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For years, many guest acting Emmy nominees weren’t guest performers at all, rather regulars who got away with category fraud.
In 2015, the TV Academy figured out a way to guard against that: To be eligible, a performer must appear in fewer than half of a season’s episodes. But the same sorts of people still dominate: big-name performers (Jon Hamm, Elizabeth Banks), familiar character actors (Beau Bridges, Margo Martindale) and beloved veterans (Bob Newhart, Cicely Tyson) — usually from high-profile shows.
Very rarely does a performer who doesn’t meet one of those criteria — say, a little-known scene-stealer on a smallish show — make the cut. Who fits the bill this year? Newbie standouts include Blair Underwood, who killed it in a single episode of The Good Wife as a grieving dad.
And why not Jeffrey Dean Morgan, a villain on cable’s biggest hit, The Walking Dead? No comedy guest actor made a bigger splash than Larry David doing Bernie Sanders on SNL, though sentiment is on the side of return host Tracy Morgan.
Master of None has three great offerings in Dr. Shoukath Ansari (co-creator Aziz Ansari’s real dad), Ravi Patel (Aziz’s real friend) and a surprisingly funny Claire Danes. Lastly, Emily Osment managed to be heartbreaking on Mom.
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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