Emmys: 5 Breakout Stars (and One Whole Cast) Who Deserve Recognition

8:00 AM 6/16/2016

by Daniel Fienberg

Voting for 'The People v. O.J. Simpson's' John Travolta? Don't forget Sterling K. Brown. Voters tend to nominate the same standouts year after year, but this season, THR's TV critic Daniel J. Fienberg urges a look at these less-ballyhooed actors.

Courtesy of Lacey Terrell/HBO;Ursula Coyote/Sony Pictures Television/ AMC;Ray Mickshaw/FX

Getting Emmy voters to notice your show at all can be the biggest hurdle to securing a nomination. Louie Anderson's performance as Zach Galifianakis' mother on Baskets, which so easily could have played as a stunt, deserves to be nominated. But will voters even notice? Who knows? They tend to return to shows they already like rather than experiment with something new. So let's look at shows and performances we can expect to be on the Emmy radar and point to six less-ballyhooed actors also deserving recognition.

  • If you're voting for: Julia Louis-Dreyfus and others from 'Veep'

    Don't forget: Tim Simons

    HBO/Lacey Terrell

    This doesn't mean you can't nominate Tony Hale again, or that you can't find room for Kevin Dunn and Gary Cole in the supporting actor field. But Simons' Jonah Ryan long ago entered the pantheon of TV's classic obnoxious and officious co-workers, and pushing Jonah into a distressingly realistic New Hampshire congressional race has been a stroke of genius.

  • If you're voting for: Anthony Anderson for 'Black-ish'

    Don't forget: Tracee Ellis Ross

    Ron Tom/ABC

    ABC's Black-ish should be poised for a real breakthrough this year, with a comedy series nomination more than earned and a Kenya Barris script nomination for the police brutality episode "Hope" practically mandatory. But keep Ross in mind, voters. Her Bow is more than just a performance of reactive genius — and with this husband and these kids, she has a lot to react to — she's also capable of carrying stories. Watch her giving as good as she gets in "Johnson & Johnson" and award her a nom.

  • If you're voting for: John Travolta for 'The People v. O.J. Simpson'

    Don't forget: Sterling K. Brown

    Courtesy of FX

    Travolta's Kabuki Robert Shapiro is sure to capture the hearts and eyebrows of Emmy faithful (as will Sarah Paulson's and Courtney B. Vance's deserving work as Marcia Clark and Johnnie Cochran, respectively), but it would be a shame if voters concentrated on the movie stars deigning to do TV or were captivated by the FX anthology's many larger-than-life performances and ignored Brown's grounded (and grounding) work as Christopher Darden. Over the course of 10 episodes, Darden is the noble hero, the hubris-driven heel, the well-meaning romantic lead and the frustrated conscience.

  • If you're voting for: Bob Odenkirk and Jonathan Banks for 'Better Call Saul'

    Don't forget: Rhea Seehorn

    Ursula Coyote/AMC

    In season one of Better Call Saul, the Jimmy-Kim love story was a sweet afterthought. But with Seehorn demanding attention and holding the camera with the greatest of stillness, it became the AMC show's tragic heart. Kim's own ambitions came to the forefront this season as she fought for her professional life, fought for a relationship she only somewhat believed in and — of greatest importance — fought for herself. Watch as far as her "You don't save me! I save me" speech in "Rebecca" and just give her a nom.

  • If you're voting for: Patrick Wilson, Kirsten Dunst and Noah Hawley for 'Fargo'

    Don't forget: Bokeem Woodbine

    Courtesy of Chris Large/FX

    In a less competitive year, Woodbine's performance would be a no-brainer. Mike Milligan gave the second Fargo season its brash confidence, its late '70s swagger, its consummate style and its verbose pungency. Contrasted with the profound decency of many of the heroes, Mike probably was one of the story's villains, but darned if Woodbine's career-best work didn't make us root for him.

  • If you're voting for: Margo Martindale for 'The Americans'

    Don't forget: Literally every other castmember

    Jeffrey Neira

    Voters in 2015 somehow ignored all the great regular performances — plus Lois Smith's magnificent guest work — to give Martindale a stunningly unwarranted win for an episode in which she did little more than appear. Having proved, however, that they're aware of FX's '80s spy drama, this would be a great time to notice leads Keri Russell and Matthew Rhys and maybe Holly Taylor and Frank Langella. But if you need one person to concentrate on, make it Alison Wright, whose hard-luck Martha generated a season of virtual hugs and simultaneously muttered "Poor Martha" from the show's dedicated viewers.