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Emmy Review: Best Actress, Limited Series or Movie

We've been reviewing Emmy categories. Voting concludes next Monday with the ceremony on September 17th.

by Eric Blume

Entertainment writers have been crowing for a while about this category, claiming that it looks more like a Best Actress Oscar list than it does an Emmy list.  And it’s true, this year’s six nominees include four women who have already won that Oscar, along with two of television’s biggest names.  It’s an embarrassment of riches: six interesting, surprising, deep performances from six formidable actors...

  • Carrie Coon, Fargo
  • Felicity Huffman, American Crime
  • Nicole Kidman, Big Little Lies
  • Jessica Lange, Feud: Bette and Joan
  • Susan Sarandon, Feud: Bette and Joan
  • Reese Witherspoon, Big Little Lies


Will win?  Felicity Huffman can safely be counted out:  she’s been nominated three years running in this category for different roles in the anthology series American Crime, and she was stronger in both other seasons and didn’t win.  Witherspoon was fantastic, and she dove deep into her character, unafraid of showing the annoying self-righteousness and self-sabotage as two of the many layers of a very complex creation…but Kidman had the more disturbing arc to play.  Similarly, Sarandon scaled Bette Davis’ humor, brittleness, intelligence, and loneliness week by week in an exciting performance, but had far less screen time than co-star Lange.  So the race seems to be between Kidman and Lange.  Kidman beautifully unpeeled the multi-layered darkness of an abusive relationship without cliché or sentimentality.  She and co-star Alexander Skarsgârd found something truly unique, intricate, and powerful together.  Lange treated Joan Crawford like a true tragic character:  she aimed big.  It wouldn’t be a surprise to see Lange grab another trophy for this full-scale, full-throttle performance, but it feels like The Year of Kidman (a glorious thing to be able to say) for the win. 

will voters crown Nicole Kidman or stick with their Lange obsession?Should win?  Kidman.  Lange has some stupendous moments, but she’s claimed three Emmys in the last seven years -- it’s time to spread the wealth. 

Could spoil?  Carrie Coon.  It’s unlikely, but it’s possible if Kidman/Witherspoon and Lange/Sarandon split votes for their respective movies.  Coon delivers in spades in Fargo, plus she’s an actress with a colossal talent.  In another year, she’d emerge victorious, but she doesn’t have the buzz that Lange and Kidman have this time around.

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Reader Comments (61)

I'm so torn on this category. I loved Kidman, I want Kidman to win, I think she is utterly, utterly deserving of the statue. But I think about Coon's Gloria Burgle all the time. Like you said Eric, she delivers in spades. The scene in the women's restroom where all of the dispensers finally start recognizing her hands is one of the most beautiful scenes from TV this year. If I was an Emmy voter, I think I'd give my vote to Coon...

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJS

Team Reese here

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercal roth

I'd vote Kidman hands down. And then vote Coon for Best Actress in a Drama Series (Leftovers) given that her Nora was the TV performance of the year....wait...what? She wasn't nominated there? Oh, Emmy.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom M

I hope Carrie Coon wins but I'll probably be Kidman.

I wish Bryce Dallas Howard was nominated.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJess

I have not seen anything on the scale of what Kidman accomplishes in a long time: she is as close to perfection as an actress can get! She has to win & probably won't & it's gonna be yet another very, VERY bad decisions for the often soooooooooooooo wrong emmy voters (sigh!)

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterstjeans

Praying for Reese.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterKeegan


That's all.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBrad

Nicole should and must win, come on.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterV.

Lange isn't anywhere near the win for this! Honestly, she probably came close to Crawford-ing her way out of the category on nomination day.

I think it's:

1) Kidman
2) Reese
3) Coon
4) Sarandon
5) Lange
6) Huffman

Even though Reese is my pick. The other thing to remember is that Reese was so astounding right of the gate in BLL -- Nicole's character was very withdrawn, not even very integral, in the early episodes.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterYas reese

I want Kidman to win and I think she probably will unless vote splitting costs her. But I want to say how robbed Bryce Dallas Howard was.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMatt St.Clair

Kidman's performance feels undeniable, which makes me even sadder for Reese Witherspoon, who did similarly career-best work in Big Little Lies. Coon should have also been nominated for The Leftovers (for three seasons running in different categories), so seeing her win here would be lovely validation, but I'll really be kind of sad if anyone other than Kidman wins, so sterling and surprising was her performance.

But really, this category is just a little bit less for not including Bryce Dallas Howard.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDancin' Dan

Yas Reese, you make a good point. Reese's Madeleine is the showier character. She is who we meet first. We want to know *why* it will change everyone's lives that she befriends Shailene Woodley's character and how she is besties with Celeste despite being her polar opposite. She also gets to be funny, which goes a long way (Lange won in this category for her campiest, least tragic AHS character).

Kidman is riveting, but it's a slow burn of a performance. Her finest scene is a very low-volume therapy session with the amazing Robin Weigert. It's a beautiful performance as she has to let us know that she is finally realizing the monster that her husband is but also refusing to let anybody know that she knows.

What excites me most about this category is that the Emmys, unlike the Globes, don't necessarily care who the biggest name is. Remember the hype all show a few years ago when Julia Roberts was nominated and Kathy Bates won instead?

I still love Huffman's upset win in 2006.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

Yas Reese -- i wish i had your confidence about them passing on Lange but the Emmy voters love her and she's a default choice to win, the way Meryl is to nominate. I hope it doesn't happen but i wouldn't be surprised. I haven't seen Fargo or this season of American Crime but i'd rank the other performances like so

KIDMAN (perfection)
REESE (amazing. possibly career best work)

SUSAN (uneven but i like the mix of mimicry and interpretation rather than just straight mimicry)
LANGE (fine but very Lange in AHS only in Hollywood... absolutely no hint of Crawford)

In short I don't think the Feud performances are worthy to be mentioned in the same sentence as the Big Little Lies performances even though they have their moments.

August 22, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Nicole deserves to win by lightyears but I'm braced for a Lange win. Why shouldn't I be?

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

A big factor is "are the voters watching the entire season of these shows?" From my bubble (I live in Hollywood / work in the industry/35 year ld male) - everyone watched Big Little Lies and Feud in it's entirety - and in real time. Again, that's my bubble. I don't know if that's the case with Fargo or American Crime.

Assuming it's down to one of the 4 Oscar winners, and assuming their entire season has been watched, I'd give the edge to Kidman because -
- Susan - while fantastic, her character was slighted in the writing & editing
- Jessica - she created a complicated character but to me the tone was repetitive. And did anyone think she embodied the real Crawford? I'm not sure if that matters.
- Reese - beyond brilliant and so fun to watch. She dominated the first few episodes .. but if you watched through the end ..
- Nicole is who you keep thinking about after the show ends. It's a haunting performance and unexpected arch for the character (who starts out as a minor presence).

I'd probably vote for Reese, but Nicole seems most likely.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEllsworth

I"m hoping that the new voting process for the last two years points to Nicole prevailing over Lange who has a few Emmys already.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJoseph

I also think that Kidman should and will win. What we got with BLL was a performance not quite like anything we'd ever seen from her before. She's always been an intelligent, even cerebral actress, but Celeste was such a thoughtful and patient characterisation. Reese is wonderful, and absolutely on top of her game, but she's layering in elements of her own star persona in a way that might make lazy voters think she's doing something we've seen before?

Agreed entirely with you, Nathaniel, on Lange and Sarandon. Both had their moments, and I much preferred Sarandon's approach to the material, but it's not comparable.

Pity poor Felicity Huffman on the outside looking in, with a much quieter character than she's been given before on American Crime, but no less interesting a performance.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterben1283

Ellsworth - you make a really good point (though I'm not predicting Kidman because i dont wanna be disappointed). what do you do in Hollywood?

Keegan -- i dont think Reese (or Coon actually) are out of the question though online media seems to think its simply Kidman vs Lange.

August 22, 2017 | Registered CommenterNATHANIEL R

Carrie Coon!

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterManuel

I really loved Coon in Fargo .. she is also great in The Leftovers.

Kidman had her moment or two, but was not constant.

Reece, for me was the better of the two and I would vote for her. One got a full picture of her.

Lange and Sarandon... the less said, the better.

Coon for the win.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commenternatalie

Poor Oprah lol.


August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

The only way I'd accept a Nicole loss is if it's to Reese. And I know they'd be equally happy for each other too.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterPhilip H.

Nicole all the way. She has never won an Emmy. Lange was not a good Crawford.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterTom Ford

I hope Lange or Kidman gets it. They were my favorite performances in film or television that I've seen in a while.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterty

As much as i love Jessica Lange and Susan Sarandon, i really think Regina Hall was robbed of a nomination in LEAD for the third season of American Crime, even more than Woodley.

Anyway, i would be thrilled to see Kidman win the Emmy, but a part of me would be sad for Witherspoon who deserves the trophy just as much. So i'm hoping for a tie, but it won't happen for a million year so let's hope the voters go for Coon, just as a big SORRY for the Leftovers snub.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterClement_Paris

The good outcome here is that if Nicole and/or Reese lose their individual category, they're going to still be Emmy winners by the end of the night since BLL is easily walking away with Limited Series (Sorry, don't really buy Feud...people are STILL buzzing about BLL while it seems that Feud is kinda no1curr)

As for who's winning, I'm still predicting Kidman since she has major buzz AND reviews (plus she's really working the campaign trail) though it wouldn't shock me if they just vote for Lange since this is the Emmys and they're known for being 15 minutes behind on everything with buzz and they're obsessed with her. I could see Coon winning if she had also been nominated for The Leftovers. As is, I don't see it. I think Reese, Felicity and Susan are bringing up the rear. I know everyone was talking about Reese at the start of BLL but, as great and fun as she was, her character becomes increasingly inconsequential as the show progresses as it majorly shifts to Kidman and Woodley's characters. By the end we're left with an adultery plot that not even her show seemed interested in lol. She's simply not who you go out of that series thinking about.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercw

I loved Lange

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMark

Can we get a shared win for Reese and Nicole? I think that Reese actually has the harder role than Kidman. I think Kidman is great in the show but I think the hosannas she's gotten are in part because of the sympathy for the role rather than entirely about the performance.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterAndrew Rech

Nicole Kidman would be my pick, but I think Jessica Lange takes it. She has so much going for her (contemporary legend playing Old Hollywood legend, aging through the series and decrying ageism, role that offers the opportunity to both do glamourous and deglam, heartbreaking performance) and the show so skews on her favor (Sarandon almost feels like a supporting player), that she probably won't suffer as much from vote splitting as Kidman, who, on the other hand, has a dynamite performance by Reese Witherspoon to compete with.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

Are you sure this is not the Oscar in the year that Carrie Coon is the first-time nominee?

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterjack

I am on Team Reese, but Kidman and Lange are right behind her with equally stellar performances.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterBhuray

@ Clement Paris

It's Regina King you're talking about, not Hall (who was in Girls Trip).


I wouldn't be surprised if The Night Of won since it over-performed in nods and has been more well received than the mixed/lukewarm reception (at least among straight men) towards BLL and Feud.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJess

Really, really difficult. I'd vote for Lange if I could.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrandz

@Jess, I suppose a case could be made for The Night Of since it got more noms than expected, but it's still behind both BLL and Feud in nomination totals (Night Of has 13 to BLL's 16 and Feud's 18...and one would assume that BLL's total would be even more if it had multiple directors, for instance) and it aired so long ago, which never helps especially if the perceived frontrunner(s) happen to be the ones most fresh in voters minds. Plus, if I'm remembering correctly, there was actually a bit of critical backlash for the show as it reached its conclusion when you could argue the opposite happened with BLL. That's the problem with only seeing and then reviewing the first couple episodes of something as it sometimes isn't an accurate depiction of the reception of a show when it reaches its finale.

I think the story behind The Night Of at this point is The Arrival of Riz Ahmed. So, if buzz is to be believed, a win for him would be a way to recognize that show in a big way. I'm predicting him.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commentercw

I'm seeing a few people mention Reese deserving it more bc she was very in your face from episode 1, but I find what Nicole did more impressive because it's such a slow burn of a performance that just builds and builds until it just leaves everyone watching in a pool of devastation lol. Every single decision she made with that character was incredibly on point. From how deliberately opaque she is when we first meet her until the veil is finally lifted (at which point her withdrawal makes *so* much sense) to her body language in the therapy scenes. I mean, Nicole has done subtle before, but not quite like this. She's done nudity and sex scenes before, but never this raw and uncomfortable. Reese, while fun, kind of starts at 11 and stays there. There's not much room for contemplation and her big arc in the whole story was pretty flimsy at best. But, yeah, she's fun.

This is Kidman vs. Lange with Coon having an outside shot.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJessica

I think (hope) it's Kidman and the idea that it is a close race is a public relations myth. Lange's portrayal of Crawford was divisive and Feud was not the cultural smash that it was anticipated to be (it actually lost viewers each night). If Lange wins a fourth Emmy (!) for another Ryan Murphy production, I think people would politely clap but secretly feel that Nicole was robbed for an excellent and seamless performance that is one of her career best.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterHenry

It is definitely a KIDMAN-WITHERSPOON narrow down, I want Kidman to win and she deserves it, but BLL was only the second time (after Wild) that I found Reese watchable, usually she`s utterly annoying and over the top but I gotta give to her here, she`s awesome in BLL, it`s a showy, brave, funny and layered performance. Nicole is in her usual perfection in a very delicate and complex character. Having said that Coon is brilliant but there`s no way she can steal the limelight here, Huffman has been better in previous AC seasons, Sarandon is fun to watch and act circles around Lang, that honestly shouldn`t even have been nominated. Love Jessica since forever, but her performance in Feud is bad, bad, bad! By the way, think The Night Of will and should win as Best Television Limited Series , BLL is good but TNO is superb.

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEder Arcas

Is stoicism perfection?

August 22, 2017 | Unregistered Commenternatalie

This should be Lange's. As brilliant as Nicole was, Jessica conjured a miracle: she convinced us she was Crawford through sheer will and talent.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

natalie- stoicism ? Really ?

Kidman emerged as the real showstopper. She has the most ambitious narrative arc in the series, the widest gap between appearance and truth. To friends and neighbors, her relationship with her husband looks dreamy and lustful; it’s actually a maelstrom of codependency and marital rape and she delivers every emotion masterfully and overall Nicole is a brilliant actress, she shines regardless the quality of the material she`s given , from excellent ones ( Birth, Dogville, To Die For, Eyes Wide Shut, The Hours) to the just average ( Cold Mountain, The Human Stain) and even the poor ones ( The Interpreter, Queen of the Desert).

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterEder Arcas

Kidman for the win, for all of the reasons outlined already. (Witherspoon is a not-so-distant second—oh, how I'd love to see a tie in this category!)

I don't see Coon as a dark horse; I mean, the Emmys didn't even nominate her for The Leftovers (fools), so I seriously doubt they're in a mindset to "make it up to her" for the snub.

Lange does NOT deserve to win, final episode of Feud or not. She should've won for American Horror Story: Asylum, but that's it. (I'm still pissed she won over Drew Barrymore in Grey Gardens!)

I'm glad Felicity Huffman has an Emmy, but that should be for an earlier season of American Crime (or, better yet, Sports Night). Teri Hatcher should've won for the first season of Desperate Housewives—she was aces.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMareko

I get the impression more than enough people who are Team Feud liked Sarandon more than Lange to prevent either from winning. Just as I feel more than enough people who are TeamBLL are siding with Witherspoon to prevent a Kidman win.

I'm feeling Coon a lot. Especially for the banner year she had. But it's between her, Lange and Kidman. Despite Reese being an equally major star, the final episodes led Kidman to really become the face of the show, so I do see less splitting the vote between them as I see between Lange and Sarandon.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterSteve_Man

TEAM NICOLE KIDMAN FOR THE WIN! An acting masterpiece.
Reese is showier but lacks the emotional crescendo.
Carrie Coon is the only spoiler that I would be happy for if she wins. Delivering Fargo and The Leftovers (for which she SHOULD have been nominated too) is an achievement in itself.
Haven't watched Felicity.
Out of the two Feud women, I actually prefer Susan but it does bother me that she obviously did not have the same screentime as Lange.
Lange is superb in the role but it's too hammy at times and SHE ALREADY ROBBED DREW BARRYMORE'S EMMY!

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterCraver

Kidman, but Reese is such a close 2nd.

And Oprah should be here.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

I don't think Witherspoon should've been nominated. Huffman would be a great pick. Such diverse characters in "American Crime" and in this season she portrayed a somehow opposite of her season 1 character, yet equally terrificaly played, and she has an Emmy for "Desperate Housewives"? Correct this, voters.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMe34

To Die For and Rabbit Hole and Paperboy I liked.
I just feel she needs to up herrange of emotions.
I find her choices of roles to be unemotional.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered Commenternatalie

They Emmys have disbanded the blue ribbon panels that produced so many odd winners over the years. The entire Academy votes now votes on all the acting awards is my understanding. Episode submissions have become virtually irrelevant. Kidman wins this by a close margin. She was spectacular.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterMichael R

Most of you see NICOLE KIDMAN and say spectacular. I see NICOLE KIDMAN and I say adequate!

Sorry... I know this is not a popular choice here, but I enjoy this blog and say what I feel is what I see and enjoy.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered Commenternatalie

@Natalie - not all of us who think she should win are Kidman fanatics. I'm not - I agree with you that often she's merely adequate - but she was spectacular in BLL which is why I want her to win.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterDJDeeJay

Mareko, agreed! I did love Felicity's win in part of her speech, but Teri really was the show that year. She won the Globe and SAG that year. I remember she should have submitted "Guilty" over "Move On."

I watched the pilot again of BLL with my roommate, who wasn't that into it. Rewatching Kidman is GLORIOUS in retrospect, because it's there. She loves watching her husband play with the boys and recognizes he's a great father, adored and respected by his kids. But then during the scene where Ziggy is accused, her discomfort and underlying fear is there, too. It's masterful.

August 23, 2017 | Unregistered CommenterJakey

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