Sun. Sep 27th, 2020

2020 Emmys: Will Jonathan Banks (‘Better Call Saul’) finally score an elusive Drama Supporting Actor win?

With six career nominations under his belt, including five in just the past decade, Jonathan Banks is a true mainstay of Drama Supporting Actor at the Emmys. In fact, he holds the distinction of being the lone performer to earn recognition in the category for three different programs (Wiseguy, Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul).

This year, Banks is on the verge of setting another record in the category, albeit one he’d perhaps like to avoid.

Currently, the Better Call Saul scene-stealer is tied with Ed Begley, Jr. (St. Elsewhere) for most nominations without a win in the category. Another appearance without victory would break that tie, leaving Banks the distinction of biggest Drama Supporting Actor loser in Emmy history. An 0-for-7 record would mirror the losing streaks set by Jason Alexander (Seinfeld) and Peter Boyle (Everybody Loves Raymond), who too never triumphed for their turns over in Comedy Supporting Actor.

Can Banks avoid this dubious distinction at the 2020 Emmys? There are factors working for and against the veteran actor this time around.

On one hand, all of this year’s Drama Supporting Actor contenders can breathe some sigh of relief – Peter Dinklage (Game of Thrones), the recent juggernaut of this category, who twice topped Banks and prevailed four times over the past decade, is no longer in the running. Moreover, Banks had a strong fifth season on Better Call Saul – arguably his best to date – and will have several robust episodes to choose from for submission. 

There is also precedent for actors waiting so long for that elusive Emmy win. It took Harry Morgan (December Bride and M*A*S*H) and Loretta Swit (M*A*S*H), for instance, seven tries before they triumphed in Comedy Supporting Actor and Comedy Supporting Actress, respectively. Ted Danson waited until his eighth Comedy Actor nomination to prevail for Cheers, while Jon Hamm played the same waiting game in Drama Actor for Mad Men.

On the flip side, there is another losing streak to speak of that cannot instill Banks with much confidence – Better Call Saul’s dismaying 0-for-32 record at the Emmys. Perhaps, with Game of Thrones now in the rearview mirror, Better Call Saul will stand a better shot at finally picking up a win somewhere but, thus far at least, there seems to be more apathy than passion toward the AMC series when voters approach their ballots.

Banks will also need to contend with a plethora of fresh faces, including SAG nominee and Critics’ Choice winner Billy Crudup (The Morning Show), Tom Pelphrey (Ozark), Josh O’Connor (The Crown), last year’s Drama Guest Actor winner Bradley Whitford (The Handmaid’s Tale) and the gentlemen from Succession (Kieran Culkin and Matthew Macfadyen). Add past nominees Giancarlo Esposito (Better Call Saul), Joseph Fiennes (The Handmaid’s Tale), David Harbour (Stranger Things) and Mandy Patinkin (Homeland) into the mix and you have a category so chaotic that it’s conceivable, albeit unlikely, that Banks misses out on a nomination altogether.

Ultimately, this category lacks a clear front-runner – which, should AMC run the right campaign, stressing how due their star is for a win, coupled with a knockout episode for voters’ consideration, could be the exactly the environment Banks needs to finally emerge triumphant. 

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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