With six wins on 12 nominations, John Lithgow is an unimpeachable Emmy favorite. This year, with his 13th career bid, this time in Drama Supporting Actor for his scene-stealing turn as attorney E.B. Jonathan on Perry Mason, Lithgow is on the verge of making Emmy history.
Lithgow, who scored his six Emmys for Amazing Stories (in 1986), 3rd Rock from the Sun (in 1996, 1997 and 1999), Dexter (in 2010) and The Crown (in 2017), is currently tied with Art Carney and Tyne Daly as the trio of actors with half a dozen acting Emmys apiece. Should Lithgow emerge victorious and secure a seventh win, he will tie Ed Asner as the most awarded male actor in Emmy history. Asner’s seven wins came via The Mary Tyler Moore Show (in 1971, 1972 and 1975), Rich Man, Poor Man (in 1976), Roots (in 1977) and Lou Grant (in 1978 and 1980).
It should be noted, of course, that Lithgow and Asner would still trail the overall record-holders, Cloris Leachman and Julia Louis-Dreyfus, both eight-time Emmy winners for acting, and Allison Janney has a shot at becoming an eight-time winner this year with the final nomination for her hit comedy Mom.
What are the odds Lithgow pulls off this remarkable feat? Let’s take a dive into Drama Supporting Actor.
This crowded eight-nominee field seems to lack a legitimate front-runner. If there is one, it might just be Lovecraft Country’s Michael K. Williams, the veteran actor who has been a mainstay of the small screen for more than two decades and, on his fifth career Emmy nomination, is looking plenty due for that elusive win in a category that has never had a Black winner in all of Emmy history. It doesn’t hurt that his program scored a whopping 18 Emmy nominations overall, indicating enthusiastic support from voters. Williams is not, however, the lone overdue veteran in this lineup.
Among the other nominees is The Mandalorian’s Giancarlo Esposito, also on his fifth career Emmy bid and for a program that raked in even more Emmy nominations, a jaw-dropping 24. Tobias Menzies could ride the wave of The Crown support – a program that also scored 24 nominations – to victory and The Handmaid’s Tale’s haul of 21 nominations indicates robust industry support to give nominees O-T Fagbenle, Max Minghella and Bradley Whitford (who triumphed for his role in 2019, albeit in Drama Guest Actor) a fighting chance. And while This Is Us nominee Chris Sullivan might look like the category long-shot, it should be noted his series has won an acting Emmy for all but one of its seasons.
Lithgow ultimately enters this race in a more tenuous position than he did for the likes of The Crown and Dexter. With four overall nominations, Perry Mason was not widely embraced by Emmy voters and Lithgow’s turn, while acclaimed, has not generated nearly the chatter his portrayals of Winston Churchill and Arthur Mitchell did.
That said, this is still John Lithgow, one of the industry’s most beloved and recognized actors, and if anyone can overcome these hurdles, it’s someone of his stature. That the category lacks a clear favorite makes it all the more plausible he could pull this off.
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