Emmys 2012: The Supporting Drama Actor Race in Review, Including Our Dream Nominees

This year’s Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama race could come down to a duel between ’10 champ Aaron Paul (back in the running after a year of hiatus-imposed ineligibility) and last year’s victor Peter Dinklage (still very much on top of his, um, game.)

A wildcard to watch: Paul’s Breaking Bad co-star Giancarlo Esposito, who made one of TV’s most memorable exits ever.

More Emmy Races In Review | Outstanding Drama Series | Lead Drama Actor | Lead Drama Actress | Supporting Drama Actress | Outstanding Comedy Series | Lead Comedy Actor | Lead Comedy Actress | Supporting Comedy Actor | Supporting Comedy Actress | Outstanding Reality-Competition Series | Outstanding Movie/Miniseries

Review this slideshow of the major contenders — including TVLine’s Dream Nominees — then vote below for who you think are the six best. And check back Wednesday for our preview of the Supporting Actress Drama race!

Comments are monitored, so don’t go off topic, don’t frakkin’ curse and don’t bore us with how much your coworker’s sister-in-law makes per hour. Talk smart about TV!

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  1. lory says:


  2. Charlotte says:

    I only voted for Peter Dinklage. Just give him the Emmy now.

    • Elena says:

      How could Peter Dinkalage not be a dream nominee, tvline?! He’s incredible on the show. The last two episodes were incredibly strong ones from him.

      • Mike says:

        Because dinklage will likely be nominated and a favorite to win, he wouldn’t be a “dream” nominee. Noble has been deserving for his work over 4 seasons of fringe but never has been nominated. Hence…”dream” nominee. :) lol

        • ElKabong says:

          That would make sense except that Aaron Paul is a Dream Nominee and is also likely to be nominated and a favorite to win.

  3. Callan says:

    I think Alfie Allen who plays Theon Greyjoy on Game of Thrones is extremely deserving of a nomination. He made you feel simultaneous revulsion and pity for his character this season.

    • Emily says:

      I completely agree. Just because Alfie is not a well-known actor does not mean he is not deserving of a nominee. He is incredible, making you feel both disgusted by his character, and feeling pity for him at the same time.

    • Saint Alicia says:

      Agreed, he was particularly great in last night’s season finale.

    • lisa says:

      well if that’s the case I think the kid who plays Joffrey should totally be nominated too… I never thought I could hate a pretty blond boy that much, definitely one of the hardest roles to play in GoT.

  4. I’m sorry, why is Norman Reedus of “The Walking Dead” not on this list?

  5. Vikki Devine says:

    You should really swap out Ron Perlman for Opie from Sons Of Anarchy. Granted, it would never happen but this past season was him and he was great.

    • Carmen says:

      I beg to differ. While Opie/Ryan Hurst had GREAT moments (especially in the second half of season 4), it was really Clay’s transformation and lack of trust that lead to his own downfall that was subtly awesome and worthy of recognition. He shines through the entire run of the season (and show!), while Hurst only had a couple of memorable scenes/episodes. Still, I think the entire SoA cast is worthy of recognition. Truly one of the most underrated ensembles because Theo Rossi, Mark Boone Jr, and even Kurt Sutter himself had awesome scenes.

    • Ruby says:

      Most underrated actor on TV, IMO.

  6. Phoebe says:

    I fail to understand how John Noble doesn’t have a gazillion Emmy’s already. Meanwhile, Robert Carlyle’s performance is so over-the-top and super irritating to me. I don’t understand the appeal of his character at all.

    • jenna says:

      I really hope robert carlyle doesn’t get a nomination, yes the show is extremely popular but personally I haven’t found the acting to be all that outstanding. There are so many other more deserving actors (John Noble *hint hint*)

    • Meiriona says:

      You’ve obviously not seen the episodes he’s key player in. Carlyle puts in a lot of subtle depth to every moment, especially when you see the pre-magic Rumple. The pain comes through in every word, every tremble. Yes, the first few episodes Rumple is manic and over the top. But once the show starts to hint that he’s not a villain through and through, there’s a TON of beautiful work. Also, as Gold, I can’t see anything over the top about him.

  7. DP42 says:

    Sadly, I only watch one of those shows. I need to up my tv drama watching.

  8. Ci says:

    Gabriel Mann

  9. Dani says:

    I think it’s between Aaron Paul, Peter Dinklage and Mandy Patinkin for me. Massively different shows they’re in, but all outstanding performances.

  10. outlawjoz says:

    Best new drama on TV

  11. Pat says:

    Dinklage FTW. Esposito, Goggins, Leonard, Noble, Slattery.

  12. taylorrness says:

    Yes, Peter Dinklage is absolutely amazing, but the real stunner on this season of Game of Thrones has been Jack Gleeson’s Joffrey. HBO made a big mistake not submitting him this year, but he should get a nomination at least. Not one of the other “big bads” on this list has made the impact that Joffrey has on the collective consciousness, and for a young actor, it’s even more incredible. Why isn’t he on this list?

    • sbelkin says:

      Last year i was able to find a pdf with all the submissions by actors and shows for the emmys, but have not be able to find that for this year. I was curious if you knew where I could find something like that, since you remarked about Gleeson. Thanks!

      • Britta Unfiltered says:

        I know exactly what pdf file you’re talking about, I remember that from last year too. I also have been looking around online for that thing this year and can’t find it. Perhaps it just hasn’t been released to the public yet? I would love to get my hands on that to see all the nominees. I bet Gleeson really is submitted, just not highly publicized.

        • sbelkin says:

          thank you! I thought I was going crazy because I have been looking around the internet and just not finding it or anyone mentioning it. I hope it does get released at some point, I just loved seeing who submitted themselves and for what category.

    • AJ says:

      I had overlooked him, but you are right. He has done an amazing job with Joffrey.

    • robbieg says:


  13. Paul, Esposito, Cudlitz, Hatosy, Noble, Charles.

    I’d love to see that.

    However, where are the people from TREME?! Wendell Pierce is phenomenal.

    • Danyelle says:

      I wonder if Treme even qualifies for this year, it was on so long ago. Isn’t the cut-off like July?

      • Britta Unfiltered says:

        I think you are right, I’m not sure it qualifies either, though I think the eligibility period runs from June 1st-May 31st? I remember last year everyone was saying Khandi Alexander should have gotten nominated for her performance of being a rape victim in recovery. It wouldn’t matter though even if they were eligible, Treme has never gotten love from the Emmys. I think it’s just a not a well-enough known show, though it’s an absolutely deserving one. I love shows that are character studies.

    • Tahoe Mike says:

      I too think that Wendell Pierce should be nominated in this category.Steve Zahn probably deserves a nomination too. Treme is one of the best things I’ve ever seen on television. I don’t know why it has not received more attention.

      I’ll be ok with it if Peter Dinklage wins it again, he has been phenomenal, but I do think Treme should get some love for its actors.

  14. lydiakj says:

    I’ve never seen Boardwalk Empire but I just assume MK Williams deserves a vote. Also I know people don’t like the Killing but Joel Kinnamen has been really outstanding this season.

    • TheBeach says:

      I watch The Killing even with it’s slow pace and it non-stop raining dreariness and Kinnamen makes the show for me. If he weren’t there to balance out his sad sack partner, I probably wouldn’t watch it.

  15. Suhara says:

    No question, without the slightest hesitation, unequivocally…
    John Noble, Fringe.

  16. outlawjoz says:

    Best new show ABC SCANDAL
    Jeff Perry -Cyrus Beene
    Guillermo Diaz-Huck

  17. ezmartin says:

    After last night’s Mad Men, Jared Harris has a winning tip, and is also a very serious contender.

    • ElKabong says:

      I believe the eligibilty period ended May 31, so that episode wouldn’t be eligible until next year’s Emmys.

    • Brandy says:

      They need to give an Emmy for best contrasting work in two shows, or something. It’s crazy that he can be so freaking creepy in Fringe and then so endearing on Mad Men. (I haven’t seen this season yet, so IDK if that adjective still applies…) It confuses my brain that it’s the same guy.

  18. Winter says:

    Is Dinklage really a supporting actor? I’d almost think he’s the lead.

  19. Emma says:

    Don’t even care who wins, as long as John Noble AT LEAST gets a nom. Seriously Emmy folks, what else does this poor guy have to do to get your attention?

  20. Petra says:

    The last two episodes of GoT solidified my need for another Dinklage Emmy win.

  21. Laura says:

    Chris Noth “The good wife”, Dinklage and Robert Sean Leonard’s Wilson!!!!!

  22. Bella says:

    Oh my goodness, Aaron Paul. He was incredible throughout season 4, along with his incredible speech in “Problem Dog.” I would be happy with Dinklage as well, I wish Alfie Allen would get some recognition though.

  23. Steph says:

    Jesse Spencer and Robert Sean Leonard both deserve nominations for outstanding performances in what turned out to be a great last season of House.

  24. Carmen says:

    Ron Perlman, Aaron Paul, and Mandy Patinkin are my top 3 choices! With Ron Perlman getting the prize. He’s transformation from anti-hero to plain evilness was brilliant to watch.

  25. Christian says:

    If Robert Carlisle isn’t nominated for his revelatory performance as Rumpelstilstsken then emmys are irrelevant!

    • John says:

      I do wish he would get nominated too and if there werent so many great shows on at the same time, he would get a shot. But against heavy hitters like Esposito, Mcdonaugh, Dinklage, it may not happen this year but you never know.

    • funky says:

      i second Rumpelstiltskin / Robert Carlyle!

      • songbyrd86 says:

        I THIRD Robert Carlyle – I only voted for him – I don’t watch ANY of the other shows listed so I suppose I’m biased, but hey – obviously a LOT of others agree with me because he’s ranked third in the poll above as of this posting….

        • Peggi Wolfe says:

          I FOURTH Robert Carlye. He is magical as Rumpelstiltskin/Mr. Gold and I really think he deserves it, even though shows like OUAT often get ignored for the Emmys.

    • Emily says:

      Seriously, Robert Carlyle is AWESOME as Rumpelstiltskin/Mr Gold. If he doesn’t get some kind of award then there’s no justice.

  26. Ayoi says:

    Where is Jeff Perry from Scandal?

  27. Cecil says:

    Slattery has been nominated four times for Mad Men, and both Buscemi and Macdonald were nominated last year for Boardwalk Empire.

  28. Xandra says:

    Giancarlo Esposito was outstanding in general, but especially in “Hermanos” in the scene where he visits Hector, and then when he tells Walt to “do it”. Tough category, but I think he upstaged even Bryan Cranston and Aaron Paul last season.

    • TheBeach says:

      Both Paul and Esposito were terrific. I hope they don’t cancel each other out.

      • Xandra says:

        Esposito and Paul canceling each other out would most definitely lead to a Dinklage repeat, which wouldn’t be undeserved either. Can’t really go wrong in this category, but I think Esposito deserves it. I think he, Claire Danes and Jessica Lange were at the highest level all season long with their performances.

  29. Ruby says:

    It thrills me beyond belief that Jon Bernthal is on your list. I’m sad people overlook him because his character was so hated. I’d say that shows exactly how great his performance was, especially when you see what a great guy he is in real life.

  30. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Regarding Boardwalk Empire…”the HBO period drama hasn’t been able to stick an acting nomination yet.” I thought Steve Buscemi and Kelly MacDonald were both nominated in 2011, and I checked IMDB, and they were indeed both nominated. Are you referring to just the supporting actor category that they haven’t been able to stick a nomination?

  31. gailer says:

    John Slattery all the way for the win!! Roger Sterling is one of the best characters ever on tv!

  32. Becks says:

    Josh Charles, he had a LOT to do this season and he did it very well.

  33. sam says:

    Josh Charles(good wife), Josh Bowman (revenge), ben mckenzie (southland), Aaron Paul (breaking bad), john Slattery (mad men), alan cumming (good wife)

    • Donna says:

      Thank you! I realized Ben McKenzie is not even on the list to vote, and I personally think he’s a better actor than Michael Cudlitz and Shawn Hatosy, although everywhere I turn online they get all the praise. I’m not trying to take anything away from them. They are great in their own right, but McKenzie does so much nonverbal acting in my opinion with the most limited material. Also, from what I’ve seen, he is least like his character in real life (Cudlitz and Hatosy are a lot like their characters in terms of personality whereas Ben McKenzie is this bubbly, sweet, outgoing, articulate, non-troubled, humble guy). I also think Sherman is a more complex character than the others (who are also complex… just not as complex) in that he is highly unpredictable, emotionally damaged in a way that is different from all the other characters (yes, they are damaged, but Sherman is more psychologically damaged on a more permanent/unfix-able level in my opinion), and his struggles are harder to define. McKenzie does a great job playing him with writing that is lacking compared to the writing the other characters get. For example, in S4 – if someone had never seen the first three seasons, they wouldn’t even know that Sherman’s mom was raped in front of him when he was 10, that he has nightmares and suffers from insomnia, that he has a form of PTSD, which is the reason he reacts so violently and psychotically when he sees women or children abused, that he is lonely and feels he doesn’t fit into the cop world or with his rich neighbors in Beverly Hills, that he’s had women trouble and had his heart broken (which coupled with his traumatic past has led him to become promiscuous), etc. whereas the writers continually reinforced Sammy Bryant’s, John Cooper’s, and Lydia Adam’s backgrounds in S4. So I think Ben McKenzie is one of the most underrated actors, and he also promotes himself very little so unfortunately it will probably stay that way.

      I also agree with some of your other choices for Emmy! Great list.

  34. PhonyPoll says:

    Play favorites? Just because House has never been kind to it’s supporting players doesn’t mean Robert Sean Leonard isn’t a fantastic actor. He acted his heart out when given a chance this year. It would’ve been nice if a proper portrait had been used instead of sharing the frame with Hugh Laurie. Only he and Michael K. Williams were dissed like that in the photo gallery.

  35. Britta Unfiltered says:

    Aww, I am bummed Mandy Patinkin is not in your dream list. He is so good with his “father” role to Claire Danes on that show. He makes me wish he was my substitute father figure. But this is such a tough category. Some really good actors aren’t getting recognized this year due to the large field of talent. It’s a sad thing. So here’s my picks…
    1. Jon Bernthal (particularly for that episode where he shot the guy in the leg and left him to die)
    2. Giancarlo Esposito. FTW! That dude was amazing. So scary. So complicated. I think he’s the only one truly giving Peter Dinklage a run for his money this year. He deserves it, and could very well win in the same way Margot Martindale did last year. Emmy voters love a villain in the supporting categories, especially one as complicated and deep and intense as him.
    3. Neal McDonough. I did love that psychotic albino deer. He stole the show from Walton.
    4. Mandy Patinkin.
    5. Aaron Paul.
    6. Vincent Kartheiser. Not a popular character at the moment, but he has been so good at making Pete look sleazy, gross and pathetic. I’ve loved his performance this year.
    I say my dream picks won’t match very well with what happens though. Probably what really happens is they choose Giancarlo Esposito, Peter Dinklage, John Slattery, who is a Mad Men favorite character, though he had nothing really all that meaty to work with this year, Mandy Patinkin, Aaron Paul, and Alan Cumming (another Emmy favorite that I’m just “eh” on. It’s not him, it’s the show. Nothing more I dislike when it comes to Emmy nods than a “solid” show). There is a possibility that Michael Pitt could come in and sneak a spot from Aaron Paul. I think might want to have a representative of Boardwalk Empire, and (SPOILER ALERT) this is his last chance. Plus the dude had sex with his mom on the show. Which was horrifying and disgusting, but that could work in his favor for a nomination.

    • tripoli says:

      Have yet to see season 2 of Boardwalk Empire but I loved season 1 and in particular, Michael Pitt. Would like too see him get some recognition. And thanks for the spoiler (not mad :) about sleeping with his mom. That should be interesting in a really weird way.

  36. Christy says:

    I love Dinklage, but Aaron Paul truly gave Emmy worthy performances in almost every episode last season. If he chooses the right episode, I think he’ll win.

    • TheBeach says:

      I sure hope it’s the scene at the NA meeting. My jaw dropped watching that and I think it may be the single best acting I saw all season from anyone on any show. Kudos to the writer,too.

  37. I am a HUGE Fringe fan and have been since the beginning. John Noble effortlessly switches from crazy Walter to stiff evil Walternate. He is brilliant. It is a real shame the academy (and the people of this country) haven’t given him and that great show their attention. He deserves a nomination at the very least, he should have been getting them every year. He does an amazing job each and every episode.

  38. Stephen S. says:

    1. John Noble, Fringe
    2. Jon Bernthal, The Walking Dead
    3. Walton Goggins, Justified
    4. Aaron Paul, Breaking Bad
    5. Neal McDonough, Justified
    6. Giancarlo Esposito, Breaking Bad

  39. noa says:

    i’ve been watching Sports Night again. can we give Josh Charles an Emmy for that?

  40. YowzaPowza says:

    No Peter Dinklage? Really?

  41. tootie0406 says:

    They might be wildcards but Brendan Coyle, Steve Odenkirk and Vincent Kartheiser are all deserving of a nomination.

    • ElKabong says:

      Surely you mean Bob Odenkirk, who plays Saul on Breaking Bad, not Steve Odenkirk who wrote Bruce Almighty and The Klumps.

  42. andressa says:

    Peter Dinklage should and will probably win, but that doesn’t mean Josh Noble doesn’t deserve a nomination… he’s been deserving it for years actually!

  43. Jamie says:

    Giancarlo Espisito, in Breaking Bad, hands down should win the Emmy. Aaron Paul a close second for me, but he has an Emmy and two more seasons of eligibility. It would be a disgrace for Espisito to go unrewarded for his searing, complex and plain-old-outstanding work as Gus on Breaking Bad.

    I wouldn’t mind seeing Peter Dinklage and Mandy Patinkin nominated as well.

  44. jon says:

    Jeremy Allen White – Shameless

  45. Mike says:

    Not even close in my mind: Rumplestiltskin all the way. He pretty much single-handedly makes every episode.

  46. Monica says:

    The TGW men all deserve a nomination and so does Mandy Patinkin on Homeland and Aaron Paul on Breaking Bad. But I do believe this is Dinklage’s to lose. This year he was perfect in every scene and he did have extremely meaty material. I foresee a Brian Cranston kind of run for Peter Dinklage, he is just too good in such a spectacular role.

  47. Emily says:

    This is a hard category for me. I say Noble, Dinklage, Leonard (stellar work in the final arc) and Paul, plus Esposito and McDonough were absolutely insane as bad guys. I love Slattery and Kinnaman, but they didn’t seem to have as much to do this year.

  48. Erin says:

    Aaron Paul, Giancarlo Esposito and Peter Dinklage all get my vote. And I agree with everyone suggesting Jack Gleeson – how he has managed to make Joffrey the most hated character on television is nothing short of astounding. That kid is going to do big things.

  49. godzilla's_foil says:

    That’s a damn tough category and it’s down to about 8 to 10 great candidates. What amazes me is that Norman Reedus, for example, got left out of the list while Alan Cumming was included. He’s just absolutely unconvincing as an heterossexual, competent Eli Gold.

    • FaSSbinder says:

      I think AMC must have pushed for Bernthal because he died . Norman Reedus was a far better actor in my opinion!