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10 TV Stars Who Deserve Emmy Nominations (But Probably Won't Get Them)

by Oliver Lyttelton
July 5, 2012 12:02 PM
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We're still months and months away from the Oscars, but the other awards ceremony of the moving image is starting to sneak up; two weeks from today, the nominations for the Primetime Emmys, the biggest awards honoring television comedies, dramas, miniseries and movies, will be announced, ahead of the ceremony itself in September. Given the stars that the small screen attracts these days, it's just as glitzy as the Academy Awards, and given that we're living in what's generally deemed to be something of a golden age of television, there are more good shows on the air than could possibly be honored in a single ceremony. Someone's going to miss out.

We've already highlighted our favorite shows of the past TV season, as well as the faces that we think are set to break out of the small screen in the next few years. And in the run up to the Emmy nominations themselves, we're going to be making some predictions as to who might find themselves with nods next week. But first, we're going to name a few actors and actresses who have given some of the best performances of the past twelve months, but are for one reason or another, unlikely to make it to the final six nominees in their respective categories.

Obviously, there are some performers who you won't find here. Sometimes, it's because we think they'll figure into the nominations themselves ("Breaking Bad," "Girls" and "Parks and Recreation" are among the favorites that we think will do well), and sometimes it's because we, like Emmy voters, simply didn't have the room. As ever, you can let us know your own favorites in the comments section below. Some spoilers ahead.

Anna Chancellor as Lix Storm in "The Hour"
Curiously, "The Hour," one of BBC Drama's big hitters of 2011, got much better reviews in the U.S. than in the U.K., where it was unfairly derided as a second-rate "Mad Men" knock off. Revolving around the staff of a BBC television news programme in 1956 as the Suez Crisis and the government hunt for communist moles is underway, it features a top-notch cast, with excellent performances from Ben Whishaw, Romola Garai, Dominic West and more. And while it had a slightly rocky start, the scripts (by "Shame" writer Abi Morgan) got more confident and compelling as they went on. Nevertheless, despite the more positive reaction on its BBC America airing and a smattering of Golden Globe nominations, we're not expecting the show to do especially well with the Emmys, which is a shame for a number of reasons, not least because it'll mean that Anna Chancellor's turn will probably be ignored. She's been a familiar screen face for a couple of decades now -- still likely best known as "Duckface" in "Four Weddings and a Funeral," but also cropping up in films as diverse as "The Dreamers" and "The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy." But she had one of her best-ever showcases as Lix Storm, the admittedly ridiculously named foreign correspondent of the show-within-the-show. Entirely and gloriously convincing as a woman who owns her space in a world still dominated by men, Chancellor was very much a supporting character (free from the constraints of some of the soapier plotting), but lit up the screen every time she was on it, whether uncovering the story behind Suez or leaping into a no-strings fling with green producer Freddie (Whishaw). Chancellor was recognized with a much-deserved nod from the BAFTA TV awards earlier this year, but it's unlikely to be repeated across the pond. Maybe for season two?   

Anna Chlumsky as Amy Brookheimer in "Veep"
Whatever happened to the girl from "My Girl"? After all, co-star Macaulay Culkin went on to be a major star before burning out and falling out of favor, but after its sequel and a handful of TV apperances, Anna Chlumsky, who was ten when she starred in the kids' weepie, pretty much disappeared. As it turns out she was simply biding her time; she stepped away from acting after college to work in publishing, before reappearing with a small role in the first season of "30 Rock." But her serious comeback came with a major role in Armando Iannucci's glorious political satire "In The Loop," and when the writer came to HBO for a similar series (like the film, indebted to his original BBC show "The Thick Of It"), he brought Chlumsky with him, playing the young chief of staff to Julia-Louis Dreyfus' Vice-President Selina Meyer. Given her long and lauded sitcom past, the "Seinfeld" star is virtually assured a nomination, but even among a cast of comedic ringers including Tony Hale and Matt Walsh, Chlumsky has been the real stand-out. Despite still being only 31, she's never less than totally convincing as a Washington insider of fierce intellect and scathing wit; her interplay with godawful White House liaison Jonah (Timothy Simons) has been one of the major highlights of the show to date. Given her impeccable comic timing and fast and fearless approach, it's no surprise that she was the only "In The Loop" cast member who returned for the show, and has fast become the major reason to watch "Veep." 

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  • John | July 9, 2012 5:29 AMReply

    "The Middle" is the best comedy on the air, yet its always ignored. Wake up people.

  • Mark | July 8, 2012 7:51 PMReply

    I agree with most of this list, namely Kerry Washington, Anna Chlumsky and definitely Jared Harris (who was superb on "Mad Men" this season), however, I would like to add the name of a spectacular actress doing stunning work on her series: Khandi Alexander in "Treme". Alexander should have been nominated for an Emmy before (for her incredible work in the HBO mini-series "The Corner" and last season's work on "Treme"), but continuing to ignore her would just be criminal.

  • Scandal is not a soap, Ollie | July 6, 2012 11:55 AMReply

    Kerry Washington as Olivia Pope is so entertaining. Hope she makes the cut.

  • beardy man child | July 5, 2012 6:09 PMReply

    Mark Margolis should get a nom for his performance in Breaking Bad, didn't speak a word but my God did he knock it out of the park

  • Derek | July 5, 2012 5:59 PMReply

    If fucking pains me that Dean Norris' name hasn't been mentioned. One of the best actors on tv. Pitch perfect on Breaking Bad.

    Good call on Anna Chlumsky. Always wanted to finger blast that.

  • RH | July 5, 2012 2:48 PMReply


  • Mitchell | July 5, 2012 2:12 PMReply

    Among the many who deserve to be mentioned, I feel the need to give shout outs to Alfie Allen in "Game of Thrones", Shea Whigham in "Boardwalk Empire" and basically the whole cast of "Happy Endings", but especially the three females (Eliza Coupe, Elisha Cuthbert and Casey Wilson). They won't be getting nominated, but they all really should be.

  • sp | July 5, 2012 2:36 PM

    Mitchell, I agree with your choices, but also the men of "Happy Endings.". I also agree with Playlist's choices : Jared Harris, Jason Isaacs( always great) , and Madeleine Stowe .

  • ryan | July 5, 2012 1:40 PMReply

    i definitely agree Rich, Anna Torv is equally worthy of a nod. I just feel Noble should have WON both the Emmy and Golden Globe by now!! makes you wonder if Torv's ties with Murdoch is keeping the liberal Hollywood (i am liberal minded btw) at bay...everything is politics. but it is a crime to not consider Noble for anything. he is proof that the talent pool is very deep with fairly unknown actors until they get a big break.

  • Sigh | July 5, 2012 11:21 PM

    (Please ignore "Torvwatch," she's a nutjob who posts this crap everywhere.)

  • TorvWatch | July 5, 2012 9:33 PM

    so you are saying that Anna Torv is the reason your Noble did not get an Emmy?????
    how pathetic , sad and insulting.

    1. Anna Torv is NOT related to M, other than being estranged from her father and his side of the famile (including M's exwife) since she was a child.
    She grew up with her mother and brother, payed her own way through NIDA, did her stage and tv in Australia.
    BTW. Anna Torv must be the most humble, modest person in the business, and the returning description of fans meeting her is Shy, Sweet en so greatful to fans.

    2. Noble is so overrated, all the credit he gets for the writing and material he gets is shocking.
    he is so much a Look at me actor.

    3. Anna Torv is just as much Underrated , since the pilot. What she has done with a character as Olivia Dunham, with the little material she gets, is beyond amazing.
    Anna is a brilliant actress, and if she would have gotten a decent story arc about her past from the beginning (what Noble has gotten in Overkill),
    Anna Torv would have been on the Emmy and Golden Globes lists from season 1.

    Big mistake of the showrunners to underuse Anna Torv, but the way she has handled all the crap in S1 she got in the USA, and how she has dealt with remarks like Ryan above, shows what a class-act Anna Torv is.

  • holly | July 5, 2012 1:08 PMReply

    Idris Elba overacts like mad in Luther, A very over rated actor. He chews the scenery in most things and cant do an american accent to save his life.

  • Zack | July 5, 2012 1:22 PM

    Seriously? Because I know lots of people who knew him as Stringer Bell first and they're always shocked to find out he's English.

  • Kim | July 5, 2012 12:43 PMReply

    Lena Headey should get a nod. Cersei was written to be hated! That's all. A flat one dimensional cartoon character. But in her hands, Cersei is anything but. I love her Cersei.

  • Nolan | July 5, 2012 12:39 PMReply

    I would think that a show as popular as Game of Thrones would get some recognition, although they may just nominate Dinklage every year and call it a day. That said, Headey especially deserves it when you compare her work in season 2 to her work in season 1. She was actually fairly weak the first time around, but really stunned a lot of people this time. Her scene with Tyrion where she discusses her children was fantastic, as was the drunken siege scene.

  • Zack | July 5, 2012 12:44 PM

    That one, wordless moment where Tyrion clearly wants to put a hand on her shoulder, but they both understand that that's not their relationship? Best acting in the series, thus far, I think.

  • ry | July 5, 2012 12:35 PMReply

    what about JOHN NOBLE!!! his character of walter on Fringe is he plays three people!!

  • Sigh | July 5, 2012 11:24 PM

    "Torvwatch," please stop tearing down other actors just to build up your favorite. It's really tiresome and weird.

    (Anna Torv is just fine as an actress, but I find the obsessive girl-cult worship surrounding her to be rather inexplicable...)

  • TorvWatch | July 5, 2012 9:38 PM

    Anna Torv is awesome, and hs been from the start. She finally got the material she should have gotten from the start, in season 3.
    Anna Torv should have been on the Emmy lists since season 1, playing a character like Olivia Dunham, with so littke material, is so much more difficult than the Overwritten and Overacted Walter by Overrated Noble.

  • jonathan | July 5, 2012 3:58 PM

    Yup, scrolled down to type exactly that. John Noble has been the greatest thing on tv for years, but doesn't get the credit. Also Jason Isaacs was awesome on Awake. And I wish that Isaacs's character from Awake could join the Fringe Division, because that would be amazing.

  • Rich | July 5, 2012 1:25 PM

    The same goes for Anna Torv, the lead on FRINGE. She has showed incredible range, including playing Leonard Nimoy's character William Bell, with all of his vocal intonations. the show has been completely ignored by the Emmys in the past.

  • MissJinx | July 5, 2012 12:30 PMReply

    I agree with a lot of these... but I would like to add Nelsen Ellis as Lafayette Reynolds on True Blood. He has some great lines and portrays such power and loss all at the same time. He is a wonderful actor and I want to see him in many more seasons of the show and to see him in many other roles in tv and film.

  • Someome | July 5, 2012 12:24 PMReply

    Hello Jason Isaacs.

  • Zack | July 5, 2012 12:16 PMReply

    Some that I'd like to see but probably won't:
    -Jack Huston and Gretchen Mol in "Boardwalk Empire"
    -Andrew Scott in "Sherlock"
    -Raymond J. Barry in "Justified" (he's done a similar thing to Headey in terms of abruptly, subtly stealing several scenes)
    -Pretty much everyone in "Game of Thrones" who's not Peter Dinklage

  • E | July 5, 2012 12:09 PMReply

    Anna Chancellor? Ew, it's Romola Garai who should get recognition for The Hour!

  • Zack | July 5, 2012 12:11 PM

    I imagine they left her out because she was nominated for a Golden Globe, and therefore is less of a long shot.

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