Emmys: Why Actresses With Small TV Show Followings Aren't Likely to Win

The death of "blue ribbon panels" makes room for mainstream actress nominees.
Jeff Neumann/CBS
Julianna Margulies and Jeffrey Dean Morgan in 'The Good Wife'

For the first time last year, members of individual branches of the TV Academy — actors, the various crafts, etc. — were allowed not only to select the nominees in their respective categories but also to vote for the winners.

Previously, for final voting, each branch was represented by a "blue ribbon panel" comprising a handful of members who were able and willing to watch everything. But the panels tended to be older, conservative and make somewhat esoteric choices. The result of 2015's democratization became clear Emmy night, when there were nearly no jaw-droppers as there had been in recent years (e.g., Jeff Daniels for The Newsroom? Merritt Wever for Nurse Jackie?!).

To the contrary, nearly every winner hailed from a popular show. In the lead drama actress category, the beneficiary was Viola Davis of the ABC hit How to Get Away With Murder. Why is that important? Because it illustrates why a win now is all but impossible for someone on a show with a relatively small following — think Tatiana Maslany of BBC America's Orphan Black — and likelier for someone on everyone's radar.

That might well be Davis again — or possibly another past winner, Julianna Margulies, for CBS' departed The Good Wife. She won twice under the old system, without sentiment on her side. 

This story first appeared in a special Emmy issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.

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