Sat. Sep 19th, 2020

2020 Emmys: Laura Dern (‘Big Little Lies’) could emerge as the 5th actor to win an Oscar and Emmy in the same year

It has been a knockout year for Laura Dern, who took home the Best Supporting Actress Oscar and all but steamrolled the rest of the awards season for her turn in Marriage Story. 2020 might get even sweeter, however, as Dern again contends at the Emmys for her scene-stealing portrayal of Renata Klein on Big Little Lies.

Dern, who scored the Limited Series/TV Movie Supporting Actress prize for the series in 2017, will this time around vie for consideration in the Drama Supporting Actress category. Should she emerge triumphant, she will join an elite group of actors who earned both an Oscar and Emmy in the same year – the fifth to date, following in the footsteps of George C. Scott (who triumphed at the Oscars for Patton and the Emmys for The Price in the same year), Liza Minnelli (Cabaret and Liza with a Z), Helen Hunt (As Good As It Gets and Mad About You) and, most recently, Helen Mirren (The Queen and Prime Suspect: The Final Act).

Since Mirren’s victories, several actors have vied to join this exclusive club of winners but fallen short. Matthew McConaughey, for instance, contended for Dallas Buyers Club at the Oscars and True Detective at the Emmys in the same year but only triumphed for the former. Viola Davis and Allison Janney took home Oscars for Fences and I, Tonya, respectively, but came up short at the Emmys in those years for How to Get Away with Murder and Mom.

What are Dern’s odds of pulling a Mirren, as opposed to a McConaughey, this year? Let’s dive into the Drama Supporting Actress field.

With Game of Thrones, which filled up four of last year’s six slots in the category, no longer in Emmy contention, Dern’s chances of at least scoring a nomination are probably quite high. Couple that with her status as something of an Emmy mainstay, with seven career nominations on her resume, and Dern has to feel all the more confident about earning an eighth bid this year. Moreover, Dern’s second Big Little Lies outing was another strong one, with much of the season focused on the disintegration of Renata’s marriage and finances. She won’t have any problem submitting a robust episode for voters’ consideration.

On the flip side, this is a category with a history of repeat winners, with the likes of Anna Gunn (Breaking Bad), Blythe Danner (Huff) and Allison Janney (The West Wing), among others, scoring back-to-back Drama Supporting Actress wins. That perhaps bodes well for defending champion Julia Garner (Ozark), who may enter this race the front-runner, albeit a soft one at that. She’ll have to contend with formidable category newcomers Helena Bonham Carter (The Crown) and Meryl Streep (Big Little Lies), the latter sporting an impressive 3-for-4 career track record in Emmy wins. Add past nominees Thandi Newton (Westworld), Ann Dowd (The Handmaid’s Tale), Yvonne Strahovski (The Handmaid’s Tale) and Fiona Shaw (Killing Eve) into the mix, plus potential Drama Supporting Actress first-timers Sarah Snook (Succession), Janet McTeer (Ozark) and Rhea Seehorn (Better Call Saul), and you’re looking at a fierce category where eye-raising snubs on nominations morning are all but inevitable. 

What Dern’s chances may ultimately come down to is the extent to which this season of Big Little Lies is embraced by Emmy voters. In 2017, it was the toast of the ceremony, all but sweeping the Limited Series categories. It also made a killing at the Golden Globes and SAG Awards. Thus far, the awards reception for Big Little Lies’ second outing has paled in comparison, with Dern, who won the Golden Globe and earned a SAG nomination for the first season, not earning recognition from either body. Moreover, Big Little Lies’ sophomore season aired nearly a year ago and may not be fresh in voters’ minds as they take to their ballots. 

If, however, there is anyone who can overcome these obstacles, it is Dern, an expert awards season campaigner who has worked with countless figures on the big and small screens. In a race this busy and devoid of a clear favorite, a strong episode submission, coupled with the afterglow of an Oscar win, might just be enough to make it across the finish line. 

Andrew Carden is a contributing writer at Gold Derby and writes about all things Oscar on his blog, The Awards Connection. When he’s not on Twitter, lamenting Thelma Ritter’s 0-for-6 record in Best Supporting Actress, Andrew works in Massachusetts politics.

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