2017 Emmys: Spotlight on First-Time Acting Nominees

by IMDb-Editors | last updated - 1 week ago

IMDb focuses the Emmy spotlight on the performers who earned their first nominations this year.

23 images

1
Milo Ventimiglia in This Is Us (2016)

Milo Ventimiglia: Jack Pearson, "This Is Us"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Drama Series

Milo Ventimiglia expanded his fan base considerably during the first season of "This Is Us" for playing a loving yet troubled father, husband, and (semi-spoiler alert) ghost of sorts. Whether Jack Pearson was at his best or worst behavior, Ventimiglia's performance was always relatable — a skill he perfected during his years on "Gilmore Girls," which of course had a successful revival this past year.

2
Millie Bobby Brown in Stranger Things (2016)

Millie Bobby Brown: Eleven, "Stranger Things"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Millie Bobby Brown made the most of the directive to make her "Stranger Things" character, Eleven, mirror the relationship E.T. had with Elliott and his friends, becoming arguably the most endearing TV character of the past year in the process. Fun fact: Brown is the youngest Emmy nominee since Fred Savage earned a "Wonder Years" nod in 1989 (he was 13 at the time).

3
John Lithgow and Claire Foy in The Crown (2016)

Claire Foy: Queen Elizabeth II, "The Crown"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Drama Series

In the first season of "The Crown," Claire Foy breathed new life into the reign of Queen Elizabeth II with a dynamic performance that saw the princess begin to shutter aspects of her personal life in the name of service to the crown. Both the moments of sorrow and strength Foy exhibited were some of the finest acting on television last year.

4
David Harbour in Stranger Things (2016)

David Harbour: Chief of Police Jim Hopper, "Stranger Things"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

The beloved character actor became more of a household name this past year thanks to the outsized success of "Stranger Things," where his loyalty to the Byers family gave him serious surrogate dad status. Bonus points for Harbour: His time in the Upside Down helped him earn the title of Hellboy in the upcoming reboot.

5
Sally Dworsky, Kathryn Hahn, and Duvid Swirsky in Transparent (2014)

Kathryn Hahn: Raquel Fein, "Transparent"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series Character: Raquel Fein Show: "Transparent"

It's hard to get a word in edgewise when you're a part of the Pfefferman family, and that's part of the reason that Kathryn Hahn is so essential to "Transparent," Amazon Studios' flagship series. As the rabbi Raquel Fein, Hahn has expanded the appeal of her character by examining her life, problems, and priorities as a single woman, despite her clear connection to Josh (Jay Duplass).

6
Donald Glover in Atlanta (2016)

Donald Glover: Earnest 'Earn' Marks, "Atlanta"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Comedy Series

One reason Donald Glover has created a sensation with "Atlanta" is his Louis C.K.-like relationship to the series he created; aside from acting, he was also nominated writing, directing, producing — and he also acts as the show's chief music supervisor. Another reason for his success: He's provided a new voice for what it's like to be young, ambitious, conflicted, and under-rated.

7
Carrie Coon in Fargo (2014)

Carrie Coon: Gloria Burgle, "Fargo"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

In Season 3 of "Fargo," Noah Hawley's sublime anthology series, not only did Carrrie Coon shoo away all the initial similarities between her character, police chief Gloria Burgle, and Frances McDormand's immortal Marge Gunderson, she more than stood her ground against the evil incarnate, V.M. Vargas (portrayed by fellow Emmy nominee David Thewlis). And of course she also wrapped up work on one of the more under-rated (and under-nominated shows on TV), "The Leftovers."

8
Samira Wiley in The Handmaid's Tale (2017)

Samira Wiley: Moira, "The Handmaid's Tale"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

While her "Orange Is the New Black" fanbase mourned Samira Wiley's exit from the show, the actress exhibited a new side of her craft on "The Handmaid's Tale" as Moira, an reworked version of the original character who represents rebellion and hope to her fellow Handmaids.

9
Riz Ahmed in The Night Of (2016)

Riz Ahmed: Nasir 'Naz' Khan, "The Night Of"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

Nasir Khan was wise enough to know that his normal life was over the moment he was booked as the suspected murder of Andrea Cornish, and Riz Ahmed's depiction of a seemingly good kid embracing the dark environment around him as a means of survival was shattering. Plus he had to contend with acting opposite the always brilliant Michael K. Williams.

10
Thandie Newton in Westworld (2016)

Thandie Newton: Maeve Millay, "Westworld"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Delos Incorporated gave "Westworld" viewers their first chance to see how the sausage was made in the episode "Chestnut" where brothel madame Maeve Millay wakes up to a nightmare scenario before she's plunged back into her loop. Thandie Newton's performance in this episode, and the subsequent episodes where her character begins to show some intentional behavior, provides a thrilling indication of what Hosts might be capable of executing.

11
Bill Camp in The Night Of (2016)

Bill Camp: Dennis Box, "The Night Of"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Any TV detective worth watching should always have a questionable relationship with morality. Bill Camp's depiction of Dennis Box, the detective out to prove that Naz Khan (Riz Ahmed) is guilty of murder, personified the the show's theme about the conflicts and contradictions we encounter in the attempt to get to the truth.

12
Reese Witherspoon in Big Little Lies (2017)

Reese Witherspoon: Madeline Martha Mackenzie, "Big Little Lies"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Lead Actress in a Miniseries or Movie

The role of Madeline Martha Mackenzie was a custom fit Reese Witherspoon, from the character's type-A personality with a wardrobe to match, to Madeline's meme-ready one-liners which usually came in the form of an insult, warning, or just a profane exclamation. As another writer said, it had been at least a decade since we'd seen Reese at her "Reesiest."

13
Jackie Hoffman in Feud (2017)

Jackie Hoffman: Mamacita, "Feud"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

With every moment of her screen time, Jackie Hoffman's Mamacita built a figurative bridge between the audience and Jessica Lange's Joan Crawford. We wanted her to flee after Joan threw the first flower arrangement at her, and yet we wanted her to reunite with her troubled friend and employer during Crawford's sobering twilight years. Mamacita also gave audiences who only knew Crawford via the events of Mommie Dearest a wider depiction her day-to-day world.

14
Robert De Niro in The Wizard of Lies (2017)

Robert De Niro: Bernie Madoff, "The Wizard of Lies"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Lead Actor in a Miniseries or Movie

The 7-time Oscar nominee is up for his first-ever Emmy for a role he almost passed on. Also worth noting is the fact that De Niro didn't opt to meet with Bernie Madoff because he did not want to risk having his characterization come across as sympathetic to the Ponzi schemer. Clearly his approach, and his first major embrace of TV work, has paid off.

15
Michelle Pfeiffer in The Wizard of Lies (2017)

Michelle Pfeiffer: Ruth Madoff, "The Wizard of Lies"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

Taking the exact opposite approach of her on-screen husband, Robert De Niro, Michelle Pfeiffer based part of her "The Wizard of Lies" performance on real-life meetings with Ruth Madoff, who clearly was not overjoyed to know that this film was being made. Pfeiffer didn't need to remind anyone of her singular talent, and her portrayal of a woman who was being lied to and manipulated by her husband in a similar fashion to his investors and clients was noteworthy for showcasing Ruth's loyalty, innocence, and profound sadness.

16
Chrissy Metz in This Is Us (2016)

Chrissy Metz: Kate Pearson, "This Is Us"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series

Because every episode of "This Is Us" causes crying jags, it audience is intimately connected with the lives of these characters, and some of the pushes Kate Pearson receives from her loved ones finds her at a hopeful creative crossroads at the conclusion of the show's first season. And Chrissy Metz's relatable performance was as welcome as her ubiquitous fame.

17
Alexander Skarsgård in Big Little Lies (2017)

Alexander Skarsgård: Perry Wright, "Big Little Lies"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

Those of us who have already watched "Big Little Lies" should only say that his character's arc is the most satisfying. And as fans of all things Skarsgård, we're happy to see Alexander be the first of his clan to receive an Emmy nomination.

18
Vanessa Bayer in Saturday Night Live (1975)

Vanessa Bayer: Herself/Various, "Saturday Night Live"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Vanessa Bayer emerged from the backgrounds of "SNL" to become one of the show's most consistently entertaining players. "Rachel from Friends" is one of the greatest imitations to ever come out of Studio 8H, and as "Weekend Update" meteorologist Dawn Lazarus, she exhibited a unique mastery of comedic language. She also managed to become the show's most reliable female lead in a season where Fred Armisen would pop up in a skirt from out of nowhere.

19
Ron Cephas Jones in This Is Us (2016)

Ron Cephas Jones: William Hill, "This Is Us"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Drama Series

The "Memphis" episode of "This Is Us" is one of the most heart-wrenching depictions of father-son dynamics ever seen on TV. It's a landmark moment for Ron Cephas Jones who, like fellow first-time nominee Ann Dowd, is doing the best work of his career in his 60s.

20
Leslie Jones in Saturday Night Live (1975)

Leslie Jones: Herself/Various, "Saturday Night Live"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Comedy Series

Leslie Jones is not only treasured for her "Weekend Update" commentary on "Saturday Night Live," she's become a Twitter phenom thanks to her live-tweeting of "Game of Thrones" over the show's past couple seasons. We'd love to see more of her fictional romance with "SNL" writer Kyle Mooney when Season 43 starts up this fall.

21
David Thewlis in Fargo (2014)

David Thewlis: V.M. Varga, "Fargo"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actor in a Limited Series or Movie

David Thewlis' nomination comes for his work as one of the nastiest characters on his extensive résumé, the supernaturally evil V.M. Vargas who left a lasting impression as "Fargo"'s third season came to an end.

22
Shailene Woodley in Big Little Lies (2017)

Shailene Woodley: Jane Chapman, "Big Little Lies"

Emmy Category: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Limited Series or Movie

The surprise connection that Jane Chapman has with the group of women she meets upon her relocation to Monterey, California is bolstered by one of the better cliffhanger finale episodes we watched this past year. It was also the first indication of what we can anticipate from Shailene Woodley as the young actress eases into adult roles.

23
Ann Dowd in The Handmaid's Tale (2017)

Ann Dowd

Emmy Category #1: Outstanding Supporting Actress in a Drama Series Character: Aunt Lydia Show: "The Handmaid's Tale"

Emmy Category #2: Outstanding Guest Actress in a Drama Series Character: Patti Levin Lydia Show: "The Leftovers"

You could easily say that Ann Dowd's work as an actress is so under rated, it makes sense that she'd receive her first — and second — Emmy nominations in the same year. She wound up being the only cast member from "The Leftovers" to ever receive an Emmy nod for her mic-dropping work on the show's final season, where Lydia became a hero of sorts and burned up the screen opposite Justin Theroux. Meanwhile, over at Hulu, Dowd put a dark spin on her Catholic upbringing to help being Aunt Lydia to life, a female character fully committed to the dystopian world of "The Handmaid's Tale," where she stoked empathy from viewers despite playing a villain — albeit one who is saving her charges from suffering worse fates than their collective reality.