In 2021, Claire Foy won her second Emmy for playing Queen Elizabeth on Netflix’s The Crown, a bizarre guest acting triumph for what was barely even a cameo. The easiest way to interpret Foy’s victory is that Emmy voters have lost all ability to judge guest acting categories, which require a complete overhaul. Or, looking at Olivia Colman’s win for playing Queen Elizabeth on The Crown, we can be generous and say that what voters truly enjoy is double casting, the comparative pleasures of watching actors put unique-but-complementary spins on a shared role.
Thanks to Showtime’s Yellowjackets, voters could fill out the lead and supporting actress fields on the drama side with double-cast actors. For Melanie Lynskey’s Shauna, don’t forget the foundation laid by teenage Shauna, Sophie Nélisse. Think Christina Ricci was delightfully unhinged as grown-up Misty? Be sure to honor how well Sammi Hanratty seeded Misty’s eccentricities.
I’m more concerned, though, about my favorite piece of Emmy-eligible double duty, the perfectly matched Mackenzie Davis and Matilda Lawler as plague-surviving Kirsten in HBO Max’s Station Eleven. In the star-studded limited series acting categories, where the qualification standards could start with an Oscar nomination at the very least, I have real fears that Davis and Lawler may be punished for simply being soulful and sometimes funny characters in the lyrical adaptation of Emily St. John Mandel’s acclaimed novel when their competition will be jousting over who applied the most latex to play the most famous historical personage. (Looking at you, Renée Zellweger in The Thing About Pam.)
It would be easier to feel confident in Davis’ chances if Emmy voters weren’t oblivious to her heartbreakingly subtle work in Halt and Catch Fire — ignoring Davis and co-star Kerry Bishé for the final Halt seasons remains a snub I cannot forgive — and the “San Junipero” episode of Black Mirror. In Station Eleven, Davis’ version of Kirsten is the embodiment of the series’ themes about not just the healing power of art, but also its limitations, a mixture of spunky determination and fragility that rang particularly true for viewers experiencing the show during the COVID-19 pandemic. She has elements of an action heroine — her Terminator: Dark Fate swagger coming in handy — and she has to deliver Shakespearean monologues. Emmy voters are long overdue when it comes to realizing how well Davis can anchor the finest pieces of prestige television.
Lawler, whose primary previous credit was an especially chilling episode of Paramount+’s Evil, has the more difficult task. Especially in the premiere, Lawler’s version of Kirsten is our point of entry, a wide-eyed child who has to be precocious, but not too precocious, and capture the crushing impact of a global trauma while at the same time selling the hopeful bond with Himesh Patel’s Jeevan.
Voters should concentrate on “Goodbye My Damaged Home,” the season’s seventh episode, in which a flashback allows Davis’ and Lawler’s versions of Kirsten to share the screen. The episode represents a pinnacle for both Emmy-worthy actresses.
This story first appeared in a June stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.