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How do you ACTUALLY win an Emmy? Spoiler: Being Meryl Streep might be a necessary leg up.
How do you ACTUALLY win an Emmy? Spoiler: Being Meryl Streep might be a necessary leg up.

PartnersSeptember 21, 2020

How to win an Emmy: The secrets revealed

How do you ACTUALLY win an Emmy? Spoiler: Being Meryl Streep might be a necessary leg up.
How do you ACTUALLY win an Emmy? Spoiler: Being Meryl Streep might be a necessary leg up.

The 72nd Primetime Emmy Awards are today – screening live from midday on Vibe and SkyGo – but who are you putting your bets on? We took a look at the Neon and Sky catalogues to gain a little insight on how a show can maximise its chances.

If you’re an entertainment awards fanatic, the Emmys are like midwinter Christmas: an awards show to tide you over ‘til the Oscars. Even though this year’s ceremony is all-remote thanks to the pandemic, it’s no less of a celebration of a seriously great year of TV.

But how does one actually win an Emmy? We’ve taken a look at the shows in Neon and Sky’s catalogue – which has the most noms of any streaming service, if you were wondering – and taken a few notes on how to cinch a nomination for the spiky golden prize, if not the win.

Already have an Emmy

This is the easiest one, honestly. Take nominee Jean Smart, nominated this year for Watchmen, who has three Emmys from nine nominations. Or Jeremy Irons, also nominated for Watchmen, who has three Emmys from five nominations. Or, if you want to be truly extra, get a load of Tracey Ullman (Mrs. America), who has seven Emmys and a whopping 26 nominations. Learn to share the love, Emmys.

Hopefully this is Don Cheadle’s year: His nomination for Best Actor in a Comedy for Black Monday is his ninth nomination after no wins. To warp an idiom: Always the bridesmaid, never the don.

Be Regina King

In the past 10 years, Regina King has gone from being one of Hollyood’s most underrated actors to one of its most justifiably praised. So far she’s won an Oscar for the movie If Beale Street Could Talk, two Emmys for anthology show American Crime and a third for the miniseries Seven Seconds.

Her Best Actress in a Limited Series nomination for Watchmen is her most deserved yet. Not just because her arc is the emotional arc of the series, but because Watchmen gave her the kind of role that an actress only gets once in a lifetime: She gets to fall in love, she gets to lead a revolution, she gets to grieve, and she gets to embody generational and racial pain in ways that don’t feel abstract, but immediate and visceral.

Molly (Yvonne Orjis) and Issa (Issa Rae) have the most enviable friendship on television sometimes, and then the absolute worst at others. We stan. (Photo: HBO)

Be part of television’s best/worst friendship (episode depending)

You know the old adage about how we vote for the prime minister we’d want to have a drink with? I can only assume that the same sometimes applies for the people voting for these awards. Enter Issa Rae (nominated for Best Actress in a Comedy) and Yvonne Orjis (nominated for Best Supporting Actress in a Comedy), who play best friends Issa and Molly on Insecure. It’s a relationship that can go from being #squadgoals to being a guidebook in what not to do in a friendship, sometimes within the very same scene. And honestly, isn’t that what most great friendships are like?

Also, a shameless recommendation: Yvonne Orji’s stand-up special is currently streaming on Neon, and it’s a delightful romp through her upbringing in Nigeria, and her life as a sort-of-famous actress/comedian.

Hire Meryl Streep

Look, some of the rules for the Oscars apply just as well for the Emmys. It’s not that Big Little Lies is lacking for talent (the first season cast has three Oscars to share between them) but Meryl Streep – playing Alexander Skarsgård’s suspicious mother Mary Louise – is just a notch above everybody else. 

Streep could walk onto a television screen reading the phone book and get nominated for it, but her fifth Emmy nomination (for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama) isn’t the result of name recognition alone. It’s in recognition of the fact that she turns this twisty drama on its head, and then its feet, and then its head again, for an entire bloody season.

Play a real person on a show about real people

It’s generally accepted that an easy way to cakewalk into an awards nomination is to play a real person. Slap on a fake nose, do a half passable accent, and clear off your mantelpiece.

Or at least that used to be the case. Critics and audiences alike have kind of cottoned on to the fact that these projects can be actor showcases, so the actual way to do this in the year of our lord 2020 is…

Cate Blanchett absolutely killing it as Phyllis Schlafy in Mrs. America. (Photo: HBO)

Play a real person on a good show about real people

Let’s have a look at Mrs. America and Bad Education. These aren’t biopics, they’re great pieces of television with genuine points of views on their subject matter. 

Mrs. America taps into the strengths of the many women at its centre (the nominees here are Cate Blanchett, Uzo Aduba, Margo Martindale and Tracey Ullman) to link the movement to pass the Equal Rights Amendment to the political shitstorms that are happening at this current moment. 

Meanwhile, the film Bad Education is a chance for lead Hugh Jackman to show off his slightly terrifying charisma, put to great use as notorious public school fraudster Frank Tassone. His acclaimed performance has scored him a nomination for Outstanding Lead Actor in a Limited Series or Movie.

It’s simple, really: Just play a real person and do it real good.

Spin off a critically acclaimed film into an even more critically acclaimed television series

Okay, this one is pretty specific to What We Do in the Shadows. But four Primetime Emmy nominations, plus four Creative Arts Emmy nominations (that’s stuff like costume, editing, set) is nothing to sniff at.

Be the news, but funny

If you’re wondering why your co-worker is much funnier than he was yesterday, it’s probably because he’s stealing jokes from Emmy nominated programming, such as The Daily Show with Trevor Noah, Last Week Tonight with John Oliver and that towering paragon of late night television, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert.

But honestly? Who can blame them! The news is basically a daily horror series at this stage. You might as well get a few yucks with it.

More nominations than billions for the cast of Succession. (Photo: HBO)

Be on the show that everybody at your office won’t shut up about

Seriously. Succession has six nominations – two for Best Actor in a Drama (Brian Cox, Jeremy Strong), three for Best Supporting Actor in a Drama (Nicholas Braun, Matthew MacFayden, Kieran Culkin) and one for Best Supporting Actress in a Drama (Sarah Snook). Say that ten times fast while playing boar on the floor.

Have at least one moment that audiences will never forget

I’ve got two three-word sentences for you:

Meryl Streep screaming. Kendall Roy rapping.

You can watch all of the actors, actresses, shows and films mentioned above across Sky and Neon, so even if they don’t take home the gold, you’ll still be onto a winner.

Keep going!