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Game of Thrones Dominated The Emmys, Sort Of

By  · Published on September 19th, 2016

The curious case of Game of Thrones’ lack of acting awards.

As many predicted, Game of Thrones broke the all-time record for primetime Emmy awards last night. With three wins in 2016, the HBO series brought its total to 38, surpassing the previous record holder, Frasier, by one. Though its second consecutive victory for Outstanding Drama Series and its wins for Outstanding Directing and Outstanding Writing for a Drama Series are impressive, they conceal the show’s losses in the acting categories.

All six nominated actors and actresses failed to take home their respective awards on Sunday. Joanna Robinson of Vanity Fair attributes this loss to the new Emmy rules that mandate voters choose one favorite from each group of nominees instead of ranking them as was the procedure in years past. With two actors in one category and three actresses in another, the cast members may have split votes between themselves and given an edge to other performances. While I agree the rules didn’t help, the breadth of the cast at-large would have prevented the series from winning the awards for Best Supporting Actress and Best Supporting Actor in a Drama Series anyway.

Since its first season, Game of Thrones has received 18 nominations in the Emmys’ acting categories. Only Peter Dinklage has converted his nominations into wins for both the first and fifth seasons of the show. Still, after being nominated for each of the six seasons, he has lost more than he has won. What limits Dinklage’s awards potential, as well as that of the series’ other cast members, is the difficulty of shining brighter than other nominees on a show with a vast array of amazing performances and feats of spectacle. Sure, Downton Abbey has a huge cast, but Maggie Smith did not have to compete against any other actresses from her show to win the Best Supporting Actress award this year. Since 2013, two or three women have been nominated for Game of Thrones for that award every year.

However, even when there are no other nominees from the same show, as was the case for three of Dinklage’s fruitless nominations, stars on the fantasy epic still compete with actors and actresses that are the primary spotlight of their shows and the press coverage surrounding them. In fact, despite their notoriety, Game of Thrones cast members receive such a small share of screentime relative to people on other shows that they can only receive nominations in the supporting acting groups. Typical supporting actors, like this year’s winner Ben Mendelsohn and multi-year winner Aaron Paul, have way more time to captivate academy members with their performances.

The obvious counter to this claim is The People v. O.J. Simpson, which cleaned up the acting categories for Limited Series even with multiple nominees in each one. Besides the smaller size of the primary cast, the limited nature of the program impacts their awards wins as well. When performances have many opportunities to garner a win, as is the case on traditional dramas, voters may treat them with diminished priority. On a show like O.J., each member of the cast only has one chance to win. Voters may be more willing to make tough decisions on voting in these instances. Also, the performances from winners Courtney B. Vance, Sterling K. Brown, and Sarah Paulson were absolutely stellar. Regardless, I am eager to see how the scope of Game of Thrones impacts its acting wins in future years. As the show nears its competition, its stars may receive some Return of the King style awards favor in recognition of their years of effort. They certainly deserve it.

Check out the full list of 2016 Primetime Emmy Award winners (with their fellow nominees) below:

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Comedy Series

Louie Anderson as Christine Baskets

Baskets, HBO

Andre Braugher, Brooklyn Nine-Nine
Keegan-Michael Key, Key & Peele
Ty Burrell, Modern Family
Tituss Burgess, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Tony Hale, Veep
Matt Walsh, Veep

Outstanding Writing For A Comedy Series

Aziz Ansari and Alan Yang

Master Of None, Netflix

Rob Delaney and Sharon Horgan, Catastrophe
Dan O’Keefe, Silicon Valley
Alec Berg, Silicon Valley
David Mandel, Veep
Alex Gregory and Peter Huyck, Veep

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Comedy Series

Kate McKinnon as various characters

Saturday Night Live, NBC

Niecy Nash, Getting On
Allison Janney, Mom
Judith Light, Transparent
Gaby Hoffmann, Transparent
Anna Chlumsky, Veep

Outstanding Directing For A Comedy Series

Jill Soloway

Transparent, Amazon

Aziz Ansari, Master Of None
Alec Berg, Silicon Valley
Mike Judge, Silicon Valley
Dave Mandel, Veep
Chris Addison, Veep
Dale Stern, Veep

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Comedy Series

Julia Louis-Dreyfus as Selina Meyer

Veep, HBO

Ellie Kemper, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt
Laurie Metcalf, Getting On
Traces Ellis Ross, Black-ish
Amy Schumer, Inside Amy Schumer
Lily Tomlin, Grace and Frankie

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Comedy Series

Jeffrey Tambor as Maura Pfefferman

Transparent, Amazon

Anthony Anderson, Black-ish
Aziz Ansari, Master of None
Will Forte, The Last Man on Earth
William H. Macy, Shameless
Thomas Middleditch. Silicon Valley

Outstanding Reality-Competition Program

The Voice


The Amazing Race
American Ninja Warrior
Dancing with the Stars
Project Runway
Top Chef

Outstanding Writing For A Limited Series, Movie Or Dramatic Special

D.V. DeVincentis

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, FX Networks

Bob DeLaurentis, Fargo
Noah Hawley, Fargo
David Farr, The Night Manager
Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Joe Robert Cole, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie

Regina King as Terri Lacroix

American Crime, ABC

Melissa Leo, All The Way
Sarah Paulson, American Horror Story: Hotel
Kathy Bates, American Horror Story: Hotel
Jean Smart, Fargo
Olivia Colman, The Night Manager

Outstanding Directing For A Limited Series Or Movie

Susanne Bier

The Night Manager, AMC

Jay Roach, All The Way
Noah Hawley, Fargo
Ryan Murphy, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Anthony Hemingway, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
John Singleton, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Limited Series Or Movie

Sterling K. Brown as Christopher Darden

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, FX Networks

Jesse Plemons, Fargo
Bokeem Woodbine, Fargo
Hugh Laurie, The Night Manager
David Schwimmer, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
John Travolta, The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Limited Series Or Movie

Sarah Paulson as Marcia Clark

The People vs. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, FX Networks

Kirsten Dunst, Fargo
Felicity Huffman, American Crime
Audra McDonald, Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar & Grille
Lili Taylor, American Crime
Kerry Washington, Confirmation

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Limited Series or Movie

Courtney B. Vance as Johnnie Cochran

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story, FX Networks

Bryan Cranston, All The Way
Benedict Cumberbatch, Sherlock: The Abominable Bride
Idris Elba, Luther
Cuba Gooding Jr., The People v . O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story
Tom Hiddleston, The Night Manager

Outstanding Television Movie

Sherlock: The Abominable Bride (Masterpiece)


A Very Murray Christmas
All The Way

Outstanding Limited Series

The People v. O.J. Simpson: American Crime Story

FX Networks

American Crime
The Night Manager

Outstanding Writing For A Variety Special

Patton Oswalt: Talking For Clapping


Amy Schumer: Live At The Apollo
John Mulaney: The Comeback Kid
Tig Notaro: Boyish Girl Interrupted
Triumph’s Election Special 2016

Outstanding Variety Talk Series

Last Week Tonight with John Oliver


Comedians in Cars Getting Coffee
Jimmy Kimmel Live
The Late, Late Show with James Corden
Real Time with Bill Maher
The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon

Outstanding Directing For A Variety Special

Thomas Kail and Alex Rudzinski

Grease: Live, FOX

Beth McCarthy-Miller, Adele Live In New York City
Chris Rock, Amy Schumer: Live At The Apollo
Louis J. Horvitz, 58th Grammy Awards
Glenn Weiss, The Kennedy Center Honors
Kahlil Joseph and Beyoncé Knowles Carter, Lemonade

Outstanding Variety Sketch Series

Key & Peele

Comedy Central

Documentary Now!
Drunk History
Inside Amy Schumer
Saturday Night Live

Outstanding Writing For A Drama Series

David Benioff and D.B. Weiss

Game Of Thrones, HBO

Joel Fields and Joe Weisberg, The Americans
Julian Fellowes, Downton Abbey
Robert King and Michelle King, The Good Wife
Sam Esmail, Mr. Robot
Marti Noxon and Sarah Gertrude Shapiro, UnREAL

Outstanding Supporting Actress In A Drama Series

Maggie Smith as Violet, Dowager Countess of Grantham

Downton Abbey, PBS

Maura Tierney, The Affair
Lena Headey, Game Of Thrones
Emilia Clarke, Game Of Thrones
Maisie Williams, Game Of Thrones
Constance Zimmer, UnREAL

Outstanding Directing For A Drama Series

Miguel Sapochnik

Game Of Thrones, HBO

Michael Engler, Downton Abbey
Jack Bender, Game Of Thrones
Lesli Linka Glatter, Homeland
Steven Soderbergh, The Knick
David Hollander, Ray Donovan

Outstanding Supporting Actor In A Drama Series

Ben Mendelsohn as Danny Rayburn

Bloodline, HBO

Jonathan Banks, Better Call Saul
Peter Dinklage, Game Of Thrones
Kit Harington, Game Of Thrones
Michael Kelly, House Of Cards
Jon Voight, Ray Donovan

Outstanding Lead Actor In A Drama Series

Rami Malek as Elliot

Mr. Robot, USA

Kyle Chandler, Bloodline
Bob Odenkirk, Better Call Saul
Matthew Rhys, The Americans
Liev Schreiber, Ray Donovan
Kevin Spacey, House of Cards

Outstanding Lead Actress In A Drama Series

Tatiana Maslany as Sarah, Alison, Cosima, Helena, Rachel, M.K., Krystal

Orphan Black, BBC America

Claire Danes, Homeland
Viola Davis, How to Get Away with Murder
Taraji P. Henson, Empire
Keri Russell, The Americans
Robin Wright, House of Cards

Outstanding Comedy Series



Master of None
Modern Family
Silicon Valley
Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt

Outstanding Drama Series

Game of Thrones


The Americans
Better Call Saul
Downton Abbey
House of Cards
Mr. Robot

For more in-depth results and information on the nominees, go to the official results from the Television Academy.

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