2011 Dream Emmy Ballot: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

It’s that time again, folks. The Emmy nominations will be announced on July 14, which means I have almost an entire month to flood this space with hopes, dreams and predictions about what could happen come nomination time. To kick things off, I’ll be bringing back the Dream Emmy Ballot. It’s something I did last year and even with my much smaller readership back then, folks seemed to enjoy it. You can find the archives of previous Dream Emmy Ballot posts here.

In any event, just a qualifier or two: This is obviously my Dream Emmy Ballot. Meaning, these initial picks are going to be who I would love to see be nominated for the awards. I know that many of these people don’t actually have a chance in garnering a nomination, just as I know that I will miss some of your personal favorites because I don’t watch that series. I watched more television than ever this season, so I imagine my personal picks will more closely align with more “official” selections, but nevertheless, this is all based on my personal taste and wishes. I’ll do more concrete, objective analysis as we get closer to the actual nomination announcement. Secondly, these picks are all based on the official nomination ballot, just so you know.

The Dream Emmy Ballot returns! Day 8, everyone. Although the actress side of the supporting drama categories is less stacked than its actor equivalent, there are still a number of fantastic performances worth acknowledging. The shortlist was much thinner here, but not dramatically so.

Margo Martindale, Justified

What can be said about Margo Martindale’s work on Justified that hasn’t already been said. Repeatedly. By everyone who watches Justified. In a series full of fantastic, game performers, Martindale still managed to stand out. Martindale’s Mags was full of contradictions (comforting yet deadly, apparently simple yet cunning) but she also never felt erratic whatsoever. She was both the season’s big bad and one of its most sympathetic and understandable supporting characters and her shifting motivations and goals always came to life once Martindale was given the opportunity to explain them. From the very first moment Martindale brought Mags to life to the moment she took her away from the fictionalized section of Kentucky, she owned the screen and the story. I’ve seen some critics and the like call Martindale’s performance the best of any performer on any series this season and I could probably be talked into that without much difficultly.

Michelle Forbes, The Killing

A weird thing happened to Michelle Forbes this spring. When The Killing began, her performance as the grieving Mitch Larsen was overwhelmingly lauded for its rawness, believability and emotional impact. There was all sorts of talk about how we never saw this kind of performance on a series about murders and police investigations into them and there were similarly bountiful talks about Forbes’ Emmy chances. By the end of The Killing‘s first season, however, the discourse on the series and unfortunately, on Forbes had changed dramatically. Suddenly, Mitch was one of, if not the most hated character on the series. Here’s the thing: I totally agree that Mitch kind of sucked by the end of the season. But as far as I can tell, that’s a fault of Veena Sud and her writing team, not Michelle Forbes, who continued to file powerhouse performances in the midst of the repetitive and disappointing writing. Forbes could have easily phoned in just like her writing staff, but she continued to show up and cry her freaking eyes out. Sure, the earlier episodes were probably better for Forbes, but they were still really, really, really good.

Laura Allen, Terriers

Terriers was strongly top-lined by Donal Logue and Michael Raymond-James from the very beginning, but when Laura Allen’s Katie was given a meaty storyline near the middle of the season, the series became an even bigger success. Allen appeared to be in a fairly thankless role as the girlfriend of the much less damaged leading male character and yet her and Britt’s relationship problems helped create the most gut-wrenching and intense scenes that Terriers had to offer in its short time on this earth. More impressively, she figured out a way to keep her character from being completely irredeemable even though she nearly destroyed Britt’s life with her one-night stand and baby daddy identity issues. Katie made a grave mistake but Allen helped make sure we knew why and kind of understood anyway. This is a performance that definitely improved as the season progressed.

Emilia Clarke, Game of Thrones

If you’ve been around these parts recently or follow me on Twitter, you know I have my problems with HBO’s Game of Thrones. But no matter what my issues are, I’m smart enough to recognize the great work, Emilia Clarke did throughout the series’ first season. If there is one character that I felt any connection with it was her Daenerys and I would argue that she probably had the most complete arc as well. Some of that success obviously comes from the book and the adaptation process, but as someone totally unfamiliar with the character as she is constructed elsewhere, I have to give most of the credit to Clarke. She was pretty good in the season’s early episode when called upon to be somewhat scared of her circumstances, but much more compelling when given the opportunity to play the more assertive, confident and in love Daenerys. Game of Thrones was so very well-cast, but Clarke appears to be the series’ biggest find. Without her, I’m not sure the season works as well as it does (again, even if I have problems, I get “it”).

Kelly Macdonald, Boardwalk Empire

I liked Kelly Macdonald’s work on Boardwalk so much that I’m a little surprised that she didn’t submit in the lead category. Of course, I know nothing and this is probably a much easier field to break into, but Macdonald was most certainly the series’ leading lady throughout its first season. Like Emilia Clarke, Macdonald was able to play a character who underwent a substantial transformation and although I think Macdonald’s work was a bit more subtle in exploring Margaret Schroeder’s transition from meek and abused housewife to knowing and willing party in Nucky’s various political schemes, it deserves recognition just the same. There were definitely showier performances on television and on Macdonald’s own series this season, but I really like the innate calm of her work. Plus, anyone who can get me invested in a romantic relationship with Steve Buscemi is pretty damn talented.

Archie Panjabi, The Good Wife

Having seen the first episode of The Good Wife when Archie Panjabi won the award in this category last year, I was kind of confused. Her work in the pilot is solid, but not award-winning. Of course, that’s probably more of a reflection of the Emmy voters than anything else, but nevertheless, when I watched the entire first season, Panjabi’s win made more sense. And despite my lukewarm reaction the buzzy Kalinda-Blake storyline, I think Panjabi’s work was even better in season two. Once Blake left and the cat was let out of the bag about Kalinda sleeping with Peter, the actress was finally given the opportunity to show her range and I thought she did very well in that department. Like Laura Allen’s Katie, Panjabi did fine work keeping her character likable and somewhat sympathetic despite the fact that she destroyed the life of the series’ lead character. Sexy leather boots Kalinda is fun, but somewhat unhinged and terrified Kalinda is much better. One of the only winners from last year I have on my ballot.

Notable performers left just off the list: Kiernan Shipka and Christina Hendricks, Mad Men; Regina King, Southland; Christine Baranski, The Good Wife; Khandi Alexander, Treme; Mae Whitman and Erika Christensen, Parenthood; Lisa Edelstein, House; Maggie Siff, Sons of Anarchy

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