh’s film felt cold and removed; in the show, it’s magnetic and charged. There’s life behind Keough’s dead eyes, which gives an otherwise cold series a charge of electricity.
Rhea Seehorn (Best Supporting Actress, Drama) — Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks — the holdovers from Breaking Bad — get all the Emmy attention on this series (and they deserve it), but Rhea Seehorn deserves it just as much, especially this season. She had a difficult balancing act, and she pulled it off brilliantly. She played antagonist to Jimmy’s Saul-like tendencies, but she avoided the Skyler White trap by remaining a likable voice of reason, in part because of the way Kim Wexler so incredibly stood up to Chuck in one moment and turned against Jimmy in the next. She’s quickly become one of the best reasons to watch Better Call Saul.
Carrie Coon & Regina King (Best Supporting Actress, Drama) — I really want to believe that the Emmys will pull it together and recognize one of television’s best shows in 2015-2016. It could not have been possible without Damon Lindelof (who deserves an Emmy nomination for writing a superb season that absolutely stuck the landing) and the performances of Coon and King, who put on a damn clinic this season. The showdown scene between the two in “Lens” was hands-down the most intense acting scene of the Emmy year. I want to see them win the award together and during their acceptance speech stare at the audience until they shrink away.