Emmy Hopefuls: A celebration of Madam Secretary star Tea Leoni

Madam Secretary season 5 episode 12There’s no mistaking that we are in an era where streaming and cable series run rampant, both in terms of press attention and also awards recognition. It’s wonderful to have more voices and creativity within this industry, but a curious aftereffect is that somehow, all of the options out there are causing network TV to be constantly overlooked. That includes people who taken on long hours and work tirelessly to make fantastic characters over long stretches of time. Their performances are beautiful, steadfast, and layered, and that includes the subject of this CarterMatt Emmy Hopefuls piece — Madam Secretary star Tea Leoni.

For more insight into the egregiousness of this oversight, just take a look at history — Leoni has yet to be nominated for playing Secretary of State Elizabeth McCord at either the Emmys, the Golden Globes, or the Screen Actors Guild Awards, despite filming more than 100 episodes and showcasing so much talent and range. Will that change this year? She’s certainly entering the race as an underdog, but there’s value in laying out the case for her.

For some more discussion on the future of Madam Secretary, check out our video discussion below about our season 6 renewal hopes! Be sure to subscribe to CarterMatt on YouTube for some additional insight.

Degree of Difficulty – Playing a role like Elizabeth McCord is tougher than it looks. It requires a certain degree of restraint — you can’t play any moment to big, given that this is a character who has to maintain a public image due to the job. She has to find subtle ways at times to express anger or frustration in the public sphere, and then also break those walls back down for the more somber, vulnerable roles at home. She has to do that with some pretty long hours, and then come back and do the same thing the next day for twenty episodes within a year. With more than 100 episodes now, it can be tough to find new ways to make every story stand out and she does it every single time.

Shining Moments – We’ve never believed more in Elizabeth as a character than we did during the “Family Separation” arc, where Leoni injected so much power and determination into everything from the way she carried herself to how she lingered on every word. There’s such an aspirational quality to Elizabeth as a character, and in order to celebrate her victories, you have to see her struggles. Watching the way in which the vow-renewal ceremony was handled is one such acting victory for Tea — despite this character being in such a tough circumstance, she was able to still showcase deep love for Henry but also sensitivity for her situation.

Then, also look at the tabloid scandal from late in this season, where Elizabeth was confronted with a false rumor about her and Dalton. Our heart felt for Elizabeth’s every move as she agonized over that decision and you could see the change in how Leoni carried herself in the role. Elizabeth is not a woman often forced to sit by and do nothing, and that put her in a difficult position until she finally did the sit-down with Jane Pauley. There’s something powerful in seeing this character lean on her family, given that the notion often is that she needs to be the rock given her position of authority.

The best parts about Leoni’s performance – She takes Elizabeth on from a place of an intelligence and an understanding of how she wants this political figure to be — nuanced, flawed, but also hopeful and passionate. She wants her to be a representation of what politicians should be, people who try and work for the good of the people and eschew political norms and nonsense. She’s an authoritative figure with heart, a character you feel like you know. You relish in the family moments because it’s an echo of her humanity, but you also remind yourself that there are still glimpses of that even when she’s on the job. Elizabeth makes it so that every experience of this character is a building block, a bridge to something greater.

While we don’t know if 2019 will be Leoni’s year, she deserves it for every expression and every monologue she’s had — and with an exciting Presidential campaign coming (provided that a season 6 renewal happens), the best could still be to come.

Do you think that Tea Leoni is worthy of an Emmy nomination for playing Elizabeth McCord on Madam Secretary? Be sure to share right now in the comments, and check back soon for more updates. (Photo: CBS.)

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