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12 Performers Who Deserve 2014 Emmy Nominations (But Probably Won't Get Them)

by Oliver Lyttelton
June 17, 2014 3:13 PM
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Actors Deserving Emmys, Summer 2014

We're having a sustained and much needed break from the Oscars, but that doesn't mean that awards are completely banished from the cultural landscape. For better or worse, Emmy season is sneaking up. The biggest and most prestigious TV awards in the calendar ended their qualifying season at the end of May, and ballots opened only a few days ago, with voting set to finish next week, ahead of the announcement of nominations on July 10th (with the awards themselves following on August 25th).

Because they mostly focus on ongoing series, the Emmys are even more of a closed shop than their big-screen equivalent: once you're in the club, you're in the club, and many series continue to rack up the nominations long past their prime (*cough* "Modern Family" *cough*), while newer series, or performers without the same kind of star power, can end up missing out.

So, with the close of voting approaching, we wanted, as we've done before, to shine a light on some of our favorite TV performances of the 2013/2014 season that, unfortunately, stand little chance at joining the mainstays like Jim Parsons, Bryan Cranston, Julianna Margulies and Julia Louis-Dreyfus when nominations are announced next month. You can take a look below at the twelve we picked, and let us know your own favorites in the comments section.


Laurence Fishburne - "Hannibal"
The chances of "Hannibal" ever picking up any love from Emmy voters is pretty minimal. It's a show that finds new ways to disgust, repulse and horrify every week (in a good way!) , and hardly anyone watches it anyway. Which is a shame, because all the show's leads are pulling off phenomenal work (even Caroline Dhavernas, whose character has rather less to do than the others), with Hugh Dancy and Mads Mikkelsen adding new shade and complexity to Will Graham and Hannibal Lecter this season. But our favorite performance of the last season might have come from Laurence Fishburne, who's doing some of the best work of his career as FBI agent Jack Crawford. On paper, it's a thankless part, with the actor essentially playing the standard police chief-type role, something even Fishburne has done plenty of times before. But the writing and the performance have superseded the archetype. Fishburne has brought real paternal warmth, and even humor, to Crawford, and with season two, a truly wounded sense of betrayal, at first a sickening self-loathing that he could have been taken in by Will Graham, then, an even more stomach-churning reaction as he slowly realizes that the real evil is still under his nose. The nature of the plotting meant that Crawford took a back seat in the second half of the season, but he was so good in the first half (especially in scenes with real-life wife Gina Torres) that we'd love him to pick up a nod.

The Americans

Annet Mahendru - "The Americans"
"The Americans" went from being one of last year's strongest debut dramas to being one of the best things on TV for its second season. It remains to be seen whether the deserved critical raves convert to Emmy love (it has a better chance this time, but might still be an outsider), but if anyone from the show gets an acting nomination, it'll be leads Keri Russell, Matthew Rhys and/or Noah Emmerich. Not that that wouldn't be well-deserved, because it would be, but the real gem on the series is relative newcomer Annet Mahendru. The Groundlings graduate (born in Afghanistan to a Russian mother and Indian father) had only a handful of one-off TV gigs behind her when she joined "The Americans" in season one as recurring character Nina Sergeevna, a Soviet employee blackmailed by FBI agent Stan (Emmerich) into betraying her country, only to soon turn the tables on him, even as the pair became lovers. Upped to a regular for season two, Mahendru continued to turn in a performance that made Nina the most complex and ambivalent figure in a series packed with complex and ambivalent figures, deftly layering levels of doubt as to what her real motivations were, and keeping you guessing without muddying the waters too much. The result is that even as she continued to play Stan for a fool, you could see the toll on her soul as she did so, which is a more than impressive feat. Hopefully the character will continue to get material that's just as interesting in the third season, assuming she returns...


Alison Tolman - "Fargo"
The most unexpectedly brilliant new series of 2014, "Fargo" should never have worked, and it should never have featured as many brilliant performances as it does. Competing in the miniseries/movie category means that it actually has a chance at picking up some nominations (probably for Billy Bob Thornton, maybe for Martin Freeman too), but we worry that one of the loveliest turns in the series may end up being overlooked. Alison Tolman has, until now, been virtually unknown, plying her trade mostly on stage, but she's front-and-center on "Fargo," as Deputy Molly Solverson, the closest thing the series has to a surrogate for the film version's Marge Gunderson—not that Tolman's just Xeroxing Frances McDormand's Oscar-winning performance. Molly has the same sweetness in the face of evil, the same intrinsic goodness, but it's a sadder, lonelier turn, even after she finds love with Colin Hanks' Gus, the traffic cop who accidentally shot her. Watching her spirit be a little more crushed in the face of the evil (as represented by Thornton's Malvo and Freeman's Lester) around her is heartbreaking, and yet it only makes you root for her to catch the bad guys even more. She's a hugely winning presence, and whether or not she returns for any second season that might come to pass, and whether or not she picks up a nomination, we'll be seeing a lot more from her.


Laverne Cox - "Orange Is The New Black"
"Orange Is The New Black" is timed slightly curiously for the Emmys: the series has debuted two seasons in the last twelve months, but the second landed on June 3rd, just after the window for eligibility for this year's ceremony ends, so only season one will be competing. That means that Lorraine Toussaint will have to wait until 2015 to win ALL THE AWARDS for playing Vee, but it's also a good chance to fight for some of the actors in the show's tremendous ensemble who got a slightly shorter shrift second time around. To wit: Laverne Cox, who's become something of a figurehead for the series (being the first transgender person to appear on the cover of Time magazine to promote season two), but actually faded somewhat into the background for the most part with the most recent batch of episodes. But one shouldn't forget how astonishing she was in season one, regardless of the groundbreaking nature of her casting. Cox played Sophia, a transgender inmate who went down for credit card fraud she performed to finance her operation, and the dignity, wisdom and ferocity she brought to the part, especially in the early episode that focused on her character, is emblematic of the compassion and humanity that makes the series so special. As with "Game Of Thrones," the depth of the series' ensemble makes it hard for anyone to stand out from the pack, but it's definitely Cox who lodged herself in our memories.

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  • Jake | July 13, 2014 2:39 PMReply

    Zosia Mamet as Supporting Actress in a comedy for playing Shoshanna on Girls. The way she takes what could be a very cartoonish caracter, and brings realness and emotion to her still keeping a definitively comedic voice is incredible.

  • Isabel | July 10, 2014 3:35 PMReply

    No Eva greenroom ,that sucks, tells u the ignorance of us tv goers

  • Calvin | June 24, 2014 11:27 AMReply

    Absolutely re: Sarah Sutherland (and also Sally Phillips)! I know how much people hate this show, but I find the performances on The Newsroom to be across-the-board great (with special mention for Olivia Munn).

  • Dale sullivan | June 23, 2014 2:47 PMReply

    I've never understood why no one from White Collar ever gets nominated. Heaven knows, there are so enormasly talented people on there. I've never heard of half the shows mentioned above.

  • creambean | June 20, 2014 7:39 PMReply

    Eva Green as Vanessa Ives on Penny Dreadful is by far the best female performance of the year. Hell, It is one of the best performances this year period. She is masterful. If she isn't able to be nominated this year, I really hope that she gets the attention she deserves in the future. The show itself deserves to be a top contender. It is beautiful and perfectly acted. Timothy Dalton is also just as deserving. I hope they give Penny Dreadful the love it deserves and it doesn't go ignored by them like so many other AMAZING shows that apparently don't exist in their minds. Breaking Bad and True Detective are obviously going to be the big shows that get nominated in pretty much every category but come on. Show some love for the shows that are equally as great. Fargo, Rectify, Justified, The Americans, Orange is The New Black, etc....Timothy Olyphant and Walton Goggins are so overlooked by the Emmy Awards every single year, it is just pathetic.

  • Marcus Guerrero | June 24, 2014 6:34 PM

    +1 for Eva Green, she is outstanding! +1 for "Penny Dreadful" with a great cast and great acting all around. Great to see Josh Hartnett again too. I wondered where he'd gone to.

  • Zach M. | June 20, 2014 12:04 PMReply

    If Tatiana Maslaney doesn't get a nod this year, I'm going to riot.

  • Kris | June 20, 2014 10:46 AMReply

    Peter definitely deserves a nod for his strong performance in episode 7 of GoT. He really has brought out so much in Tyrion.
    Would love to see Charles Dance and Rory McCann get recognition, though I doubt it will happen. Both where incredibly solid and the latter, killed it (literally) in the first and last episode of the season. "Two Swords" brought Sandor/Arya back swinging and "The Children" closed out their mutual arc beautifully.
    Which bring me to Maisie Williams (Arya). Wow. She continues to impress. The evolution of Arya over the past few seasons has been tricky and endearing. She is an exceptional young actress and deserved a nod last year over Emilia Clark. I hope this year, the Emmy voters get it right.
    Sophie Turner really turned it on this season, even with limited screen time. The Sansa-hate I think boils down to her role being "quieter", along with her foolish early choices. Sansa isn't swinging swords. A lot of her strength comes out in how she observes a situation, then adapts.
    Sansa is 14-15 years old, she is vulnerable even now when she is immersing herself in the game. I really think Sophie's best work is yet to come. Maybe not in Season 5, depending on what they use from the source material, but Season 6 will prove pivotal for her.

  • CuseGirl | June 19, 2014 11:57 PMReply

    Cannot believe he said Sleepy Hollow lives and dies with Tom/Ichabod. Which is not to say that Tom isn't awesome because he is, but the show remains grounded and interesting because of Nicole and to pretend that's not true is astounding.

  • BBQ | June 19, 2014 1:57 PMReply

    Charles Dance & Lena from GoT! the Lannisters ftw! & Jack Gleson deserved one too all previous seasons but Emmys are a bunch of snobs so no one except Pete will get nominatd :( so I'll be rooting for him our brave Tyrion!

  • Sanker from India | June 18, 2014 11:18 PMReply

    Rectify! Top of the lake!! Good stuff people!!! Come on!!!!

  • brandon | June 18, 2014 8:53 PMReply

    Sophie Turner? You've got to be joking. She barely shows any emotion, unless you count squinting as showing emotion. She delivers every line in the same wooden tone. To date, she's the only actor on GOT who has pulled me out of a scene.

  • redomega | June 19, 2014 8:09 PM

    LOOOOL! J Law? Someone hasn't watched Silver Linings Playbook.

  • sounds like JLaw | June 19, 2014 2:53 PM

    Are you sure you are not writing about Jennifer Lawrence ? She also doesn't show emotion and delivers every line in the same wooden tone .

  • Alan Tyra | June 18, 2014 5:12 PMReply

    Sarah Baker's performance on Louie was the best thing I saw television this year. So true, so honest and it was right on the money with the message that was conveyed. I think the whole season of Louie has been his best so far.

  • brooke | June 19, 2014 2:51 PM

    Sarah's haunting performance was one of my favorites of this tv year . She killed by being very subtle , smart , and compelling . Melissa McCarthy can learn a thing or two from her .

    " ...there's the always superb Julianne Nicholson, and the legendary, ever-heartbreaking Allison Janney ..."

    Julianne is not bad , but she is definitely not superb . I like Allison Janney , yet it is too early to refer to her as " legendary " . Besides , I don't like Allison in everything .

    Terry Crews has some of the best comedic chops in the biz , and he deserves more recognition. His comedic energy and delivery is almost peerless .

  • Brian Winiarski | June 18, 2014 10:48 AMReply

    All these actors and actresses are good, but who cares if they get an emmy. Most people in the entertainment business are already rewarded with safe, easy, high paying jobs. Most of the rest of the country has to scrape by with physically intense, dangerous, low paying jobs with no insurance, no retirement, and a boss who treats them like trash. I appreciate entertainers, but when it comes to pitying them if they do not get emmys, I have none. My pity goes to the teachers, cnas, coal miners, waitresses, etc. We all get chump change and seldom any respect or opportunity for advancement. Retirement will probably never be an option, because it takes us 25 yrs to make what many entertainers make in one year. If you want your' children to be successful, do not teach them math, science or reading. Teach them acting, football, or singing. Chinese kids have alot of books. Our kids have alot of facebook friends. They want to become a superpower. We want emmys.

  • Brian Winiarski | June 19, 2014 12:57 AM

    SANKER FROM INDIA, I live in the USA and know little about China. I am just aware that most Americans seem to be living in a dream world now. When I am stopped at a crosswalk and pedestrians almost walk into my vehicle because they are focused on an ipod, what does that mean? To me it means that we are on a road to self destruction.I am not trying to diss entertainers, but merely trying to warn people that giving emmys to everyone will not better our country. Do I deserve an emmy? Hell no but I deserve a raise and health insurance, and a pension, You probably do too; or would you rather have an emmy?

  • Sanker from India | June 18, 2014 11:12 PM

    Sorry, I meant who *aren't coal miners in my previous comment.
    Great list indiewire! I know you guys don't take requests for features but I would love to know what tv you guys loved when you grew up or were in college that was before this new tv golden era age since 1997, 1998.

  • Sanker from India | June 18, 2014 11:08 PM

    This is an entertainment website man! Most of em don't have high paying or easy jobs. Especially actors in tv shows who are artistically daring and below the radar on the ones on this list. I agree that they still have better lives than most teachers or coal miners. China is not the perfect country you make it out to be. Also, you should rather be reading the New Yorker or the New York Times instead of coming to an entertainment website and dissing people who are coal miners or whatever.

  • rickyboi7 | June 18, 2014 8:11 AMReply

    What about Mark Ruffalo in HBO's "The Normal Heart"? Outstanding performance!! Many others in that cast too.

  • Jorge Clooneigh | June 18, 2014 4:58 AMReply

    It's gotta be Lena Headey from Game of Thrones. I've never wanted this in previous seasons, but really, her (and Dinklage, particularly) are just brilliant. Her ability to make me care or even want to understand Cersei is just incredible. I wasn't a fan initially, but she nailed this season.

  • Erik Anderson | June 17, 2014 9:50 PMReply

    Bob Odenkirk is not submitted for Fargo so he can't even be nominated there, he's only submitted for Breaking Bad as Supporting Actor. For those interested, there are quite a few of us at AwardsWatch predicting Laverne Cox and Allison Tolman to get in, the latter seems like a pretty easy bet and not a longshot at all.

  • Travis | June 18, 2014 3:29 AM

    Are you sure? I could have sworn I saw his name in Best Supporting Actor in a Miniseries/TV Movie

  • ASFan | June 17, 2014 8:34 PMReply

    What about Melissa Fumero from Brooklyn Nine Nine? She's arguably the most surprising member of the cast, having gone from a recurring part on a soap and guest starring on other dramas to holding her own comedically with Samberg plus being hilariously awkward in her scenes with Braugher. Plus her facial expressions are epic.

  • qwerty uiop | June 17, 2014 8:26 PMReply

    I think that Alison Tolman and Laverne Cox are a lock for emmy nominations

  • Phred G | June 17, 2014 6:55 PMReply

    Terry Crews was BRILLIANT in Are We There Yet? imho. As was the rest of that cast. Funny that show is rarely mentioned. Has it been banished to Comedy Purgatory? ija

  • Leslie | June 17, 2014 6:06 PMReply

    The Americans` Annet Mahendru is wonderful,and I sincerely hope at least Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys will get recognized,because an Emmy nomination could bring more publicity to the show.It is perhaps the most complex and consistent drama on the air at the moment,and a lot of people haven't even heard about it.

  • Keith Demko | June 17, 2014 6:02 PMReply

    So you left off Tatiana Maslany simple because she made the list last year? Sheesh .. how does that make her brilliance any less snubbed?

  • Phred G | June 17, 2014 6:53 PM

    I agree. Especially this season now that THE GLOVES ARE OFF.

  • gerard kennelly | June 17, 2014 4:25 PMReply

    Michelle Monaghan, doing a lot with an underwritten role ??????????????

    pretty obvious she is involved in the cult

    1-the kids dolls arranged in sex ritual style

    2-telling her daughter its just me and you now

    3-having an affair to make them fall out thereby slowing down the investigation

  • Zack | June 17, 2014 4:45 PM

    Golly, a time-traveler from mid-January!

  • Rick | June 17, 2014 3:57 PMReply

    Laurence Fishburne and Terry Crews weres definitely good. Not as great as some others, but they definitely deserve some recognition. Crews would be a shoe in maybe after Braugher if Comedy has their own supporting categories. I didn't peg Lizzy Caplan as "should but won't" kind of performance. I was figuring she would get one.

  • L | June 17, 2014 3:55 PMReply

    Broad City is only the funniest sitcom to air in the past year. To leave Ilana Glazer off a list like this is mind-boggling, let alone Abbi Jacobson.

  • Joao | June 17, 2014 6:04 PM

    Truer words have never been written!

  • JenT | June 17, 2014 3:37 PMReply

    what about Scott Wilson for The Walking Dead? or Anyone from The Walking Dead???

  • brett | June 17, 2014 4:18 PM

    You're kidding right? Acting, writing, directing, etc are not this show's strong suits. Zombies are its strong suit and that is it.

  • Xolo | June 17, 2014 3:25 PMReply

    Some of these seem unnecessarily pessimistic. Now Henry Czerny is so unappreciated that he can't even make a list of unappreciated performances.

  • czerny fan 54321 | June 17, 2014 4:26 PM

    he was the hal hobrook of the 90s

    ford Clear And Present Danger

    cruise Mission Impossible

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