It’s a weird year for award shows, to say the least, and considering the shakeup that TV has recently experienced thanks to COVID-19, it may be just the time to freshen up how we approach Emmy nominations. Vulture made this point with its recent list of “13 Emmy-Worthy Performances That Shouldn’t Be Overlooked,” which features actors who aren’t favored to make the cut. We support the idea of highlighting under-recognized performances and are giving you three of our top picks from Vulture’s list, along with the reasons why we think they deserve a nod at this year’s awards.
1. Cynthia Erivo for The Outsider
Erivo is quickly becoming a household name thanks to her Oscar-nominated performance in last year’s Harriet. Before that breakout role, the actor had accumulated other impressive film credits on her resume, such as Widows and Bad Times at the El Royale. The RADA-trained actor has also garnered attention for her work on the stage, winning both a Tony and a Grammy for her work in the Broadway revival of The Color Purple. And now Erivo has displayed her acting prowess within the world of television as a paranormal investigator in HBO’s The Outsider. The series was developed for TV by Richard Price from Stephen King’s bestselling novel of the same name. Jason Bateman claims an executive producer credit along with Price, and he also directed and starred in the series about detectives investigating a string of gruesome murders that may suggest a paranormal force behind them. Erivo shines in The Outsider as Holly Gibney, the investigator on the team who continues to point to an otherworldly culprit for the murders, even when her colleagues don’t want to believe it. In an interview with IndieWire, Erivo shared about her experience creating the character. “There was so much open to my own interpretation in the way she looked and wore her hair,” the actor noted. “Those details drew me in. I hadn’t done anything creatively like this before.” Considering the brilliant character work behind and execution of Erivo’s performance in The Outsider, we think her name is one that should make this year’s list of nominees for Supporting Actress in a Drama Series.
2. Shira Haas for Unorthodox
After watching her career-making performance in Unorthodox, you may be asking yourself, “Where did Shira Haas come from?” You may be surprised to find that the Israeli-born actor has been at it for a while. In an interview with Deadline, Haas said she’s been acting for almost nine years, and the young thespian has credits under her name like The Zookeeper’s Wife and Natalie Portman’s A Tale of Love and Darkness. The new Netflix mini-series, however, is the title that has put her name on the map. Haas stars in Unorthodox as Esther “Esty” Shapiro, a young woman who flees her Hasidic Jewish community in Brooklyn to find a new life in Berlin. The New York Times described Haas in the role as “a phenomenon, expressive and captivating.” And the actor’s breakout performance is made even more impressive by the fact that she learned Yiddish in two months for the role, not to mention her commitment to shaving her head for it. All things considered, we think Haas deserves a nomination for Lead Actress in a Limited Series or Movie.
3. Jane Levy for Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist
Vulture points out that musical comedy performances have not always gotten the most recognition when it comes to awards. The genre may not be as highly-regarded for genuinely-grounded and impactful storytelling, but Levy does just that with her performance as the titular star of NBC’s Zoey’s Extraordinary Playlist. The series works off of a refreshingly original premise that involves a young woman who can hear others’ thoughts expressed in the form of musical numbers. Levy brilliantly navigates the poignant moments when Zoey discovers how the ability can help her father, who is unable to speak due to Progressive Supranuclear Palsy. The actor shows her ability with both comedy and drama as she powerfully delivers on all the emotional highs and lows that come with the series’ storyline. The Hollywood Reporter’s TV reviewer Inkoo Kang also thinks Levy should get a nomination this year, and we’d like to see her name on the list of nominees for Lead Actress in a Comedy Series.
With July 13 marking the deadline for nomination ballots, we still have to wait until July 28 for the announcement of this year’s nominees. Here’s hoping that underdogs like Erivo, Haas, and Levy make it onto the list, even when faced with the stiff competition of better-known names. As Vulture put it, “We love Meryl Streep and Olivia Colman as much as the next person, but if there was ever a year to shine a spotlight on under-recognized performances, this one is it.”