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Emmy Predictions for Limited Series and Movies: Dark Subjects and Big Movie Stars Dominate the Categories

Amy Adams, Mahershala Ali, Sam Rockwell, Patricia Arquette, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michelle Williams and Anthony Hopkins are among the luminaries competing in these categories


The pendulum swings in the Emmys limited-series and television-movie categories, which were merged for three years beginning in 2011 because there weren’t enough limited series to fill out their own category. These days, though, there are more limited series than TV movies competing for Emmys, and the heat is all on the side of the multi-part dramas that tend to attract top-drawer talent both in front of and behind the cameras.

It wouldn’t be surprising to find no more than one or two TV-movie actors nominated in the four acting categories in which limited series and movie performances go head-to-head. (In fact, it wouldn’t be a complete shock to find a clean sweep for limited-series performances.) And you can expect to find lots of Academy Award winners and big movie stars competing for Emmys in these categories, because potential nominees include Sam Rockwell, Patricia Arquette, Mahershala Ali, Emma Thompson, Anthony Hopkins, Amy Adams, Benedict Cumberbatch, Michelle Williams and Benicio Del Toro.

Timing may be crucial in this category. While “Sharp Objects” was well-received, its premiere in the summer of 2018 could give it a lower profile with voters — particularly in comparison to Ava DuVernay’s “When They See Us” and Craig Mazin’s “Chernobyl,” a pair of exceptionally hard-hitting miniseries that debuted late in the eligibility period and stole some of the thunder not only from “Sharp Objects” but also from presumed frontrunners “Escape at Dannemora” and “Fosse/Verdon.”

All five of those projects stand a good chance of landing nominations, though they face competition from “A Very English Scandal” (voters can have a soft spot for British productions), “True Detective” and “The Act.”

Predicted nominees (in order of likelihood): “When They See Us,” “Escape at Dannemora,” “Chernobyl,” “Fosse/Verdon,” “Sharp Objects”

But watch out for: “A Very English Scandal,” “True Detective,” “The Act,” “Catch-22,” “Les Miserables”

Outstanding Television Movie is the thinnest of all the Emmys’ major program categories, with only 21 entries as opposed to 35 limited series, 108 comedy series and 165 drama series. Of the eligible movies, the clear leaders appear to be “Deadwood,” which premiered to raves on the last day of eligibility, and “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” the interactive choose-your-own adventure episode of the anthology series that has won in this category for the last two years in a row.

Beyond those two, the Anthony Hopkins/Emma Thompson version of “King Lear” may bring an irresistible touch of class to the category, while “Brexit” seems timely and Sacha Gervasi’s “My Dinner With Herve” provided entertaining semi-autobiography.

Potential spoilers include two installments of “The Romanoffs,” “End of the Line” and “The Violet Hour,” as well as “Native Son,” “Icebox” and “O.G.”

Predicted nominees: “Deadwood,” “Black Mirror: Bandersnatch,” “King Lear,” “Brexit,” “My Dinner With Herve”

But watch out for: “Native Son,” “The Romanoffs: End of the Line,” “The Romanoffs: The Violet Hour,” “O.G.,” “Icebox”

Sam Rockwell could well win some degree-of-difficulty points for his acting-and-dancing turn as Bob Fosse in “Fosse/Verdon,” and Mahershala Ali will certainly be given a chance to win the Oscar and Emmy in the same year thanks to voters responding to his performance at the center of “True Detective.” Hugh Grant is a devilishly charming cad in “A Very English Scandal,” Benicio Del Toro a more menacing one in “Escape at Dannemora,” and Jared Harris and Jharrel Jerome should be in the mix for their haunting performances at the center of “Chernobyl” and “When They See Us,” respectively.

But could Harris and Jerome really push out the likes of Ian McShane (“Deadwood”), Anthony Hopkins (“King Lear”) and Benedict Cumberbatch (Brexit”)? It may be perilous to underestimate the appeal of those guys to Emmy voters, or to overlook Christopher Abbot in “Catch-22,” Fionn Whitehead in “Bandersnatch” or Peter Dinklage as Herve Villechaize in “My Dinner With Herve.”

Predicted nominees: Sam Rockwell, “Fosse/Verdon”; Mahershala Ali, “True Detective”; Hugh Grant, “A Very English Scandal”; Benicio Del Toro, “Escape at Dannemora”; Jharrel Jerome, “When They See Us”; Jared Harris, “Chernobyl”

But watch out for: Ian McShane, “Deadwood”; Anthony Hopkins, “King Lear”; Benedict Cumberbatch, “Brexit”; Christopher Abbott, “Catch-22”; Peter Dinklage, “My Dinner With Herve”

The sure-thing nominees in this category are probably Michelle Williams as Gwen Verdon in “Fosse/Verdon,” Patricia Arquette in “Escape at Dannemora” and Amy Adams in “Sharp Objects,” followed by Joey King’s breakout performance in “The Act.”

But for the final two spots, things get murkier. It could be Emma Stone for “Maniac,” Connie Britton for “Dirty John,” Niecy Nash for “When They See Us,” Julianna Margulies for “The Hot Zone,” Ruth Wilson for “Mrs. Wilson” or Marisa Tomei for channeling Jean Stapleton in “Live in Front of a Studio Audience: Norman Lear’s ‘All in the Family’ and ‘The Jeffersons’.”

We’ll go with Nash, for moving voters the most, and Tomei, for awakening a powerful sense of nostalgia.

Predicted nominees: Michelle Williams, “Fosse/Verdon”; Patricia Arquette, “Escape at Dannemora”; Amy Adams, “Sharp Objects”; Joey King, “The Act”; Niecy Nash, “When They See Us”; Marisa Tomei, “Live in Front of a Studio Audience”

But watch out for: Emma Stone, “Maniac”; Connie Britton, “Dirty John”; Ruth Wilson, “Mrs. Wilson”; Julianna Margulies, “The Hot Zone”; Florence Pugh, “The Little Drummer Girl”

Once you get past a few clear favorites (Ben Whishaw for “A Very English Scandal,” Paul Dano for “Escape at Dannemora”), this is one of the most wide-open of the Emmy acting categories, and one in which questions abound.

Will Michael K. Williams be hurt by the fact that “When They See Us” has so many potential nominees in this category, even though he probably has the edge over costars John Leguizamo, Jovan Adepo and Blair Underwood? Will George Clooney’s star power give him a boost over castmate Kyle Chandler in the “Catch-22” vote? Will Norbert Leo Butz get attention for “Fosse/Verdon,” a miniseries named for the characters played by his two sure-to-be-nominated co-stars, Sam Rockwell and Michelle Williams? Will voters remember Stephen Dorff in “True Detective” from January or Chris Messina in “Sharp Objects” from last July?

We think the answers will be no, no, yes and yes and no.

Predicted nominees: Ben Whishaw, “A Very English Scandal”; Paul Dano, “Escape at Dannemora”; Norbert Leo Butz, “Fosse/Verdon”; Michael K. Williams, “When They See Us”; Kyle Chandler, “Catch-22”; Stephen Dorff, “True Detective”

But watch out for: Chris Messina, “Sharp Objects”; George Clooney, “Catch-22”; Eric Lange, “Escape at Dannemora”; Stellan Skarsgard, “Chenobyl”; David Oyelowo, “Les Miserables”

There’s not much doubt that Patricia Arquette will land a supporting nomination for “The Act” to go with her lead nom for “Dannemora” — and there’s also little doubt that her chief competition will be another Patricia, Patricia Clarkson for “Sharp Objects.” Beyond that, Emily Watson’s wrenching performance in “Chernobyl” and Carmen Ejogo’s timeline-juggling turn in “True Detective” seem to be the likeliest nominees.

For the final two slots, contenders include Sally Field for “Maniac,” Emma Thompson for “King Lear,” Eliza Scanlen for “Sharp Objects,” Margaret Qualley for “Fosse/Verdon” and Marla Gibbs for reprising her original role in “The Jeffersons” in the new live version. We’re guessing voters will go for the two Oscar winners in that group.

Predicted nominees: Patricia Clarkson, “Sharp Objects”; Patricia Arquette, “The Act”; Emily Watson, “Chernobyl”; Carmen Ejogo, “True Detective”; Sally Field, “Maniac”; Emma Thompson, “King Lear”

But watch out for: Eliza Scanlen, “Sharp Objects”; Vera Farmiga, “When They See Us”; Robin Weigert, “Deadwood”; Sissy Spacek, “Castle Rock”; Elizabeth Reaser, “Haunting of Hill House”