If I Had An Emmy Ballot 2014: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

The Television Academy of Arts & Sciences released this year’s Emmy ballots on Monday. Now that the ballots are out, it’s time for our annual two-pronged experiment, in which Dan tries to predict the likeliest nominees in each major category, while I pretend that I’m an actually TV Academy member and pick the six nominees that would make me the happiest.

We are, as always, playing by the Emmy rules, which means we can’t argue for someone who didn’t submit themselves (say, Alan Cumming for “The Good Wife”), can’t move someone from lead to supporting or vice versa, and can’t declare that “True Detective” is a miniseries and therefore clear more room in the drama categories. I’m also obviously limited by what I watched and what I haven’t. I think I saw maybe three episodes of “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia” this season, for instance, and while I like the show a lot, the sample size wasn’t enough.

We finish out the supporting performance fields with Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series. Dan’s analysis is here, and mine is coming right up.

This glut of quality ensemble dramas, and the way that they tend to give the best material to the male characters, has made this the deepest and most difficult category to play with year in and year out. I could give you a ballot with, say, Peter Sarsgaard, John Slattery, Jeff Perry, Mandy Patinkin and Noah Emmerich and not have a single person on there who I felt wasn’t utterly deserving, and none of them made my final list. There were 20-plus men I thought about at one point or another, before ultimately settling on the six below.

Often, when trying to deal with a category like this, I’ll restrict myself to one performer per show, which at least spreads the wealth a little. But it’s never been a hard and fast rule, and as I moved names on and off the final list, I realized that the only thing that made practical sense to me was three pairs of co-stars.

Let’s start with “Game of Thrones” father and son Charles Dance and Peter Dinklage, Dinklage won this category several years ago, and had some of his best scenes ever this year as Tyrion went on trial for his life and publicly called out his family and their subjects for the petty hypocrites they all are. Dance, meanwhile, hasn’t even bothered submitting himself in some previous years, despite the enormous shadow he casts over an ensemble full of brilliant actors. This year, his name’s on the main ballot, and therefore he easily makes his way onto mine. Screen presence doesn’t come easily to every actor, but boy does he have it.

Next let’s go with “Breaking Bad” co-stars Aaron Paul and Dean Norris. Paul has won this category twice and been nominated two other times. Though Jesse was marginalized at times in the series’ concluding chapters (it’s the only major weakness of the final season), he still had enough opportunity to shine (particularly in the aftermath of Jesse’s epiphany about Brock) that he more than qualifies here; if anything, he’s a better fit in the category than in some other recent seasons, where he arguably should have been competing as a lead alongside Mr. Cranston. And Norris, finally given an extended spotlight as Hank came face to face with Heisenberg, was raw and powerful and every bit as commanding and tragic as that part of the story demanded.

Finally, we have the two men who convinced me a trio of duos was the way to go here: “Boardwalk Empire” nemeses Michael Kenneth Williams and Jeffrey Wright. You could argue that this year, Williams was the lead of “Boardwalk,” as the Chalky/Dr. Narcisse war relegated Nucky Thompson into supporting status on his own show. But he’s here, and he was electric, and so was Wright as the hypnotic, hypocritical, absolutely ruthless hustler from Trinidad, who caused so much trouble and heartache for Chalky White this year.

What does everybody else think? What would be your ideal top 6?

Previously: Outstanding Drama Series Outstanding Comedy Series Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Comedy Series Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Alan Sepinwall may be reached at sepinwall@hitfix.com