Gwendoline Christie and Alfie Allen have had go it alone after HBO chose not to put them up for awards consideration. But can they win, against the odds?
Unless you actively enjoy excruciatingly drawn-out scenes of roundtable policy minutiae, the Game of Thrones finale was a bit of a disappointment. However, don’t be sad, because that was simply a fake-out. The real Game of Thrones finale will come during the Emmys, where eight different cast members will vie for supporting drama categories, according to The Guardian.
In the supporting actor category, Alfie Allen, Nikolaj Coster-Waldau and Peter Dinklage are facing off against each other, while the supporting actress category has chucked Gwendoline Christie, Lena Headey, Sophie Turner and Maisie Williams into a pit together. Add to this the inclusion of Kit Harington and Emilia Clarke (in the lead actor and actress drama categories respectively) and Carice van Houten in the guest actress category, and the whole thing looks set to be brutal. I’d call it a Game of Noms, if that didn’t make me hate myself.
However, this wasn’t necessarily the plan. Seven of these performers gained their nominations in the traditional manner, with HBO putting them up for consideration. But the other three – Christie, Allen and van Houten – failed to receive the same blessing. So, instead, they decided to go it alone. It’s understood that each submitted themselves for their awards, stumping up the $225 submission fee.
The news has ruffled a few feathers in the world of TV, but submitting yourself for an Emmy is actually quite easy. Once you’ve passed the first two (admittedly large) hurdles of elbowing your way into the television industry and becoming a member of the National Academy of Television Arts and Sciences, you can simply put forward your work on a website. Pick a category, upload a video, choose a payment method and you’re away.
Because the bar to entry is so low, the Academy tends to be overwhelmed with entries – this year was a record breaker, with over 9,100 entries submitted in 124 categories – that its 24,000 voting members have to sift through, either en masse or in specific peer groups, before finally settling on the final nominations and then a winner.
It isn’t uncommon for performers to self-submit, but it is rare that they end up with nominations. Why Allen, Christie and van Houten succeeded this year is likely down to a number of factors. There’s the pure blunt force of Game of Thrones as an entity, for starters. Even if you didn’t watch it, it was truly impossible to avoid this year, which will automatically shove these performers into the consciousness of the voters. In van Houten’s case, there’s a little canny category-gaming going on as well – whether or not she qualifies as a guest actress on a show where she plays a long-running character is a discussion for another time – but you have to admit that it worked.
Most importantly, there’s the fact that the officially submitted cast members had a relatively weak year. Lena Headey in particular is a terrific actress, but Game of Thrones required her to do little more than peer over walls with a glass of wine in her hand. Sophie Turner did the best with what she could, which wasn’t much. Coster-Waldeau has had meatier years too. Perhaps, against the thin gruel of HBO’s submissions, the self-submitters of Game of Thrones stood out as a more tantalising choice.
But now comes the fun bit: seeing what happens next. It’s thought that HBO chose against submitting Allen and Christie, in particular, because it was worried about splitting the vote. And certainly, if Allen’s inclusion draws votes away from Peter Dinklage, who almost single-handedly held the entire show together this year with a career-best performance, then it’ll be a crying shame.
What’s more, there’s also the campaigning to consider. In 2016 it was reported that networks spend up to $80m on their Emmy campaigns to reinforce the credentials of their nominees. Now, HBO only submitted five of the eight actors nominated. Who is it going to throw its money behind? The people it submitted? Will there be For Your Consideration billboards featuring just Nikolaj Coster-Waldeau and Peter Dinklage, with Alfie Allen cropped out? Will Gwendoline Christie have to battle through her campaign alone, a David against her own network’s Goliath? Or will HBO risk weakening its firepower by including everyone, even the self-submitters?
If any of the self-submitters actually win, this whole affair might end up changing the manner in which the Emmys are conducted. If individual performers know they can stand their ground against the might of the networks, we might start to see smaller and more interesting shows take home trophies.
But that’s a big if. After all, don’t forget the best supporting actress category also includes Killing Eve’s Fiona Shaw. The Game of Thrones cast might have seen off dragons and a literal army of the dead, but whether they can stand up to the ruthlessness of Carolyn Martens is another matter entirely.