How Nicole Kidman Won the Most Competitive Category in Emmys History – Vanity Fair
“Reese, I share this with you,” Nicole Kidman said, kicking off her Emmys speech Sunday night with a nod to the tight competition in her category—leading actress in a limited series. “Without you, I would not be standing up here.”
Though a lot of movie stars have found Emmy success by what was once considered “slumming it” in a TV movie or mini-series, this particular movie star ought to give herself a proud pat on the back for emerging victorious in the most competitive field in this award show’s history—one featuring four best-actress Oscar winners, one Oscar nominee, and one critical darling. But Kidman edged out the competition, thanks to her graceful and harrowing portrayal of a victim of domestic abuse on HBO’s addictive and surprisingly deep Big Little Lies.
In her acceptance speech, Kidman acknowledged that her work on the series was about bringing “a bigger message” to audiences and shining a light on domestic abuse. “It exists far more than we allow us to know. By you acknowledging me with this award, it shines a light on it even more.”
That plot gave her the slight edge over co-star Reese Witherspoon, who, despite adding some non-book darkness to her character Madeline, never had quite as juicy material to work with.
Kidman also had the slight advantage given that she’s in the middle of a full-blown career resurgence, thanks to 2016 awards-season attention for her work in Lion, four projects in competition at Cannes, and an arresting, transformative turn in the just-aired Top of the Lake: China Girl. “I am just trying to stay very bold and open and try things and support filmmakers that I believe in,” Kidman said during a Cannes press conference. “I am at that point of my life where I am trying to act as though I am 21 and starting my career.”
Kidman’s victory here means a slightly eerie case of life imitating art for Oscar winners Susan Sarandon and Jessica Lange. Feud creator Ryan Murphy is quite accustomed to racking up awards for past leading ladies, including Lady Gaga, Sarah Paulson, Kathy Bates, and Lange herself. And if Big Little Lies hadn’t come along to make sure this category overflowed with heavy hitters, surely one of Murphy’s stars would have walked away a winner. But it is somewhat fitting that Feud—a show about two great performers and co-stars scrapping over an acting award neither of them would eventually win—has yielded the same result (minus, we hope, the scrapping) for Lange and Sarandon.
A previous Emmy winner for her work on Desperate Housewives, Felicity Huffman wasn’t ever the strongest competitor in this category. She’s been nominated three times now for her work on American Crime but has never really come into this race as a favorite. Sadly lost among the shuffle, though, was actress Carrie Coon—who was, in my opinion, nominated for the wrong show. Edged out of the lead-actress-in-a-drama category by deserving nominees like Elisabeth Moss, Evan Rachel Wood, Claire Foy, and more, Coon absolutely deserved recognition for her subtle, stunning work in the final season of The Leftovers. The case for her in this category based on her work in Fargo is slightly weaker, especially given her fellow nominees.
But speaking with V.F. earlier this year, Coon said she saw the competition in this race as a win for all women in television. “There are some really extraordinary women on TV—women that have been in this industry for a long time, too, who deserve the kind of attention they’re going to get,” she said even before learning she had nabbed a nomination. “I am gratified that there’s so much competition in those categories, because we all win.”