There are competitive Primetime Emmy Award categories, and then there is Supporting Actor in a Drama Series. By far, this is among the hardest to call out of any that are coming up this year. There are fifteen or so names that we considered having on this list, and some that we’d have on here other years (Aaron Paul, Peter Dinklage, Alan Cumming, John Slattery) that just didn’t make our list of desired nominees this time around. We’d even love to give Larry Hagman posthumous love for “Dallas,” but who do you replace? We just couldn’t do it this time around.
One little note that we’ll throw in here: We placed Freddie Highmore (“Bates Motel”) as a lead, but we learned after the fact that he is inexplicably submitting as Supporting. Sometimes, Emmy gamesmanship makes no sense to us. We don’t want to compromise our list by adding him twice, so he’s eliminated from personal contention here, but really he should be nominated in the leading category, because he’s just that good and is clearly the lead of the show.
Oh, and we’re assuming that if you are reading this list, you’re cool with spoilers that happened on shows this past season.
Jonathan Banks, “Breaking Bad” (AMC) – We’re not going to blame Banks for the somewhat underwhelming way that Mike was killed this season, since he acted his angry pants off every second he was onscreen. We could have watched a whole show just about this curmudgeon, but instead had to cherish every little second he was on TV.
Nikolaj Coster-Waldau, “Game of Thrones” (HBO) – In our eyes, the tub scene single-handedly escalated Coster-Waldau over Dinklage this year, though this is no slight to Peter at all (and he almost became a part of this list, too). The truth is that Nikolaj’s performance this season was so strong that he did the unthinkable: Turn a character we loathed into someone we cared about and even felt for.
Guillermo Diaz, “Scandal” (ABC) – Go back and watch “Seven Fifty-Two,” where Diaz gave what may be the best single-episode performance of any actor that we’ve seen on network television in the past year. He’s the reluctant killer, a shell of his former self that you want to heal, but don’t know how. Guillermo finally deserves a chance to be recognized for some of the all-out amazing works he’s done for years across various projects.
Walton Goggins, “Justified” (FX) – We hear that “Justified” season 4 was polarizing, but we didn’t notice because we loved it so much. Goggins’ Boyd Crowder is in many ways the classic antihero given that you know the guy’s not a role model, but you like and root for him anyway. There’s just such a natural quality about what he does with this part, so it’s never felt forced, and he elevates what is an already-stellar cast around him.
David Morrissey, “The Walking Dead” (AMC) – Want to know why “The Walking Dead” had its best season yet this past year? Morrissey is a big reason why. The Governor is the first real, tangible villain that Rick and his survivors had faced, and he was terrifying through and through. It may sound strange to be happy that he’s still out there alive, but we are.
Mandy Patankin, “Homeland” (Showtime) – We don’t know if we can call a favorite of this group, but Mandy is near the top of the list. We’ve said since the beginning that Saul is the glue of “Homeland,” and he’s the one that really keeps it grounded in an essence of reality. He’s flawed, fiercely intelligent, and understands good and evil in a way that most don’t. Patankin also can say absolutely nothing, and his eyes can tell volumes worth of pain, pride, and fear. No one is better at being so subtle.
Want to have your thoughts heard? That is what the poll below is for! If you want to also check out our picks from some other major Emmy categories, the place for you to go is over here.