Like father, like son: The race for Best Drama Supporting Actor has become a family affair.
Alexander Skarsgård, an Emmy winner for HBO’s limited-turned-ongoing-drama “Big Little Lies,” is facing off against his father, veteran actor Stellan Skarsgård, after the former’s increased presence in the final season of “Succession” necessitated a move from Best Drama Guest Actor — where he was nominated last year — to supporting actor.
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The younger Skarsgård joined the two-time Emmy winner for Best Drama Series in Season 3 as Lukas Matsson, a shrewd Swedish tech giant who’s set his sights on acquiring Waystar Royco, a transaction that has become increasingly complicated and contentious in the wake of the death of family patriarch Logan Roy (Brian Cox) in the third episode of the HBO show’s 10-episode fourth season. ASkars made his sixth appearance in “Church and State” and will be in seven episodes altogether. Emmy rules stipulate that only performers appearing in less than 50 percent of a show’s eligible episodes can submit in the guest performer categories. So Alexander will face off against dear old dad, who earned his first Emmy nom in 2019 for his portrayal of Boris Shcherbina in HBO’s critically acclaimed limited series “Chernobyl” (HBO really loves the Skarsgårds, eh?). This year, Stellan is eligible for his turn as Luthen Rael, a ruthless Rebel leader willing to do whatever it takes to destroy the Galactic Empire on the Disney+ Star Wars series “Andor.”
But both father and son have some work to do if they hope to compete against each other as nominees. Skarsgård the younger is currently sitting in 10th place in Gold Derby’s combined odds to snag a bid, while Stellan is right behind him in 11th. The good news is, five of last year’s nominees are ineligible because “Severance,” “The Morning Show” and “Squid Game” did not air new episodes during the eligibility window. Meanwhile, Kieran Culkin — a two-time nominee for “Succession” and Alexander’s scene partner in one of the most talked-about moments of the season — is competing in lead, which opens up yet another slot. This means only two actors from last year’s crop of nominees can possibly return.
“Succession’s” Matthew Macfadyen, who won last year, leads the category with 4/1 odds, and with Tom’s recent balcony blowout with Shiv (Sarah Snook), he’s making a strong push to repeat. The other possible returnee is also from “Succession”: two-time supporting actor nominee Nicholas Braun, who plays Cousin Greg and sits in seventh place at 14/1 odds. Emmy voters have twice nominated three supporting actors from “Succession,” so it’s possible ASkars could translate last year’s guest nomination into a supporting one and slide into the space left by Culkin’s departure. But Alan Ruck, who portrays eldest Roy sibling Connor (and who is still looking for his first Emmy bid for his performance), is ahead of him in the odds, sitting in fifth place at 23/2. Do Emmy voters love the show enough to nominate four actors? It’s happened before, but not since 2002, when “The West Wing’s” John Spencer, Richard Schiff, Dulé Hill and Bradley Whitford were all nominated in a field of six (Spencer won). It happened much more recently on the drama supporting actress side: four “Game of Thrones” stars were recognized in 2019 on an unlimited ballot. However, the Emmys will return to a restricted ballot and the drama supporting actor field has plenty of alternatives.
Giancarlo Esposito, a previous nominee for both AMC’s “Better Call Saul” and Disney+’s “The Mandalorian,” is currently in second place (15/2 odds) for his performance in the former series’ own swan song. He is one of only two actors to have been nominated in the category for three separate shows — the other is his “Saul” co-star Jonathan Banks, who currently sits just ahead of the Skarsgårds in ninth place (20/1). Also looking for bids this year are F. Murray Abraham of HBO’s limited-turned-drama-series “The White Lotus” (third place, 17/2), Matt Smith of the network’s “Game of Thrones” spin-off “House of the Dragon” (fourth, 10/1), John Lithgow of FX’s “The Old Man” (sixth, 14/1) and Jonathan Pryce of Netflix’s “The Crown” (eighth, 16/1). And though Abraham is currently the only predicted “White Lotus” actor to get in, don’t count out his co-stars, which include former winner Michael Imperioli (13th place, 68/1).
At this point it seems more likely the younger Skarsgård will be the family member to thwart the odds and snag a nomination for Best Drama Supporting Actor — he’s a former winner and has already been nominated for his performance as Matsson. And there has been precedence for someone like him — a recurring guest star who maxed out of the guest category — to score a supporting bid. Sterling K. Brown earned a Best Comedy Supporting Actor nomination in 2020 after appearing in four of “The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel’s” eight episodes in Season 3. Like Alexander, he was a previous winner (and a two-time one at that).
On the flip side, Alexander could suffer the safe fate as a previous season-long Roy foil: Holly Hunter portrayed Pierce Global Media CEO Rhea Jarrell, who rejects Logan’s CEO offer, in six episodes of “Succession’s” 10-episode second season. The Oscar winner was not nominated for Best Drama Supporting Actress, but that was when “Succession” was finally breaking out and the acting branch was clearly catching up to it, as the show went from zero acting nominations for Season 1 to nine for Season 2. Given its record-breaking 14 acting bids last year, it’s not wild to think that Hunter would’ve made the cut had she been in Season 3. You could say she appeared too early to get swept up in the “Succession” Emmy love, which has just grown every year. Advantage Alex.
“Succession” is also airing now, while “Andor” streamed in the fall, which means it’s likely not at the forefront of voters’ minds. However, Stellan’s portrayal of one of the most nuanced characters in “Star Wars” canon should not be overlooked so easily. Luthen is a man who has dedicated his life to destroying the Empire through any means necessary, a cause that blurs the line between good and evil in a world where it’s previously been cut and dry. With a performance that is somehow best described as menacing elegance, Stellan is remarkable, delivering many standout moments throughout the show’s first season. And lest we forget: “Andor” was also a critical and commercial success, hailed by many as the best “Star Wars” program to date. Emmy voters have already proven they like the ever-expanding “Star Wars” universe, having twice nominated “The Mandalorian” for Best Drama Series while handing out a few acting nominations as well (in addition to Esposito, Timothy Olyphant and Carl Weathers have also been nominated for Best Drama Guest Actor). So a bid for Stellan doesn’t feel as out of reach as it might initially appear.
In the end, nominations for father and son likely come down to a few things: how enamored Emmy voters are with “Succession,” whether the end of “Better Call Saul” made enough of an impression that Esposito and Banks are able to return to the fold, and if Mando’s goodwill might extend to “Andor.” Reading comprehension and knowing which Skarsgård is which might also play a role, but we’re going to assume Emmy voters know the difference (ASkars is the Tall Dude from “True Blood”).
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