Over the course of Emmy history, six actors have scored two trophies in the same year for different performances. This year, with her acclaimed nominated turns on Hacks and Mare of Easttown, the legendary Jean Smart might just join this elite group of Emmy favorites.
There have been several occasions in Emmy history where an actor has scored multiple prizes for the same performance.
In 1956, Phil Silvers and Nanette Fabray won two trophies a piece for The Phil Silvers Show and Caesar’s Hour, respectively, and in 1972, Glenda Jackson picked up a pair of awards for her turn in Elizabeth R. Then, there was 1974, the strange year of the “Super Emmy,” in which additional prizes for Actor and Actress of the Year were handed out, leading to multiple wins for Alan Alda (M*A*S*H), Mary Tyler Moore (The Mary Tyler Moore Show), Hal Holbrook (Pueblo), Michael Moriarty (The Glass Menagerie) and Joanna Miles (also The Glass Menagerie). The Super Emmy proved a one-year affair.
Not until the following year, with Cloris Leachman’s wins for The Mary Tyler Moore Show and Cher, did an actor score two Emmys in the same year for different performances. Leachman would be followed by Colleen Dewhurst (Those She Left Behind and Murphy Brown) in 1989, James Earl Jones (Gabriel’s Fire and Heat Wave) in 1991, Shirley Knight (Indictment: The McMartin Trial and NYPD Blue) in 1995, Stockard Channing (The West Wing and The Matthew Shepard Story) in 2002 and, most recently, Allison Janney (Mom and Masters of Sex) in 2014.
Is Smart on the verge of emerging the seventh actor to pull off this remarkable feat? Let’s dive into her categories but first take a look at Smart’s Emmy track record.
With her bids for Hacks and Mare of Easttown, Smart is contending on her 10th and 11th career Emmy nominations. She’s emerged triumphant on three occasions, twice in Comedy Guest Actress for her turn on Frasier in 2000 and 2001, and most recently in Comedy Supporting Actress for Samantha Who? in 2008. With five of her nominations arriving within the past decade, Smart has emerged a legit Emmy mainstay.
Smart’s bid in Comedy Lead Actress for her magnificent turn as Las Vegas comic Deborah Vance marks the first occasion she’s contended in a Lead category at the Emmys. With a healthy haul of 15 nominations, making it among this year’s most recognized programs, it is clear Emmy voters are exceedingly fond of Smart’s show. Combine that with their proven affection for Smart herself and she sure looks like the one to beat. That said, her competition is formidable.
The Flight Attendant’s nine nominations may pale a bit in comparison to Hacks’ showing but star Kaley Cuoco has scored no shortage of acclaim and chatter for her leading turn. On her fifth Comedy Lead Actress bid without a win, Tracee Ellis Ross (Black-ish) is looking increasingly overdue and, her show having this year ended its run, this marks the final opportunity for Emmy favorite Allison Janney to pick up another prize for her turn on Mom. Rounding out the category is Shrill’s Aidy Bryant, who too is a double nominee this year with Saturday Night Live but likely more of a long shot than Smart to score a win.
Smart’s second bid comes in a category she’s no stranger to, Limited Series Supporting Actress, where she recently contended for Watchmen and Fargo, coming up short on both occasions. Nominated for her scene-stealing turn as Helen Fahey, mother to Kate Winslet’s Mare, Smart is facing four first-time Emmy nominees (Mare of Easttown’s Julianne Nicholson, Hamilton’s Renée Elise Goldsberry and Phillipa Soo, and The Queen’s Gambit’s Moses Ingram) and WandaVision’s Kathryn Hahn, contending on her second career Emmy nomination.
With all of these programs raking in heaps of Emmy nominations – 23 for WandaVision, 18 for The Queen’s Gambit, 16 for Mare of Easttown and 12 for Hamilton – it’s not easy forecasting who voters will love most here. If there’s a front-runner, however, it’s likely Hahn, who scored raves for her turn and has been a television mainstay over the past two decades. Smart is not, however, to be counted out, nor is her Mare co-star Nicholson. Goldsberry, who won a Tony for her Hamilton turn and also scored great notices for her work this year on Girls5eva, must also be taken seriously.
All things considered, it is more likely than not that Smart picks up at least one win on Emmy night, with Comedy Lead Actress probably the more conquerable of the two categories. Given the momentum for Hacks and Mare of Easttown, combined with the industry’s enduring fondness for Smart herself, it is undoubtedly possible she pulls off both.
The 73rd Primetime Emmy Awards will be held on September 17, 2021 in Los Angeles.